The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is one of the most widely accepted certifications in the field of project management worldwide. While its popularity began in the IT industry, it did not take much time to spread to the non-IT sector
too.

Here is a write up, simplifying the steps to follow to earn the PMP certification, that I have been sharing with my mentees in the past. The steps have helped them in understanding the overall process and prepare better for the examination.

Following is the eligibility criteria to apply for the PMP certification:

a) Min 4500 hours of experience in project management field; after a 4-year degree
b) 35 hours of classroom PM education

When they say project management experience, kindly do not misinterpret it as “project managerial” experience. If you have catered to even a good part of the project management value chain, if not full, for the required number of hours, your experience might meet the eligibility criteria.

PMI recognizes the project management education provided by some premier institutions, however, it is always recommended to undergo the 35 hours contact classes organized by PMI-REP (Registered Education Provider). This course is based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide and acts as a crash course to understand the concepts mentioned therin. We have plenty of REPs across the world, with the metro cities having many. The following link could be followed to find the nearest REP around you:

http://www.pmi.org.in/training.centers.asp

With this, you should be eligible to take the exam. However, I would recommend you to follow these steps:

Step 1: Decide the date when you want to take the exam. Typically 2-3 months of preparation after completing the 35-hours training should be ideal. Download the PMP Handbook and go through it first. You will find most of the details I provide here in the handbook as well. Additionally, you can find the details of exam pattern etc in it. The link to PMP Handbook is as below:

http://www.pmi.org/Certification/~/media/PDF/Certifications/pdc_pmphandbook.ashx

Step 2: Whether you’re funding the exam fee or your company, if you’re setting the target date of your exam within 6 months from today, you should ideally become the member of PMI first. Follow this link to know the benefits of membership http://www.pmi.org/Membership/Membership-Benefits-of-Membership.aspx. And follow this to buy your membership http://marketplace.pmi.org/Pages/ProductDetail.aspx?GMProduct=00100147500.

The membership fee is around $139/-. You will understand the benefit of this step when you go through the rest of steps below.

Step 3: Go to the PMI standards tab to find  the list of complimentary PMI publications you get in soft form as a membership benefit. Download PMBOK 6th Edition. You will also have access to some other standards and templates that you may choose to download. Please note that these are licensed copies with your name printed on each and every page. So be careful. Do not share them with anyone or take physical prints. These files will be password protected. The password will be same as that of your PMI login.

Step 4: Go through the PMBOK (just see the main headings) to understand what you are getting into. The questions of your PMP certification are primarily on the concepts mentioned in the PMBOK.

Step 5: Review your planned exam date. Book your 35-hours session. They are organized on 4 Saturdays or 4 Sundays or 2 Sat + 2 Suns or during the weekdays for the convenience of participants. Like I mentioned earlier, these classes are nothing but a crashcourse of the PMBOK. They may provide you some supplemental reading material and some mock test papers. However, the additional material varies from REP to REP.

Step 6: Once done with the classes, you will receive a certificate from the PMI-REP stating that you have finished the session and have earned 35 PDUs. Keep that safely. You will need it if your application gets selected for audit.

Step 7: Guage how confident you are after the classes to take up the examination. Based on that decide to appear for the exams after 2 months, 3 months or 4 months from the classes. I generally recommend a duration of 2 months or 3 months maximum. Go to http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP.aspx and click “ready to apply’. You will be taken to the application page. Fill it up properly. Take your time. Fill the details that you can substantiate at a later date as some applications are chosen for random audit, yours could be the one, and you will have to provide all evidences; of your qualification, experience and training. Once done with the application, submit it. It will take 7-10 days for the PMI staff to go through the same and approve it.

Step 8: Once the application has been approved, you’ll get a notification mail asking you to make the payment. Go ahead and make it. As you have already become the member of PMI, the exam fees will around $405/- or so as against $555 for non-members. That’s why I asked you to become the member of PMI in the first place. (The amount varies from time to time so there may be a change in that mentioned here and the actual amount at PMI marketplace. The bottomline is that you have around $150 discount that you can avail as a PMI member on your exam fees).

Step 9: Once you are fully sure of the target exam date, go ahead and book the exam slot. The link to the same is generally provided in the mail from PMI confirming the receipt of payment. As recommended earlier, keep 2-3 months for self-studies, i.e. choose a date 2-3 months from the booking date. If you still are not sure about when to appear for the exams, no issues. Get to the next step and we’ll get back to booking of exam.

Step 10: Now that you have booked the slot, get going. Go through the PMBOK slowly and carefully and also the supplemental material, if any received from the PMI-REP. Focus on the concepts rather than just words. Once the concepts are clear, the words will start making sense. Remember, PMI preaches ideal PM methodology. This is at times very different from the practical approach we follow in our day to day Project Management. So beware! This is also something where people screw up while answering the questions in the main exam. Couple of supplemental material that has helped my mentees are – PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy and Head First PMP by O’Reilly publications.

Step 11: After going through the PMBOK and supplemental material, you are now ready to take the mock tests. Use the tests given by the PMI-REPs. You can find many free tests available online as well. Attempt at least 10-20 mock tests. I have seen people scoring more than 70% consistently in their mock tests to be clearing the actual PMP exam without any issues. If you have already booked the exam, and getting 70%+, great… if the score is a bit low and you can make up before the exam, still fine… if your confidence levels are down, apply for the reschedule of exam.

Step 12: The time to be spent before exam should be the most on mock tests. Look at the wrong answers and try to understand where your concept went wrong and correct your understanding.

Step 13: Have a good night sleep before the exam day. Don’t carry any reading material to the hall. This will help reduce tension. Carry a pencil/ pen and bare minimum essentials. At the test centre you will generally be given a small locker to keep your belongings before entering the exam hall. Most of the applicants prefer the computer based test though a paper based test option is also available, however under some specific conditions. The test room will be under surveillance. You will be permitted to use rest rooms during the exam, however the clock won’t stop during the break.

The exam generally has 200 questions. 175 actual and 25 dummy (as per the previous exam format). So make sure you answer all of them. You will have 240 minutes to answer all the questions, i.e. a little over 1 minute per question. don’t spend too much time on one question. If in doubt, flag it and move to next. You can always get back to the unanswered questions later. This will help you finish the questions you know the answers of, which will ease your tension.

Once done with the exam, submit it. For the computer based test you’ll get the result on the screen as soon as you hit the submit button. If you pass, you will get a provisional certificate at the exam centre showing your grades in various categories. You should receive your PMP certificate in 8 weeks from the exam date.

You are allowed three attempts to pass the examination. Just in case you fail in all the three, you will need to take a break of one year before reappearing for the next attempt. All the reattempts are available at a cost.

I hope my writeup was of some help to you. You can contact us for professional help on your PMP training, exam application filling up or any further guidance to earn your PMP tag! All the very best in your preparations!



Author: Sunil Telkar
Sunil is a multilingual engineer with dual post graduation in Management & Business Laws. He has around two decades of rich experience in the field of Project Management & Business Development in large MNC's of non-IT sector. A former Senior Champion at PMI India and Management Committee member at the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce, he currently manages a few startups including Aspiro Consulting LLP.
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