21 Actions You Can Take Right Now To Get PMP Certified

July 19, 2011

So you have been working with projects for a while and have been thinking about getting your PMI certification.  Do you need a little encouragement? Search no more!

Here’s my list of 21 actions you can take right now to get your PMP certification.

1. Become a member of the PMI

It cost a bit of money, but if you’re planning on taking the PMP exam, you will get your money back.  A new PMI membership costs $129 for the year (as of the day of this post), and the discount you get on the exam for being a member is $150 ($405 vs $555 for non-members).  There are many other benefits of being a member of the PMI, so I highly recommend you do it.


PMBOK Guide2. Get the PMBOK® Guide

The exam material is covered, although dryly, in the PMBOK® Guide.  Though there are some who say you don’t need to, I recommend reading it cover to cover at least once.  Here’s how I recommend you do it.  You can get a copy from Amazon, your local bookstore, or, if you’re a PMI member, you get access to a free PDF copy with your membership.  Just keep in mind you will not be able to print out the PDF copy PMI gives you.


3. Start filling out your registration

Registering for the exam soon is a good idea.  This will get you in “action” mode, and your certification preparation will become officially real.  Start filling out the online paperwork and you will get a better idea of what it is that you will need to have ready and documented.


4. Get Motivated

You’ve decided that the PMP certification will be good for you.  However, when you start seriously thinking about pursuing it, you may get discouraged.

Talk to other PMPs, and ask them how having the certification has improved their careers.  Think again about why you decided to do it.  Do this exercise every once in a while to remind yourself of why you are preparing, and you will stay motivated to stay on the course.


5. Get a book

There are hundreds of books on how to pass the PMP exam.  In general they all try to do the same thing: explain the material in the PMBOK® Guide while giving you tips on how to pass the exam itself.  There are probably many good books, and I honestly do not know all of them.  What I did when I was preparing was to walk into bookstore with some time to kill and leafed through all of the books they had on the subject.  I’ll share here the ones that I used; they were very good and helped me a great deal.


6. Subscribe to the PM Prepcast

The first reason why I thought about having this website was to promote the PM Prepcast.  This is how much I liked this product.  The PM Prepcast is well, fantastic.  For $129.99 you will be taken by the hand and walked through the material covered by the exam, in enough detail to make you truly understand it.  For a full review and my opinion on the PM Prepcast, click here.  I honestly think that if you’re going to invest in one thing to help you pass the exam, this should be it.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate with the folks who sell it, so if you click here (or the picture to the right) and buy it, I will get a commission.


7. Subscribe to RSS feeds, blogs, and Twitter

There are tons of people out there talking about the PMP exam, asking and answering questions.  You want to participate in this conversation.  The best way to do this is by subscribing to blogs and other feeds.  These are usually free and will let you stay on top of what’s being discussed.  I particularly like Google Reader to collect my feeds.  On my iPhone, I use an app called Feeddler Pro, which signs into my Google Reader account and pulls the articles right into my phone.  So when I’m rocking my baby boy in the middle of the night, I can read what’s happening in the world of Project Management between games of Angry Birds.

On Twitter, you can do hashtag searches on keywords related to the PMP exam or Project Management in general.  These days I’ve been seeing the hashtag #PMOT a lot.  This stands for “Project Managers on Twitter” and usually PMs will add that tag at the end of their posts.  It’s a great way to know what’s going on.  Other hashtags that will be interesting if you’re taking the PMP exam are #PMP, #PMI, and #PMBOK.


8. Get an iPod (or an iPhone)

Or any other mp3 player.  No, I take that back. Get an iPod :).  Jokes aside, a smart phone or an mp3 player such as the iPod touch is an incredible resource if you are preparing to take exams.

The iPod will let you use tons of resources on the go.  Some of them I already talked about, such as RSS feeds and Twitter.  You will be able to watch the PM Prepcast (disclosure: compensated affiliate) wherever you are, as well as other podcasts.  This will empower you to take your training on the go.  My iPhone helped me a lot when I was preparing, and without it it would have taken me a lot longer to go through all the material.


9. Treat your preparation as a project

Insert smiley face here.  This was a really cool thing that I was recommended to do.  Treating your preparation as a project will get you in the mood to keep moving forward and create some accountability so you will actually do what you need to do.  I wouldn’t go crazy here, though.  A simple milestone chart or simple gantt chart showing all the tasks and actions you need to take in sequential order should do the trick.  I personally used a free product called Gantt Project.  Here’s a screen shot of my rudimentary and simple project schedule:

My simple project schedule to get PMP certified.

As you move forward with your preparation, monitor and control your progress so you know you’ll be ready by the exam date.


10. Subscribe to podcasts

These are usually free and can be very useful.  I can recommend Ron Holohan’s PM411 podcast, and the Project Management Podcast.  You will be exposed to discussions on all aspects of Project Management and learn something.  Often the PMP exam will be discussed as well.


11. Register for the exam

[box]”I like baked potatoes, but they take too long to make. Sometimes I throw one in the oven, even if I don’t want one. By the time it’s done, who knows?” – Mitch Hedberg[/box]

Much like baking a potato, I recommend you register for the exam as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel ready yet.  This will create a “hard landscape” deadline and will motivate you to prepare in an effective manner.  This will certainly help when you are preparing your schedule for your exam preparation “project.”  You will know exactly how long you will have if you plan to read the PMBOK twice, for example.  Go ahead and register!


