PMP Exam Secrets and Tips – from a Recent Test Taker

>>>PMP Exam Secrets and Tips – from a Recent Test Taker

PMP CertificationAs a recent PMP test taker – I would like to take you through my journey as I provide a realistic glimpse of the time needed to prep for the exam, my honest thoughts regarding test questions and focus, and lessons learned or ways I may have prepped differently.

Preparation:  The PMP is not known for being a piece of cake. It requires a great deal of studying and prep work. After working in project management for years, I used the 10 days before the exam to focus on exam readiness (vacation days and weekends). During those days I reread the PMBOK and other study materials. Months prior to the final cram session, I invested time and money in preparation, including:

(I felt confident because I could complete 200 test questions in less than 2 hours and achieved 90’s and 100’s on both the Crosswind and Mulcahy test questions).

Test Day: Please keep in mind that the following tips are based on my test experience. Although the PMP examinations are similar in nature, a new test is created when the candidate logs into the sytem. Questions are selected randomly from the PMP test question database to create the customized exams.

With that being said – let’s dig in. It didn’t take me long to realize that the PMP exam questions were much more difficult than the practice questions in my study guide books, mainly because quite a few were vague by design. I expected and prepared for questions about time and was quite surprised that my exam didn’t require drawing a single network diagram. There was just one question that asked about float and it gave the late start and early start so it only required simple subtraction – at last, an easy question!  There was only one table of activity duration values and it wasn’t necessary to draw the network diagram to answer the question. Again, to my surprise, there were very few questions about PERT and GERT and the types of network diagrams.

The easiest questions for me were focused on expected value and, thank goodness, there were many on the test.   As a tip, the first thing I did upon starting the exam was to write down the formulas that I had memorized and then it was just simple algebra.  I found that many questions required using algebra to substitute for terms in the formula – so my advice would be review your algebra!

There were many, many questions that required knowing inputs and outputs of processes or which process we’re in or which tool belongs to which process.  Studying the Crosswind PMBOK process mind map that shows inputs, tools and outputs really helped with these questions.

Things I wish I had studied harder: My exam had a number of questions on contracts – at least a dozen.  Most asked about differences among the various types of contracts and who bears the risk.  I had studied procurement but didn’t spend a significant amount of time on contracts so I spent more time then should have been necessary to think through these questions.

I had been warned by several colleagues about long, wordy, obtuse questions with extraneous information but I was still surprised at HOW many and HOW vague some of the questions could be. These took a great deal of time to read and comprehend. To make it more difficult, many questions opted against the use of standard textbook terms and input unfamiliar and vague terms which required additional time to understand what the question was asking. So bottom line – allot time to be spent just on the comprehension of questions.

On that note, it is very important to keep track of your time by making sure that you’ve completed a quarter of the questions after a quarter of the time has elapsed, half, three-quarters, etc. I would recommend practicing this as you take practice exams.

End Result: I am happy to announce that I passed the exam on the first try! All of my studying and prep work paid off. My hope is that this information will be helpful to others who plan to take the PMP Certification Exam. If you are still determining if the PMP is right for you, check out this blog post by Software Advice. If you have already taken the PMP exam, do you have any additional tips for those in the process?

Lorraine Crawley is a Senior Consultant at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Please feel free to contact Lorraine at with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss project management.