How to Become a PMP?

July 25, 2020
Fahad Usmani
how to become a pmp

The PMP certification is the most valued for project professionals, and having this certification will help you grow your career.

Attaining the PMP certification is a lengthy process, but if you understand it, becoming a PMP is easy. This process involves many steps, and each step requires careful planning and the right approach.

You must collect the necessary information about the PMP exam. Visit the PMI website and explore it. Read the PMP handbook and the frequently asked questions. This will help you get the answers to most of your queries.

How to Become a PMP

The process to become a PMP requires five steps:

  1. Meet Eligibility Requirements
  2. Attend Training
  3. Apply for the PMP Exam
  4. Exam Preparation
  5. Attempt the Test

#1: Eligibility Requirements

This is the first step. You should know if you are eligible to apply for the PMP exam. Many professionals apply for the PMP exam, are selected for audit, and then fail it because they do not have experience working with projects.

I’ve received emails from professionals working in operations that are interested in the PMP exam. They think they are working in project management, but they do not understand the eligibility requirements

The PMP exam has three eligibility requirements:

  1. The first eligibility requirement is education. You should have a degree or a high school diploma, in any discipline.
  2. The second eligibility requirement is at least three years of experience in leading and directing projects if you are a degree holder, and five years if you are a diploma holder. You must have earned this experience within the last eight years.
  3. The third requirement is 35 contact hours training for formal project management education.

You can proceed to the next step if you satisfy these conditions.

#2: Attend the Training

 You have to attend project management training for 35 hours. I recommend you read a reference book before taking the training, as it will help you get the most out of it.

Start with the Head First PMP book. Read it from cover to cover and try to understand the concepts. You can go for the second round if required. Then read the PMBOK Guide. This is boring and dry, and that is the main reason why I recommend that you read a reference book before reading the PMBOK Guide.

If you start with the PMBOK Guide you will feel bored, your confidence level may go down and you may lose your interest in studying for the PMP exam.

Never start your exam preparation with the PMBOK Guide.

Afterward, you can attend your PMP training.

Many will advise you to get your 35 contact hours before you start preparing for the exam; I do not suggest you do this.

During the training, you will hear many new terms that may make you scratch your head if you have not read the PMBOK Guide. Other professionals that know the PMBOK Guide participate in arguments, ask difficult questions and solve mathematical problems. You may end up embarrassed, bored, or confused.

I made the same mistake. The moment I realized this requirement, I joined a classroom training program without referring to any reference books or the PMBOK Guide. I suffered a lot. During the training, I could not take part in the discussion. It was an embarrassing situation for me.

Nobody advised me, and I don’t want you to be in the same situation.

Therefore, refer to at least one reference book and the PMBOK Guide to get an idea about what you will be taught before you join the training program.

You have many options to earn these 35 contact hours these days. You can go for either classroom training or online training programs.

Classroom training programs are costly, have fixed schedules, and are only available in big cities. On the other hand, online training programs are cheap, flexible, and are available in all locations. Therefore, unless you have a specific reason to join a classroom training program, I would recommend you join a good quality, PMI approved online 35 contact hours training program.

I recommend you take the PM Sprout 35 Contact Hours Training Program. I developed this training program with PMSimplify. The course is based on the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide and available at an affordable price. This training program is 100% online, PMI approved, and access is for one year.

Click here for more details

#3: Apply for the PMP Exam

After completing the training, you should schedule the exam. You are motivated and this will help you in your exam preparation.

I have seen many aspirants attend the training and delay the application process for a few days, and then they end up losing interest. Don’t do that.

Get a PMI membership before applying for the exam. It will reduce exam fees. The price of the membership is less than the discount that you will get when applying for the PMP exam. You can also download a digital copy of the PMBOK Guide for free; it is a win-win situation for you.

The PMI membership offers many benefits once you join. I recommend you get this membership before applying for the exam.

Now we come to the PMP exam application process. You will never start studying seriously unless you schedule the exam. Once you schedule the exam, your hidden potential will be unlocked, and you will study more aggressively and passionately. I suggest you give yourself at least three months for exam preparation.

You can apply for the PMP exam online or offline. Both formats require the same information, but the online method is quick and effortless. I recommend you choose the online PMP exam application.

