PMP Study Guide and checklist 2021

PMP Exam Study Guide for Dummies 2021

We go through the mistakes 80% of people make which leads them to fail the PMP on their first try, highlight appropriate study material and a complete study plan for you to follow.

This study guide is really just a snippet of my pdf which you can download by submitting the email address below. I cover everything here and all the essential PMP posts on my blog with one huge secret revealed about my classroom experience.

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What is PMI PMP Exam?

“Fail to Prepare, Fail to Prepare” is definitely the case when it comes to passing the PMP® Preparation. I made the costly mistake of ONLY reading the PMBOK® Guide first time round. The PMBOK® Guide is a manual/guide on the PMI® approach to project management and the PMP® exam is based on it. What you need to know is….

  • Study Plan Checklist
  • Which Books you Need
  • Which Materials to Learn
  • How to Test Yourself with Exam Simulators
  • Having an Exam Day Plan

This PMP study guide was created to a single source of all the information you need to acquire you’re PMP qualification.

80/20 Rule for PMP Training

80% of people who fail the first time will solely rely on the PMBOK for theory PMP preparation. If you take away one thing is that DO NOT SOLELY RELY ON PMBOK to pass the exam. Let me explain.

Project Manager Book of Knowledge is the PMI bible for traditional project management. It was the original document the PMI created and what the PMP exam is based on. It is not written to help people pass. In 2021 the PMP exam content has changed to match the below domains which PMI feels better reflects the project management environment in 2021.

PMP test Breakdown for PMP studying
Old PMP Exam Domains
New 2021 PMP Exam Domains

The new exam is comprised of 180 questions (the previous exam was 200) but the same number of questions will be scored with 230 minutes to complete the exam. One additional break for a total of two 10-minute breaks for computer-based tests. No scheduled breaks for paper-based exams.

There has not been an updated PMBOK edition published yet 3 months after new exam format went live.

This is why having the correct PMP® study guide is essential.

I made the costly mistake of only reading the PMBOK® Guide the first time round and wasn’t till after failing I learned how much of a rookie mistake it was. The PMBOK® Guide is a manual/guide on the PMI® approach to project management and the PMP exam is based on it.

The PMBOK® Guide is not a manual/guide on how to pass the PMP® exam. The PMP® exam is multiple choice but the questions are situational and the PMBOK® Guide does not prepare you for such kind of questions. The questions are not easy and phrased to confuse people for this reason you need other resources to help you pass that prepare you for these questions.

When I was studying I used Andy Crowes: How to Pass on Your First Try It covered all the content in the PMBOK but presents the content with the test in mind. I found it very helpful where it had questions at the end of each chapter and a complete test at the end of the book.

That said, in 2021 there is a new TOP seller on Amazon the PMP Exam Prep Simplified: Covers the Current PMP Exam and Includes a 35 Hours of Project Management E-Learning Course which has some impressive reviews from passing PMPs worth checking out.

Guaranteed PMP Success

If you have the budget or in a position, you need to 100% pass on the first attempt you should consider instructor type training. Top of the line premium training is PM Prepcast PMI Official Course brought to you by Cornelius Fichtner.

Cornelius is a registered PMP with 20 years of experience over many industries. He formerly served as a Project Management Institute (PMI®) Chapter President but has since moved on to become a founding member of PMI’s New Media Council and Social Media Advisory Group.

PMP Study Checklist & Calendar

10 Tips for Studying PMP Exam

  1. Use an Exam Simulator – You can read our full review of PM Prepcast Exam Simulator with a discount code here.
  2. Read through one book mentioned above.
  3. Take the adjoining exam at the back of the book.
  4. Keep these results for the night before the exam.
  5. Read through the below lists of process groups and ensure you are familiar with each term and concept.
  6. Set out a daily routine of creating the process group map & formulas including Earned Value Management.
  7. Schedule time to take other tests online and record scores. Make list of any terms/concepts you get incorrect.
  8. Repeat till you have done all exams. Aim to be getting 70%+ in each.
  9. Night before take exam you took in step 1.
  10. Relax and make sure to follow the exam day plan. Take your breaks it gives the brain a chance to regroup.

