Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

PMP Study Tips with Timeline

passI created the following study guide for students of my PMP prep courses. I post this now with thoughts of those sitting for the exam in the next six-weeks, before PMBOK 4th Edition testing ends July 31, 2013. Please comment with your own study suggestions for others.

Week(s) Before

  1. Create crib sheet
    • Create your own. Doing it yourself will force you to write the solutions which will help with memory retention. It will also make more sense to you as you will document knowledge in the way that makes the most sense to you. Suggestions for crib sheet include (in priority order):
    1. Earned Value Formulas
    2. 3-point estimating formulas
    3. Communications Channels
    4. Present-Future Value Formulas
    5. Conflict Resolution Types
    6. Types of Power for the Project Manager
    7. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    8. Contract Types
    9. Organizational Structure Characteristics
    10. Sigma Percentages
    11. Cost Estimate Range Table
    12. Slack, Forward, and Backward Pass Formulas
    13. Risk Response Strategy (Positive Risks)
    14. Risk Response Strategy (Negative Risks)
    15. Communication Model
    16. PTA Variables
  2. Review PMBOK section 3 – Inputs, Tools & Techniques, & Outputs by Knowledge Area (also available in combined slideshow)
  3. Practice PDM
  4. Practice EMV
  5. Work through a PMP Exam prep study guide on your own paying special attention to exercise.
  6. Take sample test of at least 100 questions (http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/pmp_exam/v1/quiz.html)
  7. Review score and identify missed questions by knowledge area
  8. Review study guide, the PM Answer Book*, and PMBOK*, for each the three weakest knowledge areas
  9. As needed, go to PMI 24/7 Books (eReads) – http://www.pmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Virtual-Library-eReads-and-Reference.aspx
  10. Search through library to find additional resources that will help increase knowledge of that area (many books have practice exams by knowledge area that will help you test your knowledge)
  11. Repeat steps 2 – 8 noting any changes in comprehension by knowledge area and adjusting as necessary

A note about practice test:

  • DO – use test results to determine knowledge areas that you are weaker in
  • DO – use test to get comfortable with format of questions and strategy for answering
  • DON’T – use test results as a final indicator of the score you will get on the final test


Day(s) Before

  1. Recreate crib sheet from memory (cheat only if needed)
  2. Review PMBOK by knowledge area (inputs, tools and techniques, outputs)
  3. Review PMI-isms (Rita page 15-17)
  4. Review Chapter 14 – the PMP Exam (Rita’s book)
  5. Review study book exercises
  6. Recreate matrix of Knowledge Area and Process groups from memory
  7. Take sample test of at least 100 questions (Transcender or http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/pmp_exam/v1/quiz.html)

Night Before / Day Of

    • Determine any urgent study needs from test results and study
    • Verify test location and time
    • Find your exam schedule notice and set aside where you will NOT forget the next day
    • Take a break – put it all aside, relax, and take care of your self
    • Don’t over do
    • Get a good night sleep
    • Eat a healthy meal
    • Review your crib sheet, matrix of Knowledge Area and Process Groups
    • Remember your exam schedule notice
    • Pack a healthy snack and water
    • Get to test site early
    • Review your crib sheet again paying special attention to difficult to remember formulas (don’t try to crash memorize more than 3 or you’ll fill up the brain)
    • Go to exam room (they will likely let you sit for the exam early if you get there early provided they have a test station available)
    • Store your personal items in locker provided
    • Use the restroom
    • Once you are at the test station
      1. Recreate your crib sheet on paper provided
      2. Use the time available to get comfortable with the computerized test (allowed 15 minutes)
      3. Start the clock when ready

