[Infographic] Unlock Your Professional Potential with the PMP Exam: 7 Easy Steps to Success

PMP exam 7 easy steps to success unlock professional potential

The PMP exam is one of the sought-after project management certification exams.

PMI’s salary survey has consistently found that project managers with PMP credentials earn 16-25% or more over and above those without PMP (here, and here).

Moreover, many organizations use PMP as an interview filter – “Please apply only if you are PMP certified”. This is a benefit when you consider that PMP gives you a good chance at an interview.

But it can be difficult to pass this exam.

The reasons are many –

  1. The sheer amount of content to study is huge
  2. The exam is for practitioners, so the questions are scenario-based
  3. There is no official word on exactly how the exam is scored, or what’s the passing threshold.

If you didn’t catch the repercussion of #2 above, please read the sentence again.

What it means is that simply studying the concepts is not sufficient. You have to be able to apply the concept to a given scenario from the question and choose the ‘best’ option among the given options as your answer.

That’s thinking time.

And the exam gives you just 76 seconds per question.

In short, your exam should go like clockwork.

A minute per question 180 times, and then buffer time to spend on a few tough questions you’ve ‘marked for later’.

Once you are certified, your confidence level, recognition in the industry, and authority in your field – all go up.

You get to unlock your professional potential. 

Now that we’ve seen why PMP is important and why it is difficult to pass, let us see a simple 7-step process to help you prepare for and pass the PMP exam.

This is the path of least resistance!

Do you want my PMP launch course ($27 value, free today)?

Unlock Your Professional Potential with the PMP Exam: 7 Easy Steps to Success

I have included an infographic at the end of this post that you can download.

Print it and stick it to your desk as a high-level study plan.

Step 1: Understand the PMP Exam.

Before attempting the PMP exam, it’s important to understand what the exam is and what it covers.

You should familiarize yourself with the PMP exam’s structure, the types of questions you’ll be asked, and the topics covered.

We have talked about some of the nuances of the PMP exam at the beginning of this article.

The syllabus consists of 3 domains –

pmp domains

Figure 1: Question distribution across 3 domains of PMP syllabus

In terms of questions, PMI states that “About half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches”.

But, please do not take this literally! 🙂

I interview fresh-out-of-the-oven PMPs and publish their interview on this blog (333+ at the time of writing this article).

Most of them have NOT reported that they got an equal amount of agile and predictive questions. Some have reported more Agile questions and some have reported more Predictive ones.

The other thing to know is that the exam will contain multiple types of questions –

  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Drag and drop – matching left & right side options
  • Click on the image to answer by understanding the scenario.
  • Multiple choice question with 4 options and one correct answer.
  • Multiple choice questions with more than 4 options and multiple correct answers.

Once you understand the PMP exam landscape, it becomes easier to plan for your study.

Step 2: Collect The Right Resources.

Gather the resources you need to help you study for the PMP exam. Find a variety of resources from PMP exam prep books, online tutorials, podcasts, and practice tests.

Know this secret.

Irrespective of which resources you use, keeping PMI’s own books as a reference helps you feel more confident about the exam.

There’s a reason for this. The questions created for the exam should be referenced from 2 recommended study resources, and chances are, most of the questions on the exam you can trace back to a book in PMBOK or Agile Practice Guide.

Consider enrolling in a PMP exam prep course or purchasing study materials to help you prepare.

Let me give you another PMP success secret: choose your primary study resource something you enjoy learning from.

  • If you enjoy reading a book, choose a book.
  • If you enjoy watching videos, choose a video course.
  • If you enjoy something working with you, get a mentor.
  • If you need help + motivation, choose a combination of the above.

When you learn using a resource that you enjoy learning from, you will not feel the burden of studying.

You will enjoy your study time. Which helps you understand better. Recall information easier.

And this reduces your overall time and effort for PMP certification.

Do research all the top resources and make an informed choice. If possible go through some of the content and ensure you like it.

If you are looking for them, consider these for your research:

Another aspect of the study is momentum.

When you build study momentum, you will find it easier to study as days pass by.

For this one simple way is to be part of a support community.

Next, you can also find a study buddy.

Here are 2 free communities you can be part of, to study micro lessons every day and continue your study momentum.

Schedule a time on your phone like a daily alarm, and spend 10 minutes answering a sample question, checking the previous answer, and studying a flashcard.

You are also welcome to join our free newsletter and get PMP-related material every week.

Get my PMP course for free when you join this week.

PMExamSmartNotes newsletter

Step 3: Create a Simple Study Plan.

Once you have a basic understanding of the PMP exam, create a study plan.

Keep this simple, there is no need to go super detailed. Take more of an Agile project approach than a Predictive one!

First, set up study time and location.

Studying in a distraction-free place and studying at the same time of the day will allow you to create a routine.

As you know, setting a routine takes a bit of effort, and once done, it becomes easier. Just like going for a jog or brushing your teeth. No extra mental energy is required to get started.

Next, create a simple milestone-based plan.

A simple spreadsheet with one column listing the course content outline, the second column estimating the number of days required, and the next 2 columns start and end date – is good enough.

