Complete Guide for PMP Project Description

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Last Updated on June 30, 2022 by andrewshih

The complete reference guide for writing PMP Project Description including relevant information from PMI, common mistakes, tips, and PMP project description samples.

What to Write for PMP Application Project Description

Completing PMP application properly has been a common challenge for many candidates.  Typically, candidates struggle the most with the PMP project description.  As a matter of fact, PMP candidates failed the PMI audit process primarily because the PMP project description does not meet what the PMI audit committee is looking for.

Personally, I failed the audit once too, so I understand the struggle what many of you are going through.  I assume you are here most likely because either you have failed the audit, or you are applying the first time and looking for additional guidance.

My goal here is to provide you with the complete guide to help you complete the PMP application properly.  I will break down the information as follows:

  • Instruction and tips from PMI
  • Common Mistakes to avoid on PMP Application
  • PMP Project Description Tips
  • Sample PMP Project Description

Instruction and Tips From PMI

Project description tips from PMI

Yous should first review the PMP application tips provided by PMI.  These are application tips and checklist available on PMI website.  If you failed the audit (like I did), PMI may give you additional application tips.

Project descriptions should consist of the following:

  • A brief, one-sentence project objective
  • Project deliverables summarized by process areas (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing – abbreviations are acceptable IN, PL, EX, MC & CL)
  • A brief, one-sentence project outcome

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are common mistakes to avoid on PMP application.

MISTAKE #1: The project descriptions focus mainly on the project and not your role leading and directing. The project management methodology used is unclear.

BOTTOM LINE: It can be counter-intuitive that project description is not to describe the project; The focus of the description has to be on the processes and tasks that you lead and methodologies you applied.

MISTAKE #2: Domains are not included.  The project domains (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, Closing) and domain-specific deliverables are incomplete.

BOTTOM LINE: Make it easy for PMI audit committee members to read.  You must group the tasks and break them down by domain groups.  Use abbreviations if you need to save space: IN, PL, EX, MC & CL.

MISTAKE #3: Project description is operational.

For example, the objective is to develop workshops and conduct training classes.

BOTTOM LINE: Make sure you understand the difference between Project vs Operation.  PMI defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product service or result. Every project creates a unique product, service or result.  If you have multiple similar projects, you must write each PMP project description separately with distinct project initiation and closing.  Don’t be sloppy and lump projects together and risk you PMP Application being rejected.

MISTAKE #4: Did not have the experience to cover all 5 process groups

BOTTOM LINE: According to PMBOK guide, “You should have experience in all five process groups across all your project management experience submitted on the application. However, on a single project, you do not need to have experience in all five process groups.

MISTAKE #5: The hours claimed in each process group match the deliverables described.

Updated (June 2020): Mistake #5 is no longer applicable.  PMI waived the 4500/7500 hour requirements and simplified the application process.  Therefore, you no longer have to worry about aligning the hours with your project description.

In case you are curious, here is the original PMP project description rejected by the audit team because it is too descriptive and did not break by domain groups:

Objective: Delivery a successful workshop/demo to XYZ. In order to deliver a successful demo, I was acting as a project manager for managing and working with various groups to set up a complicated demo environment.  The task included planning the prototypes and bug fixes that have to be integrated into the demo environment, coordinate, monitor, and testing the setup.  I also maintained confluence page of the environment and prototypes that were integrated along with status

PMP Porject Description TipsPMP Project Description Tips

In my opinion, the audit committee is looking for 5 things:

  1. Project objective which is a brief outline of the project in a brief sentence.
  2. Group each of the tasks into each of the 5 domain areas (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control, and Close).
  3. Summarize the tasks you did and process you used.
  4. Summarize the methodologies, techniques, and tools you used
  5. Brief outcome statement

Make sure you avoid the common mistakes above, and here are additional tips.

TIP #1 USE DESCRIPTIONS FROM PMI ONLINE APPLICATION

The following information is extracted from the PMP Online Application.  It provides useful examples that you can leverage for your PMP project description in each of the process areas.  For your convenience, you can cut and paste the information below for your own reference.

Initiating the Project

Defining the project scope and obtaining approval from stakeholders. For example: Perform project assessment; define the high-level scope of the project; perform key stakeholder analysis; identify and document high-level risks, assumptions, and constraints; develop and obtain approval for the project charter.

Planning the Project

Preparing the project plan and developing the work breakdown structure (WBS). For example: Assess detailed project requirements, constraints, and assumptions with stakeholders; create the work breakdown structure; develop a project schedule; develop budget, human resource management, communication, procurement, quality management, change management, and risk management plans; present the project plan to the key stakeholders; conduct a kick-off meeting.

Executing the Project

Performing the work necessary to achieve the stated objectives of the project. For example: Obtain and manage project resources; execute the tasks as defined in the project plan; implement the quality management plan; implement approved changes according to the change management plan; implement approved actions by following the risk management plan; maximize team performance.

