It’s true–everyone has different study styles. However, while talking to former PMP Exam Prep Course students, I discovered many of them used the same study methods while preparing for their PMP exams. The methods had slight variations, but overall, there were several techniques students (who PASSED their PMP exams) incorporated into their study sessions.
Our 13 best practices, shared by six successful PMP students, will help you study effectively as you prepare to conquer the PMP exam.
1. COMMIT TO THE PROCESS
“When it comes to the whole PMP process, I underestimated how much effort it was going to take. You must be ALL IN and make a commitment to the process, realizing it is a project in itself. The PMP is so valuable as a project manager that the hard work is worth it!” —Dale Tillman
“I expected to go to UTC’s boot camp and be ready for the PMP test. On day 1, our instructor said, ‘Content mastery doesn’t take place solely in the classroom. You are going to have to dedicate time to studying outside of class if you want to succeed.’ Invest the time upfront and NAIL the exam on the first try.” —Tyler Yount
2. TAKE UTC’S BOOT CAMP
“I would definitely recommend the course to anyone considering taking the PMP exam! The instructor asked great questions to help us comprehend and critically think about the content we were learning. It was also nice to have a week that was a dedicated time and space to focus on preparing for the exam.” —Kayla Brown
“Honestly, there’s no way I could have passed the exam without taking the course. From the great feedback the instructor gave to the discussions with my classmates, the course is where I acquired a fuller understanding of project management and everything came together.” —Dale Tillman
3. CREATE A STUDY SCHEDULE
“Aim to study for at least 45 minutes a day either by reviewing content or taking practice quizzes. Know what you are going to study each day, set aside time to study, and stick to it. Make studying a habit and as defined as possible. If you leave room for ambiguity, you’ll find yourself not studying or studying the wrong material.” —Jeff Grant
4. WRITE OUT THE PROCESS FRAMEWORK DAILY
“My most important piece of advice is to write down the processes every day (I had a blank template I used). You really want to know this framework forward and backward as you prepare for the test.” —Sandra Cordell
5. USE AN APP FOR IN-BETWEEN STUDY SESSIONS
“When I had shorter spurts of times, I studied using the PMP Pocket Prep app on my phone. The app let me complete quick, 10-15 minute sessions of answering exam questions.” —Shannon Bennett
6. PRACTICE EARNED VALUE FORMULAS
“If math isn’t your strong suit, be sure to spend sufficient time practicing your earned value formulas. The test makers will give you clues to help you determine items such as the planned value or the schedule variance, but they won’t give you every piece of the puzzle. They want to see how you can use several of the earned values effectively to get to the answer.” —Jeff Grant
7. USE FLASH CARDS
“Flash cards were my best friends as I prepared for the test. They helped me see what I needed to study further as well as make sure I knew the processes, along with their inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs, incredibly well.” —Kayla Brown
8. CONSISTENTLY REVIEW BOOT CAMP TOPICS AND NOTES
“I studied post-course by reviewing all the topics we highlighted in boot camp. When there were certain things I would go over in the book that I didn’t understand on my own, I would bust out my notes from the boot camp to help me understand the material further.” —Tyler Yount
9. THINK SITUATIONALLY
“Think situationally as opposed to just memorizing processes. Yes, you need to be able to regurgitate back the different processes, inputs, and outputs. However, when answering exam questions, I would suggest thinking more in terms of, ‘How do you handle the situation in a project management setting?’ Don’t just think about what the next process is after the communication plan; think situationally.” —Dale Tillman
“Make sure you understand the intent and relationship between the steps of the project management processes. Don’t just memorize the processes themselves; instead, learn how they all interrelate.” —Shannon Bennett
10. TAKE PRACTICE EXAMS
“I took a lot of practice exams. This was helpful because the exam is not just testing your memorization of definitions. It’s understanding how everything flows together and fits into everything else. The exams helped me gain that understanding instead of just regurgitating information. I was also able to see how questions were formatted on the test while taking practice exams.” —Sandra Cordell
11. EVALUATE PROGRESS
“The best way to see your progress is by taking practice exams (and lots of them). Setting aside four hours can be challenging, but you need to know what you don’t know. Then, after you finish a practice exam, evaluate which process groups you are struggling with and rank them (the exam content outline is helpful to determine which take priority). Ensure you have extra time to study the content in your weak spots. At the end of the week, take another practice exam to effectively evaluate your progress. Review both the questions you missed and the questions you got right to understand the reasoning behind it! Then, repeat the process.” —Jeff Grant
12. HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM
“Having a support system is vital during the certification process. My husband is awesome and wanted me to get certified, so he let me do my thing and make time to study. Whether it’s your spouse, a family member, a co-worker, a mentor, or a friend, the support system makes all the difference!” —Sandra Cordell
“As working professionals with lives outside of work, our lives can be chaotic and stressful. While studying for the PMP, it’s important to know your limitations and when you need to rest. Cramming for hours on end can do more harm than good. While you don’t need to get in the habit of saying every day is a rest day, be sure to take study breaks and rest days if you can no longer process information.” —Jeff Grant
We hope you find these methods to be as helpful as our former PMP students did. If you have study tips you would like to share, please let us know so we can pass them along to fellow students! And, make sure you follow our exam prep checklist for further guidance on preparing for the PMP test.
You’ve got this!
Big thanks to all our contributors for sharing their advice!
Senior Program Manager, Tennessee Valley Authority
Project Manager, Simple Focus
Project and Program Coordinator, Gary W. Rollins College of Business
Marketing Coordinator, UTC Center for Professional Education
Senior Program Manager, Tennessee Valley Authority
Director of Special Projects, Office of Mayor Andy Berke
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M) serves as the marketing assistant for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, she spends time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with CPE’s customer base. During her free time, you can find her getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, she aspires to live by Mr. Feeny’s advice, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” She strives to use her passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around her.
Connect with Marah on LinkedIn.