[Download Free Guide] How to Study For PMP®: Research Based Simple 3-Step Formula

Learn how to study for PMP exam, based on research findings, and even get the top resources based on your learning style.

How to study for PMP exam? is a common question you will find on forums, study groups, and even during casual chats with office colleagues.

Which study resources should I choose? comes a close second.

If you have one or both of these questions, you are in the right place right now. You should be able to find the answer to this, in a way that probably will help you for the rest of the certification exams (or higher studies) in your career.

As a PMP coach, I recommend that you find your learning style and choose study resources that suit your style of learning.

Download this guide for free from the bottom of this page!

In this article, using research-based insights you will be able to not just discover your learning style(s), but also pick the top ones for your PMP study.

The 3 simple steps we accomplish this are –

  • Step 1: What’s my primary learning style?
  • Step 2: Do I have more than one learning style?
  • Step 3: Based on my learning style what are the top study materials I can use for my PMP exam preparation?

As you align your learning style(s) and your study resources, this should save you tons of time, effort, confusion, information overwhelm (and potentially heartache), and make your PMP® preparation certain, surefooted, and quite frankly a joyful experience!

Make sure you get yourself your favorite beverage and let’s dive in.

In this article, you will find clarity about your own learning style(s), and come up with a strategy to simplify your PMP study based on research findings. Click to Tweet

What do we mean by ‘learning style’?

“The term “learning styles” refers to the concept that individuals differ in regard to what mode of instruction or study is most effective for them“, states Current Health Sciences Journal’s research article [1] based on the research conducted on students. “Proponents of learning-style assessment contend that optimal instruction requires diagnosing individuals’ learning style and tailoring instruction accordingly“, it further adds.

There are different learning styles – visual, kinesthetic, and auditory are the most recognized learning styles.

Visual learners are those that enjoy learning by watching instructions through videos, with someone explaining things on a whiteboard, through demonstrations, or even just talking. The engagement is high here due to the highly visual medium.

Auditory learners find it easier to understand concepts by listening, through podcasts or tapes. They are able to visualize concepts and pick information best while listening.

Kinesthetic learners enjoy learning new things through movement and touch. They are most comfortable when they involve their body in action and move around. They are the “hands-on” types that prefer ‘doing’ rather than ‘talking’.

Do you know what is your learning style?

Identifying this can help you answer the question more easily: ‘how to study for PMP exam’?

The research has brought to light a few interesting insights that should help those preparing for the PMP exam.

Let us understand these insights, and then see how to take advantage of them in your exam preparation.

Step 1: What’s my primary learning style?

It’s a great question to ask, and the first step to planning how to make PMP preparation easier.

The research has found that,

  • 73% of the students prefer one learning style
  • 22% prefer to learn using equally two learning style
  • 5% prefer three learning styles

Does that surprise you?

The fact that close to one-fourth of the population prefers 2 learning styles EQUALLY, certainly surprised me.

The research coughed up some more interesting numbers. In the general population, the distribution of learners is as below.

  • 65% of the learners prefer visual learning medium
  • 30% of the learners prefer auditory learning medium
  • 5% of the learners prefer kinesthetic learning medium

This percentage distribution changes slightly in medical students, understandably in favor of Kinesthetic, because the focus is more on practical applications of theory.

Take few moments and reflect on your learning style.

Would you prefer learning by watching a video, reading a book, or looking at someone explaining on the whiteboard, or demonstrating? Recall some learning incidents that captivated you – could be at the college, at work, at some workshop – in your experience.

For the most part, you should be able to decide on this quite quickly. For me, this was video-based learning, hands down.

Also read: My recommended PMP and CAPM study resources (includes free stuff).

Step 2: Do I have more than one learning style?

This step is important because if you have multiple learning styles, you can alternate them and speed up your preparation.

Do you feel like you enjoy learning using more than one style?

It is quite likely that you do.

The research found that,

  • 54% are visual AND auditory learners
  • 25% are visual AND kinesthetic learners
  • 20% are auditory AND kinesthetic learners

I find myself in the second category, where do you find yourself in?

