The Nuts-and-Bolts of Passing the PMP® Exam

By | September 20, 2013

When I prepared for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, I failed to pay attention to the page containing the following information in the PMBOK® Guide: Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping (Table 3-1). As a project manager corporate trainer, however, I reference this page many times. It’s a key resource to doing well on the exam.

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Process Groups

When you take the PMP® exam, your grade is based on how well you scored in each of the five process groups. The exam is weighed as follows:

  • Initiating – 13%
  • Planning – 24%
  • Executing – 30%
  • Monitoring & Controlling – 25%
  • Closing – 8%

Thus, the middle three process groups carry the most weight. You are provided with only the following evaluation from PMI for each process group:

  • Proficient
  • Moderately Proficient
  • Below Proficient

If you score Moderately Proficient in each section, you will pass. However, if you are Below Proficient in a big section, such as Executing, it could spell trouble. You could, however, make up for it by being Proficient in Monitoring and Controlling.

Focus on the 47 Processes

If I were to study for the PMP® exam again, I would take p. 61 of the PMBOK® Guide and break in into manageable pieces. I would read through each process to make sure I have a clear understanding of the processes, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs (ITTOs). However, it’s counterproductive to try and memorize all the ITTOs. There are far too many of them, and some of them are used many times.

Make sure you are clear with the alignment of processes relative to the process groups and knowledge areas. For example, know that Direct and Manage Project Work is aligned both with Integration Management (knowledge area) and Executing (Process Group). By having this information in mind, you have key knowledge that will help when answering questions on the exam.

Back to the ITTOs

Like many other students, I tried to memorize all the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. I started with Develop Project Charter, and did okay with this process. After a few days, I had all processes in Integration Management memorized, but this still left 35 processes (in the 4th edition of the PMBOK® Guide). I quickly made the determination that this was going to be an impossible task.

I decided to take a different approach, and learn the material, and not memorize it. Therefore, I focused on the intent of the processes, and what they produced. What do you think is the output of Develop Project Charter? Right! Project Charter. My feeling is that if there is only one output, there is a chance that it will be tested on the exam.

Takeaways

The PMP® exam is a toughie. There are 200 questions, and only 175 are tested. The other 25 are test questions, and are not part of the score. Unfortunately, you don’t know if they are real or test questions, so you must treat them all equally.

By focusing on p. 61 of the PMBOK® Guide, you can develop a game plan. You can cover one or two processes per day, which means you could be ready to take the exam in fewer than 60 days. Of course, it’s a good idea to take practice questions, too.

The PMP® credential is a game-changer, and I hope it’s part of your professional development goals.

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