How to prepare for the PMP exam - Part 2: Filling out the application

Filling out the application for the PMP exam can be a project in itself. In this second part of CIO.com's series on preparing for the PMP exam, you'll get some tools and learn some best practices that will help you fill out the application efficiently thus inching you closer to your goal of earning PMP certification.

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Once you've determined that you're eligible to take the Project Management Institute's (PMI) exam toward PMP certification, your next step is to fill out and submit the application.

The biggest impediment aspiring PMPs face before taking the exam is filling out the nine-page application. Although the application is straightforward, it requires applicants to convey a lot of detailed information about their project management experience. Gathering all of this information can be a project in itself and can take days if not weeks. Consequently, many who start filling out the application never finish it, and thus their hopes of earning the coveted PMP certification are dashed before they even take the exam.

In this second article in CIO.com's series on preparing for the PMP exam, you'll learn how the application process works and about its various steps. You'll also get some tools and learn some best practices that will help you fill out the application efficiently.

Step 1: How to Fill Out the Application for the PMP Exam

Too often, I see IT professionals decide to take the exam, but then life intervenes, and filling out the application for the PMP exam becomes the last item on their list of priorities. To avoid failure by procrastination, your best bet is to fill out and submit your application as soon as you have confirmed that you meet all of the eligibility requirements. Filling out the application and later paying the application fee (which ranges from $250 to $555, with most people paying $405) is a great motivator and will keep you focused on your goal: earning PMP certification.

The Project Management Institute prefers that you apply online. A printable version of the application is available, but applying online is simple and convenient. You have 90 days to complete your application from the moment you start filling it out, and you can save what you've written between sessions.

The application is broken into three major sections. The first section asks for your contact information (e.g., name, address, job title, employer's name) educational background and the industry you work in. Section two requires you to list your project management experience hours (i.e., the amount of time you've spent leading and directing project management-related tasks). In section three, you record your contact hours—the amount of time you've spent in project management training or education programs.

Section two will take up most of your time because you will need to provide detailed information about all the projects that you have worked on. For example, for each project, you must document the title you held when you worked on this project as well as the name of the organisation that employed you when you worked on it. You must also name a primary contact for this project and describe the tasks that you led and directed, along with the number of experience hours you gained during project initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing.

The total number of experience hours that you need to document in section two depends on your educational background. If you have a bachelor's degree, you will have to document 4,500 hours that were performed within the last eight years. If you don't have a bachelor's degree, you'll need to document 7,500 hours.

Gathering all the necessary information about your project management experience hours and contact hours can be a project in itself. I therefore recommend the following best practice: First collect all of that information offline using the Experience Verification Worksheet, a tool that I provide to all my students for free. Gathering that information ahead of time makes filling out the application a much smoother process.

Before you can submit your application, you must read and agree to the Project Management Institute's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. It's a small box on the actual application that you have to check, but it is very important. By ticking this box you agree to henceforth manage your projects according to very high standards.

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