Again, fall back on your previous experiences and recall any subject or any exam that you aced. How did you study for it, what was striking factor about it that gave you that result?

According to this study, the distribution of the learning styles is as follows:

  • 33% visual,
  • 26% auditory,
  • 14% kinesthetic,
  • 12% visual and auditory styles equally,
  • 6% visual and kinesthetic,
  • 4% auditory and kinesthetic
  • 5% all 3 styles

Just being aware of your learning style combination alone might save you a lot of headache (and heartache) down the lane.

I have found that SO many people, unfortunately, choose their PMP study resources for other reasons than based on their natural learning style(s), and most likely end up wasting time, money, and peace of mind.

Step 3: Which resources should I use for my PMP preparation?

Do this step right, and you probably can become a good example of the adage “well begun is half done”. And knock off the third piece of the puzzle to know how to study for PMP.

Reading a book has benefits, and some argue, is better than learning through watching videos.

From a review of research done since 1992 by Professor Patricia A. Alexander and her Ph.D candidate, Lauren M. Singer, it was found that students were able to “comprehend information in print or text that were not more than a page in length (better than equivalent video)” [2].

The results of a study from Emory University emerged, conducted by Professor Gregory Berns, Kristina Blaine and other colleagues aimed to observe the before and after effects of reading, using fMRI as the tool of observation.

After the reading, it was observed that students “had increased connectivity in parts of the brain that were related to language.” Not only that but increased activity was also observed in the “sensory-motor region of the brain.”

Interestingly, infovoresecrets.com cites research findings and concludes that “reading is better than watching videos“. And also identifies that if the content of the study is based on practicals (to certain extent project management IS), videos have an edge.

However, purely in the context of PMP exam preparation, after interviewing over 300 successful PMPs, and working with over 3234+ PMP students I have observed that using the PMBOK guide, at least as a reference, increases the odds of success tremendously.

The number of people that have passed PMP by including PMBOK as one of their study resources is over 90%.

Need help?: Join PMP support groups for Free today (daily questions, tips, PMPLL articles, free resources & more) – on LinkedIn and on Facebook

PMI’s Recommended Books

Here are some of the PMP study books recommended by the Project Management Institute (PMI) –

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK® Guide (on Amazon) – 6th Edition

Author: Project Management Institute
Publisher: Project Management Institute

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK® Guide (on Amazon) – 6th Edition

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide ) – PMI’s flagship publication has been updated to reflect the latest good practices in project management.

New to the sixth edition, each knowledge area will contain a section entitled Approaches for Agile, Iterative, and Adaptive Environments, describing how these practices integrate into project settings.

It will also contain more emphasis on strategic and business knowledge, including discussion of project management business documents and information on the PMI Talent Triangle and the essential skills for success in today’s market.

While it is to be noted that PMBOK is NOT the syllabus for the PMP exam, this is one of the core reference books, along with the next one in this list, the Agile practice guide.

Agile Practice Guide (on Amazon)
Author: Project Management InstituteAgile practice guide
Publisher: Project Management Institute

Agile Practice Guide has been developed as a resource to understand, evaluate, and use agile and hybrid agile approaches.

This practice guide provides guidance on when, where, and how to apply agile approaches and provides practical tools for practitioners and organizations wanting to increase agility.

This practice guide is aligned with other PMI standards, including A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) sixth edition, and was developed as the result of collaboration between the Project Management Institute and the Agile Alliance.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK® Guide (on Amazon) – 7th Edition

PMBOK 7Author: Project Management Institute
Publisher: Project Management Institute

Yes, we mean the 7th edition IN ADDITION to the 6th edition.

7th edition of PMBOK guide is not an advanced version of the 6th version, but a complementing guide.

So, both these together form a great study resource.

As of November 2021, PMI has begun including PMBOK 7th version related questions in the exam.

Also the reference list now has a mention of this book being an official reference book for PMP exam preparation.

Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling (on Amazon)

Author: Harold Kerzner
Publisher: Wiley
Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling

Project Management, or the “Project Management bible” as it’s widely known, provides practical guidance on all aspects of project management. It features a streamlined approach to PM functions without stinting on detailed coverage of the tools and methods used at all stages of a project. With this book,

  • Understand organizational structures and project management functions
  • Learn how to control costs, manage risk, and analyze trade-offs
  • Examine different methods used for planning, scheduling, QA, and more
  • Work effectively with customers and stakeholders from around the globe

Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Hybrid (on Amazon)
Author: Robert K. WysockiEffective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Hybrid
Publisher: Wiley

With enriched case studies, accompanying exercises and solutions on the companion website, and PowerPoint slides for all figures and tables, the book is ideal for instructors and students as well as active project managers.

  • Serves as a comprehensive guide to project management for both educators and project management professionals
  • Updated to cover the new PMBOK® Sixth Edition
  • Examines traditional, agile, and extreme project management techniques; the Enterprise Project Management Model; and Kanban and Scrumban methodologies
  • Includes a companion website with exercises and solutions and well as PowerPoint slides for all the figures and tables used
  • Written by well-known project management expert Robert Wysocki

Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, 2nd Edition (on Amazon)

Author: Colleen Garton with Erika McCulloch
Publisher: MC Press
Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, 2nd Edition

Designed to provide software engineers, students, and IT professionals with an understanding of the fundamentals of project management in the technology/IT field, this book serves as a practical introduction to the subject.

Updated with information on how Fundamentals of Project Management integrates with and complements Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, this collection explains fundamental methodologies and techniques while also discussing new technology, tools, and virtual work environments.

Examples and case studies are based on technology projects, and there are sample documents ranging from initial RFP to closing reports and different meeting agendas, status reports, cost analysis, and technical specifications.

The book includes 60 templates to lead technology professionals through the six phases of the project life cycle: planning, design, development, integration, deployment, and post-deployment. A chapter on using social media is also included.

Project Managers Portable Handbook, 3rd Edition (on Amazon)
Project Managers Portable Handbook, 3rd EditionAuthor: David Cleland and Lewis Ireland
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Project Manager’s Portable Handbook. the third edition offers concise, practical details on the fundamental knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to manage projects. Written by world-renowned project management experts, this compact reference summarizes best practices for defining, designing, developing, and producing project results.

Handy tables, charts, models, and callout boxes illustrate pertinent information in this essential on-the-job tool.

Easy-to-Find Project Management Topics:

  • The discipline of project management
  • Project organizational chart
  • Alternative project applications
  • The strategic context of projects
  • Project leadership
  • Project initiation and execution
  • Project planning and control
  • The project culture
  • Improving project management

Information Technology Project Management, 7th Edition (on Amazon)

Author: Kathy Schwalbe
Publisher: Cengage Learning
Information Technology Project Management, 7th Edition

Develop a strong understanding of IT project management as you learn to apply today’s most effective project management tools and techniques with the unique approach found in Schwalbe’s Information Technology Project Management 9E. Examine the latest developments and skills as you prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exams.

This edition reflects content from the latest PMBOK® Guide, 6E, and the Agile Practice Guide while providing a meaningful context. Examples from familiar companies featured in today’s news discussion, exercises, and cases reinforce learning. Time-saving template files assist in completing tasks.

Agile information, a guide to using Microsoft Project 2016, and MindTap online resources will help you master today’s most marketable IT project management skills.

Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process (on Amazon)
Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile ProcessAuthor: Kenneth S. Rubin
Publisher: Addison-Wesley

This book is hailed as “the Single-Source, Comprehensive Guide to Scrum for All Team Members, Managers, and Executives”

If you want to use Scrum to develop innovative products and services that delight your customers, Essential Scrum is the complete, single-source reference you’ve been searching for.

Leading Scrum coach and trainer Kenny Rubin illuminates the values, principles, and practices of Scrum, and describes flexible, proven approaches that can help you implement it far more effectively.

