What to Do on Your PMP Exam Day: 9 Tips to Help You Pass

pmp exam day tips pmp exam prep

After long deliberation, you decided to take up PMP exam. You applied for the exam at PMI.org, received their nod, went ahead with scheduling your exam with PearsonVUE, collected your top study resources, prepared a study plan and schedule, hit your study milestones and now your PMP exam day is around the corner.

You are, understandably, bit nervous about the exam. After months (for some like me, years) of studying for the exam, you want to get everything right on the day of the exam and come out with flying colors.

Note – If you are taking online exam, then watch this free webinar for a 21-point checklist to ensure things go as per plan! This will also share what to do under each of these sections from the online exam perspective.

Here are 9 tips, based on the exam experience of successful PMPs, that you can use to manage the ‘risks’ on the day of your PMP exam.

1. Get a good 8-hr of sleep the night before

It is important that you feel physically and mentally fresh during the exam. A tired body cannot host a relaxed mind. After all, you need to sit and concentrate for 4 hours and answer question after question.

Even if you feel that you are not completed prepared, which most of us do, make sure you get a good night’s sleep.

Also Read: 5 Things Successful PMPs are Doing The Week Before PMP Exam Day

2. Plan to reach your exam center at least an hour earlier

Irrespective of whether you take your exam in your own city or you need to travel to some other city, you will need to plan to reach the exam center a bit early. Many factors may affect this – traffic, mode of commute and so on.

It is a good practice to visit your exam center in the previous week of the exam, just to assess the mode of commute and travel distance and decide when you should leave your place to reach the exam center at least an hour earlier than your exam slot. There will be the security check at the exam center itself.

Few commercial places have many business establishments including the exam center. Such places will have security check right at the entrance of the campus and this too may eat up your time, especially if there are many people ahead of you. Most of them also have some distance to walk from the main gate to the building that houses your exam center.

I found that my travel time was anywhere between 1 to 2.5 hours depending on the notorious traffic my city is known for. Therefore I decided to skip driving down myself and took the public transport and started about 4 hours before my exam slot. I reached little over an hour to spare.

After all that, of course, if you get some time, you can go over your study notes or brain dump.

Few exam centers allow you take up the exam even before your exam slot. If you are ready, you can take this up.

Note – While on this subject, here is something you need to know. Most of the exam centers do not allow laptop inside test center itself (I’m not talking about the exam room). If you are like me, making notes on the laptop, you will not get a chance to sit inside the test center and revise before the exam. I sat in the corridor and went over them. 🙂

Also, if you are taking online exam you need to validate that your computer by running PearsonVUE’s software. I would recommend doing this every week and also before the day of the exam. Some of my students have reported that after OS update (sometimes this happens automatically based on inbuilt settings) the PearsonVUE validation software as rejected!

3. Have everything you need

Your ID, papers, study notes, multiple layers of clothing, required medicine, and so on. Keep them ready the previous evening so you don’t risk forgetting any.

Even if you think you know what to take with you, call the exam center a day before the exam and specifically confirm what do you need to carry.

If you have to take medicine during the exam (for instance cough syrup if you have a constant cough that may irritate fellow exam-takers) make sure you talk to the exam in-charge about this need.

Lorinda reported that the exam center staff raised objections to her taking cough drops inside the exam room. Make sure you check with them and if needed even unwrap the medicine bottle in front of them (which is what Lorinda did).

4. Eat moderately on the PMP exam day

Actually, from the previous day itself.

You don’t need a stomach upset, headache or some other food related problem to impact your ability to focus for the long duration of the exam.

If your PMP exam slot is in the second half of the day, you may want to have a moderate amount of food and avoid feeling drowsy during the exam. Don’t go on an empty stomach either.

Sip water for a couple of hours before the exam so you sufficiently hydrate yourself. Not so much that  you have to run to the restroom multiple times during the exam.

Actually, it is much helpful to practice mock tests during the same time of the day as your exam slot.

Each break may take 8-10 minutes of your time, including the time needed for security check again before entering the exam room.

Practicing full-length exams will help you manage those 4 hours in the best possible way and score more marks.

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5. Cut the distraction

Switch off the phone.

Don’t read the newspaper, surf Internet, or do anything that may distract you. PMP exam day is too valuable to think or worry about anything else than passing the exam.

Arrange for someone to cover for you at the office for emergencies.

Wear multiple layers of clothing so the temperature inside exam room does not distract you.

