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The Complete Guide On How To Pass The PMP Certification Exam On Your First Attempt

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Hi everyone, I hope you guys are doing great. So let’s talk about the billion dollar question: How do you pass the PMP Exam on your first try and achieve the PMP certification ?

I want you to completely relax because we will learn each and everything you need to know about how you can prepare for and pass the PMP  easily on your first attempt.

After intensive research from successful and unsuccessful candidates, we are going to discuss top tips, tricks and strategies used by top PMP exam scorers. We will also learn from those who did not succeed on their first attempt, so it is also important to know what NOT to do.

This content is a culmination of all of those learning’s to create the ultimate guide on how to pass the PMP and get the PMP certification on your first attempt.  This guide will provide a sound benchmark to help you start your preparation or refine it, depending on where your prep currently stands.

Are you ready ? Let’s get started!

Give yourself at least 3 months / 200 hours to prepare for the PMP exam

Having interviewed multiple successful candidates, 200 hours of prep was the average time it takes to ensure a strong level of preparation for the PMP exam. This includes everything from reading the books, making notes, doing revision and taking Full length PMP practice exams.

Learn ALL Topics and Concepts of the PMP Syllabus

The first thing to understand about the PMP, is that it is an exam with huge scope!

So what does it mean when i say the exam has a huge scope?

It means that there is a LOT of material that is tested on the exam.

There are a LOT of different topics and concepts that are tested on the exam, and you need to remember ALL of them.

To summarize, that is how the PMP exam is structured, each of the 200 questions will test how well you know a certain topic or concept from the eyes of a project manager.

Start Learning Math Formulas from Day 1

Now let’s talk about the Math based questions on the PMP exam.

On the exam, you will come across numerous questions which require you to apply a formula and then interpret the result.

Most of these questions are related to the concepts of EVM, which is also known as Earned Value Management.

I will tell you right now that you need to memorize ALL of the formulas like the back of your hand.These formulas are extremely important, and not only should you know how to calculate and solve the questions, you should also know how to interpret the result.

So, what is the secret to learning PMP Math?

Here it is :

  1. Start learning the formulas from day one. It is okay even if you haven’t read the chapters that the formulas belong to. You will find most of the formulas in the Cost Management and Time/Schedule Management Chapters.
  2. Make a list of all the formulas required on the PMP Exam
  3. Practice writing down the formulas Daily. Write them down every day, it will just take a few minutes. Don’t worry even if you don’t understand them at first, just make sure you write them down every day and you will have them in your memory in no time. Then once you have read the chapters of Cost Management and Time/Schedule Management, the formulas will start to make a lot more sense.

To summarize, just remember, practice writing down the formulas every day from when you Start your preparation.

Ensure the formulas are on your fingertips, because on exam day, you will need to recall them from memory instantly.

You Cannot afford to skip even a single topic or concept of the PMP

Remember, each question on the exam can test you on a different topic, you might be answering a question regarding Risk one second and end up with a question from Cost Management in the next.

The only way you can be truly prepared for this is if you have All the concepts on your fingertips on exam day.

You don’t need to memorize anything except the formulas.

However, Please note that you DO NOT have to memorize the concepts (Apart from math formulas ). You just need to make sure you UNDERSTAND them, so please do not waste any time trying to commit the topics to memory.

Is it necessary to memorize the ITTO’s for the PMP exam ?

Simple answer. No.

Some people recommend memorizing the ITTO’s, but it is far more beneficial to just understand the inputs and outputs instead of trying to force them into your brain. I would considerably discourage memorizing the ITTO’s since it takes far too much time, and secondly, it will not benefit you as much as genuinely trying to understand the concepts.

You are far more likely to get correct answers when you understand logically what should be the inputs of a process, what are the tools and techniques used during that process and what outputs would you get from it as opposed to just trying to remember during the exam based on your memory alone.