Also read: My hand-picked PMP study resource recommendation (includes free stuff)

Project Management: The Managerial Process (on Amazon)

Author: Erik Larson
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
Project Management: The Managerial Process

Project Management, 8e provides a holistic and realistic approach to Project Management that combines the human aspect and culture of an organization with the tools and methods used. It covers concepts and skills used to propose, plan secure resources, budget, and lead project teams to successful completion of projects. this text is not only on how the management process works but also, and more importantly, on why it works.

It’s not intended to specialize by industry type or project scope, rather it is written for the individual who will be required to manage a variety of projects in a variety of organizational settings. 8e was written for a broad range of audiences including, project managers, students, analysts, and Project Management Institute Members preparing for certification exams.

The digital component, Connect, now has enhanced algorithmic problems, Application-Based Activities, SmartBook 2.0, and Practice Operations, a game-based 3D operations management simulation.

The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right (on Amazon)
The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done RightAuthor: Tom Kendrick
Publisher: AMACOM

Today’s projects are more challenging than ever—and project managers need all the help they can get to succeed amid shifting priorities, budget cuts, interruptions, and other obstacles.

Now in its third edition, The Project Management Tool Kit is a must-have strategic partner, filled with step-by-step guidance that will enable managers to get complex projects completed on time and on budget.

Extensively updated and revised to reflect the latest changes to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), this results-oriented resource offers 100 powerful, practical tips and techniques in areas including:

  • Scope planning
  • Schedule development and adjustment
  • Cost estimating and control
  • Communications
  • Defining and using project metrics
  • Decision making and problem-solving
  • Motivation and leadership
  • Stakeholder engagement and expectation management
  • Risk identification and monitoring
  • Software and technical tools

Complete with checklists, charts, examples, and tools for easy implementation, this handy guide will help project professionals tackle any challenge that comes their way.

Top PMP® Video Resources

PM PrepCast by Cornelius Fichtner

For a visual learner, this course should answer the question of how to study for PMP. This is an effective video course that has helped over 50229+ students worldwide.

With the inimitable style of Cornelius Fichtner’s delivery of lectures and some amazing graphics, this course is quite popular.

Find more details here.

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I wrote (and recently updated) a VERY detailed objective review of PM PrepCast here (includes a special coupon), here.

Josepth Phillips’s course on Udemy.

This is another popular course, where you can follow along with Joseph’s video instructions.

Click here for more information.

What if you prepared for the PMP-2020 exam and now taking the new PMP exam?

Or you are a student of the PM Exam Last Mile prep program and decided to take up the the new exam?

Take this PMP booster course and learn the additional syllabus added for the new exam.


Although the PMP exam is one of those that test not just your project management acumen, your ability to deal with (a bit of) uncertainty, and the ability to think like a project manager, and to some extent the ability to sit for 4 hours, focus, and answer the questions.

The new exam came up with a ton of changes – additional content, additional question types, and (thankfully) an additional and optional break!

The first step to make the whole preparation easier to choose the study resources that you enjoy studying from.

And to do that, you must know YOUR style of learning and the best resources in that which you enjoy.

Hope this article has helped you understand various types of learning, understand your learning style (or the combination thereof), and top resources you can include in your study mix.

I highly recommend not going for over 2-3 study resources, barring the simulators.

Coming to simulators, here are a couple of them I highly recommend you check out.

Trust you have found your answer for how to study for PMP & which resources are useful in the preparation.

Want to download this guide?

Click here to download this guide in PDF format.

Alternately, you can read this as a flip-book here!

I wish you all the success.

If you still have any questions please post them in the comments below and I will answer them.

Rooting for your success,

pmesn, pmp lessons learned




References –

[1] – Buşan AM. Learning styles of medical students – implications in education. Curr Health Sci J. 2014;40(2):104-110. doi:10.12865/CHSJ.40.02.04

[2] – Students learn better from books than screens, according to a new study – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/students-learn-better-from-books-than-screens-according-to-a-new-study (Retrieved 1-11-2019)


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