Once you start the online application, you have 90 days to complete it. Read: How to Fill Out the PMP Exam Application Form

As soon as you submit the result two things will happen:

  1. You  may be selected for an audit
  2. You will be asked for payment

Don’t worry if you are selected for an audit. The PMI will ask you for some documents, for example, a copy of your educational certificates, experience certificate, and training. Once you send these, they will complete the audit within five working days. Afterward, you can make the payment and go to the Pearson VUE site to schedule the exam.

If you are not selected for an audit, you can make the payment right away and go to the Pearson VUE site to schedule the exam.

You have one year to pass the exam with three attempts. This one year starts from the date when PMI approves your application.  If you don’t pass the exam in these attempts, you cannot apply again for one year.

#4: Exam Preparation

This is where you have to begin your exam preparation seriously. Start reading reference books, notes, the PMBOK Guide, and practice questions.

I suggest that you buy any two good PMP exam reference books. You should select the Headfirst and any other book.  The other book can be Kim Heldman or Rita Mulcahy. Read both books at least twice.

Refer to page 25 of the PMBOK Guide 6th edition to understand the project management process groups and knowledge areas mapping. An understanding of this map will help you answer many questions in the exam.

The next step is to practice PMP exam sample questions. Although you can find a few sample questions at the end of each chapter in your reference books, I recommend you purchase a good PMP exam simulator to practice more questions. Use the PMP Question Bank and the PMP Mock Test to test your readiness for the exam.

Practice these questions and try mock tests. By reviewing the answers, you can find the domains where your performance was poor. Revisit them and fill in your knowledge gaps.

You will see many mathematical questions on the PMP exam. Although they seem to be tough initially, if you practice those questions and understand the concepts, you will become more comfortable.

If you are having difficulty understanding math-based questions on the PMP exam, you can try the PMP Formula Guide. This explains the mathematical formulas mentioned in the PMBOK Guide with examples and has many practice questions.

A few sites on the internet provide free mock tests for the PMP certification exam, such as Oliver Lehmann. He provides two sets of questions, and you should try both.

I have seen many aspirants desperately looking for free practice questions and mock tests. Don’t do this. You should not try to attempt every sample question or free mock test available on the internet. It will only demoralize you and waste your precious time.

If you purchase the PMP Exam Simulator, PMP Question Bank, and PMP Formula Guide mentioned in this blog post, they will be more than enough for you to pass the exam.

I noticed many PMP aspirants ignore the PMBOK Guide and rely on manuals from their training provider and reference books.

Please note that the PMP certification exam is based on the PMBOK Guide. Therefore, read and understand the guide thoroughly. You will face difficulties on the exam if you skip the PMBOK Guide.

I recommend that you read the PMBOK Guide at least three times before attempting the exam. Although it is a dry book, you will like it once you understand the concepts.

I recommend you subscribe to PM Sprout’s PMP Exam Preparation Tool. This is the only tool developed to help PMP aspirants prepare for the PMP exam. This tool includes many practice questions, study notes, flashcards, true/false statements, etc.

Click here for more details

Please note that if you have subscribed to PM Sprout’s PMP Training Program, do not subscribe to this tool, it’s included.

#5: Attempt the Test

Try to arrive at the Pearson VUE center at least 30 minutes before the scheduled exam time for the formalities. It takes around ten minutes to complete the exam procedures. Afterward, you can enter the test room and start the test.

The test starts with an awareness session. This will give you a brief on the display screen and navigation. The duration of this session is 15 minutes but you can complete the session early and start the test.

If you complete the session early, start the test. You cannot use the saved time to make any brain dumps.

The PMP exam comprises 200 questions, and duration is four hours; i.e. 1.2 minutes per question. This is enough time if you are well prepared. Most successful exam takers who passed the exam with the above target on all domains took two-and-a-half hours on average to complete the test.

The PMP exam has no negative marking. Therefore, attempt all questions. Even if you don’t know the answers, select the best guess. Never leave a question blank on the exam.

Take your time to complete the exam and review your answers in the remaining time, then submit. A short survey follows submission and then you can see your results. The PMI will congratulate you if you pass the exam; otherwise, they will offer their condolences.

