PMP Exam Prep – Part 3: The Exam

About the Examination

The PMP has become the dominant project management credential for numerous industries and companies. By attaining the PMP credential, your name will be included in the largest and most prestigious group of certified professionals in the project management community.

The Certification Examination

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Examination measures the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques that are utilized in the practice of project management. The examination specifications were established in 1997 after the Project Management Institute completed a job analysis study. The PMP Certification Examination is comprised of 200 four-option multiple-choice questions that are developed and validated by PMPs. Out of these 200 questions, 25 are considered “pretest questions”. These pretest questions do not affect your score. The PMI uses them as an effective and legitimate way for testing the questions. Examinees must obtain a percentage higher than 61% or 106 out of 175 questions in order to pass the examination. The examination is reviewed and revised annually to satisfy the examination test specifications and to ensure that each question has a referenced source.

Test Preparation

Examination questions are developed to test the candidate’s knowledge of how project management skills are used in practice. Therefore no single source for the examination exists. The foundation document for project management training and/or education is the PMI publication entitled; “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)”. This publication is available to all PMI members for download on PMI’s website. PMI also offers an array of textbooks and other project management reference materials. It is recommended that candidates also reference their professional experience, as many of the questions on the examination are situational. Examination preparation courses are not required by PMI, but candidates may contact their local PMI Chapters to see what courses are available if desired.

Exam questions can be categorized into the five groupings of project processes representing the primary activities that occur during a project. A breakdown of an approximate percentage of questions you would expect to find in the exam, as well as the specific knowledge areas for each category are listed below in Fig. 1 Exam Categories:

Exam Category Percentage of Questions Knowledge Tested
Project Initiation 13% 1. Determine Project Goals
2. Determine Deliverables
3. Determine Process Outputs
4. Document Constraints
5. Document Assumptions
6. Define Strategy
7. Identify Performance Criteria
8. Determine Resource Requirements
9. Define Budget
10. Produce Formal Documentation
Project Planning 24% 1. Refine Project
2. Create WBS
3. Develop Resource Management Plan
4. Refine Time and Cost Estimates
5. Establish Project Controls
6. Develop Project Plan
7. Obtain Plan Approval
Project Execution 30% 1. Commit Resources
2. Implement Resources
3. Manage Progress
4. Communicate Progress
5. Implement Quality Assurance Procedures
Project Control 25% 1. Measure Performance
2. Refine Control Limits
3. Take Corrective Action
4. Evaluate Effectiveness of Corrective Action
5. Ensure Plan Compliance
6. Reassess Control Plans
7. Respond to Risk Event Triggers
8. Monitor Project Activity
Project Closing 8% 1. Obtain Acceptance of Deliverables
2. Document Lessons Learned
3. Facilitate Closure
4. Preserve Product Records and Tools
5. Release Resources

Fig. 1 Exam Categories

Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®)

Officially titled as “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)”, and more commonly referred to as the PMBOK, this publication should be your primary reference for the examination.  The PMBOK was created by the Project Management Institute as a framework and approach towards project management, representing current Industry Best Practices. The PMBOK is currently in its fourth edition and has been certified as an American National Standard (ANSI/PMI 99-001-2008).

Before the PMBOK, there wasn’t a clear or accepted definition of Project Management as a profession. The PMBOK was crafted after extensive study and research into a recommended or Best Practices approach towards managing projects in a variety of environments.

The PMBOK can be used as a guide for just about anybody who is about to embark upon a project, regardless of magnitude of the project or respective industry. More importantly, the PMBOK defines a recommended approach towards project management and not necessarily the best or only approach for every project. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a candidate to read through the PMBOK and find some section or recommendation that does not seem to be the adopted practice in his or her industry.

The PMP certification is a test of your understanding of the PMBOK, and how you apply its content to various situations that may arise during a project. But as you will read later on in this manual, PMI recognizes that the knowledge and skills required to succeed at managing projects, is far greater than the information contained in a single book or guide. You can think of a career in project management as a life-long commitment to learning and enrichment.

Reference Material for the Exam

There are many varied resources available both in print and electronic format to assist you with your PMP certification journey. I would recommend that you obtain the following reference materials as a starting point (note the shameless self-plug):

  • PMI’s PMBOK® Guide
  • Road Chimp’s online PMP Exam Prep Guide
  • Preparation Examination Questions

In the next part, we will look at the Project Management Framework.

Road Chimp, signing out!

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