how to study for pmp certification exam

It’s a new year and a great time to consider your professional goals. Maybe you’ve been working a few years as a business analyst or programmer. You’ve worked on projects and seen how exciting they can be. Perhaps you’re excited by the career advancement potential that comes from leading a project well. There’s just one problem: there is so much uncertainty. You might be uncertain about your company’s future or your prospects.

There are two ways to look at uncertainty as it relates to career growth.

First, you can become scared about tomorrow, stick to the basics, and hope passively for better times to emerge. This passive approach can work, but it can quickly become demoralizing as you give up command over your career.

The second way to look at an uncertain world is to recognize that your career growth is not fixed. The ways you spend your time and resources now can have an impact. Putting in the time to develop new skills and knowledge will put you ahead of others when opportunities emerge.

Let’s look at earning a professional certification like the PMP, for example. It is a highly respected certification, and evidence from industry surveys suggests certification holders earn more than those without a certification. (Check out possible PMP salaries here.)

However, to earn the certification, you must study for and pass the exam—and despite what many think, finding time to study in today’s uncertain environment is possible. It just requires some creative thinking. Review the following strategies to make time for your growth goal. Feel free to mix and match these strategies as you progress closer toward your PMP certification goals.

Strategy 1: Ask your manager for study time during your workweek

Many companies actively encourage their employees to pursue professional development. If you develop a short proposal for your manager and ask for some work time to study, you may get all the study time you need. Explain to your manager that you want to earn the PMP certification to add more value at work.

To achieve that goal, you are asking for:

  • Work time to study. Asking for 2-4 hours of study time per week to earn the certification is reasonable. If your manager approves your request, put this study time into your calendar so that other people understand not to book you at those times.
  • Budget for PMP resources. Some companies provide funding for employees to pursue certifications and professional development. Please find out about this option before you purchase, as it may relieve some of your certification stress.
  • If you are completely overwhelmed with work responsibilities at the moment, this strategy may not be suitable. In that case, it is still worthwhile to discuss your growth goal with your manager but leave the question of time off open.

    Strategy 2: Leverage the margins of work from home time

    Since March 2020, many professionals and companies have adopted long term work from home. The time and money saved from avoiding commuting, dry cleaning, and other expenses can be incredible.

    Let’s assume that you work a 9-5 schedule. In this case, experiment with adding a study session in the morning (8:30-9 or 7:45-8:45). You can also try studying in the early evening if your energy levels are still sharp at that time.

    In this way, you can add up to 5 hours of study time per week. It is a way to take advantage of additional free time created in this environment.

    Strategy 3: Use the weekend intensive strategy

    Fitting study time into your workweek may not always prove feasible. You might be too tired to make space for studying during the week. In that situation, the weekend intensive is another option.

    For the best results, we recommend completing your weekend study activity before 12 pm. Otherwise, you may start to resent your studies if they cut into leisure time too much. If you can only study on weekends for the PMP, you may need to revise your expectations when ready for the exam.

    For example, you may estimate that you will need 90 hours of study time to prepare for the exam and 5 hours of administrative effort. The PMP certification requires a fairly extensive application and a detailed explanation of your project management experience. Under these assumptions, divide your total estimated preparation time by your weekend study time to determine how long it will take you to prepare.

    For more tips on budgeting your time, get our free PMP Exam Checklist.

    Strategy 4: Go further with friends: studying (safely) with a partner or group

    Are you energized by interacting with other people? In that case, you might find the isolation of working from home draining. There are ways to ease that tension while continuing to seek your PMP goals. Here are three ways to make progress toward your study skills with other people.

    Form a study goal and set up a weekly meeting. Reach out to your local PMI chapter or post on LinkedIn that you are working toward your PMP certification and would like to study with a few partners. Make it clear that this task involves a moderate time commitment (e.g., 1 hour per week). In this approach, you still study mostly by yourself. When you get together with the group on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or whichever platform you like to discuss progress and raise questions.

    Strategy 5: Enhance your motivation with rewards

    With so many different options for your leisure time, deciding to spend time on your PMP studies may not feel like the most appealing option. Hopefully, you are motivated by the challenge of increasing your skills and value along with the prospect of career advancement. Those advantages are real, yet these are all long-term rewards. We need something to look forward to in the short term.

    That’s where giving yourself a time and money budget as a reward for passing the exam comes in. Give yourself a budget (e.g., $100 or whatever amount is reasonable for your situation) to buy yourself a reward for completing the exam. Once you have your reward picked out, remind yourself to make the time to use it.

    You can also adjust the reward methodology to fit milestones for the various steps toward PMP certification (e.g., a small reward for completing the involved application, a small reward for completing a practice test, and then a larger reward for completing the exam.)

    Here’s One More Way You Can Bring PMP Success Within Reach

    Earning the PMP certification requires significant focus and dedication. There is one more way you can shorten your path to success. Buy and use high-quality PMP exam study resources like Wiley’s PMP exam review products and other resources such as your local PMI chapter’s exam preparation resources.