PMP Exam Made Easy series, Part 1: Top 5 Tips To Pass PMP Exam

PMP exam made easy series: part 1: top 5 tips to pass your PMP exam

PMP is one of the top project management certification exams in the industry.

The reasons are simple: both pull and push.

1. Most project managers are not trained

They learn their PM skills on the job.

Typically, in the Information Technology domain at least, a good techie is made to be a Team Lead. Simply because she understands technology and so can manage things and help the team deliver. With the same logic, she is promoted to Project Manager.

And from there she pretty much picks up PM skills on the job.

Then she feels that she needs some sort of formal education.

After some research, she finds that PMP is a comprehensive certification exam, that covers both predictive and agile. And to top it the hybrid models as well.

2. Industry loves PMPs.

To the extent that, according to PMI’s Salary survey (here, here, and here for the latest 3 surveys) project managers with PMP have consistently been earning 16-25% more than non-PMP counterparts.

Considering the fact that most organizations do not have internal project management skill-building programs, they find it easy to hire people from outside. And someone with PMP certification comes in with the guarantee that she has the necessary knowledge required to run projects.

Then during interviews, they will validate the candidates for their skills, experience, and temperament, etc.

But the PMP exam is considered to be a tough nut to crack.

And I agree.

I’ve been helping project managers pass PMP since 2013.

And I have realized that there are a few fundamental areas that you need to get right first.

With that, you will find PMP preparation much, much easier.

This is a new series I’m writing to help you prepare well. And even enjoy the prep journey.

In this first part, we will look at the top 5 tips.

Before you dig in, I would recommend you,

  • Get your fav beverage (it’s coffee for me as I write this post)
  • Share this post using the social share buttons floating on this page, and help someone somewhere

Let’s dive in!

Grab my free PMP course to supercharge your PMP study!

๐Ÿ‘‰ PMP Exam Made Easy, Tip #1: Include PMBOK and APG as part of your study resources

Yes, it’s smart to include PMBOK and the Agile Practice Guide as part of your study resources.

Some of this may sound counterintuitive.

Let me explain:

  1. Most questions on your exam can be traced back to a page in these books
  2. Whether PMI accepts or not, these cover most of the exam content

I’m not suggesting you keep PMBOK as your primary study resource.

In fact, I would highly recommend you DO NOT. Unless you love this book.

If you start your prep with PMBOK,

  • you may get false starts
  • you may feel discouraged
  • you may not see much progress

Out of a few thousand PMPs I’ve worked with or interviewed, only a handful (single digit) have used only the PMBOK for their preparation.

Yes, I heard what you said,

“PMBOK puts me to sleep”.

It did that to me too. ๐Ÿ™‚

The solution is: divide and conquer.


๐Ÿ‘‰ Read & UNDERSTAND just one concept from PMBOK every day.

Read the above sentence again.

No rote learning, and
Yes, just one concept a day:

  • It could be a few paragraphs of a PMBOK chapter.
  • It does not have to make sense right away.
  • It could take just 30-45 minutes.
  • Read twice if required.

Simply do this. every. single. day.


  • Include PMBOK and APG as part of your study
  • Do NOT make them primary resources
  • Study just one concept a day
  • Focus on Understanding

Follow this for 4 weeks and let me know how you feel.

๐Ÿ‘‰ PMP Exam Made Easy, Tip #2: Recreate the Process Chart from PMBOK, intuitively.

Take 10 seconds and answer this question:

๐Ÿ‘€ What should the PM do after Identifying Activities?


๐Ÿ‘€ Which one do you do first for an activity: Estimate Resources or Estimate Duration?

Such understanding is important to answer scenario-based questions on the PMP exam.


Because PMP is much more than a knowledge-based exam.

It is actually an application-based exam.

That is,

PMP exam
tests your ability
to apply certain concepts
to situations given in the question,
and choose the best option(s) as the answer.

Please read that sentence again.

With that, you can see that rote learning is a sure recipe for disaster.

Now that we’ve established the fact that you need a different approach,

The question is: What’s the right way to study?

Here’s the starting point:

๐Ÿ‘‰ Recreate the Process Chart from PMBOK, intuitively.

The keyword here is: Intuitively.

That’s how you get the insights required to answer situational questions on the exam.

Please pause right here and open your PMBOK book (or the soft copy), and go to table 1-4.

>> The Process table.

Looks like a spreadsheet with several cells filled with process names.

Might look pleasantly scary at first, but soon you’ll fall in love with it.

Like a new girlfriend.

Or mathematics.

Let me show you how to learn this effortlessly.

I have created a video showing just that, in a way that you won’t forget.

I use a simple approach, called, the Frame method.

Every day, use this simple 7-minute exercise to recreate the Process table.


Soon something magical will happen.

When you study each process deeper (with their inputs, tools & techniques, outputs, etc),

you’ll begin to understand the concepts and how they are connected, quite effortlessly.

That’s because you already know how, at a high level, these processes are related.

There’s a secret I have not shared with you till now:

If you want to quickly gain CONFIDENCE in your PMP prep, you need to master the Process table FIRST.

Use the process from the video for a week, and tell me how you feel.

PS: By the way, I asked you 2 questions at the beginning.