Controlling and Monitoring the Project

Monitoring project progress, managing change and risk, and communicating project status. For example: Measure project performance using appropriate tools and techniques; manage changes to the project scope, schedule, and costs; ensure that project deliverables conform to the quality standards; update the risk register and risk response plan; assess corrective actions on the issue register; communicate project status to stakeholders.

Closing the Project

Finalizing all project activities, archiving documents, obtaining acceptance for deliverables, and communicating project closure. For example: Obtain final acceptance of the project deliverables; transfer the ownership of deliverables; obtain financial, legal, and administrative closure; distribute the final project report; collate lessons learned; archive project documents and materials; measure customer satisfaction.

TIP #2: Use the 42 tasks defined by the Role Delineation Study

In addition to the sample tasks listed on the online application, you can use the 42 tasks in PMP Exam Outline as a reference to help you write up the tasks.

To make it easier, you can use the PMP Project Description Reference Sheet, where I already extracted the relevant text from PMP Exam Outline and online application to help you craft the PMP project description.

TIP #3: Focus on project with the longest duration first.

To minimize the number of PMP project descriptions you need to write, you should focus on projects with the longest duration first.  Minimize small, overlapping projects.  It is perfectly fine to have gaps in the timeline of the projects; You are not writing a resume, and the goal is to satisfy the 3-year or 5-year experience requirement in leading projects depending on if you have a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

TIP #4: Be brief on project objective and outcome.  Focus on domain groups.

Most of the effort should be spent on listing the project methodologies that you applied under each of the domain groups.  Keep the objective and outcome brief to avoid becoming too descriptive.  Also, make sure the objective statement is a project and not an operation.

TIP #5: Use most of the 550 characters allocated.

Updated (June 2020): The PMP application description is no longer limited to 550 characters.  According to PMI,  a typical response is now between 200 to 500 words (not characters).  You can still use the ‘old’ format if you prefer, according to my chat with PMI.

TIP #5: Check out the helpful comments below.

Here is the new Tip #5.  A big shout out to Andrés for his comment with updated PMP project description sample, as well as Maxim’s comment for sharing his experience.  I made both comment “sticky” so they should appear first in the comment section and make them easier for you to find and share.

There are many other PMP aspirants who have generously shared their PMP project description samples in the comment section.  Check them out if you need more inspirations.

Finally: Review your application before you submit it

Completing the PMP application is a time-consuming process and you probably just can’t wait to submit it.  However, you should review your application entirely before you do so.  This step is even more important if you have multiple similar projects and you used cut and paste.  Make sure you verify and do not duplicate the project objective and outcome.

There is a link that you can access your complete application before you click the submit button.  Once you submit and you identify a critical error, the only thing the audit team can do is to reject your application and you will have to complete the whole application again.

PMP Project Description Sample

The PMP project description includes a high-level objective, outcome, and also breaks down the process areas talking about the tasks and some techniques applied.

Update January 8, 2021: I checked with PMI, at least 200 words are the recommended minimum per project description (as stated on the application).  PMI did not confirm if less than 200 words would trigger a rejection, but you should write at least 200 words for each of your project descriptions.

The older style with less than 200 words (or limited to 550 characters) should no longer be used.  Thus, I have to remove my old project description example.  You should also not rely on the shorter samples of project descriptions shared by PMP applicants in the comment section.

Here is the extract of two PMP project description examples with more than 200 words contributed by Andrés and Joy from the comments below.  Please do not copy the project description from the examples; you need to write your own.

Example #1 by Andrés:

Project objective: Audit the *company network* in the Caribbean and Latin America by validating performance, capacity and vulnerabilities, among the customer network with *my company* infrastructure: *Described the platforms involved in the audit*. Support sales department to determine Services offer to operate *company network* according to the results obtained.

Initiating: Performed project assessment. Identified deliverables and milestones. Several meetings were held to identify key stakeholders. Identified and validated the project interdependencies. Documented high-level risks, assumptions and constraints. Developed the project charter and obtained sponsor approval.

Planning: Assessed detailed project requirements, constraints, and assumptions with stakeholders. Collected requirements and defined scope. Planned the scope of the project while considering time, cost and quality. Created the work breakdown structure, decomposed and sequenced activities, and developed the project schedule. Estimated budget. Defined roles and responsibilities of the project team members to create the resources management plan. Identified project team members and defined roles and their responsibilities to create a project organization structure to develop the communication management plan. Conducted kick-off meeting where communicated the start of the project and the key milestones.

Executing: Obtained and managed project resources. Managed, motivated and led the team through execution. Held weekly project teams and key stakeholder meetings. Audited quality. Kept informed stakeholders managing the flow of information.

Monitoring and Controlling: Monitored project progress and communicating project status to stakeholders. Ensured project deliverables conformed to project scope and quality plan. Monitored and assessed the risk of deliverables. Reviewed the issue log.

Closing: Obtained relevant stakeholder’s acceptance. Obtained administrative closure. Created and shared the final project report signed by the sponsor as per the communications management plan. Documented lessons learned and conducted a project review to update the organization’s knowledge base.  Archived final project documents.

Outcomes: Network Audit successfully executed. Results presentation at *company network* headquarters office.

