Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Prep Study Tips

Here are some tips we’ve picked up over the years from us, you, and word of mouth. Please add your own to the mix!

  1. Watch the clock! You have 72 seconds per question with NO time to spare. If you want time to review your answers then you have slightly under a minute per question.
  2. Know your ITTO’s! (inputs, tools&techniques, outputs)
  3. Don’t underestimate the ethics and professional responsibility questions – these give most people the toughest time!
  4. Use more than one source to study from. Different authors stress different topics in different ways.
  5. Use more than one source of sample exam questions. Different authors word questions in different ways. No one can claim that they are “more like the Project Management Institute (PMI)®” questions than anyone else since no one is allowed to use actual PMI® questions
  6. From David Rocco, PMP (One of our boot camp alumni):
    1. Read not only the question carefully, but also each answer as some are very close in wording
    2. Do a brain dump in the 1st 15 minutes; write down the 42 processes. This will help you with the ITTO questions.
    3. Memorizing is critical; the more processes, inputs/outputs, formulas and terms you can remember the better off you’ll be
  7. “I found “Head First PMP®” was particularly helpful to me, others preferred “Rita’s books” – get some practice exams to test your knowledge (and determine “pacing” to see how you can do against the 4 hour test limit) – get in a study group and lead a session (forces you to understand the topic well enough to lead the group discussion) ” – A.U., PMP
  8. ” I used 3×5 Cards with formula’s key study points. I only had 50 cards ( main points only) , I also listened to CD’s for terms and questions ” – A.J.G., PMP
  9. “Set the date for the exam and study to that date. This is real motivator to keeping you on track. Also review as many test questions from several sources as you can. Many sites offer free or inexpensive review questions to gain a feel for variation in wording of the test questions. ” – Greg Smith, PMP
  10. “I took the PMP® exam in 2003 but hope that these tips are still relevant. Taking a course and/or a refresher class is a great way to focus in before the test. Take the exam on a Monday morning as this will give you a fresh start to the week and, hopefully, you will be less distracted by things that could have popped up if you were to take the exam later in the day or week. My other hint is to prepare by generating a reminder sheet that you can reproduce once the exam begins. You are allowed to bring blank sheets of paper to the exam. By folding it 3×3 you will get nine sections corresponding to the PMBOK® Guide elements. Include the major content that you can identify for each knowledge area. With some practice, you will be able to generate this document fairly quickly. Having the formulas, inputs, outputs, etc in front of you will be a great resource for the exam. ” -Jan R., PMP [editor's note: it's not guaranteed that you'll be able to bring blank paper in with you though this can work with the paper you are given if not]
  11. “When studying for the exam understand that there are sometimes multiple “answers” that are right & it won’t do any good to debate why your answer is the best one. Understand why all of them are good & use that understanding when taking the test. ” – anonymous
  12. “Read every word of the
    PMBOK® Guide and stick to what it says. Don’t impose your interpretations or think ‘Well, that’s not the way we do it at XYZ Corp’ “. – Paul Ipolito, PMP
  13. “Take practice exams, not just one but many. Once you have identified those areas where you are not doing well, continue to study and focus on those areas only and then take more practice tests. ” – Porchia Stewart, PMP
  14. The questions on the test are much longer than those presented in Crosswind. Practice timing yourself on every question. I suggest setting an egg timer and as soon as 70 seconds is up, see if you have completed answering the question. Accuracy on some without finishing most of the questions correctly is not sufficient. – Michael Redmond, PMP
  15. Memorize the Chart with the 42 processes. Be able to write each column both horizontally and vertically. Be able to write them in order. – Michael Redmond, PMP
  16. It is a must to know the inputs and outputs. – Michael Redmond, PMP
  17. I found it helpful to create the whole crosswind 42 process grid in my brain dump as a memory jogger for the Inputs and Outputs and I also wrote all my formulas as well. I believe if you can’t recreate the process grid and explain all the process areas a person is not ready because they were very valuable to me in thinking through the questions! – Janet Polk, PMP
  18. Practice simulation tests.  This gives you the closest experience of taking the actual test.  Use the Advance tests (Crosswind) and sit down and take it like it is the real test.  Then do it again.  And, again…  You get the point.  I put in about 4 hours a day for the last 2 ½ weeks.  Not fun, but worth it! – Jessica Hollowell, PMP
