Jan 10

My PMP Study Plan & Materials

As indicated in my previous post, this post is meant to share my study plan and materials. I’ll also list a few tips that will help you overcome the examination.

PMI members can enjoy a free download of the PMBOK in pdf format! Alternatively, you can purchase the PMBOK book off the PMI website or request your training provider for one.


During the course: I read PMBOK cover to cover once and marked areas which I felt were important. I read about 2-3 chapters prior to each of the 5 training days of the PMP Exam preparatory course. As this was my first read of PMBOK which coincided with cricket matches, my attention was diverted. I didn’t mind this as my initial objective of PMBOK reading was simply to get a feel of what the chapters were trying to say and put that in context when the instructor delivered the subject. Needless to say, experienced professionals who have worked or have had visibility across all project management areas would have no difficulty in grasping the concepts quickly. You may find few areas of struggle perhaps due to minimal experience / exposure but do not worry; you’ll get over that hurdle.

I was fortunate to have worked across all project management areas which made majority portions of the PMBOK book easy to follow. I was introduced to few new terminologies and techniques that made it interesting and even worth contemplating in my present job. Many of you may find Earned Value Management (EVM) a tricky subject. This presentation titled Earned Value Management by Obsideo Training & Consultancy explains EVM in simplistic language with examples. I highly recommend going through their document if you aren’t familiar with this facet of Project Management. Needless to say, the concept of EVM is important from the exam’s perspective.


Note: You’ll hear comments that PMBOK is a boring read and that it will put to you sleep. Well, I can only say that if a person is focused & motivated – these things shouldn’t happen. PMBOK alone sufficed for me. Being a seasoned Project Manager, I didn’t find the need to read any other book. If you aren’t confident, then you may need to look for alternate sources. What are they? My reliable friends tell that Andy Crowe’s book is good due to its simple way of articulating PMBOK content (so, people who fall asleep reading PMBOK may want to contemplate this). Another recommended book is Rita’s exam preparation book.


After the course – Week 1: Immediately after the course, I did around 3 casual tests (200 questions each) via Rita’s PM FASTrack v6 and scored between 65% & 75%. PM FASTrack v6 is considered hard. As I had done these casually and had not done any preparation, getting these scores made me believe that the exam isn’t tough and that I needn’t require months of preparation. If you wondering what the passing mark for PMI is then let me surprise you – PMI doesn’t explicitly state one!


After the course – Week 2: I went through the PMP application process. Caution: This can wear you down. It is tad tedious. It can take longer than the actual examination time itself! Fortunately, you can stop midway and resume the application process. Make sure you have your resume next to you to assist you. Upon finishing and receiving the confirmation, I scheduled my exam for a date after 17 days.


After the course – Week 3: With my exam less than three weeks away, I now had to start my exam preparation. I used my weekend – two full days of dedicated preparation. I had all my meals in the study area. So yes, this was two full intense days of quality time on exam preparation. I used the weekend to do the following:

  • I prepared a spreadsheet listing all process groups, project management areas along with their individual inputs, outputs & tools techniques (ITTOs). Feel free to use this document; however I’d strongly suggest you do it yourself as it’s a way how you’ll remember these things as you proceed further.
  • I read PMBOK cover to cover with some attention this time. In parallel, I began documenting PMP study notes. All the areas that I had marked in the PMBOK book during the training course were now typed in my study notes. At this stage it looked like a cut down version of the PMBOK. Again, feel free to use this document – but I’d once again suggest you do it yourself as you’ll have a higher chance of grasping the concepts & recalling it when it matters.
  • I went over the presentation slides of my training provider and added bits of content that were not covered in my study notes.
  • Areas where I felt that I had difficulty understanding the concept or felt areas where PMBOK hasn’t elaborated much – I leaned to my trusted friend, Google, and updated my study plan notes.
  • After completion of the PMBOK, I managed to do sample questions from Initiation & Planning phases off Rita’s FASTrack v7 scoring over 75%.
  • Reflection: I was impressed that I was able to accomplish all of the above in two days while I thought it would take much longer. I rescheduled my PMP exam to an earlier date as I believed that I was ready and there was no point in prolonging it.


After the course – Week 4: We had a long weekend (courtesy public holiday). I once again used these three full days to my advantage. I am not listing my efforts spent during weekdays as they were negligible. I split my long weekend of three days into two sessions each, day and evening, making it a total of six sessions. In each session I did the following:

  • Went over my study notes thoroughly. As and when doubts surfaced, I went to my trusted friend again – i.e. Google
  • Sample Exam (full length 200 questions)
  • Reviewed me exam results.

3 days, six sessions equated to six sample exams. The exams were comfortably completed within 4 hours with scores generally between 70% and 90%. The exams that I attempted were:

Following a good night’s sleep, I reached the venue for the examination 20 minutes prior with the intent of skimming over the study notes for one last time!



