Best PMP Study Guide and PMP Exam Prep Books use by PMI

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Last Updated on January 31, 2021 by andrewshih

Are you looking for the best PMP study guide or a PMP exam prep book to help you prepare for the PMP Exam?

In this review, we will explore the most popular PMP study guides used by PMP aspirants, and provide you the list of reference books mentioned by PMI for creating the PMP exam.

I will list the essential follow by supplemental reference books mentioned by PMI first. If you are only interested in the PMP study guide, please feel free to jump ahead using the table of content below.

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PMP Exam Prep Books

PMI published a list of reference books PMI use to craft the 2021 PMP Exam. Traditionally, PMI has been reluctant to publish the list because the PMP Exam is never written based on a single reference book.

As per PMI, please be aware of the following:

  • PMP exam is not written according to any single textbook or reference.
  • This is not an all-inclusive list.
  • The list is only one element of a broader set of educational resources utilized.
  • PMI does not endorse nor warrant the accuracy of specific books on this list.

Essential PMP Exam Prep Books

While the PMP Exam is not a direct test of your knowledge of the PMBOK guide, it is the most important reference book. If you are a PMI member, you can purchase the PMBOK guide and Agile Practice Guide at a discount price.

The new 2021 PMP Exam will have a greater emphasis on the Agile and Hybrid models, which will account for 50% of the exam. Both PMBOK and Agile Practice Guide are essential PMP exam prep books that you will need to study to pass the exam.

Amazon links are provided for quick overview and easy access.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – 6th Edition
Author: Project Management Institute
Publisher: Project Management Institute

Agile Practice Guide
Author: Project Management Institute
Publisher: Project Management Institute

Supplemental Exam Prep Books

This is the list of books that are mentioned in the reference list published by PMI.

While it is not going to be realistic to go through all the supplemental books to prepare for the PMP Exam, you may find a few of the books that you may find helpful for your job function and interested in dive in deeper. Or you may find yourself weaker in certain knowledge areas and may want to get the book to supplement your PMP exam preparation.

Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling
Author: Harold Kerzner
Publisher: Wiley

Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Hybrid
Author: Robert K. Wysocki
Publisher: Wiley

Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, 2nd Edition
Author: Colleen Garton with Erika McCulloch
Publisher: MC Press

Project Managers Portable Handbook, 3rd Edition
Author: David Cleland and Lewis Ireland
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Information Technology Project Management, 7th Edition
Author: Kathy Schwalbe
Publisher: Cengage Learning

Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process
Author: Kenneth S. Rubin
Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Project Management: The Managerial Process
Author: Erik Larson
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right
Author: Tom Kendrick
Publisher: AMACOM

Best PMP Study Guide

When it comes to picking the best PMP study guide, a lot has to do with your learning style and what you want to get out of the book. You will want to pick a book that fits your learning style and objective.

Keep in mind that even the best study guide is only meant to supplement your overall effort for preparing for the PMP Exam.

Here are the 3 most popular PMP study guides that are commonly used by PMP aspirants:

  • The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try: 6th Edition + Agile by Andy Crowe
  • PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy
  • Head First PMP by Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman.

Disclaimer: I did not use the study guides for passing the PMP Exam. The information is gathered from available public data and feedback from other PMP aspirants. Pros/Cons may be included from the older edition due to limited user reviews about the new book.

PMP Exam How to Pass On Your First Try Plus Agile by Andy Crowe

The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try: 6th Edition + Agile by Andy Crowe

The PMP Exam How to Pass on Your First Try has been updated and include agile and hybrid approaches that is essential for passing the PMP exam after January 2, 2021.

The book includes all the processes, ITTO, tricks, and tips to pass the PMP exam. There are also links to 60 videos, 475 practice exam questions, chapter quiz, and a simulated final exam. You will also get access to Velociteach learning portal for additional practice questions.

This book is designed to be concise yet complete to help you pass the PMP exam on your first try.

PROS:

  • Andy Crowe’s PMP Exam book helps you focus on passing the exam, nothing less, nothing more.
  • The book provides key information in a concise and clear fashion with handy tables for key processes and ITTOs.
  • It clearly marks which topics are more important for the exam than others.
  • The book also comes with little mini video lessons that you can watch online where the author walks you through the processes. It is like a mini PMP exam prep course.

CONS:

  • Andy Crowe’s PMP Exam book lacks visual detail. The flow for a number of processes is a lot clearer in the PMBOK because of the flowcharts.
  • Some information may be glossed over in this book while Rita provides more detail on the same topic.
  • The book is somewhat expensive.

