Beginner’s Guide To PMP® Certification Exam
Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential is easily the best certification for project managers in any industry.
At the bottom of this post there are 2 important downloadable content for you –
- A printable infographic showing the PMP certification process
- Ever wondered how project management has evolved over the years..? See the infographic!
This certificate is highly recognized in the industry, and if you hold this certification, you are recognized as someone who has the experience, education, and competency to lead, direct and manage projects.
This credential has also been seen as a detrimental factor for managers around the world to earn better salaries and compensation.
- PMP has changed in 2021! Click to learn more..
- Get 2 downloadable infographics – handy reference for your PMP exam preparation – at the end of this article
Look at PayScale survey results and compare the median hourly rates of project managers without and with PMP certification.
Taking two common designations from the above two images you can compare the hourly rate figures:
That is an increase of about 22% and 16% in these two cases respectively, with a PMP® certification under the project manager’s belt!
When considering salary, remember that year on year’s increments are based on previous salary figures, so the increment will be consistently higher as well!
Whichever way you look at it – salary, knowledge, or credibility – PMP® certification is a must for project managers.
According to a report by CIO.com, out of 13 project manager job posts on CIO.com and Dice.com, on an average 8 ads either require or prefer project management certification. 5 of these 8 say project management certification is “highly desirable”, “an advantage”, “preferred”, or a “plus”. 3 of them specifically mention PMP certification!
Note that none of these ‘guarantee’ that getting PMP certification will immediately result in a salary increase! 🙂 This is one of the myths about PMP.
Eligibility criteria for PMP certification exam
To apply for the certification exam you need to be in either of the following two groups :
- Four-year degree + at least 3 years (4,500 hours) of project management experience + 35 hours of project management education
- Secondary diploma + at least 5 years (7,500 hours) of project management experience + 35 hours of project management education
Some organizations sponsor PMP® certificates, and reimburse you the entire fee. This is a win-win situation for the organization as well as employee. Do go through your organization’s HR policies and see if you can leverage this privilege.
Now that you understand where you stand with respect to applying for the PMP certification exam, let us look at an oft-asked question.
PMI® Membership – do you need one?
Before moving on to understanding how the credential process works, let me make a recommendation here: Get your PMI membership first.
First some facts –
As of 2021 there are MILLION PMP credential holders in the world.
Still, that is a small part of overall project managers out there.
And it is a pretty influential group – because they understand how a project needs to be run with maximized chances of success. No wonder many companies specifically call out PMP credential holders in their job advertisements.
Now that we have seen the numbers, let us understand why PMI membership is important.
From an exam preparation perspective alone there are many benefits, some of which are –
- Cost: comment explaining the cost advantage, one additional benefit you get is a free copy of PMBOK (which otherwise costs about $69)
- Commitment: For many people juggling work and PMP study is very hard. And if you do not have a strong reason (like changing jobs based on PMP credentials) it becomes hard to sustain momentum. By getting the membership you demonstrate your seriousness to yourself.
- Study benefits: The membership area has some great resources for study. Many of the publications and books are given free access to PMI members.
- Access to industry trend reports, and monthly PMI Today published periodically by PMI.org
- Once PMP certified, you can earn the PDUs required for CCRS without any additional cost!
PMP Certification Exam Costs
These are the costs as a member of PMI.org: $10 application fee, membership fee $129 (first year), exam credential fee $405 = $544.
Without membership, your costs break up this way: Exam credential fee $555 + PMBOK guide $65 = $620.
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PMP® Credential process
Step 1: Submit the application
Before applying PMI® expects all eligibility criteria (including 35hrs of mandatory pm education) to be completed. Also, make sure that you have read and agreed to PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct from the handbook (link provided in References section below).
Note – there is a myth that it is mandatory to have 35PDUs before applying for PMP exam. This is, like said, is a myth and not a fact. What you need is 35hrs of project management education, and not 35PDUs. Need for PDU arises after you have got your PMP certification – in order to keep it valid you will need 60 PDUs over next 3 yrs of time.
Step 2: Application Review by PMI
For online applications, PMI takes about 5 business days (excluding weekends) for processing. For submitted applications, this would be about 10 business days.
Note: This timeline does not apply if your application is selected for audit.
Step 3: Pay the Exam Fee
The recommended approach here is to get PMI® membership first, which costs $139 including the application fee, and then apply for the exam costing $405 (assuming you opt for the online exam). The total amount you would pay is $544. Without membership, you will pay $555.
However, as we saw earlier membership gives you a host of advantages, including primarily, a free copy of PMBOK®!
Note: Payments can be made using a credit card, check, money order, or wire transfer to PMI®.
Once payment is received (and the audit process is completed if applicable), PMI® will send Eligibility ID, start and end dates of eligibility period (of 1 year) and exam scheduling instructions. This Eligibility ID is required through the exam process.
Detailed member benefits can be found here.
Step 4: Audit (if your application is selected for audit)
Applications are selected for audit on a random basis. The audit will need the following information from the applicant –
- Copies of education certification
- Signatures from supervisors or managers of projects mentioned on the application
- Certificate of 35 hours of project management education (not required if you are CAPM certified)
Again, PMI® provides 90 days to provide these certifications. Once provided it takes about 5-7 business days to complete the audit.