  • If you are not used to attempting four hour long multiple choice question style of exams, then midway through the examination will bring about some form of fatigue in you. This will cause you to rush through the remaining questions. So, keep practicing until you overcome the fatigue factor. You need to achieve a state wherein you are relaxed & focused for the entire duration of the exam.
  • Try to do as many sample tests as you can, ideally from different sources. Keep to a minimum of 10 sample tests.
  • As you do your sample tests, it is extremely important to assess where you scored wrong and reflect those back into your study notes.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before your exam
  • Know the ITTOs for each of the 42 processes. I used this resource which helped to some extent – http://pmzilla.com/memorizing-inputs-tools-and-outputs-pmp. People may say that memorization isn’t critical. Subjective comment, but as you do more and more sample exams – you’ll get an idea on which ITTOs to focus on.
  • The examination may have multiple questions having the same answer. This may influence you to doubt your previous answers, so know your content well and be confident.
  • Don’t give up once you are faced with difficult or tricky questions up front. This only means that the remaining three quarters is going to be easy. So, don’t get bogged down. Remember – you have to be relaxed and focused throughout the exam duration!
  • Feel free to mark numerical questions for second review at the end of the exam as they are easy scoring opportunities.
  • After reading the question once, make sure you read it once again to look for words that we can easily miss in our first read such as “is not” / “cannot” / etc… as these missed words could change the answers easily. Again, you need to do these for all 200 questions, so remain focused and alert for the entire exam duration.
  • In addition to the previous point, read the question again with the intent of identifying if the requested answer is an input, output, tool technique or process. The question could be worded in a way to trick us into choosing the wrong answer. So, relax yourself – read the question carefully with the intent of finding what answer is being requested.
  • Feel free to note down the formulae and/or your weak area processes with their ITTOs in the paper that the center provides. This would help you should you get bogged down midway with certain questions.
  • Make sure you are comfortable and confident with most parts of the project management areas, if not all.
  • Don’t be dejected if your scoring pattern lowers from test to test. As long as you are consistently over 65% and confident of the PMBOK content, you should do well to clear in your first attempt.


Summary: Following the mandatory 35 hours of formal Project Management training, I cleared the PMP exam over five days of exam preparation. Hopefully this will motivate those who think that this takes a lot of time or that it is too difficult. The study material attached above shouldn’t be seen as a winning formula for everyone to pass. You will come across individuals who have taken over 8 months to prepare and also people who have taken few weeks or even days. This shouldn’t be always seen as a measure of preparation time as individuals could have been occupied with other things. It depends on your confidence, ability, experience & grasping levels. If you are ready, just go for it!


To end this post, the “study approach” listed above is not rocket science and can easily be applied to other certifications / initiatives. Hope this post helps aspiring individuals to achieve excellence in whatever they strive for. Feel free to contact me if I can assist you any further and good luck!


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  1. Michael Reddy

    Hi Noaman,
    I have read the above with lots of interest and it mostly reflects what all I did to pass my PMP. All my notes for EVM, inputs, outputs & tools techniques and others were hand written and I would read it while in bed. Sometimes I would wake up and start reading again.
    Anyway, I have learned alot from this PMP study and hope to find a PM role soon whereby I could practice what I have learned.
    Well done mate
    My regards
    Michael Reddy PMP

    1. Noted with thanks

      Good luck with your future endeavors!

  2. Rafi

    Very good article on aspiring PMP guys. You rock!

    1. Thanks mate

  3. Roshan

    Thanks a lot for posting. I have been re-reading your post when motivation ebbs. thanks again.

    1. Keep it up and good luck!!

  4. Emad Zbeidi

    Very well written, great motivation cause I needed one.

    1. Keep it up and good luck!

  5. Sanooj Kutty

    I would have fared better with my CGEIT if I had been as meticulous as you. As it stands a single cover to cover read and a few question dumps and i took the plunge.
    Luck favored the brave and i cleared through :)

    Not my fault, u didn’t put up this post earlier, mate. Good on ya!

  6. Sastry

    hi i am working on pmp and mostly good on the pmbok.. is it enough only with the pmbok book ?? my friends are suggesting i should read rita book as well.. i am scoring about 65-75 in practice tests.. i did most of the online practice tests.. already

    1. Hi Sastry,
      At the outset, all the best for your PMP preparations!

      I managed to clear the exams using the PMBOK book alone. You should be able to clear the exams too, provided you are confident of the content and have a good understanding across all knowledge areas. If you feel that you are weak in certain areas, you may want to consider additional resources such as Andy Crowe and/or Rita.
      I simply used Google search results for areas where I wanted to validate my understanding on certain concepts. It did the job for me. Moreover I was getting extremely confident with each passing day, therefore didn’t find the need to refer additional resources such as Rita.

      Regarding scoring 65-75 in online practice tests, I’d recommend trying to aim for an average score of 75. I know people who were averaging 60 clearing the exams and also people who have failed with averages of 70. It boils down to how well you can cope up with a silent timed environment to go over the questions. In short, keep a higher target and don’t burn yourself out on the night before the exam!

      All the best

  7. Abdullah Al-Haqbani

    Thanks man!
    It was really a relief to find that the PMP test is passable with this simply yet focused methodology. Because honestly I was shocked that people took 6 months+ to prepare for the exam!

    So thanks again for the tips and resources..

