The Complete PMP Exam Prep Guide To Pass PMP In 4 Weeks

This morning I received a mail from one of PMESN readers, KJ.

“.. [can you] please help me with PMP exam preparation or give some pointers. I have other commitments as well [that take up my time]. I need to pass the exam. How do I prepare and by that I am not asking shortcuts, just right guidance.”

She said that she has a limited time to spend towards PMP prep and has a lot of commitments, and she asked me for some pointers that help her pass the exam.

pmp exam prep guide

Now, it was hard for me to put together all that information in one email. So instead, I sent her a bunch of relevant page links, grouped under few buckets so she knows exactly where to look for what information and run with it.

Then it occurred to me that such information to come up with a complete plan by spending just a couple of hours may help many PMP aspirants with similar situation (shorter timeframe and multiple commitments) that are looking for a way out.

In this post I give you 4 stages of PMP preparation.

And all that you need in each of these stages to come up with a solid and simple PMP exam prep plan, resources, tips and techniques to ace your PMP exam.

Click to read about ‘PMP Last Mile’ study system that helps you pass PMP with only PMBOK (over 2364+ have used this system to prepare for their PMP exam).

Spend a couple of hours on these pages and at the end of the session you will have clarity, plan, resources and hopefully, a bit of fillip you need to go get that certificate. These couple of hours may be the best time investment you could make at the beginning of your PMP journey.

These couple of hours may be the best time investment you could do at the beginning of your PMP preparation.

Disclaimer: Some of the links you find here are affiliate links such as Amazon. This means that if you choose to purchase the product using these links I will get a small commission, at no additional cost to you (your purchase price does not change).

This keeps this blog and other efforts of free PMP education (Fb community, coaching, email support etc) running. However, you are free to go to those sites directly and buy from there. I only recommend them because either I have used these PMP products, or have verified them and believe in the value they provide you in your PMP preparation.

With that said, let’s get started!

We shall see how to achieve PMP credential in 4 stages –

  • Stage 1: Set a solid Foundation
  • Stage 2: Prepare and optimal Study Plan
  • Stage 3: Choose Study Resources that suit YOUR needs
  • Stage 4: Use the experience of other PMPs to refine your Study Approach!

For each of these stages I shall specify exactly what to focus on, and provide with tools and resources to fulfil the aim. At the ene of this exercise you should have pretty much everything you will ever need to prepare for PMP with ease and pass without any stress.

Now, that’s a bold statement.

And the results PMESN readers are getting gives me the confidence in the PMP exam prep guide I am sharing below. And don’t miss the bonus section at the end, it can very well act as an additional dose of motivation!

Stage 1: Set a Solid Foundation

Your aim at this stage is to understand the PMP landscape.

Understand what is involved in preparing for PMP exam and the possibilities of making your PMP journey easier. At the end of this stage you should have good clarity and certain amount of confidence that there are no surprises down the line.

The first thing to do is to check whether you are eligible for taking up PMP exam.

Two aspects to verify is the education criteria and number of hours of project management experience.

But if you are not working in a hardcore project management setup, do not worry. Read this article by Karen Kinsman, who being in a university set up appeared for PMP and successfully passed her exam. She says, “I am a nonprofit organization director (small K-12 STEM-H education outreach) within a University setting, so definitely a very non-traditional PM environment”.

Here’s the beginner’s PMP guide.

This guide, apart from the eligibility needs, explains all that you need to know about PMP exam.

If you do not fulfill required number of hours of project management experience, you may be eligible for CAPM exam. Here’s the CAPM guide for more details.

Once you confirm your PMP eligibility, next thing is to apply for PMP exam on PMI’s site.

This can be a challenge for few, especially putting together your project management experience in a way that PMI expects. If not done right there is a possibility of your application getting rejected.

Check this step-by-step guide to file PMP application at PMI.

You’ll also get a free (and popular) spreadsheet to collate your PM experience in a way that PMI expects. This should strengthen your application.

Did you know that you can get a scholarship to get PMP prep material free of cost?

Yes, PMI’s Educational Foundation offers various types of scholarships for different project management courses.

Learn how you can get PMP exam scholarship here.

