Sample PMP ® certification exam
Available for Windows and
These tips are provided by Carolyn Heide, BSc., PMP, CSM
Study more than just the PMBOK® Guide
The Guide identifies a subset of project management practices, and the exam may refer to practices or concepts that are not mentioned in the Guide.
For instance, are you familiar with Theory X, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or the point-of-total-assumption?
I would recommend that you also study Harlod Kerzner’s Project Management, Tenth Edition to familiarize yourself with more project management practices and techniques
Select the training that's right for you
Since you are looking for practice tests, perhaps you have already taken a training course. Even if you have, let me recommend the PM PrepCast™ podcast/videocast from OSP International. You can download it to your iPod and listen to it while you drive to work, or whenever you have a few minutes to spare. It can be the only training you take, or you could use it as a great refresher in the week right before your exam. It is the only training that I took before passing the exam first try, and I found it informative and entertaining, and a great way to learn.
OSP International also offers a competitive practice test product but we think you will like ours and ours costs less.
Some people call these “brain dumps”. The idea is to memorize a page before the exam, and then write it out onto paper as soon as you start the exam. It’s easier to remember a page than individual items, because you can picture the page layout and know when you are missing things.
I memorized two of them, the Process Groups per Knowledge Area grid, and a page of formulae. When I started the exam, I immediately wrote them out onto two sheets of paper. This accomplished two things: I now had reference material rather than having to rely on remembering many individual things; and, it gave me a tremendous confidence boost.
Here are the two pages I used, feel free to download and use them yourself. Note two things: I rearranged the Process Groups per Knowledge Area grid from the layout on page 43 of the PMBOK Guide®, Fourth Edition, so that the pattern of processes was easier to remember; and, I grouped the formulae so that I could memorize them in small chunks.
Take practice tests
Seriously. I know this is a web site selling practice tests, but that aside, you really need to take as many practice tests as you can. There is no substitute for the extra knowledge you will learn, and confidence you will gain knowing that you have passed practice tests before taking the real thing. You cannot practice too much.
Exam Day (maybe obvious stuff)
Arrive early. You don’t want to arrive at the last minute, already stressed out about getting there on time. When I arrived early, they were kind enough to let me start early.
Dress comfortably. Be prepared for the exam room to be too cold or too hot. I brought a sweater, which I didn’t need, and they made me leave outside of the exam room. But I was glad I had it, just in case.
Bring water, or maybe even a snack. Four hours is a long time. You should take a break or two during the exam, and you’ll appreciate having a little something to boost your energy level.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam. Pretty obvious, but couldn't it be more important. You’ll do better if you’re well rested.
Taking the exam (my story)
I’m sure that every exam provider has different rules and procedures, but here’s how it went for me.
I arrived 20 minutes before my scheduled time, and they were kind enough to let me start right away.
I was assigned a locker, into which I put my personal stuff (phone, PDA, purse, etc). I was given a key to that locker to take into the exam room, but not allowed to access the locker until the test was completed. The bottle of water and snack which I had brought were left on a table outside of the exam room. I was told that when I wanted to take a break, I had to stay in this area (where there were restrooms). I noticed that the area had video cameras.
I had to sign in with the time that I entered the exam room. In the room there were eight cubicles with computers desks, and there were three or four people in there already working.
I was shown to my desk, where there was a PC set up and ready to run the exam. I was given a booklet of blank paper and two pencils, and then my escort left me alone.
There was a pre-exam training program on the PC which explained how the test would work. Running through that did not come out the four hour test time, and I found that it gave me time to settle down a bit. I would recommend running this before you start the exam.
After that, I wrote out my two “cheat sheets” into the paper booklet provided. Then I started the exam.
I went through the exam and answered every question. If I did not know the answer, I didn’t spend too much time on the question. I marked it for later review, and I guessed at an answer. My theory was if I did not have time to get back and review all the questions, guessing gave me a 25% chance of being right, while leaving it un-answered gave me no chance.
When I had answered all the questions, I went back to the questions which I had marked for review and spend some serious time thinking about them and changing answers.
I know that some people like to review the whole test, start to finish. I didn’t. If I didn’t mark a question, I felt confident of the answer, so I didn’t feel the need to go back and look at it. That’s your personal choice.
I took one break during the exam, though I had read that most people like to take more breaks. My plan had been to take a five minute break every half hour, but I “got on a roll” answering questions, and did not want to break my concentration. So I completed all the questions, going for my break before I started to review. Again, when you take breaks is a very personal choice.
To take a break, I left the exam room, signing out recording the time. I stood in the hallway for about five minutes, drinking some water and stretching. I never ate my snack. I signed back into the room, and finished the exam.
I finished the exam in a little over two hours, and when I left the exam room the final time, they gave me a printout of my results immediately. The formal certificate arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later.
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Formulae, Microsoft Word Document
Process Matrix, Microsoft Excel File
Good luck on your exam
I hope that this information helps you prepare for, and pass, your PMP exam.