  8. Sharada

    awesome study notes. I have my exam in a couple of days and all i read was the Rita book. I was getting tensed thinking i was missing out on some concepts by not reading the PMBOK book. Your notes saved me. Hopefully, i will clear the exam.. Thank You so much Noaman!

  9. Q

    Is it possible to understand PMP course and attempt the exam without having much project mgmt work experience?

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hello Q,
      You would need to demonstrate the required number hours of effort for any project management areas. You don’t need to have worked as a “Project Manager”. You may have worked as a Test Engineer, Quality Officer, Purchase Officer, and so on… As long as you are able to relate the required number of hours to the specific project management areas – that should suffice.
      All the best!

  10. Vinod Das

    Thanks Man!!!
    Your article is life savior. I completed my PMP Exam Preparation Workshop 4 weeks ago. Unfortunately I fall sick due to high fever after 2 weeks of my training, so I ultimately lost 4 weeks by now. Was quite worried, as I know I have forgotten a lot of things and new terms those I read during training. Also was highly confused which books & resources I should refer for preparation. Thanks for your article which concludes that reading PMBOK itself can actually win the race. However, I have been referring to Head first PMP book which I found friendlier in understanding the concept with usage of pictures and diagrams, but will use PMBOK as main source of my study plan. Hopefully, I shall be able to appear for examination post 6 weeks from now.

    Thanks again…!! You Rock!!

  11. Manoj

    Hello Noaman,

    I cleared my PMP a few hours ago :) (PMP ID: 8870000000890814) and could not delay writing a word of gratitude to you. You have been a real source of inspiration behind my preparation and your ‘Smart notes’ is the most helpful!!

    I just want to share my experience here with you and to others who will benefit from this (no offense to the wise and of course the less meticulous and who still can pass…)

    I am based in Doha, Qatar. I took my PMP boot camp from PMI-AGC session conducted in Doha, Qatar in Feb, 2012. For various reasons, I could not appear for the exam earlier though I managed to secure the PMI approvals last March, 2012 itself. Early in January 2013, I received an email from PMI stating the nearing expiry date of my testing period and since I had already paid the fees, I started investigating options to prepare and for appearing for the exams. And then, I came across your blog – I downloaded your notes and got the links to a PMP prep folder. And here is how you inspired me first – that I just booked a date (which is today) without any other thought. It took me a few days to realize the commitment I was taking. Unlike your circumstance, where you could plan a weekend fully dedicated to studies, I have a curious 2 year old son who takes a lot of my free time. But I stuck to my plans. And it took me around 3 weeks to complete my primary read – which was Rita’s PMP guide. It was refreshing the way the book is written. But I wanted to really know how I was faring, since the exams at end of Rita’s book were not too promising for me in terms of what I was scoring.

    So on the Thursday before last, I got a full exam simulator from Certgear (Certgear Exam simulation). They were very helpful as well, since they gave me the proper feel of an exam, rather than trying the questionnaires from a .pdf or a printed document. And then on, I tried a few questions a day (around 50). And I kept reading your notes which easily showed me the ITTO (they are so important in the exam and you cannot get these from your Rita reading in the same way it is detailed and organized in the PMBOK 4th edition). The tests from Certgear showed me my knowledge deficiency in ITTOs and then I referred to the PMBOK the first time during this whole attempt! I kept making the same mistakes and forgetting the iTTOs, and felt really disappointed during these exams. But I just kept going with the test and reviewing the answers.

    Today, I went in after a full work week and an hour before the exam and I carried the notes you posted for my last minute review 😉 Thanks again! The exam wasn’t easy, and I did not feel reassured until I saw the Congratulations on the screen. Yes, its a really stressful and time taking paper but I am very happy I got through.

    So, thank you very much Noaman – salut! I hope you are source of inspiration to many others and wish all the aspirants visiting the blog good luck on the endeavour.


    1. Noaman Sayed

      Dear Manoj,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences and kind words. Much appreciated.

      Kind regards,

  12. Tejas Kulkarni

    Hello Noaman,

    First of all thanks for writing up your LL and giving the exam link.
    It gives me great pleasure to inform that today I have cleared PMP.
    This is my 2nd attempt, I attempted it in March 2010, but failed and today after 3 years I again appeared and clear it!
    I am specifying my failure to inspire other who did not clear it in first attempt.
    I have only read the PMBOK and one thing I write-up many things on my PMBOK copy like ans or extra info (from other sources) related it the topics, in fact many ans are like complete line in PMBOK. This help me to remember the things related to Ans. Also one imp thing that it will remove the dryness of PMBOK.


  13. Ken Guedo


    What an excellent site!!

    For all who are aspiring to taking the PMP exam, this site is very very helpful.

    I too failed this exam the first time due to work commitments and not taking it serious enough. The directions and advice you provided to others on your site were very very beneficial with my taking a different approach this second time. Follow the advice given here!!

    I made an unfortunate mistake of taking the Super PMP exam from Fast Track the DAY BEFORE the exam, not such a good idea!! :) But I received a score of 63%, I was so discouraged until I realized that it was the 200 most difficult questions they had, once I realized that I was very happy.

    Took the exam today and for about 20 minutes was a little nervous, but realized that all the preparation made this exam so much easier. