PMP Study Process


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A lot of people who are doing self-study for the PMP exam sometimes get demotivated or not know the best way to study. Having studied for my PMP the same way (self-study) I fully understand the challenges.

Based on my own experience and my discussions with hundreds of people going through the process of studying for their PMP and passing it, here are my recommendations for you.

Have a Plan

It’s easy to get demotivated or off track if you don’t have clear goals and a plan for achieving them. One of my favorite quotes is from Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!”

No Boot Camps

I don’t recommend boot camps or anything that forces you to rely solely on memorization. In a 3-5 day class all you can do is memorize. You’ll have the best chance of success by absorbing the material and KNOWING it, not by memorizing it. The human brain needs more time to be able to truly absorb this material.
It’s good to go through some memory exercises right before the exam to make sure things are fresh in your mind, but if that’s your whole study plan you’ll either a) fail the exam or b) forget everything shortly afterward. Either way I’d argue it’s a bad deal.

Study First, Memory and Sample Tests Later

Here’s what my recommended time line looks like:

1) Prepare

  • Have a plan. Know when you would like to sit for the exam and what it will take you to be ready.
  • How do you know you are ready to pass? When you are consistently and confidently answering practice exams with solid scores. (Note the actual passing score for the exam is unknown.)
  • How do I do this, ah well – back to the plan.
  • Start your plan by REALISTICALLY reviewing how much time you can dedicate to study.
  • Commit to keeping that study schedule. Advise family and friends of your plan, so they understand why you are not being as social as usual.
  • Be honest about whether or not your plan is working and change it as-necessary.
  • Join the PMI. You’ll get a free PDF copy of the PMBOK Guide, which is handy because you can easily search it. Plus you get a big discount on your PMP exam fees too. It pays for itself. (If you’re a student, you get a huge discount on membership too) – here’s a video I recorded about the benefits of joining PMI.

2) Study

  • You can use a PMP self-study course like the one I did and recommend, or a book, or a local in-person class. Set aside time devoted to studying and really absorb the material. Focus on learning and knowing, not memorization.
  • Be sure your study regimen gives you the required 35 contact hours of education if you don’t already meet that requirement. The PMP self-study course I used and recommend does, and a local in-person class might too as long as you are actually in class for 35 hours or more total.
  • Apply and schedule your test early in your studies, even if the date you set is a long way out. This gives you a solid date to keep you focused.

3) Fine-tuning

    • When the test date is approaching (within a month or so) it’s time to sharpen you mind and get it into test mode. Formula Guides can be helpful at this point. (This link is one that I recommend)
    • When only a week or two are left before you exam, I suggest you focus mostly on doing sample exams. Here are some good free ones (when you get to this point!)

PM Exam Simulator (3-day free trial) (highly recommended, great quality – if you purchase the full 1800 question simulator, a portion will go towards supporting my activities here at pmStudent) (Video overview here)

4) Test Day

  • Take a few days off of work, the day before and the day of the exam for sure.
  • Try to relax! Go to the testing center the day before your exam to be sure you know where it is, where to park, go in and check it out or ask questions if you have any, etc. As them if you should bring your own calculator, or if they provide one for your use during the exam, etc.
  • Eat healthy and get lots of sleep the night before.
  • For the test, I brought bottled water and some light snacks, and took a break at least every 45 minutes. It was good to just stare out the window and clear my mind of PMP-related thoughts for 5-10 minutes before going back in to continue.


      • Opt-in below and immediately receive the free eBook The 10 Secrets to Becoming a PMP.
      • Get helpful messages delivered to you.
      • Pass your PMP Exam.

The links to recommended resources in this post are inexpensive training products I’ve bought and/or reviewed personally. I would recommend them regardless, but if you buy them through the links above a % of your purchase will go towards hosting and other expenses at to help me keep doing what I do.