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Jon Outland

How to Pass Your Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Exam

Earning a professional designation like Project Management Professional (PMP) is a huge step in your career and sets you apart.

Earning a professional designation like Project Management Professional (PMP) is a huge step in your career and sets you apart as a knowledgeable and skillful practitioner in the field of project management. What you can do with a project management degree can expand when you earn your PMP certification.

The PMP is internationally recognized as the gold standard of project management certifications and prepares you to be successful in a project management role in any industry or organization.

Earning the PMP designation, however, involves completing a rigorous certification exam. Students who take academic courses in project management are well prepared to sit for this important exam, but many also choose to put in additional hours of studying to ensure that they can pass.

Though passing the PMP certification exam is a daunting task, there are manageable steps that you can take to ensure your success and earn this widely recognized industry credential.

1) Understand the test format

The PMP exam is a closed-book 200-question, multiple-choice test that is usually completed at a testing center on a computer. Even though the PMP exam is a multiple-choice test, the questions are very challenging. Answers will not be obvious, and alternatives will also seem likely. For these reasons, it is important to feel prepared for the exam and to understand its structure.

Exam questions fall into three main categories.

  • The first type of question requires you to use project management techniques and formulas to solve a problem. These questions could have you perform tasks such as calculating durations, allocating resources or determining timelines. You are allowed to use note paper to complete these tasks.
  • The second type of question assesses your overall knowledge of project management skills and techniques. These questions cover a broad variety of topics and can be very straightforward or highly complex.
  • The third type of question is based on a project scenario. These questions require you to understand the situation and the factors at play to determine the correct resolution or next step.

2) Review key topics and reacquaint yourself with the material as necessary

The PMP exam contains five primary domains related to the different stages of the project management lifecycle: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control and project close.

After reviewing each of these domains, you might want to spend more time reviewing content for areas in which you feel less confident. Many students choose to return to the textbooks and articles that they used in their preparation courses as part of their review process. Other students might reference the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), as it is the primary guide for working project managers and a key source of exam questions.

Other students may choose to select an exam preparation book or course to review concepts. Visit the PMI website for more information on exam preparation.

3) Use sample questions and testing to simulate the exam

A great way to prepare for the exam is to review sample questions made available by PMI and other organizations. Sample questions can serve multiple roles; they help ensure that you have a solid grasp of key content areas and also help you better understand the exam format and the pacing of different question types.

Using sample questions and exams can also be an important tool for you to gauge your overall readiness. If you are consistently successful in your practice exams, you should feel confident that you are ready to sit for the actual exam. If you struggle with practice tests, this may indicate that more review of topics and content is needed before you sit for the exam.

Learn More About Our Project Management Program


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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