Stage 2: Prepare an optimal study plan

Your aim at this stage is to get all the information necessary to chalk out a study plan and schedule based on YOUR unique circumstances.

A plan that worked for someone else may or may not work for you. Every PMP aspirant’s circumstances are unique – depending on their prior PM experience, the PM practices followed in their organizations, types of projects they managed and so on. You need one that suits you. And this stage is where you get it on paper.,

Here’s a guide for the overall PMP study plan.

Mind you, this page itself does not give you the plan, but all the necessary tools to prepare one for yourself.

Take top-down approach to PMP study

Many people consider the best approach for PMP exam prep is the top-down approach. Simply because PMP has a lot of concepts to learn about, and dop-down / drill-in approach cuts the sense of overwhelm.

With this approach, you first get the high level understanding of various Knowledge Areas and Process Groups, and learn the concepts from 10,000 ft high. Then you drill-down each and start learning information in detail. When you do this, because of your prior high level familiarity with the concepts ‘things start to fall in place’.

This approach is found to reduce the overall study efforts and duration required for PMP exam.

Here’s an easy way to take top-down approach. Sign up for the free 11-day PMP Study Blueprint email course.

This course gives you an e-guide every day – just follow the suggested homework each day and you will be amazed at the level of confidence you get at the end of 11 days.

Plus, as a bonus, at the end of 11 days you will have had your study plan and study schedule in place.

Keep the study momentum going

When I decided to take up PMP exam, I was all excited. I bought Rita’s book (which I finally didn’t end up using for the exam) and began study. After 10 days and one chapter later, I gave up because of a crisis with my project delivery. And my PMP train was derailed.

A few months later (after a not-so-great appraisal meeting 🙂 ), I picked up the task again. This time I got PMI’s membership (which is a smart thing to do, actually – it reduces your overall exam fee and gives you tons of material), and began with PMBOK guide.

It took me close to 3 months to get through the first round of PMBOK study. And then started with second round, only to feel that gut-wrenching feeling realizing that I didn’t remember anything at all. This attempt too did not last long – I had to travel to client place for 3 months and PMP took back seat.

This way it took me about two and a half years for my PMP. 🙂

Has something similar happened to you?

In my view, this is unavoidable. Things will come up at work, and in life, and we shift down the priority we give to PMP. But if we lost the momentum, it becomes that much harder to get back on track.

How do you keep the study momentum?

That’s precisely why we started PMESN Facebook group – where we post one sample PMP question every day. Even if you cannot put in 1-2 hours for your PMP study, spend just 2 minutes on the page, read the question and give it a shot. At the end of the week, go back and look at official answers posted to 7 previous days’ questions and you will see that this becomes a ‘learning experience’.

Click here to go to PMESN Facebook group. And while at it click the LIKE button and make sure you check the option to get these questions right into your newsfeed.

pmesn fb like pmp study momentum

Figure: Sign up for daily PMP questions, and keep your study momentum going

If you are on LinkedIn, join this study group for support!

It is amazing how many PMP students talk about these ‘false starts’ they have had. A good idea is also keep a small daily ritual as part of your PMP study. It could be attempting sample question, spend 5 minutes on process chart every day.

I use a brain friendly Frame-method in PMP Last Mile prep course to get this table by heart under 15 minutes.

Learn from collective wisdom

Here’s a book that helps you chalk out a 4-week plan based on the experience of over 657+ PMP successful students. It can save few pitfalls and pave a smoother way towards PMP goal. Click on the image below to know more information on Amazon page.

pass new pmp exam in 4 weeks

Understand and stay clear of PMP myths

Are you worried that you need to know several hundred ITTOs of all 49 processes by heart?

It’s not true. You don’t need to.

There are several such PMP myths that trouble us unnecessarily.

Read such 17 myths (and few interesting facts) about PMP exam here.

That brings us to stage 3.

Stage 3: Choose study resources that suit YOUR needs

The aim at this stage is to research and choose right PMP study resources.


My advice is to keep PMBOK as one of the primary study resources for your PMP exam prep. Out of several hundred PMP students that I have interacted with, there have been very few that did NOT use PMBOK guide. The strong reason for using PMBOK is that most of the questions come from this book.

