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How to Become a PMP

how to pmp certification

By Fahad Usmani 4 Comments

You have decided to become a PMP.

Now what?

This is the first question that comes in your mind as soon as you decide to become a PMP. Not only you; in fact every PMP aspirant thinks the same way as you do. I also had the same feeling when I thought of attaining this certification for the first time.

Now that I have passed the PMP exam and have been helping PMP aspirants to get this prestigious certification for more than four years, I believe I have a better understanding of the process.

Therefore, I’m writing this blog post to help you understand the complete process to earn the PMP certification.

Okay, let’s get started.

Step – I: Check Your Eligibility

This is the first step. Here you will check your eligibility to apply for the PMP exam.

You need to fulfill three conditions to become eligible to apply for the PMP exam. These conditions are as follows:

  1. You should be either a degree or a high school diploma holder. The degree or diploma can be in any discipline.
  2. If you are a degree holder you should have at least three years, and if you are a diploma holder you should have about five years of experience in leading and directing projects.
  3. You must have attend a 35 contact hour training program for formal project management training.

If you satisfy these conditions, you can proceed to the next step.

Step – II: Collect All Information

This will be your second step. Here you have to collect all information about the PMP exam. Go to the PMI website and explore it. Download the PMP handbook and read it from cover to cover. Read the frequently asked questions there and on my blog. I am sure you will get answers to all of your queries. If you still have some queries, you can post them through the comments section and I will reply to you.

Step – III: Join the PMI Membership

Once you are equipped with all the information, you should join the PMI membership. I strongly recommend you to do so. There are many benefits of PMI membership and you can realize them once you join.

The main benefit is a reduction in exam fees. In fact, the cost of the membership fee is less than the discount that you will get while applying for the PMP exam. Moreover, you can download the free digital copy of the PMBOK Guide free of charge; therefore, it is a win-win situation for you.

The other benefit is unlimited access to various PMP exam reference books. You can read these books available on eRead & Reference for free, which will help you in preparing for the PMP exam.

Step – IV: Collect Study Materials

After joining the PMI membership, you should start collecting materials for the PMP exam preparation. The material may include PMP exam reference books, manuals, slides, notes, PMP blog urls, etc.

Since you are already a member of the PMI, you can also download the PMBOK Guide.

Now it’s time to start your pre-training study. You should start reading a PMP exam reference book; my recommendation is the Head First PMP. Read it from cover to cover and try to understand the concepts. If you are not satisfied with the first round, you can go for the second round. I am sure after the second round you will have a good understanding of the project management concepts.

Open the PMBOK Guide and follow it. I know this is a dry and juiceless book and you may feel bored while reading it. This is the main reason why I recommend that you read any other reference book before reading the PMBOK Guide, because if you directly start with the PMBOK Guide you will feel bored, your confidence level may go down, and consequently you may lose your interest in reading the PMBOK Guide.

Never start your exam preparation with the PMBOK Guide.

Step – V: Get PM Training

You have studied the PMP exam reference book and gone through the PMBOK Guide, which means now you have a better understanding of the project management framework.

The next step for you to get the 35 contract hour training for formal project management education. This is one of the three mandatory conditions from the PMI to be fulfilled in order to apply for the PMP exam.

I know that there may be many of you who will not agree with me on this sequence. You may want to get your 35 contact hours before you start preparing for the exam; however, my suggestion is, don’t do it.

If you go for a 35 contact hours program before having a general idea about the PMBOK Guide and project management concepts, it is possible that you will hear many terms for the first time that may make you scratch your head. People who have already studied the subject may be participating in arguments, asking advanced questions, and solving mathematical problems immediately, and you will still be reading the question and feeling embarrassed, bored or confused.

I made the same mistake. The moment I became aware of the 35 contact hours training program eligibility requirement, I joined a live classroom training program without even referring to any reference book or the PMBOK Guide. I suffered a lot. During training, at times I was not even able to take part in the discussions. It was an embarrassing situation for me.

Nobody was there to advise me, and I don’t want you to be in the same situation. Therefore, refer to at least one reference book and get an idea about what you are going to be taught before you join the training.

These days you have many options to earn these 35 contact hours. You can go for either live classroom training or online training programs.

Live classroom training programs are costly, with fixed schedules and are available in only big cities. On the other hand, online training programs are cheap, have flexible schedules and are available in all locations. Therefore, unless you have any specific reason to join a classroom training program, I would recommend you join a good quality PMI approved online 35 contact hours training program.

One such good quality 35 contact hours is PM PrepCast which was developed by Mr. Cornelius Fichtner and is available at very cheap rate. This training program is 100% online, PMI approved, and used by thousands of professionals worldwide.

Step – VI: Schedule the Exam

This is the most important step. After completing the training you must schedule the exam. You will never start studying seriously unless you schedule the exam. Once you schedule the exam, your hidden potential will be unlocked and you will start studying more aggressively, passionately, and punctually. I suggest you

give yourself at least three months for exam preparation.

