Use This PMP Study Plan to Study Smarter

Great project managers know to seek out information about how others have succeeded on projects similar to their own projects. So if you are just getting started studying for the PMP exam, you have the right approach. Below are some general tips on how to start your study plan as well as my own study plan that I followed to successfully pass the PMP exam.

PMP Study Plan General Tips

Start early, but not too early. Just like in project management, it is important to set a clear and reasonable schedule. If you plan to study for a year, that’s probably too long. If you only study for a week, that’s clearly not enough. Find somewhere in the middle.

Know your style (and your situation). Can you study on your own? Do you need a classroom to motivate you? Live and online classes are much more expensive than books and other study materials. Make sure you are making the right investment based on your needs.

Read reviews. Before choosing study materials, read reviews. A well-reviewed book is a better investment than a moderately-review in-person class. Even more importantly, read the substance of the reviews. Try to get a sense of how the study materials you’re evaluating help you studying the material. It’s less important to get a particular material and more important to get one that fits how you best learn.

My PMP Study Plan

Here’s how I followed my own advice and passed the PMP. I passed the PMP in May 2017 with 4 Ps (Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing) and 1 MP (Initiating). I also felt like I devoted just enough time to studying. I worked a full time job and still had time for my fiancee and friends on the weekends. In the last two weeks before the exam, I spent more time studying and less on my hobbies, but never to the extreme.

Start early, but not too early. I decided on a timeline of four months, based on the normal length of a college-level course. Each week I would devote substantial time to reviewing the PMBOK Guide and related materials, and in the last few weeks I would begin practice tests and reviewing in great detail. Overall, I felt like I did an excellent job planning and sticking to my timeline. I would not change my schedule at all.

Know your style (and your situation). Although I prefer classroom-based situations to studying on my own, the cost of the in-person (and even live online) classes was too much. My cost-benefit analysis led me to the conclusion that the cost was simply too great for in-person. I decided to purchase a variety of study tools and do it myself. I found out later that my local PMI chapter offered group study classes, which I wished I had researched and known before starting my study plan. In hindsight, the only item I would add to my weekly studies is a prep course through my local PMI chapter, or perhaps finding a small group to study with.

Read reviews. I think I read every review on Amazon and article I could find through Google before settling on my study materials. Of course you want highly-reviewed material, but you should find material that also fits your particular learning style. (That’s one of the reasons I haven’t told you what materials I used to study. You need to choose tools that best fit you, not anyone else!)

My PMP Study Schedule

Once I decided on my timeline and the materials I wanted to use, I developed my particular schedule. I am Google Calendar geek, so each step of my studying process was thoroughly documented in my calendar. I certainly did not stick to my weekly schedule exactly — sometimes I devoted more time to my social life or to large projects at work — but I only let myself fall a little behind what I had initially planned.

For tips on how to study effectively, check out our video below:

Four months before

  • Read one chapter each week
  • Spend at least three additional hours each week on review materials

One month before

  • Pick up the pace to catch up on any chapters I missed reading
  • Determine practice exam schedule
  • Schedule time for weak areas & reread the PMBOK guide for those areas

Two weeks before — do the following every two days

  • Take practice exam
  • Review practice exam missed answers & note weak areas
  • Re-read PMBOK guide for each weak exam area

Day before the exam

  • Don’t study! Take a break and enjoy!
  • Okay, I broke down a bit and spent 30 minutes studying. But try not to study!

Day-of exam

  • Schedule the exam for the time at which you work best.
  • Confirm food & drink policies (My snacks were locked up and I couldn’t access them during the exam! #hangry)
  • Take a deep breath! Lots of practice exams help quell the anxiety, especially when you are testing in a high-pressure environment like the Prometric center.

Final Thoughts

In reflecting on my experience studying for the PMP exam, the two most important parts of my experience were:

  1. Reading the PMBOK & using my study materials in chunks on a weekly basis
  2. Spending the last two weeks leading up to the exam taking full-length practice tests and studying what I got wrong

My experience studying for the PMP is nothing extraordinary, but I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that you can adapt it, make it your own, and succeed in passing.

Are you just starting to study for the PMP exam? Ask questions and share your plan in the comments. Your fellow PMP students and I are here to help.

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