Not going to lie, the first time I heard of the PMP, old school Snoop Dogg songs came to mind and many jokes were made about becoming a certified p-i-m-p. Then, I grew up and looked into it further and realized becoming a certified project management professional was much more in line with my future career goals (besides, I can only imagine I would look dumb in fur coats). As a NCO, SNCO, or officer, you are already “experienced” as a Project Manager, you just need the paperwork to back it up. The PMP is the industry’s gold standard for this.
The PMP Certification is governed by the Project Management Institute and is very challenging to achieve for even those who currently fill project manager roles. The test is compiled from questions taken from the Project Management Book of Knowledge (aka PMBOK) and it is not meant to be easy. The exam is 180 multiple-choice questions randomly chosen from the PMBOK and you have four hours to complete…with a 40-50% failure rate. The first time I took the test, I spent every second of the four hours and failed by a hair. You don’t receive a score, you get this cute little print out with a line on it saying “below target, target, or above-target”. The screenshot below is from my first exam:
There are a few ways people prepare for the exam and I will cover them as we move forward. DIY Method: The first is the DIY method of getting the PMBOK and a few other study guides to tackle it yourself. The PMBOK is meant to be a reference guide and is very dry. I would actually recommend you don’t waste your time studying this except for “the chart”. Table 1-4 lays out the project management framework in sequential order from top to bottom and left to right. If you can memorize this chart, it will help on a huge chunk of the questions. Copyrights won’t allow me to post the actual chart, but it looks something like this:
The knowledge areas represent the ten largest areas of a project, you will have to manage. Granted, most projects won’t have you managing each aspect, it is vital for you to know. Then there are the process groups along the top row. These are the five phases of a project and go in sequential order. To study the actual chart (with the blocks filled in), study it from the first block in “initiating” down to the bottom and then move to “planning” and so on. This represents the order in which things are supposed to happen by the book. Other than that, the PMBOK was not a friend to me.
Other books people rave about are Head First PMP and the All-in-One PMP Exam Prep Kit. I have looked through both of these pretty extensively and both are great. You would have to check them out and see which one appeals to you more. The Head First PMP has a lot of illustrations and things are described in a more visual manner. If you are a visual learner, this may be the better option. All-in-One PMP Exam Prep Kit is what you would expect when you hear “study guide.” The principles are explained very well, but not too far into the weeds. Both offer exam prep questions and this is vital PMP prep. Understanding the look and feel for the types of questions you will be asked is a must if you want any shot at passing.
Online Course: The next method is finding video or cheaper courses online. You could do some serious Googling and piece together a YouTube education, but it is not recommended as you never really know about the content quality or even timeliness of the material. I personally, think this is a complete waste of time unless you are just trying to get another perspective on some of the concepts you have read about.
There is a website I have come across recently called Brain Sensei and it is pretty interesting. I did the free trial just for fun and it offers an interactive method to learning with fun mixed in. It is role-based game/training program where you sometimes forget you are even learning. They offer a 100% pass rate guarantee (like all of the boot camps) and have a lot of great reviews. The cost is in the $500 range and was the best alternative to a boot camp I could find.
Boot Camps: The last method to discuss here are the boot camps or online courses. I did a week-long boot camp and it was very valuable. The instructor knew his stuff and the study materials these companies use are put together extremely well. Many of these courses can be taken online now and that removes a lot of barriers for those with time constraints. The downfall, of course, is the cost. Most boot camps are about $2,000. Again, the benefits are that they are put together very well, they guide you through the application process for the exam, and most also cover the cost of your exam (first attempt only).
I went to PMTI because they were in my area when I was able to break away for a week and they fulfilled every promise they made. I have become familiar and have recommended PM-ProLearn many times over. Pm-ProLearn is veteran owned and often offer free study materials to military members and veterans even without taking the course. Other than these two, I can’t speak for any other boot camps.
I have provided all of the materials I could think of and hopefully this helps. If there are others you know of or have had success with, please let me know.
My test experience was rough, but I did not prepare the way I should have. The boot camp was great and set me up well; however, I did not respect the test enough to study more after the camp. After my fail, I dedicated a couple of hours a night until the next test and did much better (see attempt two below). Find the study method that works for you and join the PMP community!
Below is a more concise list of the references and links in the article:
PMBOK: The Project Management Body of Knowledge or the PMBOK, is the guide created and used by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to teach their methodologies and prepare you for the PMP test. Think of it as the PDG for Project Managers. It reads the same way and the test is just as difficult; however, like the PDG, the PMBOK has the knowledge of many who have come before us and are sharing their wisdom and is a vital reference guide…just not a something you want to read cover to cover while dipping your toes in the sand. This book is free if you join PMI.
Head First PMP: Head First PMP teaches you the latest principles and certification objectives in The PMBOK® Guide in a unique and inspiring way. This updated fourth edition takes you beyond specific questions and answers with a unique visual format that helps you grasp the big picture of project management. By putting PMP concepts into context, you’ll be able to understand, remember, and apply them—not just on the exam, but on the job.
All-in-One PMP Exam Prep Kit: The All-In-One PMP® Exam Prep Kit utilizes five teaching methods (visual, language, oral, texting, and memorization), ensuring every type of learner can master the material and pass the exam on their first try.
Brain Sensei: Online training course. Brain Sensei Link.
PMTI and PM-ProLearn: PMP Boot Camps that offer support through the course, application, and testing process. PMTI Link and PM-ProLearn Link.
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