Definitely Read the PMBOK Guide

The PMBOK is the recommended guide by the PMI for preparing for the PMP exam. PMI refers to the Project Management Institute which awards the actual PMP certification.  This guide is invaluable in terms of developing a foundation of project management concepts.

Also, here is the link for the PMBOK 6th edition in case you’re appearing for the new exam after 26th March, 2018 :

I understand that It can be challenging to read, but I will say this again that you absolutely need to read it at LEAST once. And then go over it again ONCE when you’re doing your revision for the exam.

Now please do note, you DON’T need to memorize anything. But do try your best to understand and learn the concept behind every topic.

Read the Glossary in PMBOK

Make absolutely sure you review the glossary of terms at the end of the PMBOK Guide.

The glossary in the PMBOK Guide is a collection of all the terms and concepts you need to know for the PMP Exam and I would highly recommend that you regularly go over these concepts to make sure you know each one of them.

I would highly recommend if you can take just 5-10 minutes every day to quickly go over the terms, that would help you considerably in the long run.

It is especially useful for when you start revising for the PMP exam.

The FINAL word on whether you should read the PMBOK guide or whether you can skip it

I highly recommend reading the PMBOK because it is the closest to the syllabus requirements for the PMP Exam. Furthermore, there are some concepts which can only be found in the PMBOK guide and may not be covered properly in any of the other resources you might be using for your preparation. It is best to cover your bases and ensure you have covered all the topics in your preparation for the exam.

There are some people who might say it is not necessary to read the PMBOK Guide. On a personal level I feel you might risk failing the exam since you never know you might come across a concept you might have read in the PMBOK and that could end up making the difference between failing and passing the exam.

If you are short on time, I would still recommend reading it at least once. Parts of it are a bit challenging to understand, but Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the concepts because the PMBOK is not the only resource you will be relying on. So remember, you should Definitely read the PMBOK.

This brings us to our next question, should you read another book apart from the PMBOK Guide to prepare for the PMP exam ?

Read a PMP exam preparation book

It is essential to read a supporting book to understand the PMP better. The PMBOK Guide can be a bit difficult for people to understand so it is highly recommended to use another PMP exam prep book along with the PMBOK Guide.

What are the best books to prepare for the PMP Exam ?

Two of the most famous books used by people who have passed the pmp are by the authors Rita Mulcahy, and Andy Crowe. You can choose to read either of these since both are good, although I have observed that a larger number of successful candidates used Rita’s book. So, if it came down to a single choice I’d recommend reading Rita since it reflects the requirements and syllabus of the PMP exam really well.

To summarize, you will read the following for your preparation:

  1. PMBOK
  2. A PMP Exam preparation Book / Guide (Rita or Andy Crowe’s PMP Book )

Please do remember that it is NOT necessary to read multiple Prep Guides, just one, i.e Rita or Andy Crowe will do fine. On a personal level I would recommend Rita Mulcahy’s book since I have observed that most successful candidates who ended up passing the PMP Exam on their first try used Rita’s book.

Create Notes and highlight the important text

Don’t worry, we are not going to memorize anything. But when you are reading through the PMBOK and any other PMP study guide, I would highly recommend that you try to take notes as you read along.

On the other hand, If you don’t have a lot of time to prepare, at the very least, you should try to highlight the important lines and concepts.

This is extremely useful because when you will be revising, you ONLY want to be looking at the parts you’ve highlighted.

Take a PMP Training Bootcamp to get 35 contact hours certificate

PMI requires you to get 35 hours of project management training to become eligible for appearing for the PMP exam. These bootcamps will help you go over all the syllabus of the PMP quickly and then you can start your own preparation. Once this training is done, you will get the 35 contact hour certificates by companies which provide PMP training.

There are 2 main types of trainings which you can take. Online and classroom. Online trainings give you access to training videos which you can complete at your own time, so these are self-paced. Classroom trainings are actual trainings which are held inside a classroom setting and these are generally more expensive than online trainings.

