How to prepare for the PMP exam - Part 4: Essential study materials

Most certified project management professionals (PMPs) will tell you that passing the PMP certification exam requires a considerable amount of studying. Here's a list of essential study materials you'll need to be successful. PMP expert Cornelius Fichtner has prepared a series of how-to articles designed to help interested parties prepare for the PMP exam. This article is the fourth in the series.

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Most certified project management professionals (PMPs) will tell you that passing the PMP certification exam requires a considerable amount of studying. Here's a list of essential study materials you'll need to be successful. PMP expert Cornelius Fichtner has prepared a series of how-to articles designed to help interested parties prepare for the PMP exam. This article is the fourth in the series.

The PMP exam is a four-hour test with 200 multiple-choice questions that cover concepts from the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). Some PMPs have described the exam as grueling, and most will tell you that it takes a considerable amount of studying to pass it successfully.

It is not surprising, then, that you'll need numerous study materials. The good news is that you can choose from a variety of resources and formats designed to fit your individual learning styles and preferences. Here's a short list of essential study materials.

1. The PMBOK Guide

The PMBOK Guide is an essential resource. If you use no other study material to prepare for the PMP exam, use the PMBOK Guide. You cannot pass the exam without it.

PMI members can download a free PDF copy of the current PMBOK Guide from the Project Management Institute's website. The PMBOK Guide is also available in a hard copy from online and local bookstores. By the time you are ready to take the PMP Exam, you will have read most of this book at least twice, if not three times.

2. PMP Exam Prep Book

Most certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) will tell you that they used a PMP exam prep book in addition to studying from the PMBOK Guide. PMP exam prep books complement the PMBOK Guide, and I highly recommend using them. Two that I recommend are Achieve PMP Exam Success, 4th Edition: A Concise Study Guide for the Busy Project Manager by Diane Altwies and Janice Preston, and Andy Crowe's The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try.

PMP exam prep books explain the PMBOK Guide, a dry, scholarly reference book, in plain English and systematically take you through its concepts. Many give you tips about what to expect on test day and come with a CD full of sample questions.

3. PMP Exam Prep Workshops

PMP exam prep workshops are a good option if you prefer a classroom setting and need more one-on-one interaction. They are also great places to network with other aspiring PMPs, and project managers who register for them end up forming study groups with other participants. Another benefit of these workshops is that they usually satisfy the 35 contact hours required to apply to take the PMP exam.

Many local PMI chapters offer a series of weekend classes. Make sure that your teacher is PMP certified and that the presentations are based on the current PMBOK Guide and current exam.

4. Online PMP Exam Prep Workshops

PMP exam preparation courses are also available online. They tend to be less expensive than the in-person workshops. Some online prep courses are intensive, while others are self-paced. Choose the option that best suits your study style. Do lots of comparisons and read testimonials before you commit to one.

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