Best PMP Study Guide for:

  • You simply want to focus on passing the PMP exam.
  • A PMP study guide that is to the point with the right amount of detail for the PMP exam.
PMP Exam Prep 10th Edition by Rita Mulcahy

PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy

The 10th edition of PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy is aligned with the 2021 PMP Exam Content Outline.

In addition to the inclusion of the Agile and Hybrid approach, the book has been completely updated to provide more depth in areas of project process, integration, communications, stakeholders and more.

is the most comprehensive book among the three. If you wish to completely understand or become a scholar of PMI’s way of doing project management, this is the book for you.

Please Note the publisher no long sells the book on Amazon.  It must be purchased through RMC Learning Solution

PROS:

  • Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep is very thorough and teaches you project management in great detail.
  • The book has a lot of information about how PMI views project management.
  • Also, it has a whole chapter dedicated to PMIisms, which has handy tips on PMI’s take on certain topics.

CONS:

  • PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy is too comprehensive. It is very verbose, text-heavy, and very boring.
  • The book has a lot of extraneous information if the focus is just to pass the exam.
  • The book can also be quite negative at times. It threatens that if you don’t do things a certain way, you’d fail the PMI exam nearly 15 times throughout the book.  It is also very snarky, almost condescending at times in tone. 
  • Moreover, the structure of the book is a bit weird as it asks questions about the material first and teaches it later.

Best PMP Study Guide for:

  • You are looking beyond just passing the PMP certification and want to master project management knowledge.
  • You do not mind the wordiness, and you willing to take extra time to review the study guide.
Head First PMP

Head First PMP by Jennifer Greene

Note: This book has not been updated for 2021 PMP Exam.

Head First PMP is a unique PMP study guide that is not text-heavy and relies on the visual format to engage your mind. The book helps you learn the PMP’s underlying concept and PMBOK principles.

This book includes exam strategies and hundreds of practice questions to help you prepare for the PMP exam. There are also puzzles, games, problems, and exercises to learn and prepare for the exam in a fun way.

PROS: 

  • Head First PMP is easy to read, interesting, very visual, and utilizes fun storytelling to help you understand the processes.
  • It also does a good job of helping you understand the purpose of each process.

CONS: 

  • It is hard to keep track of the flow of processes with Head First PMP. There is no handy overarching chart/table that summarizes all the processes together or lists the ITTOs for the processes in a clean/succinct way.
  • It can be hard to figure out the order of processes which is quite important for passing the PMP exam.
  • Additionally, because of the style in which information is presented, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for at the time of review. For example, there are hardly any neat tables listing the ITTOs for a process in this book.

Best PMP Study Guide for:

  • You are looking for an introductory book to project management.
  • An easier and fun book to learn about project management.
  • You are a visual learner.

PMP Study Guide Winner: Andy Crowe vs Rita Mulcahy

When it comes to picking one PMP study guide, quite often it is a choice between Andy Crowe vs Rita Mulcahy for most PMP candidates.

If I can just pick just one book, I personally will pick Andy Crowe’s The PMP Exam How to Pass on Your First Try book as I feel that it is the most focused on the exam out of the three. It’s clean, succinct, and easy to read.

Having said that, Rita Mulcahy is a good PMP study guide if you have time to go through it. Many PMP candidates have success with the book too.

PMP Exam Prep with Study Guides

As for the actual PMP exam prep, this is what I would suggest:

  1. Read Head First PMP first (if you bought or borrowed it). You don’t necessarily need to have the latest edition. Old editions can be found quite cheap. This would give you a good idea about the PMP exam and is an easy read.
  2. Study the latest edition of Andy Crowe’s PMP book (or Rita’s book). Every time you study a chapter (knowledge area), go and read the corresponding knowledge area in the PMBOK guide. This would cement your understanding. Do chapter-end quizzes and keep track of how you are doing.
  3. If you are consistently hitting 80% or higher in chapter-end quizzes, start doing practice tests using a premium PMP exam simulator, such as ones from PM Prepcast or PMTraining.
  4. If you are hitting 75% or above in those practice tests, you have a good chance of passing the exam.
  5. Take the PMP exam, pass the exam, and claim your PMP Certification.

In addition to the PMP study guide, there are other resources that can help you prepare for the PMP Exam, be sure to check out the resource page.

Hope this would help you in your prep for the PMP exam. Please feel free to comment and share your experience using the PMP study guides.

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