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Episode 463: Ten Steps to Passing Your PMP Exam (Free)

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In this episode, we explore Cornelius Fichtner's recommended Ten Steps to Pass Your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam.

When Cornelius Fichtner prepared for his PMP exam he was frustrated with the outdated, incorrect and often contradictory recommendations people give to help candidates prepare for and pass their PMP exam. And so, to help you avoid this frustration, he created this easy to follow, ten-step approach to preparing for and passing your PMP exam.

The steps are:

  1. Get Handbook
  2. Create Plan
  3. Sign up
  4. Apply
  5. Get Guide
  6. Get Training
  7. Get Simulator
  8. Study Hard
  9. Practice Exam
  10. Take Exam

There is even an 11th step, which he introduces at the end of the discussion, to help you with the certification renewal three years after you successfully obtained your certificate.

Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam: PMP Exam prep
PMP Exam Simulator

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Video Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we explore the ten steps you need to take so you can pass you Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam. Hello and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at This is the live stream for Episode #463 and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. How nice of you for joining us today.

Our focus today is on helping you pass the PMP® Exam: Ten Steps to Becoming a Project Management Professional. That is what we want to take a look at today. And for those of you who don’t yet know, I am quite qualified, if you’ll allow me to say so myself, to talk about this topic because I have been a project management professional trainer since about 2007, 2008. And my tools, the PrepCast™, the Exam Simulator, they have helped over 50,000 people to prepare for their PMP® Exam. I’m not saying they passed their PMP® Exam, but we’ve had over 50,000 students use these two tools in order to get ready for the exam.

Video Presentation

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Hello, everybody! Nice that you could make it today. So what are going to take a look at today? Here are the learning objectives of what we’re going to be doing today.

First of all, by the end of this particular live stream, by the end of this episode, you will be able to list the recommended steps in preparing for the PMP® Exam. That's really the main focus that these 10 steps that I have for you. And you will also be able to describe the key to success. In about three to four minutes from now, you'll already be able to describe that key to success, because we're going to look at that very quickly as part of the opening here of this episode.

So here's the agenda: Introduction, really briefly, okay. Then the key to success takeaway there, the important bit. Then we're going to go through those 10 steps: Steps one to 10. And then I'm also going to go back to the key to success. So we're going to talk about how to actually implement and apply the key to success.

We are going to have a few freebies as well at the end. Plus I have a number of 2021 lessons learned that I have already built into this presentation here. I read a lot of lessons learned at the moment. The exam changed at the beginning of the year. So I've taken some of these lessons learned and included them here into this presentation, but not too many. Oh, I see there is a mistake on this particular slide here because I don't just have 10 steps to becoming a PMP. I actually have 11 steps for you there. Okay. Yeah, with that out of the way, let me get started with what the title here suggests.

To get us started, I need to tell you that the reason why I created this webinar here originally is because I was really frustrated. Back when I took the exam, much of the advice that I received was either very vague, contradicting, or just, just flat out wrong. So when I became a PMP trainer, I decided that I wanted to do something about that so that you and my students didn't have to feel this frustration as well.

And that is why, instead of frustration, I want to give you a roadmap. So I developed the 10 steps that we are going to be taking a look at in just a moment. Here they are as an overview. And as you can see, they are each an action item that you can really check off one by one, as you are getting ready and preparing for your PMP® Exam. Oh and talking about checking things off, please don't worry about taking any notes during the webinar here today, because I have everything for you in a PDF handout. And I'll tell you how to download that hand out me near the end. Okay.

And now, before we get into the promised 10 steps, here is the number one insight I'd like you to take away from this webinar, okay? And that's this one here. I call this the key to success on your PMP® Exam. And here it is: In addition to studying the materials that you need to know for the exam, you have to practice and apply your new knowledge to PMP® Exam sample questions. And this is the important bit, not just any sample questions they have to be professionally developed and they have to be based on the most current exam specifications. And that is because if you just use any and all free resources that you can find on the internet, well, that's perfectly fine, alright? I mean, you all want to save some money, right? But you can never be quite sure if they're actually helping you for the upcoming exam, because let me tell you the exam changed quite significantly in 2021.So the change over from December to January, there is a significant difference, okay?

So please, if you take just one thing away, this here is it: You need professionally-developed PMP® Exam sample questions. And yes throughout the webinar, also at the end, I'm going to talk more about questions and simulators and give you tips where to find these type of questions as well. And let me be absolutely clear. Okay. Yes. I have an exam simulator, but so does Dan Ryan, Andy Crowe, Rita Mulcahy, PM Training. Every good training provider out there will have an exam simulator that you can use and buy. In my webinar, I'm obviously going to focus primarily on mine, but if you don't want to buy mine, that's perfectly okay. But do yourself a favor and get an exam simulator. Get professionally-developed exam sample questions. They will really make a difference between passing the exam and not passing the exam.

