How to Pass the PMP® & CAPM® Exams

Preparing for and taking the PMP® or CAPM® exam can be a grueling (and expensive) experience, which is why it’s important to pass on your first attempt.  Our staff passed both exams on the first try.  In this article, we provide our recommendations for how to do the same.

PREPARING FOR THE EXAM:

  • Plan a specific date to take it.  Most of us our driven by deadlines.  Without these, we tend to procrastinate.  When considering your exam date, ensure it is achievable — not impossible.  We generally recommend scheduling your exam 3 months in advance.  (This assumes that you study for 30-45 minutes per day — plus additional time when you take full-length practice tests.)  However, you may decide to take more or less time.  You know your schedule better than anyone.  Once you pick a date; mark it on your calendar, share it with a friend; and send them regular updates.  (This keeps you accountable.)
  • Set aside a specific time each day to study.  Consistent study is key!  Cramming doesn’t work for these exams.  It’s like exercising – you build muscles by lifting on a regular basis.  So, build the habit and study at the same time each day.  (Don’t let anything interfere!)  Consult with your family about the best time.  (You need their support!)  Some of us studied when our kids went to bed.  For others, it could be at lunch time.  You decide.  Finally, when you study, avoid distractions.  (Turn off other music and the TV and silence your phone.)
  • Purchase an online course.  Some trainers and training companies will encourage you to read the PMBOK® Guide several times or thick training manuals.  We recommend that you use an online course to prepare.  First, it’s not as boring.  Second, you need education “contact hours” to take the exam and several online courses provide that.  Once you select a course, spend time each day watching videos.
  • Master the processes and ITTOs. There are 49 project management processes; and each process has inputs, tools, techniques, outputs (ITTOs).  The processes and ITTOs are the “recipes” of project management.  We need to know these well in order to succeed on the exam.  We got you covered, though.  See our Process Guide and ITTO Guide.  You can also download our Free Prep Pack, which has a process reference and ITTO spreadsheet.
  • Take cheat sheets everywhere.  You never know when you might have an available minute to study.  Take your cheat sheets with you to the doctor’s office, the coffee shop, or wherever you go.  We have some in our Free Prep Pack.
  • Take several full-length practice tests.  The importance of this cannot be overstated.  You need to see lots of practice questions and different types of practice questions.  You also need to take several full-length practice tests in an environment that simulates what the exam will be like.  (You don’t want to be surprised by anything when you get to the exam.)  Then, after taking those tests, review missed questions to known why you got them wrong.  Check out our PMP® Practice Questions and CAPM® Practice Questions.  You can also download our Free Prep Pack, which includes a full-length practice test for each exam.
  • After reviewing new material each day, refresh on previously studied material.  You need to study a concept several times before it sticks.  If you keep reviewing it, it is more likely to stick.

ON THE DAY BEFORE THE EXAM:

  • Only do a light review, if any.  You need time recharge your mental batteries.  You don’t want to feel burnt out when you take the exam.  Cramming at the last minute can make things worse.
  • Watch a good movie. Take your mind of the exam for a little while.  Destress.  If you are looking for a move recommendation, how about the Princess Bride?  A classic.  (“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!”)
  • Get to bed early.  A good night’s rest will reduce your stress levels on exam day.  To fall asleep on time, avoid caffeine after 2PM on the day before your exam.

ON THE DAY OF THE EXAM:

  • Take the day off work.  Let the exam be your focus.  Eliminate other distractions.  This is the most important event in your life — at this moment.
  • Allow plenty of time to get ready, eat, and travel.  You don’t want to feel rushed and you don’t want to be late.  Just assume that you will hit some traffic on the way to the testing center.
  • Eat light foods.  Think salads rather than hamburgers.  You don’t want to take the test on an upset stomach.  You want to feel good.  How about trying a green smoothie?
  • Plan a fun activity for after the exam.  This should be something that you really enjoy.  It gives you something to look forward to.  It’s a psychological trick to make the exam more tolerable.

DURING THE EXAM:

  • Get comfortable.  Bring a sweater in case it gets cold.  Take your shoes off, if they allow it.
  • Take at least one bathroom break and stretch, if allowed. It may take away from your time, but it can still be worthwhile.  It may help you to reset and get your “second wind.”