You can get the 35-contact hour certificate from both these types of trainings.

If you are are looking for the most effective course to prepare for the PMP exam, then please take a look at our Online High Quality PMP Exam Training. It provides everything you need to pass the PMP exam on your first attempt.

Next, another extremely important aspect of your preparation are the practice exams.

Take at least 5-7 Practice Exams

Once you’ve covered the course, you need to start taking practice exams.

The PMP is a 4 hour exam with over 200 questions, and it is very challenging. One of the major reasons why people fail this exam is because they’re not familiar with all the question types. You need to be used to the format and type of questions on the exam and you can only do this by doing practice questions and exams.

If you think you’ve understood all the concepts by reading the PMP books then it’s time to dive straight into the practice questions and exams.

I would recommend to giving 5 practice exams at the minimum. If you can take 7 practice exams, that would be ideal.

Practice only High Quality PMP Questions

There are several practice questions available for the PMP exam, both paid and free. One of the biggest reasons why I’ve seen people fail the PMP is because they simply did not attempt any high-quality practice questions.

You need to ensure the practice questions are of High Quality and are like those that are tested on the actual exam. You cannot expect to do low quality questions and then expect to pass the exam on your first attempt. Identify some of the best sources for high quality practice questions and then attempt those.

Here are some free excellent high quality PMP Practice questions by Mr Oliver Lehmann,PMP :

How can you tell whether you are ready to take the PMP exam?

A good rule of thumb is to ensure you are scoring more than 70 percent in the Full length Practice exams. If you’re scoring above 70 percent, you’re good to go for the exam.

How to approach the questions in the PMP exam?

Answer the questions as a Project Manager

The questions on the PMP exam are meant to test what you would do as a project manager who is managing a large project.

For example, It contains situational questions which ask you about what actions would you do take if a problem occurs on the project.

You really need to put yourself into the situation and think like a person who is actually responsible for managing large global projects, that will increase your chances of getting the right answer.

Do not solely rely on your past experience as a project manager when answering PMP exam questions

Just because you have a lot of experience as a project manager is no guarantee that you will get all questions correct or pass the PMP exam. You see, the PMI has created the PMBOK as a comprehensive guide for all the best practices of project management.

You need to learn all the concepts because your experience and these concepts will all go hand in hand when it finally comes down to getting a correct answer on the PMP exam.

Even if you are the best project manager on the planet, there will definitely be new things you can learn to become even better.

Don’t take the 4 hour practice exams until you’ve understood all the concepts of the PMP Syllabus

I would highly suggest not to take the full length 4-hour practice exams unless you’ve covered the entire syllabus and you know all of the concepts. If you want to do some practice questions or exercises, that is fine, but I would recommend holding off on the practice exams until you’ve learnt all the topics.

If you start attempting practice exams without having gone through the entire syllabus, you might end up getting demotivated since you will not be able to get the questions correct based on your experience alone.

You see each of those 200 questions in the full-length exam can focus on a different topic and so if you still have some weak areas, it’s important to learn and understand them completely. Otherwise you’’ll just end up losing points by getting those questions incorrect.

So to summarize, the key is to make sure you know all the concepts and topics required in the PMP exam syllabus so that you can minimize the number of questions you can possibly get incorrect on the exam.

List down all the questions you get wrong on the Practice Exams. Read up on the topics and concepts for each of the questions you got wrong.

This is the part in which you will help you find out if there are any specific weaknesses you have on the exam. For any question you get wrong on the practice tests, take note of it, and find out what specific concept or topic does it belong to. Then, you go back, read up on what that concept was, learn it, understand it completely.

Repeat this process for every question you get wrong. What you’re doing is you’re constantly identifying specific areas you’re weak in a, and then you’re covering that gap by understanding what that topic is about.