Use an exam Simulator – Why is this important? The PMP exam old pattern was based on the traditional phase-based approach but now, it is modified to a domain-based approach. The new exam has seen the inclusion of Agile methodology. There are not many places online you can test yourself on these.

The PM Prepcast simulator is the best online and makes you feel confident of passing the PMP exam as we practice the mock test in the real exam environment. The more you practice better are the chances of getting success. You can read our full review of PM Prepcast Exam Simulator with a discount code here.

PMP Study Material per Domain

The exam questions per be categorized according to the below table:

New PMP Exam Domains

Each domain consists of tasks and enablers. Understanding what is 

Domain 1 – People 42%

IDTaskEnablers
1Manage conflict– Interpret the source and stage of the conflict 
– Analyze the context for the conflict 
– Evaluate/recommend/reconcile the appropriate conflict resolution solution
2Lead a team– Set a clear vision and mission
– Support diversity and inclusion (e.g., behavior types, thought process)
– Value servant leadership (e.g., relate the tenets of servant leadership to the team)
– Determine and appropriate leadership style (e.g., directive, collaborative)
– Inspire, motivate, and influence team members/stakeholders (e.g., team contract, social contract, reward system)
– Analyze team members and stakeholders’ influence
– Distinguish various options to lead various team members and stakeholders
3Support team performance– Appraise team member performance against key performance indicators
– Support and recognize team member growth and development
– Determine appropriate feedback approach
– Verify performance improvements
4Empower team members and stakeholders– Organize around team strengths
– Support team task accountability
– Evaluate demonstration of task accountability
– Determine and bestow level(s) of decision-making authority
5Ensure team members/stakeholders are adequately trained– Determine required competencies and elements of training
– Determine training options based on training needs
– Allocate resources for training
– Measure training outcomes
6Build a team– Appraise stakeholder skills
– Deduce project resource requirements
– Continuously assess and refresh team skills to meet project needs
– Maintain team and knowledge transfer
7Address and remove impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team– Determine critical impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team
– Prioritize critical impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team
– Use network to implement solutions to remove impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team
– Re-assess continually to ensure impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team are being addressed
8Negotiate project agreements– Analyze the bounds of the negotiations for agreement
– Assess priorities and determine ultimate objective(s)
– Verify objective(s) of the project agreement is met
– Participate in agreement negotiations
– Determine a negotiation strategy
9Collaborate with stakeholders– Evaluate engagement needs for stakeholders
– Optimize alignment between stakeholder needs, expectations, and project objectives
– Build trust and influence stakeholders to accomplish project objectives
10Build shared understanding– Break down situation to identify the root cause of a misunderstanding
– Survey all necessary parties to reach consensus
– Support outcome of parties’ agreement
– Investigate potential misunderstandings
11Engage and support virtual teams– Examine virtual team member needs (e.g., environment, geography, culture, global, etc.)
– Investigate alternatives (e.g., communication tools, colocation) for virtual team member engagement
– Implement options for virtual team member engagement
– Continually evaluate effectiveness of virtual team member engagement
12Define team ground rules– Communicate organizational principles with team and external stakeholders
– Establish an environment that fosters adherence to the ground rules
– Manage and rectify ground rule violations
13Mentor relevant stakeholders– Allocate the time to mentoring
– Recognize and act on mentoring opportunities
14Promote team performance through the application of emotional intelligence– Assess behavior through the use of personality indicators
– Analyze personality indicators and adjust to the emotional needs of key project stakeholders
Domain 1 – People 42%

