You’ve made the decision to advance your skills and careers by earning the PMP certification. Well done!

There’s just one problem. Before long, you realize that there is a great deal of material to study.The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) alone is several hundred pages. How will you ever find the time to study and master this material? These concerns are perfectly normal. It’s possible to overcome them by making a plan and leveraging study resources.

Creating Your PMP Study Plan

1. Define your motivation to earn the PMP certification

Without a clear motivation to study for the PMP, procrastination and other priorities will impact your ability to study. Every person has a different motivation. You may be keen to learn a systematic approach to project management. Or the certification may support your goal to land a promotion. As you work through the process, refer back to your motivation statement to reaffirm your focus.

Action: Complete the sentence: “I am motivated to earn the PMP certification because…”

Note: The ability to inspire and motivate others at the beginning of a project will come in handy as you start to run your own projects. After all, you may have to explain the project’s mission multiple times as new people join the project.

2. Identify Your PMP Knowledge Gaps

If you have been involved in project management for some time, you may not need to start from scratch in preparing for the test. To make the best use of your study time, ask yourself which of the knowledge areas (e.g. cost management, risk management, scope management) and process groups (e.g. initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing) you find difficult. Then, you can focus your study efforts in those areas.


I need to focus my PMP exam studies with special attention on:

Knowledge Areas (list the 3 areas where you have the greatest struggle):

Process Groups (list the 3 areas where you have the greatest struggle):

Note: This recommendation does not mean omitting studying for areas that you know. Those areas will still require study to ensure you are aligned with the PMI framework and terminology.

Your organization’s project management terminology and methods may differ from PMI’s approach.

3. Schedule Study Time Proactively

In personal finance, experts recommend paying yourself first – allocating a set amount of your income to savings and investments each. With that approach, you build your net worth over time.

Likewise, the best approach is to “study for your goal first” by putting study time on your schedule. When creating your schedule, pay attention to when you have the energy and attention to focus. For example, planning to study 8-10pm on Friday night may be impractical if you are tired from a long week at the office.

To find the best study time for your needs, experiment with a few study time options:

  • In the morning, before going to work or the office.
  • During a lunch break.
  • On the weekends. When I studied for the PMP, I did full length practice exams on weekend mornings.
  • Action: In the next week, I will study for three hours at the following dates and times and put those times on your calendar.

    Note: You may need to give up other activities for a few weeks or months in order to make time for your PMP exam studies. Remember the motivation statement you wrote in step one!

    4. Obtain Your Resources

    With the right resources, the study process will go by easier. The PMBOK Guide is one excellent resource which is available from the Project Management Institute and other organizations. However, it can be difficult to understand as it is written in a technical style. That’s why Wiley’s PMP Review Courses product comes into the picture. Depending on the option, you have training videos, practice questions and mock exams.

    Action: Obtain your PMP exam study resources.

    5. Schedule your exam

    In project management, delivering against deadlines is critical to your success. Based on the prior steps, you can estimate approximately how much time you need to study for the exam. Once you know how much time you need to study, schedule your PMP exam date.

    On a psychological level, your exam may not feel “real” until you have a specific date on your calendar.

    Action: Schedule your PMP exam.

    Note: Remember to add “contingency” to your estimate such as adding 1-2 weeks to your studyplan to allow for unforeseen events that may delay your studies.

    Wiley Project Management Review would like to introduce Part Four of Project: You, written by Bruce Harpham, PMP®. Bruce is a columnist at, has worked on various banking projects and is the author of the upcoming book Project Managers at Work.