If you took PMI’s membership, you will get a soft copy of PMBOK for free. But if you are someone that find it easier to study using physical book, you’ll have to get one separately.

With PMBOK in the kitty, you can choose 1 or 2 more study resources. The average number study resources I have seen majority of PMP students choose is 3.

How do you choose the other two?

I strongly suggest choosing them based on the study method you enjoy.

A bit of research is in order.

That is, if you like studying from a video course, choose PMP Last Mile Prep Pro, PM PrepCast, Simplilearn, or any other that you like.  If you like studying from books, choose Rita, Head First, Scordo or any of the top ones. based on the method that you enjoy studying from (video/books/coaching).

Brain-friendly techniques to ace your PMP exam, used by toppers

Recommended resources

Here are few recommended resources, including books, simulators, sample questions et al.

Exam simulator

By now you probably know that learning concepts alone does not make for an effective PMP exam prep. This is because PMI has changed PMP exam pattern and now almost every queston is scenario based. And so after learning concepts you need to practice as many mock tests you can to,

  • get a dry run of real exam
  • practice optimizing 4hrs to get more questions right
  • Identify gaps in you study and focus on those KAs or concepts

I highly recommend you get one.

A simulator is a solid companion in your PMP exam prep.

Don’t just take my word on this popular simulator that was created by subset of PMPs that create original PMP exam question bank.

Click to get get a smaller version (but real questions) right now, before it is pulled down.

You can get my populat, free PMP exam simulator here.

Get ‘Last Mile’ prep resources

Here are few books that help bridge the gap between study resources and real exam.

Take a look here.

Prepare Brain dump

Yes, I hear you saying that Prometric does not allow brain dump anymore on the exam. You are right.

But the exercise of preparing the brain dump itself is useful to quickly recall formlas and a gamut of other things you need quick access to, during the exam.

Click to see how to prepare one (and even steal mine!)

Stage 4: Let others’ PMP exam prep guide you refine your study approach

The aim here is to augment your study efforts by leveraging other students’ real PMP exam experience, and refine your overall approach by including few tips and techniques, so you get the best bang for your buck.

Leverage other PMP students’ Lessons Learned

You don’t need to make all the mistakes. Choose the best practices from other successful PMP students.

This is where you find several top PMP students’ PMP lessons learned.

Here are few study tips and techniques –

Even if you picked one, just one tip or technique from these you should be able to see a sea-difference in your PMP exam prep.

Bonus! What to do after you get your PMP certification?

Getting your PMP certification is not the end. Instead, it is the beginning of a whole new chapter in your career. You can leverage your valuable credential to further your career, and this is where most people lose out. Because, they just don’t do anything.

Claim your digital badge

PMI teamed up with Acclaim in May-2017 to issue digital badge to all PMI credential holders. This is actually a goldmine. You not only can brand yourself with right people you also get access to crucial live job market insights, where you can see the salary you deserve, the jobs abvailable for your profile, and caneven apply for them safely!

Click here to know how to do it all.

Plan how to keep your PMP certificate in force

PMI expects you to keep learning, and demonstrate it to them by accruing PDUs.

Here’s a free PDU guide you can use to plan how to get your PDUs.

Plan now and you will never have to spend more money, or distressed time at the end of 3 years to get 60 PDUs.

One of the ways to gain PDUs is to blog about Project Management trends, news, articles, best practices and so on. And if this is something you’d like to do, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help (no, you don’t have to pay anything 🙂 )


PMP is more important in today than ever to get ahead in one’s career. It is also one of the most popular (and sought after by companies) certification.

PMP most sought after certification

As of 2021, PMI has produced over a million PMPs around the globe!

Figure courtesy: greycampus

I hope this PMP exam prep guide has given you some tools to plan out an easy-to-follow plan to get your PMP credential. If you liked this, I’d love you to share this article socially using this floating bar on the left. 🙂

Good luck!

pmesn, pmp lessons learned

PS: Let me know if you needed any help planning your prep. Reach me on mail shiv(at)pmexamsmartnotes(dot)com or connect with me on LinkedIn (here).

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