Domain 2 – Process 50%

IDTaskEnablers
1Execute project with the 
urgency required to deliver business value
– Assess opportunities to deliver value incrementally
– Examine the business value throughout the project
– Support the team to subdivide project tasks as necessary to find the minimum viable product
2Manage communications– Analyze communication needs of all stakeholders
– Determine communication methods, channels, frequency, and level of detail for all stakeholders
– Communicate project information and updates effectively
– Confirm communication is understood and feedback is received
3Assess and manage risks– Determine risk management options
– Iteratively assess and prioritize risks
4Engage stakeholders– Analyze stakeholders (e.g., power interest grid, influence, impact)
– Categorize stakeholders
– Engage stakeholders by category
– Develop, execute, and validate a strategy for stakeholder engagement
5Plan and manage budget and resources– Estimate budgetary needs based on the scope of the project and lessons learned from past projects
– Anticipate future budget challenges
– Monitor budget variations and work with governance process to adjust as necessary
– Plan and manage resources
6Plan and manage schedule– Estimate project tasks (milestones, dependencies, story points)
– Utilize benchmarks and historical data
– Prepare schedule based on methodology
– Measure ongoing progress based on methodology
– Modify schedule, as needed, based on methodology
– Coordinate with other projects and other operations
7Plan and manage quality of products/deliverables– Determine quality standard required for project deliverables
– Recommend options for improvement based on quality gaps
– Continually survey project deliverable quality
8Plan and manage scope– Determine and prioritize requirements
– Break down scope (e.g., WBS, backlog)
– Monitor and validate scope
9Integrate project planning activities– Consolidate the project/phase plans
– Assess consolidated project plans for dependencies, gaps, and continued business value
– Analyze the data collected
– Collect and analyze data to make informed project decisions
– Determine critical information requirements
10Manage project changes– Anticipate and embrace the need for change (e.g., follow change management practices)
– Determine strategy to handle change
– Execute change management strategy according to the methodology
– Determine a change response to move the project forward
11Plan and manage procurement– Define resource requirements and needs
– Communicate resource requirements
– Manage suppliers/contracts
– Plan and manage procurement strategy
– Develop a delivery solution
12Manage project artifacts– Determine the requirements (what, when, where, who, etc.) for managing the project artifacts
– Validate that the project information is kept up to date (i.e., version control) and accessible to all stakeholders
– Continually assess the effectiveness of the management of the project artifacts
13Determine appropriate project methodology/methods and practices– Assess project needs, complexity, and magnitude
– Recommend project execution strategy (e.g., contracting, finance)
– Recommend a project methodology/approach (i.e., predictive, agile, hybrid)
– Use iterative, incremental practices throughout the project life cycle (e.g., lessons learned, stakeholder engagement, risk)
14Establish project governance structure– Determine appropriate governance for a project (e.g., replicate organizational governance)
– Define escalation paths and thresholds
15Manage project issues– Recognize when a risk becomes an issue
– Attack the issue with the optimal action to achieve project success
– Collaborate with relevant stakeholders on the approach to resolve the issues
16Ensure knowledge transfer for project continuity– Discuss project responsibilities within team
– Outline expectations for working environment
– Confirm approach for knowledge transfers
17Plan and manage project/phase closure or transitions– Determine criteria to successfully close the project or phase
– Validate readiness for transition (e.g., to operations team or next phase)
– Conclude activities to close out project or phase (e.g., final lessons learned, retrospective, procurement, financials, resources)
Domain 2 – Process 50%

Domain 3 – Business Environment 8%

IDTaskEnablers
1Plan and manage project compliance– Confirm project compliance requirements (e.g., security, health and safety, regulatory compliance)
– Classify compliance categories
– Determine potential threats to compliance
– Use methods to support compliance
– Analyze the consequences of noncompliance
– Determine necessary approach and action to address compliance needs (e.g., risk, legal)
– Measure the extent to which the project is in compliance
2Evaluate and deliver project benefits and value– Investigate that benefits are identified
– Document agreement on ownership for ongoing benefit realization
– Verify measurement system is in place to track benefits
– Evaluate delivery options to demonstrate value
– Appraise stakeholders of value gain progress
3Evaluate and address external business environment changes for impact on scope– Survey changes to external business environment (e.g., regulations, technology, geopolitical, market)
– Assess and prioritize impact on project scope/backlog based on changes in external business environment
– Recommend options for scope/backlog changes (e.g., schedule, cost changes)
– Continually review external business environment for impacts on project scope/backlog
4Support organizational change– Assess organizational culture
– Evaluate impact of organizational change to project and determine required actions
– Evaluate impact of the project to the organization and determine required actions
Domain 3 – Business 8%

If you are looking for help studying these domains here are some options:

Test Yourself with Free PMP Sample Question

When taking exams try to recreate the exam experience by setting aside 2-3 hours with no access to phone or internet. Take scheduled breaks which we outlined in the exam day plan.

