Preparing for the unknown on the PMP Exam

The PMP exam is a tough test of 4-hour stamina through 200 questions that challenge your understanding of industry standards through situational awareness and concept comprehension. The exam will even try to disrupt the tester with questions on concepts not in the PMBoK. The unexpected questions and events can throw some folks for a loop, but some simple preparation techniques can help you stay on track.

Read about other people’s lessons learned

People realize that help is needed for the test. When they receive help, often times they will give back after their exam by providing a “lessons learned” of what happened during their study for their exam and how the day of the exam went. My advice is to read their stories. Folks can give great advice on what study material worked best and for suggestions during the experience itself. It is kind of like getting help from a Consumer Reports article.

Find out about the “Extras”

Sometimes people might mention a little bit about the “extras” they saw in their lessons learned. What I mean is that there are questions on the PMP exam that are not in the PMBOK. The PMBOK is only a guideline that provides about 75% of the exam.  There are many ideas and philosophies that it does not cover. The test may cover some theorists from Six Sigma in regards to the quality knowledge area or some old scheduling techniques such as AOA and AON. A good PMP workshop would be excellent for picking up this kind of material. 


Get strategic and find out about the layout where the exam will be taken. Drive to the site within a week of taking the exam. On the day of the exam, plan to arrive at the testing center at least a half hour early and if you happen to be extra early then study in the car. You should be in the testing center within 15 minutes of the scheduled exam time. 

Come Prepared

On exam day, do not forget to bring government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license. Social security cards are not valid for identification. Also, bring the unique PMI identification code assigned and the confirmation notice for the exam.

Do a Brain Dump

After sitting down for the test, 15 minutes will be given for instructions on how to navigate through the exam. It will simulate through the buttons to go to the next button, the back button, the flag, etc. My advice would be to quickly skim to the last page before starting the exam and using the rest of your time to write down important material that could help for the test.I like to tell people to write down Table 3.2 and some EVM formulas.  Whatever is written is to serve a purpose that creates efficiency while taking the test.

Time and Question Management

Some test takers will finish with plenty of time, but some will not. Personally, I took the whole four hours to look at my test. My strategy was to look at the clock for every third of the way through. I wanted to be done with 60 questions every 80 minutes. I liked to give every answer my best shot the first time through and flag/mark only the questions I was most unsure of. There were some questions that were tricky (look for tricks in the test) and then there were some I felt multiple answers could have been correct. However, it was important for me to keep a pace and I did not take a bathroom break. In the end, there was enough time to revisit the answers I was unsure of.

As we have learned in the PMP, the events that we plan to take in the future are unknown risks because they have not happened yet. Taking things step by step and analyzing the scope of what lies ahead allows us to manage the present with a better purpose. Using the steps above to prepare for the unknown will help to set you up for success!  

Author - Gregory Morrow

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Gregorry Morrow