Top PMP Study Guide

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

If you require PDUs or looking for extensive training we recommend our partner PMTraining.

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


PMP® exam is a Project Management Professional certification by the Project Management Institute (PMI®). PMP® is globally recognised with members in 193 countries. Having a PMP® demonstrates the experience, education, and ability to lead and direct successful projects. Most project manager positions in top companies require PMP® qualification and if not it is seen as a distinct advantage to have the qualification. All information regarding PMP® can be found here in the PMP© Certification Explained article.

"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....

  • Which Resources to Purchase
  • Which Materials to Learn
  • How to Test Yourself
  • Having a Exam Day Plan (100% one of the most important things when comes to passing)
  • Credibility: The Project Management Institute (PMI®) was founded in 1969 and since the 1980's have been making efforts to standardise project management procedures and approaches. You can see the amount of PMI® credential holders in the below table.
  • Competitive Advantage: PMP® certification holders will have a distinct advantage over other project managers in the work place not only in knowledge but also salary. Check out the latest project management salary survey from 2015.
PMI Credential Holders

pmp application overview for studying

  • PMP Requirements
  • Avoiding PMP Audit
  • PMP Cost
  • Booking PMP

Acquiring PMP Process

  1. Signup to Project Management Institute (PMI). You can become a member which will save you $140 for the exam and give you a discount if you need to repeat. You do not have to be a member to take the exam.
  2. Complete 35 hours of formal project management training.
  3. Submit your pmp application outlining you'r work experience and education.
  4. If approved book exam with Prometric.
  5. If not approved you will be subject to an audit.
  6. Take & Pass the PMP exam

Firstly you should know by now but to make sure you know what to expect. There is a total of 200 questions with only 175 being counted towards the actual mark the other 25 are PMI review questions. The PMI uses the 25 review questions to test new questions to see responses from test takers. You will not be able to distinguish the difference between real and review questions in the exam so it is best to practice full length exams of 200 questions.

PMP test Breakdown for PMP studying

PMBOK® Guide

The PMBOK® Guide itself is process-based, meaning it describes how to complete project management using tasks. The processes in PMBOK® guide, overlap and interact throughout the project life cycle. Processes are presented in terms of…

  • Inputs (documents, plans, designs etc)
  • Tools and Techniques (methods to accomplish activities)
  • Outputs (documents, plans designs etc)

The PMBOK® Guide also provides information on the PMI® Code of Professional Conduct which is also tested ion the exam.

Knowledge Areas

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Time Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Human Resources
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholders Management

Process Groups (% Question in Exam)

  1. Initiating (13%)
  2. Planning (24%)
  3. Executing (30%
  4. Monitoring & Controlling (25%)
  5. Closing (8%)

Below I have broken down all the different terms and definitions you should understand per process group.


Having the correct PMP® study guide is essential. I made the costly mistake of only reading the PMBOK® Guide 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.

pmp recommended resources for studying

The Project Management Professional (PMP®) is a lot to take on by yourself so it is advised to sign-up to professional training to help you pass the exam. As noted above it is not sufficient to just read the PMBOK® Guide as it is just a reference guide. You also need other resources to complete your preparation. Most resources prepare applicants by match their content as the chapters in the PMBOK® Guide and provide questions related to the exam. The two books I highly recommend which both include full-length practice exams with detailed explanations…..

If you are completely new to studying project management I recommend Head First PMP but if you are familiar with the knowledge areas and process groups Andy Crowe’s will be a perfect fit. Head First should be seen more as a beginners book and Andy Crowe’s more advanced but they both compliment each other. Head First PMP gives a brilliant introduction using real examples and Andy Crowe’s is more similar to the PMBOK but easier to digest and more focused on helping you passing the exam.

Rita Mulcahy was given to me by a student one day when I was teaching PMP and I was quiet impressed by it. Originally I read it was very techy but didn't seem like that at all. After reading it I would rank it alongside Andy Crowes book. If you buy with Amazon you get bonus study material though.

PMP Study Plan

1. Read through one book mentioned above.

2. Take the adjoining exam at the back of the book.

3. Keep these results for the night before the exam.

    (I used Andy Crowes as it was the best sample exam I had available)

4. Read through the below lists of process groups and ensure you are familiar with each term and concept.

5. Set out a daily routine of creating the process group map & formulas including Earned Value Management.

6. Schedule time to take other tests online and record scores. Make list of any terms/concepts you get incorrect.

7. Repeat till you have done all exams. Aim to be getting 70%+ in each.

8. Night before take exam you took in step 1.

9. Relax and make sure to follow the exam day plan. Take your breaks it gives brain chance to regroup.

5 PMP Process Groups

PMP Initiation Process Group

PMP Planning Process Group

PMP Executing Process Group

PMP Monitoring and Controlling

PMP Closing Process Group

In-depth PMP Blog Posts

Important PMP Terms & Concepts
Learning PMP Terms & Concepts There are loads of terms and concepts to learn when it comes to project management[...]
Learning 47 PMP Processes
Simple Way of Learning 47 PMP Processes Learning the 47 process groups can be pretty intimidating at first but once[...]
PMP Project Management Plan
In the process "Project Management Plan" formal definition is.... "A formal, approved document that defines how the project is managed,[...]
Earned Value Management Formulas
Earned Value Management Formulas > Earned Value > Planned Value > Schedule Variance > Cost Variance > Schedule Performance Index[...]
PMP Formulas
The PMP© Examination has a lot of formula questions which can be relatively easy if you know all the PMP[...]