ThePM PrepCast exam simulator is a MUST HAVE product that increases the chances of success in the exam. It is a web-based PMP Exam preparation environment. A PMP aspirant can increase his chances of passing the exam by practising with a PMP Exam simulator. 

PM-Training.net (200Q) This is our very own exam created after I actually did the exam so I tried to include as many exam question topics as much as I could. I tried to cover everything from the above study lists so please leave me know what you think in the comments section after you complete the practice exam.

iZenBridge Earned Value Test (15Q) As Earned Value Management is one of the most important sections of the exam it is crucial being able to answer any type formula question. Once you can get top results in this 15 question exam you will be ready to answer any EVM question.

Oliver Lehmann (75Q & 175Q) Really difficult test but helped me identify new definitions and areas I hadn’t previously heard about. Oliver Lehmann was one the first to create a PMP practice exam online and has been teaching project management principles for over 10 years. Oliver also has a LinkedIn group well worth joining.

Exam Central (200Q) This was one of my favorite test exams due to the feedback provided. It breaks down answers by process groups so you know where your weakness are to focus on. I only took this exam once due to time constraints but it identified that I was very weak in the initiation process group so I focused more on it and ended up getting Proficient in the area.

PM Study (200Q) Great simulator for emulating the actual exam and good indicator on your ability to pass the real exam. You can also get a second free exam by using their referral system and sharing within your networks. (You can easily just create other accounts with the referral link which will give your original account access to the second exam).

PM Exam Simulator (200Q) A really good simulator with good feedback. This is a good exam to practice your exam strategy and taking advantage of the good simulator.

Head First PMP (200Q) Not the most difficult test but is a complete 200 question exam which helps gauge your level. I did the test with the book and online, the book is a great way of learning fundamentals.

Tutorials Point (150Q) Has some repeat questions and not extremely difficult. Tutorial Point also provide a comprehensive study material people find useful which is worth checking out.

Further list of PMP practice exams can be found here.

PMP Exam Plan

This is the biggest difference and without a doubt the most important thing you can do to help pass the exam – create a test plan so you have milestones breaking up the exam so you know when to take breaks giving your brain rest which is a must for a 4 hour exam. The plan is as follows….

08:30am Arrive at Exam Centre

08:45am Start Tutorial – All you need to do is click start the system is extremely straight forward to use so you can use this 15mins for writing down all your notes.

09:00am Start PMP Exam – Aim to complete 75 Questions

10:00am Take Break – go to toilet or get a drink

10:05am Restart PMP Exam – Aim to complete 150 Questions

11:05am Take Food Break

11:10am Restart PMP Exam – Complete remaining 50 Questions

12:00am Take Break – go to toilet or get a drink

12:05am Start Review – Firstly go through all questions marked

01:00pm Submit Exam – Get results within a few minutes on the screen

Review all Marked Questions

Do not take for granted the importance of giving yourself a break it gives you time to gather your thoughts and re-motivate going into next round of questions. When attempting the exam I planned on reviewing all 200 questions but I only ended reviewing the marked questions so I recommend marking any question you have any doubt over.

What You Need On Exam Day

One day of exam you need arrive one half hour before your scheduled examination. You must sign in, present your identification and provide your unique PMI identification code that was emailed to you.

Notes About Identification

You need to present a non-expired government-issued identification. All forms of identification being presented at the testing centre must match your name exactly as it appears on the scheduling notification. Neither PMI nor Prometric will make any exceptions to this policy. Your identification needs to include:

  • English characters/translation
  • Your photograph
  • Your signature

In order to be admitted into the Prometric testing center, you must bring a valid, non-expired government-issued identification. Your identification needs to include:

  1. English characters/translation
  2. Your photograph
  3. Your signature (signature not necessary for CAPM and PMI-ACP exams)

If your government-issued identification does not display a photograph or a signature, a secondary form of identification may be used, which includes a photograph and/or signature (whichever is missing from the government-issued identification), and your name printed on the identification. All identification must be current (not expired).