And so, the next time you get a question from that topic, I’m very sure you will be able to get it right. This is the part Learn the concepts behind the questions you get wrong during Practice Exams

Take the Actual PMP exam

Finally, once you’re done with the practice tests, it’s time to take the actual PMP exam. I’d recommend that you spend at least 3-4 days only of revision right before the exam. Use this time to go over the entire course at least 3 times before you sit for the exam.

The Number 1 secret to Passing the PMP Exam : Repetition

You need to read through the material multiple times.

Keep reading, keep revising and keep learning so that it goes over your eyes multiple times.

The more times a concept passes by your eyes, the more the chances that your brain will absorb it.

The reason this method works so well especially in the case of PMP is because of the vast and diverse number of topics and concepts that are tested on the PMP exam.

You need to flex your brain and go over the concepts multiple times until they become second nature and you can recall them easily from memory.

On the exam, every time a question appears, you need to be able to quickly recall what topic or concept the question is based on. And so the only way you can do that is if you have understood a concept well.

The point is, you need to be able to critically analyze and apply that concept to the question instead of being in a position where you are trying to merely recall what the concept is in the first place.

So go over the material multiple times until you know what it is about.

Now id like to mention that it depends from person to person how many times they should go over the material.

Reading Strategy for PMP Exam Preparation :

  • Read PMBOK Twice. Once during the beginning and then a second time you can breeze through it for revision. I would advise going over the Glossary multiple times since its just a great collection of all the concepts.
  • Read Your Supplementary PMP Exam prep book at least 4 times (Rita or Andy Crowes PMP Book)
  • On your first reading, highlight all the key areas you feel are relevant. You may do this using a highlighter, do not use a pen.
  • Once you have read a chapter, go back and read through all of the areas you just HIGHLIGHTED.
  • It is important to ONLY read the highlighted areas when you revise the chapter.
  • Now for the most important part: Out of the areas you have highlighted, I’d like you to UNDERLINE all the important Keywords of that concept or topic.
  • This will be extremely useful for your revision, because when you finally come back for your third or 4rth read throughs for revision, you will be able to recall the entire concept just by reading that keyword from the entire line.

Now I understand that this may sound basic. However, this strategy REALLY holds true for the PMP Exam.

Do you want to know why?

The more the number of times you go over the concepts, the more likely it is you will remember them.

See? Simple but extremely effective.

Conclusion :

The journey towards the PMP Certification is a steep climb, your success will depend on your consistency and patience since there is a tremendous amount of material to cover.

Just remember these two words :

Keep Going

I guarantee you will make it as long as plan your preparation in advance. Once you know exactly how you are going to prepare, the rest of the work is more of a straight but difficult road rather than a winding path.

Please also note your own time frame for preparation will also depend on your own rate of learning, prior experience, and consistency.

Thanks so much for reading through! I hope to see you pass the PMP exam soon! It would be more than a pleasure to hear from you, let me know your thoughts and experience regarding the PMP.

Also, If you have any questions regarding the PMP exam, please let me know if I can help you out by emailing me at

We deliver high quality PMP training’s to professionals from companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Infotech, General Electric, and several leading global brands. Our online PMP training is specially designed to be a Complete A-Z PMP training solution to help you quickly prepare for the PMP. It is clear and simple to understand since our goal was to demystify the PMP for you.

If you are ready and motivated to start your PMP training, then please feel free to start off with our High Quality PMP training that has been specially designed for Busy professionals like yourself.

Kind Regards,

Umer Waqar, PMP

Founder, GPL – A Global training provider for the PMP Certification

Author: Umer Waqar

Umer Waqar is a Branding ,Digital Marketing and Project Management Professional. His experience and understanding of Technology and Marketing has led him to manage projects across commercial and technical teams in high capital and large scale projects.

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1 responses on "The Complete Guide On How To Pass The PMP Certification Exam On Your First Attempt"

  1. Excellent job done to Guide in a very systematic and sincere way.

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