Each chapter or section becomes a milestone, and the topics under them become the tasks.

As simple as that.

Figure 2: Create a simple study plan based on your study resource’s outline

This simple step will give you control over your overall study duration and lets you do an early estimate of the time frame required for your PMP certification.

As a project manager, you know that life happens and you will stray from the plan – which is okay. You reassess the risks and time availability and refine the plan when that happens.

That’s how you do your PMP.

By treating it as one more project under you!

Get the top 5 popular articles to help you pass PMP with confidence:

Step 4: Take Simulator (practice/mock) Tests.

Taking practice tests is a great way to :pmp-exam-7-step-approach

  • get a feel for the real PMP exam,
  • identify areas of weakness & study them,
  • and familiarize yourself with the exam structure.

But you need to be strategic about taking the Simulator tests.

  • Ensure you take tests with different question types & levels of difficulty.
  • Take simulator tests when you reach each milestone.
  • Take tests at the end of each round of study.
  • Take a few in the week before the exam.

Practice, practice, practice.

Solving multiple practice questions will help you to familiarize yourself with the exam format and to gain confidence.

Step 5: Review Key Concepts Regularly.

Not all PMP concepts carry equal weightage in the exam.

Certain concepts are often repeated, such as change management, or stakeholder engagement.

Certain concepts you will find easier to understand, maybe because you have worked on them on the job.

A few concepts are harder to understand (such as Cost calculations) or unfamiliar (Procurement management, for example).

No two people will have the same level of experience and difficulty, and thus you need to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses.

Once you do this, refine your study plan to give yourself more time to go over difficult and important concepts, and gain confidence.

Throughout your study period, review key concepts that are frequently tested on the PMP exam.

Make sure to review topics such as project management frameworks, processes, and tools.

Get 5 recent PMPs’ strategies to help you pass PMP:

Step 6: Develop Test-Taking Strategies.

Developing test-taking strategies can be learned as well as discovered.

I have a course for PMP strategies, (offered free as part of the PMP Last Mile program) developed over the past decade’s experience of working with PMP students.

But you can develop your own strategies naturally as you begin to study, and begin taking mock tests (aka simulator tests).

Strategies such as eliminating answers, reading questions carefully, and managing time.

These strategies will help you to maximize your performance on the exam.

Here are a couple of simulators you can use to develop test-taking strategies:

Step 7: T-7 – Mentally And Physically Prepare For The Exam.

Here, T-7 refers to the week before your actual PMP exam.

This is the most crucial time for your exam.

As a true blue project manager, you should manage risk to the exam, by taking away all the distractions and possible blockers during this exam.

One of my students had a product server issue during the week before his exam. That kept him occupied for 4 days, and it impacted his exam performance.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Here are a few suggestions to get the maximum RoI for your time & effort during the week before the exam.

1. If possible, take the week off from work.

Set the expectations that you cannot be disturbed. Ensure you have a deputy to cover for you during this week.

Set the expectations with your family, friends, boss, team, clients, vendors, and anyone else you interact with on a daily basis.

2. Take simulator tests.

Chances are you will find questions on the exam similar to the ones on the mock tests.

You will be able to utilize the time-management techniques practiced on mock tests.

You will be able to identify any grey areas that quickly need revision.

3. Do quick revision.

Go over all the glossary sections.

If you have made self-notes, revise them.

Go over the mind maps (either your own or from the PMP Last Mile program).

4. Prepare for the test.

If you are taking the online test from your home or office, then you need to fix your environment.

Ensure your laptop is fine by running PearsonVUE’s system test.

Here’s a test guide from PearsonVUE you can use to ensure everything is set.

  • Clean up your test-taking room of all stationeries, digital gadgets, books, etc.
  • Keep your id and other required documents ready.
  • Also, ensure your internet and power supply have a backup and no fluctuation will end your test.
  • Finally, make sure no one walks into your room when you take tests, and no one will talk loud from outside of your room.

These are all reg-signals for the proctor to end the test. So please take special care.

If you are taking the test at the test center:

  • On the night before the exam, make sure you do not cram anything and sleep well.
  • Make sure to arrive at the testing center early taking all necessary items with you.

With these steps, you can be sure to set yourself up for success and pass your PMP exam.

In summary

The PMP exam can be hard, or complex.

But only for those that have not prepared well.

With this 7-step guide, you now know the PMP landscape and have the knowledge of the toppers to simplify your PMP exam.

  • Step 1: Understand the PMP Exam.
  • Step 2: Collect the Right Resources.
  • Step 3: Create a Simple Study Plan.
  • Step 4: Take Simulator Tests.
  • Step 5: Review Key Concepts Regularly.
  • Step 6: Develop Test-Taking Strategies.
  • Step 7: Mentally And Physically Prepare For The Exam.

Following these seven steps will help you to prepare for and pass the PMP exam. Good luck!

Shiv Shenoy, PMP

(Connect with me on LinkedIn)

Infographic (download by clicking and saving to disk)


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help you enjoy your PMP prep and pass the exam with ease:

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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