PMP Certification Success Roadmap in 9 Steps

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Last Updated on March 25, 2021 by andrewshih

Complete Step-by-Step PMP Certification Success Roadmap

Are you thinking about getting PMP certification and need an action plan? If so, you are in the right place.

Each of the steps in this PMP certification roadmap will include the key information you need to know, supplement with the sequential activities, duration, cost consideration, and resources to help you complete each step and move forward.  

Step #1 Understand PMP certification and the requirements

Congratulation on taking the first step in pursuing PMP certification. Before you dive into it, you should determine if PMP certification is right for you and if you meet the minimum work-experience qualification to pursue this designation.

Earning the PMP certification will take time, resources, and commitment. You can definitely do it if you put in the effort. To familiarize yourself with the PMP certification program, you should begin by navigating to the PMI website and read the Project Management Professional Handbook and other resources.

Duration: 1 – 3 Day

Activities

  1. Learn about PMI PMP Certification.

PMP Certification Resource

Step #2 Determine if you meet PMP work experience requirements

Next, you need to determine if you meet the minimum PMP work experience requirement.

PMP certification differs from other certifications in that you must meet the minimum work-experience requirement before you can even take the PMP exam; In other words, you cannot take the exam first then fulfill the work experience requirement later.

The work-experience requirement depends on your educational background.

Educational Background

Project Management Experience

Project Management
Education

Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent)

Minimum five years/60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of
formal education unless
you are an active CAPM
holder

OR

Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or global equivalent)

Minimum three years/36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of
formal education unless
you are an active CAPM
holder

OR

Bachelor's or post-graduate
degre from a GAC accredited program (bachelor’s degree or master's or global equivalent)

Minimum two years/24 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of formal education unless you are an active CAPM holder

The Global Accreditation Center (GAC) for Project Management Education Programs is an independent academic accreditation body with project management and related programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels.

Keep in mind that the work experience must be leading or directing project experience.  You do not need to have a project manager title but you need to have the experience leading projects from start to finish.

It may be beneficial to list out the projects and rough timeline at a high level to make sure you meet the requirement and use it as a reference when you write the project description.

Duration: 1 Day

Activities

  1. Understand the difference between a project and an operation.
  2. Determine if you have enough and relevant project management experience.
  3. Consider writing down the list of projects with a rough timeline.

PMP Certification Resource

Step #3 Complete 35 contact hours

Once you are determined to pursue PMP certification, you will need to complete 35 Contact Hours training.

There are several options for meeting the 35 contact-hour requirements, including project management training from school, taking an on-demand course, or live instructor-led training from one of the PMI-approved Authorized Training Partners (ATP).

While taking instructor-led training with ATP will be a bit more expensive, you will typically get extensive study aids, access to the premium exam simulator, and other perks and support.  I created a live online training comparison chart so you can easily compare 3 popular ATP programs (PMTraining GreyCampus, PM-Prepcast) side by side.

Duration: 1 – 10 weeks

Cost

  • 35-Contact Hour Course (Required)
  • Study Guide (Optional)

Activities

  1. Choose your learning style and enroll in training.
  2. Go through the training course and download study materials.
  3. Determine if you need an additional study guide.
  4. Complete chapter quiz and final exam if available.
  5. Download and print a copy of the completion certificate.

PMP Certification Resource

PMP Project Description TipsStep #4 Complete PMP application

Once you confirm that you have met the minimum work-experience requirement and completed the 35 contact hours, you can proceed to complete the PMP application if you have not begun already.

You may want to begin by creating a spreadsheet to keep track of projects you want to put on the PMI application just to have an overview picture.  To reduce the amount of effort, you should identify the project that contributes to the longest duration.

If you need help writing the PMP project description, you can visit the complete guide for PMP project description where it covers the tips, common mistakes, as well as PMP application examples shared by many PMP aspirants who passed the PMP application process.

Duration:1 – 2 weeks

Activities

  1. Learn the preferred format for writing a successful PMP project description.
  2. Gather all your projects and write project descriptions.
  3. Inform whomever you designate as an application reviewer about the project.
  4. Review and submit the PMP application.
  5. Continue with PMP exam prep.

PMP Certification Resource

Step #5 Complete (or skip) PMI random audit

In order to uphold PMI to the highest quality, PMI does perform random audits for the application submitted by PMI aspirants.

Once you submit the application online, you will find out almost immediately if you are randomly selected for audit.  PMI states that the selection is random and does not state if anything will trigger a higher chance of an audit.

Bypassing the audit

If you are one of the lucky PMP aspirants who does not get randomly select for audit, generally, you will find out the result within 5 business days.  If your application is accepted, you can skip to the next step.

PMP application audited by PMI

If you do get randomly selected for audit, you will need to prepare the required documentation including:

  • Diploma or transcript from the colleague
  • 35-contact hour certificate
  • Projects reviewed and signed by the designated supervisor or colleague on the application.  Return to you with a sealed and signed envelope.

Once you have gathered all the required documents, you will mail them as one package to PMI.  It will take about 5 business days for the PMI audit committee to approve or reject your application.  If you are approved, you can proceed to register and pay for the PMP exam.

Failed PMP Audit

If you failed the PMP audit, you will need to restart the application process again.  PMI will provide a written response with reasons why your application is rejected.  You should review the response carefully and inquire the audit committee if you have any questions.

Many of the PMP applications get rejected because the PMP aspirants didn’t write the project description properly.  You will need to revisit step 4 and rewrite the application by avoiding the mistakes and consider implementing the tips and leverage the PMP application samples that have passed the PMI audit as a reference.

Once you have completed the application, you can resubmit the application.  Keep in mind that once the application has been selected for audit, it will always be audited when you resubmit.

Duration:1 – 4 weeks

Cost

  • Postage, envelope, printing.

Activities

  1. Review the letter from PMI.
  2. If needed, ask the PMI audit committee for clarification.
  3. Inform the designated reviewer that you have been audited and will need to review and sign your application.
  4. Print and mail the project descriptions to the designated reviewer(s).  Provide instruction and a self-addressed envelope if necessary.
  5. Obtain or make a copy of a college diploma or transcript.
  6. Print a copy of the 35 contact hour completion certificate.
  7. Gather all the information and mail it to the PMI audit committee.
  8. If you failed the audit, review the letter, ask the audit committee for clarification if needed, and go back to step 3 above.
  9. Continue to study PMP course material (Don’t let audit impact your study).

PMP Certification Resource

PMP Exam Prep Study

Step #6 PMP exam preparation

Once you pass the application, if you have not done so already you should pay for the PMP membership before registering for the PMP exam so you can get the discount for the exam fee.

Now that you have initiated the PMP exam preparation process, it’s time to focus on the grunt work.  Good exam preparation will require planning, executing, monitoring/controlling, and closing, after all, you are preparing for the PMP exam.

Plan your study

On average PMP aspirants who work full time usually spend about 6 weeks at this stage to prepare for the PMP examination.

You should limit distractions and entertainment during these weeks.  Let your family, colleague, and friends know that you will be “missing in action” (MIA) for a while.  Inform them that you will be preparing for the PMP exam to get their support and free up your schedule.

Plan to study about 2 hours a day or more if possible, and take a full 4-hour practice exam from start to finish and review answer keys during the weekend.

Executing and monitor your progress

You should continue to review the paid training course that you purchased and use PMBOK as a reference

There are valuable free resources that are available that can supplement your study, although they should not be your only resources for preparing for the PMP Exam.  Refer to the resource page for Ricardo Vargas, Rita games, ITTO Game, EEF/OPA Game, videos, study notes, mobile app, lesson learned forum.

Week 1 ~ 5:

  • Write 49 process areas organized by the 5 process groups once a day.
  • Write the formulas once a day.  It is critical that you fully understand the meaning of the results (positive/negative, more or less than 1).
  • Review 2 or 3 chapters every week.
  • Read the Agile Practice Guide.
  • Use all resources – Ricardo Vargas, ITTO mind map, Rita process game, mobile app, Flashcards.
  • Check your own progress weekly.  Are you staying on track?  What was distracting you from staying on track?  What is your strength and weakness areas?  What can be done better?

Last week:

  • Reviewed the PMBOK glossary and key concepts.
  • Play the ITTO and Rita process game.
  • Review ITTO, formula, write down process map.
  • Last review of PMP handbook, PMI Code of Ethics, and PMP Exam Content Outline.

Closing check – Are you ready?

  • At the minimum, you should complete 3 full mock exams and aim for a target score of 75% or higher before taking the PMP exam.
  • From your mock exam practice, you should identify a rhythm/strategy and pace that will work for you.
  • Many PMP aspirants target to complete at a pace of 1 minute per question on average and take one or more short breaks in between the exam.

Duration:4 – 8 weeks

Cost

  • PMP Exam Registration (Required)
  • PMP Membership (Optional but highly recommended)
  • PMP Mock Exam Simulator (Optional but highly recommended)
  • PMP Study Guide (Optional)

Activities

  1. Pay and register for the exam
  2. Review exam registration confirmation letter
  3. Check your ID expiration date
  4. Determine if you need an additional study guide
  5. Plan to study 2 hours on weekdays, and 8 hours on the weekend.
  6. Write down process map and formulas daily
  7. Utilize both paid and free resources available.
  8. Complete full mock exam on weekend and review answers
  9. Determine your optimum test-taking strategy (i.e. 1 min per question, take x min break ever x questions)

PMP Certification Resource

Step #7 Day before the PMP exam

Instead of focusing on studying for the exam before the exam day, your goal should be relaxation and get your body and your mind the best condition possible for the test tomorrow.  Yoga, meditation, and light exercise may help.

If you are taking the center-based exam, you should also review the Pearson VUE exam center instruction, get all the paperwork and ID ready, find the location of the exam center, and plan to arrive early for tomorrow.

If you are taking the online proctored exam from home, you should review the requirements, get the room, desk, and computer ready.  Be ready to start the check-in process 30 minutes before the exam.  You can use this guide to help you prepare.