If you pass the exam, you will receive the congratulatory mail within one week from PMI and your name will show up in the PMI certification registry. You will receive your certificate within eight weeks.

Good luck with your PMP exam preparation.

Before I conclude this blog post, let me give you the resources discussed in this blog post for a quick reference:

  • Head First PMP
  • Rita Mulcahy
  • Kim Heldman
  • PM Sprout Training Program
  • PM Exam Simulator
  • PMP Exam Preparation Tool
  • PMP Formula Guide
  • PMP Question Bank
  • PMP Mock Test


The process to become a PMP involves a considerable amount of time and money. You can say it is a slightly lengthy process; however, it is worth going for it. With the right preparation and resources, you can pass the PMP exam on your first attempt. You can join your local PMI chapter and speak with successful exam takers to learn from their experiences. You will find many PMP certification holders in your local chapter meetings. Learn from their experiences, prepare well, and pass the exam.

Are you preparing for the PMP exam? What problems are you facing? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

PMP Question Bank

This is the most popular Question Bank for the PMP Exam. To date, this PMP Question Bank has helped over 10,000 PMP aspirants pass the PMP exam. 

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PMP Formula Guide

This is the most popular Formula Guide for the PMP Exam. If you face difficulty with attempting mathematical questions for the PMP exam.

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Speak Your Mind

  • Hello,

    I attended the training in 2013 and did not prepared after that, the PMP structure is changing .
    Is it worth and more than that possible to takeoff with preparation and pass the PMP. or its wise to wait for the roll out for the new PMP sructure.

  • Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi,

    I have taken PMP training twice, but never had the guts to give the exams due to the fear of failing. Have decided to give my exams finally by this May 2020. I am currently working as a BI TECH lead with total 17 years of experience, do you think doing PMP will help me to change my career path. In addition to this I am a certified Prince2 practitioner and also SCM certified. Please guide..


  • Fahad

    I have followed your tips after my first attempt on of which is read the PMBOK 6th edition.
    Q1) when i down loaded this from the PMI site it has come with a large AGILE booklet. My last exam (Dec18) did not have a single Agile question . Should i really read the additional attachment or is it for post exam development
    Q2) Blog says to read the PMBOK guide ; plus 2 other RMI text books including Heads UP. I accept this but i do not know how much will be duplicating and hence extending my prep time additional months: please advise

    • 1) In the PMP exam, there will be no agile questions.

      2) Reading two books will give you different perspective, there is no duplication.

      3) I also suggest you revise the books you studied. This duplication will help you solidify concepts.

  • I took the exam last week and did not pass. I appreciate your suggestions on how to prepare for the 2nd attempt. I have the book, Head First PMP. I also took a 3 day boot camp based on the Andy Crowe materials and have used those materials along with Head First to study. I was wondering what your opinion was with the Andy Crowe method.
    Your 2nd attempt preparation steps make good sense and I will use them to prepare for the retest.
    Many thanks!

  • Thank you very much for detailed information. I was about to join a course for 35 contact hrs but now i’ll complete my homework or basic study first. I’d like to know which are reference books I can use before actually starting with PMBOK?

  • Hello Fahad and PMs,

    Thanks for this great resource. I’m at Step II and unsure of how many hours in total to commit to exam preparation. What’s a conservative estimate?

    Thank you!

  • I would to inform you that I have find your blog very interested for preparing the PMP exam. And with other materials courses like rita and head first I have obtained my PMP certificate.
    Thank you a lot

  • Thanks for the valuable information

    I have MSc project Managment and I’m wondering if this might reduce the experience required?

    Thanks again

  • Also I would like to know, if someone like me can add Six Sigma and PMP Agile on top of PMP then can he or she earn a fair chance of doing good in Project Management profile? If not, then do you know any other certifications that may boost the PMP career path?
    Waiting for your kind reply.

    • The PMP certification is enough. Once you are into it, according to your requirements, you can go for other certification courses.

  • I am a DBA Manager in Oracle. I am very much willing to make a career in Project Management and develop and grow in that area. I have around 12 years of IT (Technical) experience now. I wish to ask you that would it be wise for me to go for PMP? Also is it kind of too late for me? To add, I have around 3 years of Tech lead cum Managerial experience as I have done some end to end delivery of some projects.