Tell your near and dear ones that you cannot be reached on the day of the exam, at least till after the exam. (after the exam you may actually need to call them up for a beer or some sort of celebration. 🙂 )

Carry a water bottle, snacks, or energy bars in your bag. Of course, you cannot take this inside exam room (you will put them in the locker given to you). When you are thirsty or hungry and cannot focus on the exam, you can take a break and have something.

6. Don’t try any anxious last-minute study

No matter how much you have studied till this point, it is natural to feel anxious and fear of missing on something.

Relax. You have given your best shot, so at the most go over the special short notes you have created for this occasion. Or go over the 15-minute cheat-sheet provided in this course.

Do not try learning anything new today as it may make you anxious. Tell yourself that you are going to remain calm and give yourself best chance at performing to the best of your abilities on the exam.

7. What about the brain-dump?

If you have not heard about the ‘brain-dump strategy‘, here is what it is.

In the week preceding the exam PMP student would start preparing something called a brain dump. This is simply a list of all formulas, list of stuff you need to remember (quality tools, types of powers of a project manager, names of quality gurus, and so on), process sequences, even table 1-4 from page 25 of PMBOK-6 – basically anything you need to quickly recall during the exam.

The PMP student would practice writing down this information on a piece of paper under 5-6 minutes.

And once exam starts, take 5-6 minutes to dump all this information on to the paper given to you by exam center staff. This becomes a ready reference document during the exam, so you can proceed without feeling anxiety of whether you’ll be able to remember stuff when you need it.

A huge time saver.

Here are 2 ways to make use of your brain dump.

  • First, you can still take 5-6 minutes and write down the brain dump AFTER your 4-hour time has begun. You can actually try this during your 4-hour mock tests and practice optimizing the exam time.
  • Second, if you don’t want to write down the brain dump, keep this as a revision tool before you get into the exam room. This helps keep the formulas and other required information fresh in your mind for easy recall.

Note – Some students have reported that they were given laminated plastic sheets and markers instead of sheets of paper during the exam. It is a good idea to talk to them first and understand what is that you will be given. With laminated sheet and marker pen it might be a challenge to write down your brain-dump.

And yes, you may be given a physical calculator at the exam center or asked to use the calculator software on the computer. Make sure you take mock exams using both, and feel comfortable using both.

8. Ask for noise-cancellation headphones

Most of the exam centers keep them. Ask for a pair as you enter the exam room. Here’s why –

Based on how long verification and security check takes for each person, several candidates may have begun their exam when you start yours.

Which means that as you are inching closer to your 4 hours, there will be others that have completed theirs. They will be talking to exam center staff about the survey, delay in exam result, or anything else they need help with.

Now if you have practiced to completing your exam comfortably under 4 hours, chances are you have answered all 200 questions by this time. If not, chances are you are running out of time to answer the last set of questions – most likely the ones you marked in the first place.

This is exactly the time you need the least amount of disturbance around you. More so considering the fact that you have been managing to focus for last 4 hours.

A noise cancellation headphone is a blessing. And can make the difference between seeing ‘Congratulations’ on the screen and planning for the next attempt.

Plus, the center may not have enough headphones for every exam taker at any point of time. Be smarter than the rest, ask for yours while you enter the exam room.

9. Finally, R.e.l.a.x…

After doing everything that you can from your side, you need to relax and go with the flow. This is easier said than done. However, knowing that a relaxed mind increases your chances of scoring more (or, “being tensed reduces chances of passing the exam”) will help.

Things often don’t go as per the plan. Sometimes Murphy does strike. Knowing that you have put your best foot forward, and keeping a relaxed mind will help you stay focused during the exam.

Completely drop any anxiety you may have. The more relaxed you can be, easier it will be to recall information, manage time, and answer 200 questions on the exam.

Also, PMP is not end of the world. While getting it may make you feel like you’re on top of the world. 🙂


PMP exam day need not be a stressful one. Just knowing these tips and taking care of them will help you feel much relaxed.

What are some of the questions you have about your PMP exam day? Ask me in the Comments section below..

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Renje June 15, 2019, 12:47 pm

    Which time of the day the pmp exam will be conducted like 8 am morning or 11 am or afternoon or evening? and which time is advised best? is there options to choose the time while scheduling the exam?

    • Shiv Shenoy June 23, 2019, 12:53 pm

      You basically choose the spots available at your exam center. While studying take full-length mock tests for various times of the day (early morning, mid morning, after-noon, late noon etc) – and see which slot helps you focus more. Usually afternoon sessions are avoided, as after taking food body tends to be little lethargic – best way is to really test what works for you.

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