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What is the Project Management Professional (PMP®)?

The Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most recognized certification for project managers worldwide provided by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI provides a certification program that suits practitioners of different education levels and experiences. To illustrate the fast growth, envision in your mind’s eye and create a growth curve with the following numbers:

  • When Dr. Te Wu, CEO of PMO Advisory, became a PMP in July 2003, there was about 7,500 active PMPs in the world.
  • Fast forward 16 years, today there are over 914,000 PMPs.

This steepness of the curve reflects the popularity of PMP today.

Why is it important? What are the values?

Nowadays, companies use projects as a tool to reach their objectives. Hence, delivering projects successfully highly affects the company’s victory and success. PMP offers a well-established project management methodology that can be applied in various industries. It provides a base for the project management office to operate projects in a systemic and more organized way. In addition, PMP provides a substantial advantage in the annual salary. According to a recent salary survey, PMP certifiers earn 25% higher in the United States and 40%+ higher in countries like South Africa versus those who are not certified (PMI, 2018).

What’s the history of PMP? What is it now and how do you envision it will evolve (and this can be your opinion)?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a nonprofit organization that all people working in the project management field worldwide want to be members of. It offers training, certification and guidance for over 2.9 million professionals globally. It has nearly 570,000 members in 208 locations around the world, with 300 chapters and 10,000 volunteers (PMI, 2019).

Back in 1981, Matthew H. Parry initiated an assignment for developing standards for project management, ethics, and accreditation to his team. After two years of hard work, they were able to publish an Ethics, Standards and Accreditation (ESA) report in August 1983 asking for the creation of a certification program. In 1984, PMI held the first certification exam in Philadelphia where forty-three individuals passed and became the first batch of PMP holders.

What are the qualifications?

To be able to acquire the PMP certification, you must have educational background and professional experience. To be eligible you either have to have:

  1. A Secondary degree (a high school diploma, associate degree or the global equivalent)
  2. 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  3. 35 hours of project management education


  1. A Four-year degree
  2. 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  3. 35 hours of project management education

Hence, you will have to get your work experience organized to be able to divide your work into the hourly format required.

An experience in project management would definitely be a plus for better absorbing the concepts and methodologies explained however it is not necessary to have the role of the main lead project manager managing the project. Witnessing the five stages of the PMI project management methodology (Initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling and closing) would be a great introduction for the course.

The PMP certification should be renewed every three years using 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units) earned from different exposures. The PDUs can be earned by managing projects, delivering training, attending project management related webinars or reading books.

How to prepare for PMP?

The first step for the preparation of the PMP exam is making sure that all prerequisite educational background and experience are in place through submitting the application and passing the auditing process. The auditing process acts as a checkpoint for the data (mainly experience) pointed out in the application. It chooses random applications and asks them to provide evidence of the provided info. Afterwards, the 40-hour training course must be acquired. At this stage, all preparatory steps are already in place. The next step should be studying and taking the exam.

The PMP exam is a 4 hour, 200-question, multiple-choice test. There are many online resources that give an overview of how the exam would look like. The primary source is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) as it is the official guide provided by PMI.

What are the biggest challenges?

There are many challenges to preparing for the exam.  The top four challenges include the following:

  1. Knowledge, both depth and breadth
  2. Experience disparity
  3. Time pressure
  4. Test preparation and test taking strategy


On knowledge, the current PMBOK® Guide is over 700 pages (not including the Agile Guide).  Consider the first version is about 100 pages, the rapid growth and development of the PMBOK® Guide is staggering.  In the current edition, test takers need to master the knowledge and application of five process groups, ten knowledge areas, 49 processes, hundreds of inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques.

On balance, having solid project management experience is a MUST to pass the exam, but there is a concern of experience disparity between an individual’s practical experience and with PMI’s view on project management. In some ways, the more experience a person has, there are more likely areas of misalignment between one’s experience and the PMBOK® Guide and this creates conflicts.  Thus, experienced professionals may have to “unlearn” their knowledge, at least temporarily, until they pass the exam.