What happens if you failed PMP audit?
It really depends on the reason for failure and PMI’s email contains information about the possible cool-off period.
If the reason was not segregating your project management experience under process groups, then PMI may ask you to apply for a new application whenever you wish. But if the reason is a lack of authentic information, there may be a one-year cool-off period.
You have nothing to worry about the audit as long as you provide true information and segregate it in a way that PMI expects, keep your previous project managers informed about a possible call from PMI and share your application details with them.
This post takes you through the step-by-step PMI application process with screenshots, so you can simply model it for your application submission. I have included a free spreadsheet template that simplifies the collection of your project management experience under process groups. Hope you will find this useful.
Step 5: Eligibility period to take the exam
Once the application process is completed (including audit, if it was required), the applicant will have 1 year to appear for the exam. You will get this information in the mail that PMI sends you.
Step 6: Certification cycle
The certification is valid for 3 years from the day of passing the exam. During this time the applicant is required to earn 60 PDUs (professional development units) for renewing the credentials.
Professional Development Units (PDU)
You need to earn PDU in order to continue retaining the credentials after 3 years from the day of passing the exam.
There are various ways of earning PDUs, basically by engaging in activities that gives you further project management education or by giving back to the profession. Continued education can be taking up courses offered by PMI® or by self-directed learning. Giving back to the profession can be volunteer service, creating new project management knowledge or by working as a professional in project management.
More details can be found in the CCR (continuing certification requirements) section of the PMP® handbook or at pmi.org.
PMP Examination structure
The PMP exam will be 230 minutes in duration and will contain 180 questions.
Out of these, PMI will include 5 pretest questions that do not carry marks.
Pretest questions are those that PMI® wants to test the validity for, and further decide to include them in future examinations. These are randomly included in the exam so the applicant does not have a way of identifying such questions.
Before the exam begins, there will be an optional tutorial and survey offered. If you opt for it, it will take about 15 minutes to complete. This time is outside of the 4 hours (well, 3 hr 50 minutes to be precise) given for the examination.
The questions fall into domains as below, and are based on PMP examination content outline –
Understand what exactly is expected from each of these domains by downloading PMP handbook from this page at PMI website.
In the handbook, PBT stands for Paper-Based Test, and CBT for Computer-Based Test.
Scheduling for the exam
The online exam slot is to be scheduled HERE.
The site helps you to schedule, reschedule or cancel your exam, locate a test center, and even help with your preparations. Its Test Drive to take a practice test feature helps you take a “dry run” and run through all the steps you need to take at the exam center on the day of the test.
Canceling or rescheduling a scheduled examination attracts a penalty, based on when it is done. If you are within 2 days of the appointment entire exam fee is forfeited. Hence it is better to schedule the appointment considering various factors – such as your confidence level in the subject, any professional and personal commitments, and social and political events around the time you want to schedule for the exam.
This blog is committed to help you start PMP® or CAPM® certification preparations (if you have not already), take the exam confidently and pass it comfortably on your first attempt.
For the computer-based test, the results are given on the same day at the examination center. It can also be viewed in PMI’s online certification system in about 10 days after you take the exam. For paper-based tests, results are available on the online certification system after about 6-8 weeks from the date of examination.
Exam results are given on two counts –
- Pass/Fail outcome score. This is based on the overall performance of the test.
- Expertise level against each chapter – Proficient, Moderately proficient, Below proficient. This is a good way to assess strengths and weaknesses in the knowledge areas or process groups and focus learning more on that.
PMI’s Online certification registry will list your name once it receives the information from the PearsonVUE center.
You will receive your certificate package from PMI® in about 6-8 weeks after you pass the exam (make sure you opt for the lapel).
This will contain the congratulatory letter, information on how to maintain the credential, and of course, the credential certificate.
Now you can flaunt those three magic letters against your name! Maybe negotiate for a salary increase with your manager. 🙂
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In a Nutshell
Here’s the PMP process in a nutshell (courtesy: ProjectManagementAcademy.net) –
Recently I wrote a comprehensive PMP prep guide for people starting from scratch.
Although the whole process may seem a bit overwhelming, it is actually quite simple. The biggest challenge, as per my personal experience, is maintaining momentum. This is true especially because we need to juggle a demanding work schedule as well as PMP preparation.
The goal of this blog has been to enable you to prepare for the PMP exam in the shortest possible time in a fun-filled way, and prepare it in a way that you can apply the knowledge on the job to get ahead in your career and ace the exam. That is a tall goal, but we are pretty close to it! If you haven’t already, sign up for PMP Study Blueprint on the sidebar and get started. Good luck!
Just to let you know, I am available for any help you may need. Just shoot a mail to shiv-at-pmexamsmartnotes-dot-com, or schedule a free Skype call (I will email my Skype Id to the mail address you use to sign up for PMP Blueprint).
Ever wondered how project management has been evolving over the years?
See this infographic!
- Why Project Management Certification Matter?
- Power of Project Management
- Download PMP handbook published by PMI from here
- PMI Membership Benefits
- Download PMP Examination content outline from here