Easy 21-Step PMP Study Plan For Effective PMP Preparation – Mohmed Anees, PMP

21 step pmp study plan Yes, I cleared my PMP Exam!

I condensed my lessons learned as a 21-step PMP study plan to share with those preparing for the exam. I trust some of these may be helpful to PMP aspirants, just like I leveraged the lessons learned from successful PMPs before me.

Here’s my 21-step checklist, if you will, for a successful PMP campaign.

Download this easy 21-step PMP study plan for your effective PMP prep. Click to Tweet

Download this 21-step checklist, at the end of this post. Print and stick to your study desk, and mark each step as you pass it!

1. Studying on a daily basis is mandatory.

I spent at least 2 hours on week days and 6 hours on weekends.

Soon enough I got into this study rhythm which helped me tremendously when the going got tough.

Building study momentum is important for PMP exam, and I think that having a daily study schedule helps you in this.

Also read: Leverage the PMP study strategies, techniques, and tips of over 160 successful PMPs around the world.

2. Get 35 contact hours education requirement – consider it as a milestone in your study

pmp aneesTo get the 35 contact hours, I feel that class room sessions to be more useful than any other means of training. You get in touch with fellow aspirants directly in the classroom. I went to IIPM.

Even though it might look like a lot of data in 35 hours, I still recommend class room training.

And if you can take this early in your study, it will give you a 59,000 ft bird’s eye view of PMP syllabus. You may not get everything, and it is okay. Don’t stress yourself at this point.

3. Start with the books you enjoy studying from

As per feedback from many people, I started with Rita’s PMP book and HeadFirst PMP where the concepts are explained in simple English without much of sophistication.

I enjoyed these thoroughly.

4. Then take up the PMBOK

After going through Rita and Headfirst once, go through PMBOK fully cover to cover.

Some say that having Rita and PMBOK side by side for every chapter also was useful for them. Whichever works for you.

5. Reach your first confidence-booster milestone

After completing the above mentioned, you should have an idea of all the knowledge areas, process groups and how they are interlinked.

Please take time to celebrate this important milestone!

More: Discover the ‘Last Mile’ course that over 1439+ PMP aspirants have used for their exam prep.

6. Process chart is important, get this right

Be it the one in PMBOK or Rita’s – understand process flow chart well and understand what is actually done in each process group and logical reason behind why that process comes under that process group.

The understanding of how information flows across processes across process groups and knowledge areas – this is half the PMP battle won.

Give this exercise enough time and ideally do this early in your study.

7. Plan for multiple rounds of study

After getting a hold on the organization types, process flow, methodologies, key terms, various documents used throughout the project life cycle and a better accepted practice of project management as referred in PMBOK, take time to internalize them.

Plan to study in multiple rounds. It is almost impossible to get everything in just one swipe of your study resources.

Each subsequent round should be shorter, and ideally help you identify your grey areas to focus more on.

8. Don’t memorize ITTOs!

Need not memorize the ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, Outputs), but just understand the overall flow of how various processes interact with each other.

Also read: How to prepare to answer ITTO based questions.

9. Here’s a secret: Study from PMI’s perspective

We all have a different perspective of Project management, biased by our daily life activities, personal experience and culture of present organization.

Taking mock tests align us to PMBOK’s definition of project management and helps us find our gaps in knowledge.

Answering questions based on own experience can be a recipe for disaster. Study PMBOK (or any resource you’ve chosen) and understand what is ‘expected’ to be the answer for a question. This is the ideal world answer, may be different in the real world.

10. Mock tests. Mock tests. And some more mock tests.

Take as many mocks as you can. Plan these throughout your PMP study – ideally, one during first round of study, one at the end of first round, one at the end of second round, and a bunch of them in the final week before the exam.

Lesser said the better.

More: Grab a free PMP mock test simulator, here.

11. Study the reasons you’re making mistakes

As you take mock tests give more (and more) importance to your wrong answers, understanding why they are wrong and fill the gaps.

Try to understand the before and after process of the answers that went wrong to get a better understanding.

After every test, spend at least couple of hours going over the answers. Understand why you gave wrong answers for those few questions, and during the process identify your weak areas. Spend some time studying them before you move towards your next study milestone.

12. Then read the PMBOK again

After attempting many mock tests, I read PMBOK (2nd time). After these tests, the information provided in PMBOK made more sense to me.

