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What is a Realistic Timeline for Passing the PMP Exam? [Infographic]

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What is a Realistic Timeline for Passing the PMP Exam? [Infographic]

January 18, 2018
Infographic of the realistic timeline for passing the PMP Exam.

Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Prep Timeline

One common question for project management practitioners looking to achieve their Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is, “How much time do I need to get ready?” Many candidates do not pass on their first try because they do not allow themselves enough time to study and develop a plan, so you should set a realistic timeline and follow it closely. Having a realistic timeline will allow you to do what you need to do to prepare, including fully reading and understanding A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Since the exam changes every few years, this timeline can also tell you whether to earn your certification with the old test or wait for the new one.

This infographic is a timeline corresponding to the table below that details recommended activities and timeframes to prepare for the PMP certification exam. Not all of these activities are required, but we will explain why we recommend each one.

Realistic Timeline to Pass the PMP Exam(Click image to enlarge.)

Task Name

Time

Become a Project Management Institute (PMI)® member 1 day
Join local PMI® chapter 1 day
Download PMBOK® Guide 1 day
Attend local chapter events 8 weeks
Study PMBOK® Guide 8 weeks
Create and join study group 8 weeks
Join PMP® Exam Prep Course 8 weeks
Complete application 1 week
Get application approval 1 week
Schedule exam 1 day
Continue study/practice tests 8 weeks
Take exam 1 day

The following is an overview of these steps with reasons why you should follow each one:

  1. Become a PMI® Member and join your local chapter. Being a member of PMI has many benefits. The most important for purposes of exam prep is free access to a digital copy of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Local chapter membership also gives you a chance to network with others in the area and learn more about professional development opportunities, helping you earn the PDUs you will need to maintain your PMP certification.
  2. Study the PMBOK® Guide. Use this time for studying the PMBOK® Guide and learning the project management processes, their inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs, and key formulas. It is not necessary to completely memorize every part if that is too much for you, but make sure you understand why a particular input or technique would be used. This understanding will be helpful because you can then apply that logic to questions you struggle with.
  3. Join a study group. We recommend that you join or create a study group because working with others helps to reinforce your study. Depending on who joins and what experience they bring, it is also a valuable opportunity to learn from other project managers and improve your own career. If you cannot find others in your local area, consider online study groups as well.
  4. Join a PMP Exam Prep Course. If you do not already have 35 contact hours in project management education, you will likely need an exam prep course. Many of these will also help your project management skills by reinforcing the concepts and providing best practices that you can take back to your workplace. Also, you will be able to meet others who are studying for the PMP, giving you more opportunities to join support groups and cheer each other on. Finally, the prep course gives you an opportunity to take a practice exam, allowing you to assess where you are versus where you need to be.
  5. Apply and schedule the exam. Many applicants are surprised by how long the application process takes for their exam. PMI allows up to 90 days, and depending on your project experience, plan to take between 60 days up to the full 90 to send it in. This time is necessary because you need to document your project experience across the five project management process groups and will need to be able to provide references for this time if you are audited. You can help this process by documenting your time as you proceed, but still, be prepared to spend lots of time logging and verifying your experience.
  6. Continue to study and build your “brain dump.” Once you have your application approved and can schedule your exam, this will help you focus on the remaining tasks. The “brain dump” should include items and formulas that need to be memorized to go on the scrap paper provided for your exam (don’t forget, this now cuts into your allotted exam time). Continue to take practice tests and collaborate with others as you prepare for exam day. Strive for a goal score of 85 percent on your practice exams.
  7. Finally, remember to stay calm and set aside some time to relax. If you set a solid plan and follow it closely, you will have done much of the hard work before the last few weeks roll around. Although those last few weeks are still crucial, getting the hard work out of the way will allow you to focus on the exam itself. Best of luck!

Need to Get There Faster?

The suggested schedule above is to give you a comfortable period in which to prepare for the exam. Many parts of it depend on what kind of prep course you sign up for. If you get an 8-week class, for example, one that meets once a week, then you will need more time. However, many PMP exam prep courses are also designed to be done boot-camp style, an immersive experience that lasts a week or less. If you take one of these instead, and save time on other activities, then you could conceivably finish your preparations sooner. Below is an amended version of the above table that “fast-tracks” the activities.

Task Name

Time

Become PMI member 1 day
Join local PMI chapter 1 day
Download PMBOK® Guide 1 day
Attend local chapter events 2 weeks
Study PMBOK® Guide 2 weeks
Create and join study group 2 weeks
Join PMP® Exam Prep Course 1 week
Complete application 1 week
Get application approval 1 week
Schedule exam 1 day
Continue study/practice tests 5 weeks
Take exam 1 day

What practices, tools, or techniques have helped you the most as you prepared for your PMP® Exam? Please let us know in the comments.

Need more support to feel confident about taking the PMP exam? Check out our PMP Exam Prep test simulator.

PMI, PMP, and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
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