One of the main reasons why you want an exam simulator is this here: PMI not only changed the content of the exam. They also changed the type of exams. This is one of the lessons learned that I promised we would have here. These are three separate lessons learned from three people. There were several drag-and-drop questions. One person said he had to click on the diagram questions. That's a point-and-click question and questions where you have to choose two to three multiples, okay? So this is also a functional change on the PMP® Exam. In the past, you had a question, four answers, A,B,C,D, select the best one, move on, right? But now it's, here are seven answers, select three that are correct. Or here is a drag and drop, put this process in the right order or click on this diagram where most money is being spent, okay? You cannot test that if you do not have an online exam simulator, if you're just doing this on paper. Okay!

Step 1: Download the PMP® Handbook. PMI has published a PMP credentials handbook. I call it simply the handbook. You can download this from their website. And of course the link to this will be in the PDF document that you can download at the end. This handbook explains everything that you want to know about the process of taking the PMP® Exam to become a PMI certified project manager. Reading the handbook takes about 20 minutes, okay? And this should be the first 20 minutes of your journey to becoming a certified PMP. And the handbook will answer most of the questions that you are going to have in regards to the exam. And Praveen, you are welcome for this live session. I'm happy to help people get ready for the PMP® Exam. Okay!

So in the handbook, in particular, the handbook includes the eligibility requirements that you are going to have to fulfill. And yeah, that's really the number one thing, right, when you open up the handbook, look at the eligibility requirement. Make sure that you are eligible to actually take the exam because if you're not, well, that's going to be a problem if you are starting already. You'll see in the handbook, you have to meet a number of minimum requirements in regards to general education, your experience as a project manager, and you also need those coveted 35 contact hours, training hours towards being eligible to take the exam.

Well, what about if you don't have these training hours? PMI calls these contact hours there. You need those. The good news here is they never expire. So if you took in college, maybe a project management course, those contact hours, that training still qualifies as long as you can still prove that you've taken that training, okay? So you don't necessarily have to take a PMP® Exam prep course. It simply has to be training that relates to the domains on the PMP® Exam. So people, process and business environment, that should be your primary focus there. It can also relate to the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition to the knowledge areas that you have in there. So that's one of the big items that you need to have.

But what if you're not? What if you look at the handbook and you go: “Oh my, I don't meet these requirements.”? Well, don't worry about it. Start working towards that goal. Don't say: “I'm not eligible.” Say: “Oh, I'm not eligible yet. What do I have to do?” One thing you can do always is take the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® Exam. That is the Certified Associate in Project Management. That only requires you to have the training hours, but you don't need to meet any other requirements at this time in regards to experience that you have, okay? So that's it for our step one, make sure that you're eligible. If not, it's not that I'm, you're not eligible. You're not eligible yet. You can work towards that goal.

Alright! Step 2: You want to create your PMP study plan. Okay! And here are some ideas of what you should include in the plan, your overall objective. Why am I taking this exam? Make it clear to yourself that you understand why you're doing this. Are you doing this just so you have another three letters behind your name? Or you know, maybe your boss requires, your company requires that you are PMP® certified, right? Or you think this is a good career move.

Put your study schedule, your study objectives in there. Include weekly goals, right? In week one, I want to do this. In week two, I want to do that, and so on. Build a study plan. There are many study plan templates out there and in that way, you can move forward. Okay, and have a plan to get you going.

Do set realistic goals. Do what's right for you. Don't overbook yourself. See what worked for others, right? That's really a great way of doing it. Like I said, there are many templates out there in regards to what needs to go on the exam.

A long comment has just come in here from Kathy Kitchen about not being able to prep, not being able to pass the exam a few days ago. I’m very sorry to hear that, Kathy. Must be increasingly frustrating. “The proctor said that I appeared off camera as I sat down in my seat.” Yes, I can imagine that it must be frustrating to no end. Okay. The good news is, wait, you can write the exam as if for the first time, but that that's a good thing. Look at it in this sense, Kathy. You now have a practice run, unfortunately, a failed practice run, but it doesn't count against you, right? You still have three attempts to do it. And I'm pretty sure, you know, in the next one, you know what to do. This is actually one of the recommendations that I have later on as well. Know what to do for the exam when you take it at home. In that sense and in that vein, I do have two webinars that I want to recommend here, okay?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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