Believe me, PMBOK and other reference books were much more interesting after taking these mocks. Many topics will “ring a bell” as we realize how these concepts were framed as a question in mock tests.

13. Study through videos

Either take up videos and google hangouts (discussion / doubts on particular topics) or sign up for a video course. I listened to Saket Bansal’s audio of google hangouts while traveling to office. It uncovers many vital differences between similarly looking concepts which really helped during the exam.

14. Sign up for forums/exam prep communities

This is the next thing that helped me the most to pass my exam.

Personally, I use Facebook too much. I subscribed to a few pages in Facebook that posts very good questions and makes you think a lot before answering. There are many people who will keep answering the questions and sometimes provide justification from their point of view leading to a healthy debate / discussion.

Since generally most of the questions have 2 (or more) correct answers, choosing the BEST answer might be tricky. Therefore, debates in such groups, within friends’ circle helps you understand why the actual answer is the BEST one compared to other choices.

Also, Facebook questions can be reviewed during any time of the day as per our convenience… just when we are casually looking at other posts… Pro Active for Training and Consulting, PMP questions and discussion Forum, PMP Exam notes tips and resources, IQRA PMP Study group are a few groups to name.

More: Join PMESN Facebook group, and LinkedIn group for daily PMP questions, free study resources, and expert advice.

15. Family support is very important

This was crucial in my case. I had to focus on my PMP journey with my the job being really demanding and having the naughtiest baby at home :-).

Explain your spouse about what you are planning to do. Request for understanding so you can focus on the journey for the big credential and carve out the space you that you need for the preparation.

When the exam is near you’ll need cooperation of people at work so they can disturb outside of office hours only if absolutely necessary.

16. Schedule for the exam only after you feel you are ready

We typically tend to underestimate the effort and time required for a task.

Thus reaching a stage that can give us some sense of where we stand would help. PMBOK version is not going to change for some time now 🙂 so keep your personal and professional commitments in mind and draw up a plan.

Once you are done with first round of study, you’ll know how long it may take for another round of test and final prep. So this is a good time to schedule for your test. The challenge, is, also to reach this stage as early as you possibly can.

17. Study for scenario based questions

The exam may test our skills in applying the knowledge, management skills and UNDERSTANDING THE ACTUAL PROBLEM in a presented scenario. In most of the cases, more than picking the right answer, eliminating the wrong answers one by one can help in arriving at the best answer.

More: Use this series to prepare for scenario based questions in a fool-proof manner.

18. Evaluate your exam preparedness

In my experience, you are in a good shape if you can score 75 ~ 80% in the mocks and 60% or above in tough questions.

Just make sure that you don’t take same test every time, take a fresh 200 question tests to evaluate your preparedness. I took one after every round of study, and more towards the end. Consistency of 80%+ score is important.

19. Week before the exam, prepare harder

Just before a week of the final exam, I took two tests that I felt had many tough questions. PMZILLA 200 tough questions (Purchased online) with 100 bonus question and questions from PMZEST. I scored 61%.

Cristopher Scordo’s test also has got some good questions.

But don’t get your expectation of the difficulty level on the exam determined by the mock tests you take. There is no connection between these.

The best approach I found is to not have any expectations as you go into the exam hall.

More: Click here for a bunch of free PMP study resources, including mock tests.

20. Day before the exam, take it easy

I stopped studying one day prior to the final exam.

Have a peaceful sleep and relax the previous day.

Just going through the notes taken during the preparation, flash cards are okay. Don’t stress yourself by trying a mock test, trying to fill gaps, etc., Reserve all your energy for the exam.

21. Never underestimate the stress during the 4 hours test

Based on your luck you may get a bunch of tough questions right at the beginning of the test. Or somewhere in the middle. Don’t get this demoralize you.

I made up my mind not to spend over a minute on any difficult question. If a question appeared tough straight away, simply mark it and move ahead. Try to answer as many simple questions as you can in the first go.

More: Here’s a simple strategy for you to answer more questions in less time on the exam. Search for ‘proven strategy’ on this page.


These tips and tricks are something that worked for me, and I have seen similar results from some of the other project managers that took the PMP exam. Some may take an easier path or alternatives that may work better for them. It’s all up to the individual.

If you found at least one of the points helpful share this 21-step PMP study plan with one of your friends that is preparing for the PMP exam. It may help them immensely.

All the best for your preparation. Take this exam with real seriousness and dedication. Relax and celebrate after the exam.

Mohmed Anees, PMP

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