The following are acceptable forms of government-issued identification:
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Valid military ID
  • Valid passport
  • Valid national identification card
The following are acceptable forms of secondary identification:
  • Valid employee ID
  • Valid military ID
  • Valid bank (ATM) card
The following ARE NOT acceptable forms of identification:
  • Social Security cards
  • Library cards

Not Abiding To Rules Equals Dismissal

If the test centre administrator feels you have broken one of the rules stated below they have the right to dismiss you from the examination.

  1. Using or attempting to use someone else to take the test.
  2. Failing to provide acceptable personal identification.
  3. Having access to, or using, notes or any prohibited aid related to the test.
  4. Creating a disturbance (disruptive behavior in any form will not be tolerated; the test administrator/supervisor has sole discretion in determining whether specific conduct constitutes disruptive behavior).
  5. Communicating, in any manner, with another person other than the test administrator/supervisor or proctor about the test during the administration, including attempting to give or receive assistance.
  6. Attempting to remove scrap paper from the testing room, or tearing the scrap paper.
  7. Eating or drinking in the testing room.
  8. Leaving the testing room or test center vicinity without permission.
  9. Removing or attempting to remove, examination related material, or portions of a test in any format from the testing room.
  10. Attempting to tamper with a computer.
  11. Engaging in any dishonest or unethical conduct, such as cheating.
  12. Failing to follow any other examination administration regulations set forth in PMI Certification Department policies given by the test administrator/supervisor, or specified in any examination materials. PMI’s Certification

This will be reported to the PMI who can cancel your exam scores, bar you from test centres. If your scores are cancelled your fee will not be refunded. For more information check out the official PMI Exam Scheduling Instructions.

Study Notes for Exam Day

When you attempt the PMP exam you will have an opportunity to take a tutorial which is 15 minutes long. Use this time to write up all formulas and study notes you have learned off. I wrote up 3 things which took 14 minutes….

  1. All formulas – It is a must to learn off the PMP formulas and at very least learn all the earned value management formulas. It is crucial to be able to read the CPI & SPI to determine if project behind/ahead of schedule or under/over budget. The easiest way to remember this is high is good and low is bad!
  2. Process Group Table – This can be time consuming to learn so depends on how much time you have available if it is reasonable for you to learn. I only referenced it maybe 5 times total in the exam to clarify next process or help figure out an input/output. I created a post on how I quickly learnt the process group table and so can you here.
  3. Team Building – Understand the different stages of team formation and Maslows Hierarchy of needs

PMP Study Guide FAQ

How much does the pmp certification cost?

PMP® certification cost is not the only thing you need to take into consideration when committing to PMP© certifiaction cost. The PMP© requires a lot of effort and should not be considered a quick and easy qualification.

What are the pmp certification requirements?

The pmp certification requirements are quiet extensive as it requires formal education and a number of years experience. Bachelor’s degree or global equivalent: Minimum three years/36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience with 4,500 hours spent leading and directing projects. High school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent: Minimum five years/60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience and 7,500 hours spent leading and directing projects.

Estimated Budget Required for PMP

Applying for the PMP© is free but you need to meet the requirements to apply. One of the requirements is having 35 contact hours of project management. I personally had completed a Computer Management Module in Bachelors Degree so didn’t have to attend any extra classes to qualify. If you haven’t any previous project management education this is going to cost you money. To sit the actual PMP© examination its costs $405 for PMI© Members and $555 for Non-Members. To repeat the exam it costs $275 for Members and $375 for Non-Members.

PMI Project Management Formal Education for PMP

You need to make sure the course you pick goes towards formal project management education that is reconsigned by the PMI®. It is well worth checking any previous training with the instructor to see if it qualifies. There is no expiry date or a restricted time frame to have completed education hours.

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