Plan and prepare ahead to help with reducing anxiety. Eat well and get a good night sleep. You can still do some light review but don’t stress over it.

Duration: 1 Day

Activities

  1. Eat well and relax.
  2. Check your ID. The name should match exam registration and ID is not expired.
  3. If you are taking the center-based exam:
    • Print the exam registration letter
    • Check the Pearson VUE center location and estimate travel time
  4. If you are taking the online proctored exam:
    • Check your room, desk, and computer using this post.
  5. Write down the process map and formulas one last time.
  6. Do activities such as yoga, meditation, and exercise to relax your body and mind.
  7. Get a good night sleep

PMP Certification Resource

Step #8A Take PMP exam at Pearson VUE center

All the hard work and preparation will pay off today.  Make sure you bring a valid ID, a copy of exam registration, water, and medicine if you have medical needs. Plan to arrive at the Pearson VUE exam center 1 hour early so you can prepare for the unexpected.

Once you are at the exam center, settle in, and get ready for the exam.  Do not skip the exam tutorial and use this time to familiarize yourself with the exam interface and get ready.  The tutorial includes important time-saving tips including striking out distracting wrong answers and highlights to help you stay focus.

Once you start the exam, continue to pace yourself during the exam, averaging 1 minute a question.  If you are stuck or unsure of the answer, mark the question for review and come back later when you have extra time.  Keep in mind, once you finish a section and take the break, you will not be able to review the submitted answers.

Duration:1 Day

Cost

  • Travel cost (toll, gas, parking) if applicable.

Activities

  1. Plan to arrive 1 hour early so you will have plenty of time to get ready and find the exam location (especially if you have never been there before).
  2. Stretch, yoga, meditate, imagine success (imagine you complete the exam, see the congratulation message, and cheer).
  3. Eat well (egg, walnut if you are not allergic to the food).
  4. Dress comfortably and minimize cloth with pockets to speed up check-in.
  5. Bring an exam registration letter, valid IDs, medicine if you have medical needs. Bring a water bottle and some healthy snacks.
  6. Travel to Pearson VUE exam center.
  7. Use the restroom one last time and sign-in at the Pearson VUE exam center.
  8. Lock away all your stuff in a locker and check-in for the test.
  9. Take time to go through the tutorial and get ready.
  10. Take the PMP exam, pace yourself, and take the breaks.
  11. Finish the PMP exam.
  12. Return all the papers, pencils, and the calculator.
  13. Get a printout of the exam result.
  14. Leave the Pearson VUE exam center.

PMP Certification Resource

Step #8B Take Online Proctored PMP exam

If you are taking the online proctored exam, you will need to make sure your computer, desk, and room meet the requirements and do a final walk-through.  Also, make sure you have a valid government ID with you.

You may need to arrange for your family member to stay away during your exam to avoid distraction or people enter into your room.

You can start the online check-in 30 minutes prior to the exam.

Once you start the exam, continue to pace yourself during the exam, averaging 1 minute a question.  If you are stuck or unsure of the answer, mark the question for review and come back later when you have extra time.  However, keep in mind that once you finish a section and take the break, you will not be able to review the submitted answers.

Duration:1 Day

Cost

  • None.

Activities

  1. Clean your room and desk. 
  2. Remind your family members not to disturb you during the exam.
  3. Stretch, yoga, meditate, imagine success (imagine you complete the exam, see the congratulation message, and cheer).
  4. Eat well (egg, walnut if you are not allergic to the food).
  5. Dress comfortably and minimize cloth with pockets to speed up check-in.
  6. Have a valid ID
  7. Use the restroom.
  8. Start check-in 30 minutes before the exam start time.  Put away your phone after you finish snapping photos.
  9. Take the PMP exam, pace yourself during the exam.  Take the build-in breaks.
  10. Finish the PMP exam, and find out the result.

PMP Certification Resource

PMP Certification Completion Trophy

Step #9 Maintain PMP Certification

Congratulation on completing the PMP exam.  The majority of the PMP aspirants manage to pass the difficult test, but about a third of the PMP aspirants fail the PMP exam despite the hard work and preparation.

If you pass the PMP exam, you earned the privilege to put PMP next to your name and elevate your career to the next level.  To maintain the PMP certification, you will need to complete 60 Professional Development Units (PDU) every 3 years.

There are many ways to earn PDU as mentioned on the PMI website, including ways to earn PDU for free. Time goes by quickly so don’t wait till the last minutes to earn the PDUs.

Duration: Every 3 year

Cost

  • Renew certification every 3 years (Required)
  • Renew PMP membership (Optional)

Activities

  1. Complete 60 PDU every 3 years.
  2. Consider volunteer for PMI or local PMI chapter (qualify up to 25 PDU)
  3. Watch free on-demand webinars on www.ProjectManagement.com

PMP Certification Resource

I hope you find this information helpful and wish you very success with your PMP journey.  If you have a tip, comment, or suggestion, feel free to leave your comment below. To ensure the quality and relevancy, I do moderate and the comments will need to be approved before it will show up.

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