    • If you want to switch your career, I will suggest you contact some one belongs to your field.

      Also it is never too late. If you see opportunity in project management and have interest in it, you can go for it.

  • Hi Fahad,

    I have just finished my bachelor degree in construction project management at university of technology, Sydney. It is a 4 year full time degree. I found your blog is very useful. And I have recommend your blog to my junior uni mates.

    Got a question about the PMP certificate. I know it is a global recognized certificate. But I don’t know how would it be useful in Australia. Could you please give me some advices. As a recent graduate student, I am a bit confusing about my future career.

    Many thanks!


    • I think prince2 is more famous in Australia.

      Anyway, the PMP certification will equip you with the best knowledge, tool and techniques used in project management so may be the PMP certification is not be widely popular in Australia but no one can deny your knowledge and hold on the subject.

      You should go for this certification.

  • I consulted the site every now and then and it helped me a lot to pass my PMP Exam and get my basics right…very important!
    Purchased the 400 questions bank which is good to gain the knowledge on PMBOK 5 and the subject as a whole, but there is a lot of room for case based questions to be introduced following the exam pattern.

    Great Job Farhad.

    • Congratulations Priya on passing the exam.

      I have updated the PMP Question Bank recently, and will update again to add more case based questions in future.

  • Hi Fahad,

    About a month ago I passed the PMP exam and thought you would like to know that your site helped me to clarify some of the topics that I wasn’t sure about. This was how I studied for it:

    1. Rita

    2. If not clear from Rita, then PMBOK guide.

    3. If not clear from PMBOK guide (most of the time, it wasn’t), then I would go to your site and find if you have posted a topic, and if yes, I would usually find an answer.

    4. If still not clear (or if the topic was not on your site), I would go on “the wider net”.

    Actually, there were just few cases when I resorted to step #4. I didn’t really keep track, but most of the times, it was because you didn’t deal with that particular topic that I was unsure of. I remember only one exception when, after reading your explanation (and the comments), I had to resort to the “wider net”. I think it was about configuration management, but now (after many days of exam hangover), I can’t be 100% sure.

    From what others have said, you must already know, but I’ll repeat, because this is really true – your explanations are outstanding and anybody who reads them must understand the topic.

    Thank you for that.


    • Congratulations Dan on passing the PMP exam.

      I am happy that my blog helped you in your preparation

      Regarding the configuration management blog post, I will review it soon and make the necessary changes as needed.

    • Hello Bhagya, I am sorry to know that you have failed in your first attempt but dont lose your hope, you still have two more attempts with you.

      Tell me how did you prepare for the exam in detail, then only I will be able to advise you accordingly.

  • Hi Fahad,

    I just passed my PMP exam, during my preparation I referred your website on various topics, the way you explan the things, its too good.

    Best wishes for pmstudycircle.

    Thanks again


  • Hi Fahad,

    I’ve just got my pmp certification!!! I would like to thank you, as since june this year, your website was of a great value to me, explaining difficult concepts in a very easy way.

    my advice to you, write an PMP book like rita, etc. because the way you explain things, is very effective.

    cheers from spain!

  • Hi Fahad

    I just passed the PMP and want to say your blog helped tremendously. Continue the great work, you are doing a magnificent job of simplifying the difficult topics. I’ve been recommending your blog to aspiring PMP aspirants.

    Thanks again!

  • Hi,

    I came to know from PMI website that the exam is changing a bit. I would like to know how different the exam will be if i appear before jan 11 and after it. Suppose if I appear for some online sites for “35 contact hours mandatory training” now, will it contain the updated information or the old information about pmp is enough for me to take the exam?

    Please advice.


  • Fahad,

    I am an seasoned project guy … and hope the PMP better credentials our company in a new market.
    In your opinion will the PMP most likely:
    A.) Command higher rates, B.) Improve access to larger prospects, C.) Reveal more opportunity?

    A well written blog that gives simple answers in an understandable way. Thank you

  • One thing that you fail to mention. You must have experience within the last 8 years. I found out the hard way that anything older will not be accepted. I have been out of the field for many years.

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