– The answer to 1st question: understand dependencies between activities.
– The answer to 2nd question: estimate resources first, and then duration (check the outputs of both processes to know why)

๐Ÿ‘‰ PMP Exam Made Easy, Tip #3: Study Every Single Day

If you’re gunning for PMP, you’ve likely experienced this.

When this happens it’s quite frustrating.

It can take away days, weeks, or even months of effort.

Let me give a scenario. See if you’ve had this.

  • You decided to take up PMP.
  • You got a book and began reading.
  • You studied rather passionately for some time.
  • And then your boss assigned another project to you.
  • Or maybe, the current project had a fire you had to deal with.
  • Due to this priority shift, you put the PMP study on the back burner.
  • A few weeks passed, and you got your schedule under control.
  • You decided to continue studying, from where you’d left.
  • Now suddenly, everything feels like brand new.
  • You don’t seem to remember anything!
  • It feels like back to square 1 now.

Sounds familiar?

It’s called a False start.

I’ve lost close to 3 years due to this.

A false start is the enemy #1 of PMP aspirants.

If you don’t guard against this, you’ll always feel unsure.

The good news is, there’s a way you can avoid this.

Here’s a simple rule to NEVER get a False start:

๐Ÿ‘‰ Study every single day.

This is so deceptively simple, that you may not think it’ll work.

So many of my students have used this technique effectively.

Let me explain why this works like a charm –

When you study every day, something magical happens.

  • You make it a routine.
  • You build study momentum.
  • You get into a rhythm or cadence.
  • You carry over ‘learning context’ to next day.
  • You easily get into the groove and learn effortlessly.

Do this for a couple of weeks & the Flywheel Effect kicks in.

That is, your studies become easier, simpler, and you feel happier.

Since you can recall things easily, you begin to enjoy studying.

You feel that you’re in control, and making real progress.

Daily study is the perfect antidote to a False start.

“Shiv, what if I can’t make time to study?”

Sure, it does happen on a few days.

On those days you study for 15 minutes. At least.

Let me help you to never have a False Start.

Join my daily study support groups, Free.

I drop a question & flashcard every single day.

Spend 15 minutes and do your micro-learning for the day.

It feels liberating once you know you are making progress.

To help you, I run 2 daily PMP support communities. You can join for free today:

Even better, join both.

Make PMP easier for you.

Remember, PMP is closer than you think.

You just need to keep moving.

To recap,

– False start is real.
– Develop a study routine.
– By studying every single day.
– Join my daily PMP support groups.
– Get your micro-learning.
– Progress consistently.

Good luck!

๐Ÿ‘‰ PMP Exam Made Easy, Tip #4: Treat PMP Exam Like A Marathon

Have you taken PMI-ACP or CSM exam?

You know the drill.

When you have a week or two of the lean period,

or when you can use accumulated leaves to take a short break,

take a 3-5 day boot camp, and the exam at the end of it,

..and Voila!, you are certified!

That’s a Sprint.

> PMP exam can’t be done like that.

Consider these –

  • 49 processes & their ITTOs to understand
  • Then there is agile and hybrid content
  • It’s about application of knowledge
  • Approximately 4.5 hr long exam
  • You get 76 sec per question
  • 5-6 question types
  • False-start risk

๐Ÿ‘‰ PMP is more like a Marathon.

It takes months of preparation to do well.

What’s the right approach?

You’re a project manager.

Treat PMP prep like a project.

Start with a simple, trackable study plan.

A plan consisting of milestones and tasks.

A plan where you can assign dates.

And track it on a daily basis.

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Fire up a blank spreadsheet
  2. Refer to your study resource outline
  3. Make logical groups as milestones (eg, Knowledge Areas)
  4. Identify tasks that can be completed in 1-2 days (eg, Processes)
  5. Plan for 2 rounds – copy the entire set of tasks for round 2
  6. Bottom-up estimate: assign days to round-1 tasks
  7. Calculate the total days on calendar for round 1
  8. Give yourself 50% time for round 2
  9. Now add a week for revision

..and you have a tentative Exam Date!

Now, begin your daily study.

Track progress against this plan.

Make adjustments to dates along the way.

Use earlier tips in this series to make this work.

Thank me later. ๐Ÿ™‚

๐Ÿ‘‰ PMP Exam Made Easy, Tip #5: Find A Support System

Chances are, you’re struggling to get your PMP, like I did many years ago.

Don’t do it alone.


๐Ÿ‘‰ Find a Support System.

A support system –

  • Gives CLARITY of path to your goal
  • Shows the shortest PROVEN path
  • Helps OVERCOME challenges

What does a PMP support system look like?

It consists of:

  • A coach/mentor, and
  • A peer community
  • Ideally, both

Know this though…

If you find yourself banking way too much on it,

..chances are you are not taking enough action.

Simplify PMP prep.

Write down your goal.

And find a support system.

In summary,

We saw:

  1. Include PMBOK and APG* as part of your study resources
  2. Recreate the Process Chart from PMBOK, intuitively
  3. Study Every Single Day
  4. Treat PMP Like A Marathon
  5. Find A Support System

This is a series post. In this first part, we saw 5 tips to simplify your PMP prep, and even fast-track it.

So you can enjoy the preparation and be certain to an extent of passing it with an Above Target score.


Shiv Shenoy, PMP

(Connect with me on LinkedIn)

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