Last Updated on February 28, 2023 by andrewshih
The complete reference guide for writing PMP Project Description includes 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 that many of you are going through. I assume you are here most likely because either you have failed the audit or you are applying for the first time and looking for additional guidance.
My goal here is to provide you with a 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
You should first review the PMP application tips provided by PMI. These are application tips and checklist available on the PMI website. If you fail 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 in PMP applications.
MISTAKE #1: The project descriptions focus mainly on the project and not your role in 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 the 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 your PMP Application being rejected.
MISTAKE #4: Did not have the experience to cover all 5 process groups
BOTTOM LINE: According to the 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 Tips
In my opinion, the audit committee is looking for 5 things:
- Project objective is a brief outline of the project in a brief sentence.
- Group each of the tasks into each of the 5 domain areas (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control, and Close).
- Summarize the tasks you did and process you used.
- Summarize the methodologies, techniques, and tools you used
- 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 you can leverage for your PMP project description in each process area. 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 have already extracted the relevant text from PMP Exam Outline and online application to help you craft the PMP project description.
TIP #3: Focus on projects 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 the 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: Write in active voice and avoid passive voice.
This is an important one!
You should strive to write sentences in active voice and avoid passive voice. Writing in the passive voice creates two problems:
- You are simply describing the project
- It is unclear if you did the work.
Here is a simple example:
Business case and approval were confirmed by the sponsor.
Confirmed business case and received approval from the sponsor.
In the passive form, you merely indicate the approval took place, but it’s unclear what you did and what your role was for this event to occur. Whereas in the active form, it is clear that you did even without putting “I” in the sentence.
Not every sentence must be in active voice, but too many passive voice statements will make the PMI audit committee wonder if you did the work.
Bonus Tip: Check out the helpful comments below.
Here is a bonus tip! A big shout out to Andrés for his comment on the updated PMP project description sample, as well as Maxim’s comment for sharing his experience. I made both comments “sticky,” so they should appear first in the comment section and make them easier for you to find and share.
Many other PMP aspirants have generously shared their PMP project description samples in the comment section. Check them out if you need more inspiration.
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 use cut and paste. Make sure you verify and do not duplicate the project objective and outcome.
There is a link where 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 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.
My projects are all very similar. Can the project descriptions be the same? Will it be negatively received by PMI audit?
PMI will not reject your PMP application because all your projects and project descriptions are similar. However, I would suggest at least varying the objective to make the project unique. For example, by including the name of different stakeholders, clients, or products. You can also easily include different tools & techniques for different projects.
Do I have to write the project descriptions using domain groups?
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 it easier for the audit committee to review your application if it is audited.
Should I write the project description using 5 domain groups (IN, PL, EX, MC, CL) or 3 domain groups (people, process, business environment) in the project description?
It’s up to you. You can write your project descriptions using either approach. As far as I know, both 3 and 5 domain groups are acceptable, so you can just pick whichever one you prefer.
If the projects are very similar (with similar objective and outcome), can I wrap up the projects and write one project description instead of writing multiple project descriptions?
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 description for each. 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.
Are too many projects a problem? What about the length of a project? I have projects which span across half a year sometimes and also projects which last only 1 month.
All of the above is fine, and no issues.
You can have as many projects as you want, as long and as short as you want. Obviously, to save you time, I would recommend writing 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. It is not a problem to have gaps if this is your concern.
Does the project experience has to acquire via employment? For example, can I use experience such as volunteer work, building my website, or even building a deck for my home?
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.”
Can we mention one person’s name for all my projects in primary contact for work experience?
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.
I do not have a Project Management title, will that impact my chance of getting my PMP application accepted?
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.
Can I use industry jargon related to my niche field? Or should I keep a balance?
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 to complete 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.
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Once you submit your PMP application, it’s time to ramp up your preparation for the PMP exam.
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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!