  19. Passing the PMP® exam really has everything to do with how you train yourself to take this test.  I have never been a very good multiple choice exam test taker, but I was still able to pass.  I started with the Project Solvers course which laid the foundation for what I was about to encounter.  The Crosswinds computerized sample questions/exams that the Project Solvers course provided to students were key.  I had never taken a computerized exam before and training myself to stay focused on the screen took a lot of practice.  I had started with the questions in the book, but it wasn’t until I completed hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of simulated computerized questions, did things really start to click.  I also read the Rita Mulcahy book cover to cover and became “one with Rita”.  All three steps are why I was able to pass the PMP® certification exam. – Gina LaPlante, PMP
  20. Understand the data flow of outputs – for instance, where does an approved change request go. Reference chapter three of the PMBOK® Guide as well as the individual process data flows diagrams. I could not memorize all the ITTOS so I focused  on how they are used – what went where. This was helpful. – Bill Edwards, PMP
  21. Understand the purpose of each process and how it connects with the other processes. (for instance, how are the various risk processes interconnected with the risk register). -Bill Edwards, PMP
  22. If it works out for you, I encourage you to take the test drive (located on the prometric site). You get to visit the facility and use the computer like you are going to take the test. It alleviated my test jitters. Here are some things I learned before the test:a.       After the intro, I found I had roughly 12 minutes to do my brain dump. I started with my formulas first in case I ran out of time. I also used initials for the process names, process groups and Knowledge Areas to save time and space on the paper provided.b.      You are given a pink booklet of paper to write on. If you use all the paper, you have to turn it in to get another so I made sure to be aware of my use of space. I was able to take a bathroom /snack break without having to turn in my papers.c.       Pencils are provided – ask for ones with good erasers.d.      I brought a beverage / snack and left it with the test administrator. I was given a locker for my wallet and keys but could not access it during the test.e.      I was allowed to bring foam ear plugs. This helped lessen the noise of others typing.   – Bill Edwards, PMP
  23. Regarding the math questions, understand the logic behind the formulas. A strategy I used when I was stuck was to work each possible answer back through the formulas to see what make sense.  – Bill Edwards, PMP
  24. The tip to take the exam early in the week definitely helped me. I took Monday off from work and was able to completely focus on the exam over the long weekend without work interruptions. – Kevin Lang, PMP
  25. The boot camp really helped prepare for the exam and the exam questions were representative to the actual test questions I received. I had a few other test exams from other sources that were clearly not as good. And, in hindsight, they were a waste of study time. – Kevin Lang, PMP
  26. With regard to ITTO’s, I found it helpful to know which tools and techniques go with what process to help understand the process flow. That helped with several of the questions I received. – Kevin Lang, PMP
  27. A few areas of concentration that I noticed in my questions were: Knowing the risk responses (SEE ATM), contract types, and scope type questions. – Kevin Lang, PMP
  28. Some of the formula questions required a few steps. For Example, it wasn’t just plug in the values to determine CPI. – Kevin Lang, PMP
  29. Re-reading the crosswinds book, reading the “Head First PMP: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam” by Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman, and taking various on-line PMP® practice exams helped me to put many of the pieces I was missing together to really learn the “PMBOKish” way! – Jeanne Higgins, PMP
  30. I found it very helpful to read not only the Crosswind’s book but also to cross-check terminology and definitions against the
    PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition.  I would also recommend Cynthia Snyder Stackpole’s “PMP Certification All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies” since Ms. Stackpole contributed to the PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition and her book uses its definitions and terms verbatim but offers what I felt was a very easy to read reference (in addition to offering a 200 question practice test on CD-ROM). – Chris Roos, PMP
  31. I also found it very helpful to do all of the exercises at the end of each Crosswind’s chapter (not just the Bootcamp Homework) and to do LOTS of practice exams from multiple sources.  I would personally recommend practice exams from , and in particular. – Chris Roos, PMP
  32. It is essential to know the 42 process map verbatim as well as all the formulas and concepts on the opposing side of the Crosswind’s brain bump tear-out from the book.  Rather than attempting to memorize all the ITTOs I focused on what was going on in each process (as Stacy from the boot camp recommended) and from there developed an understanding of what inputs would be necessary to produce the desired output while giving thought to the methods that would be applicable to each process. – Chris Roos, PMP
  33. Remember that the exam is TIME CONSTRAINED so make sure you practice with a stopwatch or other timer to ensure you can complete a 200 question test in 4 hours (less if you want to have time to review your marked questions). – Chris Roos, PMP



Note: Project Management Professional (PMP), Project Management Institute (PMI), PMBOK Guide and PMP are registered marks of The Project Management Institute, Inc.

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