The time pressure of the exam is well documented.  There are 200 questions with only 240 minutes. On average, there are 82 seconds per question.  The average reading speed of most people hovers around 150 words per minute (WPM) for casual reading, 80-100 WPM for technical reading, and (to our estimation) about 60 -80 WPM for thoughtful reading, interpretation, and analysis as required on multiple-choice exams. The problem is that most questions and the four answer choices are about 100 words. Thus, in the allocated time, it’s a challenge just to read and comprehend the question.

The final challenge is developing a workable plan for both preparing for the exam and also for taking the exam. Most project professionals are busy people. Carving out an average of 10 hours per week to study for three to six months can be daunting. Worse, without a “Sherpa” or guide, you can easily get stuck on questions.  Fear could also be a factor. The fear of failure can play a role in lowering your productivity and target level. Finally, given the constrained time, overwhelming quantity of knowledge, and potential confusion between your experience and the knowledge required to pass the PMP, it is essential to develop a test taking strategy and practice it many times before the actual exam.


What are the ways to prepare for the exam?

Maintaining a steady pace is one of the best tricks, and it does not have to be a competition. Taking the time and planning well is a great tip. Regular tests could also be very beneficial to test your timing and performance. It is always better to know if you took the wrong path early than later when taking the test. The PMP exam can be prepared for by professionals through self-study, study groups, or focused boot camps.

Self-study is obviously the least expensive option, but likely also the longest option. If you are an experienced and self-motivated professional who has a good mentor to address the difficult questions and challenges and you have more time, then self-study may be the best option. Plus, you can complement self-study with any number of good books from Amazon.com, and you can purchase inexpensive eLearning from Groupon.

Study groups form a great motivational opportunity, and the collaboration helps in understanding the concepts and overcoming certain challenging topics.  Effective study groups meet regularly, with an authoritative source for addressing the challenging questions.  But since most study groups are organically organized, they do not earn the required educational unit.

For people with time constraints, they should consider taking a boot camp from a reputable company that can accelerate the learning curve.  These training companies should be authorized by PMI as a Registered Education Provider (PMI R.E.P.).  Courses from PMI R.E.P.’s also earn educational hours, which for PMP is 35 hours.  There are many good PMI R.E.P.s available, and professionals should compare them closely on the attributes that they value the most, such as quality of the trainer, reputation of the company, type and length of support, money-back guarantee, availability of a test simulator with a large test bank, simple and measurable method to assess readiness, and price.


What is our recommendation?

As the PMBOK® Guide grew in girth, now to more than 700 pages, it is becoming more difficult for an individual to self-study. But self-study remains a viable option. The five biggest challenges with self-study are: 1) maintaining motivation; 2) time; 3) measuring progress; 4) fulfilling the 35 hours of education; and 5) finding a credible source to provide definitive answers. Study groups can be hugely helpful addressing 1, partially 2 and 3, and maybe 5.  But most study groups organized by PMI chapter volunteers that we have seen typically lose momentum after a few weeks or months. It can also be difficult to join them given all the schedule constraints. Effective training courses or boot camps can address all of the five challenges, especially with accelerated learning and measuring progress (with some R.E.P.s that offer exam simulators).

Good luck with your studies.  If you have any questions about PMP boot camps or training, feel free to email us at cert@pmoadvisory.com.  PMO Advisory is also having a free webinar, planned for June 19th at 1PM.  For more information and to register, visit us at www.pmoadvisory.com/pmp-webinar.



Armshaw, D. (n.d.). Big Benefits from Project Management Basics. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/big-benefits-project-management-basics-7584

PMI Project Management Salary Survey (2018). https://www.pmi.org/learning/careers/project-management-salary-survey

PMI Today, June 2019. PMI Fact File.

Project Management Professional (PMP). (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/project-management-pmp

Webster, F. M. (n.d.). Project Management Certification – History of Development. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/project-management-certification-history-development-4941

Weber, J. L., & Weber, J. L. (2018, December 27). A History of PMI & Its Role in Project Management. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/history-of-pmi


PMP and PMBOK Guide are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.