12. Visit the exam site a few days prior to the exam

This was also recommended to me and it was a very good thing to do.  About 3 or 4 days before the actual exam, take a drive to the site to check it out.  See how long it takes you to get there, what the traffic is like, where to park.  Go inside the building, make sure you know exactly where to go once you’re in there.  Introduce yourself to the receptionist, and ask them any questions you may have.  The rules regarding what you can and cannot bring to the exam room change from time to time, so make sure you know exactly what you can bring.  Ask them if there’s a lot of people coming that day, if they recommend showing up early, etc.

This will help in many ways.  Besides familiarizing yourself with the site, it will give you peace of mind on the actual day of the exam.  Knowing what to expect is a good thing!  You will have enough in your mind on that day, and having familiarity with the surroundings will help you set your mind at ease.


13. Write a cheat-sheet

The PMP exam will test you on a variety of concepts and formulas.  You will need to have the formulas memorized and the concepts solidly understood.  A good tool to have while you are studying is to have a cheat-sheet.  Write on it all the formulas and all the other material that you will need to have in your brain but you’re not very sure you know it yet.  Use it while you’re studying.

While there are formula sheets you can purchase, I really recommend you write your own.  What I ended up doing was writing my own AND purchasing a pre-made one here.  That gave me the opportunity to check mine against it to ensure I had everything covered.

Needless to say, this sheet will NOT be admissible into the exam room.  It’s merely a study tool.


No, not this kind of flash card. I’m just testing to see if you’re awake.

14. Use Flashcards to Test Your Knowledge

I have been a big fan of flash cards ever since my ESL teacher introduced me to them over a decade ago.  That’s how I learned much of my English vocabulary.  In fact, I still have the flash cards from my English class stored away.  I take them out once in a while and it amazes me how far I’ve come!

I suggest you use flashcards for testing your knowledge when preparing for the PMP exam.  Much of the material lends itself well to this method, mainly the “ITTOs” or “inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques” you need to understand to pass the test.

You can create your own flashcards using file cards or you can purchase this product which lets you use your iPod or iPhone to view them (or any other compatible device). (Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate)


15. Find a study buddy

Having a study buddy is something I didn’t have when I was preparing.  Looking back, I wish I had it.  A study buddy with whom you have scheduled meetings and study sessions is a great way to have accountability and to stay motivated.

You can find a study buddy at your local PMI chapter, as there are usually people preparing for the exam who are members.


16. Answer thousands of questions

There is no better way to prepare for the PMP exam questions than answering as many good sample questions as you can.

While all the material is covered by the PMBOK Guide, answering many questions on the exam are not a simple “memorize-and-brain-dump” process. You will be given “fictitious real-life” situations in which you will be asked to apply your knowledge of Project Management to answer them.  The best way to prepare for these kinds of questions is not to simply memorize the material, but to answer similar questions ahead of time.

You will be able to find PMP preparation questions on the Internet, both free and as part of a paid product.  From my experience, this is really a case of getting what you pay for.  I found that the free questions were not as good, and not really in line with the actual exam.  For paid questions, I recommend you take the following step:


17. Use a PMP Exam Simulator

When I took my exam not very long ago, I wish there was a product that could simulate the actual exam.  Answering questions is VERY useful, but wouldn’t it be much more useful if you could answer them as if you were taking the actual exam?  Well, there are now a few PMP exam simulators in the market.

The PM Exam Simulator will provide you with thousands of high quality questions and a very accurate exam simulator.  This  will be invaluable as you prepare to take the exam.  Click here or the picture to the right to get it. This is provided by the same people who make the PM Prepcast (disclosure: compensated affiliate).


18. Have an Exam-Taking Strategy and Test It

It is a very good idea to have a strategy in place for how you will take the exam.  There are many things to consider when coming up with a strategy:

  • Remember that every question, regardless of their complexity, is worth exactly the same.
  • Know your strengths: know which knowledge areas you understand best.
  • You have an average of 1.2 minutes (or 72 seconds) to answer each question.  If you spend more than that on any single question, it’ll take time away from another one.
  • You have only 4 hours to answer everything
  • Remember you can mark questions you’re unsure of for later review.
  • Some questions will give you lots of background information *before* the question is asked. Sometimes that information is irrelevant, but it still takes time to read it.

My strategy was to quickly find the question part of the question first. and decide quickly if I could answer it fast.  If it was a question from a knowledge area I was not very strong at, or a question that would involve longer calculations, I’d mark it for review.  The idea was to answer the easy and quick questions first – remember, they’re all worth the same.

Once the quick/fast questions were answered, I went back to the ones I marked and again, tried to skip those that I knew would take a long time to think about and/or do the calculations for.  I continued this iteration and finished the exam well within the time limit.

This strategy won’t work for everyone, so I recommend you come up with one for yourself.  Then use the PM Exam Simulator (compensated affiliate) and test your strategy and tweak it repeatedly.


19. Check out PMStudent.com, Josh Nankivel’s Blog

I know I already recommended you read blogs on Project Management.  This one, however, stands above the crowd.  I had the opportunity to chat with Josh a few posts back and he shared with us how he got started in Project Management and many other tips.  His blog/website is full of goodies and great information regarding Project Management in general, and certifications in particular.  Take a visit and say hello for me.


20. Network With Those Who Just Took the Exam

While it is not allowed to talk about details of the exam, I found it really helpful to talk to people who had recently taken the exam.  The biggest benefit for me was to see how calm and collected they were.  They reassured me that the exam wasn’t that bad if you were prepared, and they also gave me some great tips.  They were the ones who told me to dress in layers, because the exam room can be really cold.  Some important information such as that cannot be found in books. Network!


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Please let me know if you found this post useful and keep me posted on your exam preparation. Good luck!