If you are a project manager who has considered certification, you have likely heard horror stories about how difficult the exam is to pass. As certification and credentialing exams go, there is no doubt that the Project Management Professional (PMP) is one of the more difficult ones to attempt. But even getting approved to take the exam poses a challenge.
To be approved to sit for the exam, candidates must demonstrate either three years (4,500 hours) of experience with a four-year degree or five years (7,500 hours) of experience without a four-year degree, plus experience leading and directing project activities. While the application simply asks for the description of the project work, approximately 25% of applicants are randomly selected for audit. Audited applications require further documentation of their experience.
The PMP exam is based on A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) and "other relevant sources," which contribute to the difficulty of the exam. The PMBOK Guide is a large text with 49 processes that all have inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. Realistically, it is very unusual that a typical project manager will have experience with most of those processes, let alone have a sound understanding of the various tools and techniques. As such, it can be intimidating to learn all of these details and the vocabulary. The "other relevant sources" are not identified by the Project Management Institute (PMI), so there is an inherent level of ambiguity in fully and adequately preparing for the test.
The next factor contributing to the difficulty is the questions themselves. The vast majority of the questions on the PMP exam are scenario-based or application questions. You will find that many of those questions will ask, "What is the first thing you do," "What is the next thing you do," or "What is the best action to take?" So even if you have a strong knowledge of the processes and the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs, the questions will want to validate the appropriate sequencing and application of those processes. Typically, you will find that there will be one incorrect answer, one answer that is not entirely right, and two that may both seem correct. You'll have to choose the best right answer.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the exam is that you will need to answer the questions from the PMI perspective, not based on your own experience. Likely, you may fundamentally disagree with the correct answer to some questions. However, to be successful on this exam, you must answer in alignment with the PMI approach. It has been said that the more experienced project managers find the exam more difficult than those who just barely meet the experience requirements. As a seasoned project manager, you may have developed your own approach and best practices, which may or may not align exactly with PMI. You will need to challenge yourself to answer in alignment with PMI instead of your own point of view.
Finally, the wording of the questions themselves also proves challenging. The majority of the questions and even the answers will likely be very wordy. Working your way through these particular questions can cause anxiety, especially considering that you only have about one minute and 20 seconds per question. Leaving these long or confusing questions to the end of your exam is often helpful.
There is absolutely no doubt that the PMP application and exam are notoriously difficult. However, with the proper preparation and leveraging the right tools, you can and will be successful. Create a strong study plan with the appropriate coursework and mentoring, use mock exams, and have an excellent "dump sheet" of memorized formulas to increase your chances of success.
If you are interested in becoming a certified PMP, EduMind can help you prepare for and pass your exam. With various course learning format options to choose from, you can find the one that works best for you. Click here
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Project Management Professional (PMP), A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), "PMP," and "PMBOK" are registered trademarks of Project Management Institute, Inc.