Principles to Remember

  • The Project Manager has authority within the parameters of the charter
  • Stakeholders include everyone including the team and project manager
  • For any decision or problem
    • Identify the problem
    • Analyze the Impact
    • Evaluate Options
    • Prepare a Recommendation
  • Communication is candid yet empathic with problem solving in mind
  • All project information is transparent unless confidential (for a reason)
  • The Project Manager is always proactive toward the project and bettering project management practices within the organization
  • Address problem and potential issues head on
  • The Lazy PM
    • Emphasizes planning
    • Stakeholders are privy to plans for smooth transition to response eliminating “fire fighting mode”
  • Read the entire question and possible answers before settling on an answer
  • Dissect question – what is it actually asking
    • Look for extraneous information
    • Look for double-negatives – translate to positive question
  • Look at the potential answers
    • What is the sequence of events based on the PMBOK
      • Sequence the possible answer to determine BEST NEXT
      • Review the sequence with possible answers of lists to rule-out or identify the best answer
    • Does a single answer have a mix of concepts that are not in context with the question – rule it out
    • Does a single answer sound like a good practice, something you would do, BUT is not covered in your study or PMBOK – rule it out
    • When comparing two answers – is one more formal then the other? The more formal answer may be the correct one with the informal answer being the “good idea” that is not the official answer

In Reviewing Questions During the Test

  1. Run through the test once answering the easy questions and flagging the not-easy questions.
  2. Run through the test a second time to answer the flagged questions. Unmark those you are relatively comfortable with, keep marked the ones you want to come back to
  3. Take a break!!!!
  4. Run through the test again for only the marked items, verify your answers – have a darn good reason for changing if you had answered. Your first instinct may very well be the right one.
  5. In your final run through look for
  •  Questions that may have been tricks
    • Wordy questions
    • Answers include similar lists of items
    • Seemed too good to be true
    • The first 20-50 questions that you answered as your frame of mind may not have been ready for a trick
    • Take a break!!!!
    • Last run through as you determine necessary – look for potentially obvious mistakes you may have made. Again, if you are waffling between two answer, your first instinct may be correct – consider leaving the original response
    • Know that is normal to stop breathing the second you hit “done”
    • There may be a slight delay and a survey on the test experience will be presented (SERIOUSLY!?!?)
    • There may be a slight delay and then a message on the overall test results “Congratulations, you have passed.”
    • The test proctor staff will provide you with proof.
    • Email vicki.james@watermarklearning.com (I want to hear!)
    • PMI will mail you certificate and other goodies to accompany your PMP.

What if…

A failing test score is not a failure!! You only truly fail when you give up. Remember, the test was designed to only achieve a certain level of passing attempts. Also remember, it was designed expecting test takers to already be experienced expert level project managers. You should take the opportunity to take the exam again. See 4 Steps to Recover from a PMP Exam Fail (PMStudent.com) and 10 Tips for Passing the PMP Exam…the Second Time (Watermark Learning).

* Notes

The books listed here were used for classes relating to the 4th Edition of the PMBOK. Look for the most current editions if planning to sit for the exam after 7/31/2013.  See The Project Pro’s Bookstore, PMP Prep shelf for these and other titles.

  • PMP Prep Study Books
  • PMBOK
    • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (4th Edition)
  • PM Answer Book
    • Furman, J. (2012). The Project Management Answer Book. Management Concepts Press.
  • Find more on PMP Exam Preparation from Watermark Learning

8 responses to “PMP Study Tips with Timeline

  1. Pingback: PMP Study Tips with Timeline | #PMChat

  2. Lori Nevin June 14, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Vicki, this is an excellent representation of where to focus effort after those long hours of study are complete. A PM should feel ready. This gets them there with confidence.

  3. Mike July 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Do practice tests pmppracticeexams.com

  4. Pingback: 100 PMP Exam “Lessons Learned” Posts… All In One! « TestPrepSupport.com Blog

  5. Edward Chung, PMP, Full-stack Web Developer January 27, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Very detailed sharing here. Your PMP exam study strategy is just wonderful! With the help of lessons learned from you and other PMPs, I passed my PMP recently. Thanks a lot!

  6. Trainings24x7 February 26, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Hello Vickipps,

    I read your blog “PMP Study Tips with Timeline” and i would like to say that you have written a wornderful and informative blog here. Really i enjoyed your pmp preparation tips with timeline. I have recently passed the PMP exam on January 18, 2016.

    I would share this with my colleagues and friends. Thank you!

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