Step – VII: Start Exam Preparation

This is where you have to begin your exam preparation seriously. Start reading reference books, notes and manuals. Now, read the PMBOK Guide and try to understand the process flow and ITTO logic.

I suggest you buy any two good PMP exam reference books. The first book should be “Head First PMP” and the other can be either Kim Heldman or Rita Mulcahy. Read both books at least twice.

Refer to page number 61 of the PMBOK Guide 5th edition to understand the project management process group and knowledge areas mapping. A clear understanding of this map will help you to answer several questions in the exam.

Repeat the above procedure until you are comfortable with it.

The next step is to practice some sample questions. You can find a few sample questions at the end of each chapter in your reference books. You can also purchase a good PMP Exam Simulator from a renowned provider to practice more questions.

You can also try my PMP Question Bank which has 400 PMP exam sample questions.

Practice these questions and then attempt the mock tests. Mock tests are exactly the same as the real test and consist of 200 questions. By reviewing the results of these tests, you can find out which domains you are not performing well in. Revisit those domains and fill in the knowledge gaps.

In the PMP exam you are going to see many mathematical questions. Although they seem to be tough initially, if you practice those questions and understand the concepts, they will be a piece of cake for you.

Therefore, try to practice these questions as much as you can. To help you solve these types of questions, I have written a PMP Formula Guide. This guide explains all mathematical formulas mentioned in the PMBOK Guide. You can use this eBook to understand the mathematical concepts for the PMP exam.

There are some good sites on the Internet providing free mock tests for the PMP certification exam, such as Oliver Lehmann and Head First Labs. Try their mock tests as well.

On many forums and in group e-mails, I have seen that people desperately look for sample practice questions and free mock tests. Please don’t do this. You should not try to attempt each and every sample question or free mock test available on the Internet. It will only demoralize you and waste your precious time.

If you purchase the PMP Exam Simulator, PMP Question Bank, and PMP Formula Guide mentioned in this blog post, believe me that will be more than enough for you to pass the exam.

The PMP certification exam is based on the PMBOK Guide, and a lot of the questions in your exam will be directly from the PMBOK Guide. Therefore, read and understand the PMBOK guide thoroughly. If you skip the PMBOK Guide, it will be very difficult for you to pass the exam.

I recommend you read the PMBOK guide at least three times before attempting the exam. Although it is a dry book, once you start understanding the concepts, you will start liking it.

Step – VIII: Attempt the Exam

Reach the Prometric center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time to complete all formalities. It takes around 5 to 10 minutes to complete all exam procedures. Afterwards, you will be allowed to enter the test room, and your test will start.

As your test starts, you will be made aware of the display on the computer screen and navigation; e.g. how to select an answer, how to mark a question for review, etc. It will take 15 minutes to complete this awareness session. You can also finish this session in less than 15 minutes; however, once you end the session, your exam will start immediately and you will not be able to use the time that you saved.

Therefore I suggest you become comfortable with the navigation quickly and utilize the remaining time to note down some formulas or any confusing concepts on the paper provided by the Prometric center.

The PMP exam consists of 200 questions and you have to answer these questions in four hours; i.e. 1.2 minutes per question. From my experience, I can say that if you are well prepared for the exam, this time is more than enough for 200 questions. Many aspirants who have passed the PMP certification exam and became a PMP on average took two and a half to three hours to complete the exam.

Take your time to complete the exam and review the answers in the remaining time, and then submit it. After submission there will be a short survey, and after the survey you will be able to see your result. If you pass the exam, the PMI will congratulate you; otherwise they will offer their condolences.

If you pass the exam, within one week you will receive the congratulatory mail and your name will be updated in the PMI certification registry, and then you can see your name there. You will receive your certificate within four to six weeks, although officially PMI says that it will deliver your certificate package within eight weeks.

Please note that, in the PMP certification exam, there is no negative marking. Therefore, you must attempt all questions and give answers for them. Even if you don’t know the answers for a few questions, choose the best guess. Never leave any answer blank on your exam.

This post was all about how to become a PMP. Before I end this blog post, let’s summarize the key points one last time:

  • Collected all information.
  • Collect study materials.
  • Become a PMI member.
  • Read the PMP exam reference book and the PMBOK Guide.
  • Attend a 35 contact hours training program.
  • Schedule the PMP exam.
  • Start studying seriously.
  • Take the exam and pass it.


The PMP exam is not very tough. If you plan well and study in the right way you can pass the exam in the first attempt. You can get help from your colleagues and professionals who have passed the PMP exam. You can find many PMP certification holders in your local chapter meetings. Approach them politely and ask for help; they will definitely help you in your preparation. Learn from their experience, prepare well and pass the exam.

Good luck on your PMP exam preparation.

Here is where this blog post on “How to Become a PMP” ends. I hope you will find this blog post useful for your preparation. If you have something to share, you can do so through the comments section.

(Please note that none of above paid courses/programs are personally reviewed by me, except the PMP Question Bank, and PMP Formula Guide. Read the disclaimer .)

image credit => Master isolated/

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