1000 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. (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.

Passionate Project Management (15Q, 50Q & 100Q)

Personally didn’t like the way questions divided into 3 sections and never completed the exams.

PMPFor Sure (100Q)

Really close to the actual PMP exam besides some obvious grammar mistakes. Really beneficial and should be a must for any PMP taker. You do need to register to take the exam though.

Prepare PM (75Q)

Not exactly like the exam format but hard questions which you will have to rely on your knowledge more than knowing how to answer PMP questions.


  • Exam Day Plan
  • Exam Day Rules
  • Study Notes
  • PMP Exam Tips

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.

PMP Renewal Process

You have 3 years before your PMP® certification expires. Within these 3 years you need to accumulate 60 professional development units (PDUs). If you have not accumulated the 60 PDUs you cannot renew your certification. If you have not accumulated the PDUs and renewed within 3 years your credential will be suspended. You will then have one year before you credential expires completely.

A PMP PDU is a personal development unit collected by project management professionals. PMPs need to collect PDUs to renew their certification. One PDU is earned per one hour spent in structured learning activity. Originally the purpose of PDUs was to keep PMPs up to date on latest project management methodologies and standards. Now as of of 1st December 2015 they are more aligned with employer-identified skills to ensure PMP designation holders are equipped to remain relevant and competitive by developing these employer demanded skills.

The new changes put priority on specifically Education PDUs which now are based around the PMI Talent Triangle. The Talent Triangle consists of three knowledge areas Technical, Leadership and Strategic/Business skills of PMI project managers. For more information on the PMI Talent Triangle click here.

These 3 skill areas make up the PMI talent triangle which Education PDUs need to work towards improving in project managers. This is completed by ensuring Project Managers have a minimum of 8 hours of education in each area. Project Managers can complete the remaining 11 hours in any area they choose and there is no maximum for education PDUs accumulated.

pmi talent triangle for pmp renewal

A PDU is defined by the PMI as a measuring unit for structural learning in Project Management. One PDU is earned per one hour spent in structured learning activity. There are 6 categories of PDUs broken into 2 categories.

pmi talent triangle for pmp renewal

Education PDU Categories

  • PMI R.E.P.s
  • Continuing Education
  • Self-Directed Learning

Category A: Activities offered by PMI R.E.P.s, chapters, or communities

PDU Explanation: You have 3 options to earn Category A PDUs…

  1. Earn PDUs by attending educational courses offered by PMI’s Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s).
  2. Earn PDUs by attending events offered by the PMI such as seminars and conferences.
  3. Earn PDUs by taking a PMI Publication Quiz (70% minimum result)

PDU Example: R.E.P.s include schools, consultants, corporate training departments, professional associations, government agencies and PMI chapters. View the searchable database of R.E.P.s and the courses they offer online

PDU Rule: 1 hour of instruction related to project management, project risk, project scheduling, or program management equals 1 PDU. You can report PDUs in 0.25, 0.50 and 0.75 increments

Audit Requirements: Registration form, certificate or letter of attendance

Giving Back to the Profession PDU Categories

  • new pM knowledge
  • Volunteer Service
  • Working as a PM

Category F: Working as a Professional in Project Management

PDU Explanation: You can earn PDUs for working as a project manager.

PDU Example: Self-explanatory.

PDU Rule: You may claim 8PDUs per 3 year cycle.

Audit Requirements: Proof of employment

When Can I Start Earning PDUs?

You can immediately log on to your PMI account and click “renew” to begin your PMP / PMI-ACP re-certification process. The process is in fact quite a simple one in which you are asked to check your information, agree to the terms and conditions and pay the required re-certification fee of US$60 for a PMI member and $150 for a non-member. Then you will have your certification extended for 3 years from the original expiry date of your certification. For example if your new PMP certificate expires on July 2019 and you complete the all the required PDUs in 2017 you will have until July 2022 to complete another 60 PDUs to renew again.

Submitting PDUs

You have two options for submitting a PDU claim you can either do it online or download the PDU activity reporting from (PDF) to complete and submit to PMI electronically. Step by step instructions provided by PMI here!


For a small number of randomly selected cases, PMI may request for an audit to verify the information provided during PDU requests. So it is important to retain the evidence of PDU qualifying events. Also PDUs can be submitted up to the end of next calendar year after the completion of three year CCR cycle in which the PDU accruing event occurred.

It is highly recommend record all audit requirements as you earn PDUs just as a precaution to getting audited. All requirements are highlighted above under each category decomposition in the PDU category article here.

Did This Article Help You?

If So Please Comment & Share, Thanks!