Example #2 by Joy

Project Objective: New product development and market launch of Incontinence product line.

Role: Product Manager / Project Manage

Initiating: Led meetings with project sponsor to define high-level scope, assumptions, deliverables, schedule, cost and key stakeholders. Conducted data gathering and presented market research to show cost benefit analysis for the project. Aligned sponsor and key stakeholders.

Planning: Developed Project Management Plan. Led the team to collect requirements, define scope, activities and developed project schedule by facilitating meetings, brainstorming, data gathering and data analysis. Assigned tasks to project team members. Worked with Procurement department to plan for the selection criteria of sellers. Defined communication plan. Conducted project kick-off.

Executing: Managed project team resources, project work flow and quality audits through execution. Held weekly meetings for status updates with team members and stakeholders. Managed engagement with stakeholders and team members- Procurement, Quality and Design.

Monitoring & Controlling: Monitored the project work and schedule. Ensured quality checklists were conducted to verify deliverables and inspections were done to obtain final approval from sponsor.

Closing: Updated project documents, lessons learned and created final report.

Outcome: Successful completion of a product launch of new product category line of Adult Incontinence products (total 9 items). With the success of this project, our company is extending the product line with new items to develop under this category.

Frequently Asked Questions

I recognize the comment section below is becoming too long to go through, so I have collected the most commonly asked questions by the PMP aspirants.

PMI will not reject your PMP application because all your projects and project descriptions are similar.  However, I would suggest at least vary the objective to make the project unique. For example, by include the name of different stakeholders, clients, or products.  You can also easily include different tools & techniques for different projects.

I recommend using the domain groups in your project description for a number of reasons: (1) It’s recommended by PMI.  (2) If you don’t do it, you increase your likelihood of getting your PMP application rejected. (3) It makes the audit committee’s job easier for reviewing your application if your application is audited.

PMI’s definition’s project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service, or result.  If they are different projects, you should write a project description for each of them.  Writing many project descriptions can sound tedious (and it is), but you can copy and paste to create more project descriptions quickly and simply make small adjustments for those similar projects.

You will need to have at least one project that covers all 5 domain groups, or you can have multiple projects in order to complete the coverage of 5 domain groups.  PMI wants to see you have experience from initiating to closing the project, regardless of the number of the projects you do.  You also need to have enough project experience to satisfy the minimum requirement.

All of the above are fine and none issues.  You can have as many projects as you want, as long and as short as you want.  Obviously, to save your time, I would recommend write project descriptions with the longest duration until you fulfill the minimum 3-year or 5-year requirement depending on your educational background.  It’s perfectly fine to have gaps, leave out the smaller projects, and omit the overlapping projects; this is not a resume/cv so it’s perfectly fine to have gaps if this was your concern.

According to PMP Handbook (under PMP Application and Payment section), “The experience does not necessarily have to be paid work, but it does need to be in a professional setting. Activities such as school projects or planning personal events would not qualify.”

Yes, as long as the person is familiar with all your projects.  In the case of an audit, the person will need to verify and sign your PMP application.

While you need to have project management experience, you do not need to have a project management title.  When I applied for my PMP, none of my titles was project manager-related. I had titles like infrastructure manager and solution consultant.  As long as you can document the project methodologies and your reviewer will acknowledge and approve your work (in case of an audit), you will be fine.  Also, refer to PMP without Project Management title.

Keep in mind that the purpose of writing the project description is not for PMI to understand your projects; the purpose is to demonstrate that you leveraged project methodologies for completing your project.

PMI is looking for project methodologies that you utilized in the project. it is okay if the jargon is related to project methodologies. However, you should avoid jargon only known in your industry or company.

This appears to be a common issue that impacts quite a few PMP aspirants. If your status shows you are eligible to take the PMP exam and the clock starts ticking from the 1-year mark, it’s almost for certain you pass the PMP application process. However, to be absolutely sure, you should contact PMI to verify the status.

Next Step – Get Ready for PMP Exam

Once you submit your PMP application, it’s time to ramp up your preparation for the PMP exam.
Bookmark my PMP resource page for your PMP exam preparation. It includes the most comprehensive list of top courses, exam simulators, free videos that are recommended by PMP aspirants.  And course, the free PMP exam questions too.

If you are looking for a PMP study plan complete with tips and activities, please refer to PMP Certification Success Roadmap.  If you are ready to jump-start and prepare for the PMP Exam, check out the top 9 PMP study tips.

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Lastly – If You Need More Help.

If you are still stuck or want me to review your project description or have specific questions, you can reach out to me with your project description.  Please use the contact form.

If you have a general question related to PMP application that may benefit other PMP aspirants, feel free to comment below.   Good luck!

Next articlePMP Audit Preparation
Welcome to PMAspirant, and Congratulations for taking the initiative to embark on your PMP journey. I received my PMP certification in 2017 and created PMAspirant to help PMP aspirants by providing lessons learned, tips, and resources for the PMP application and exam. I hope you find the resource helpful, and best of luck with your PMP journey.
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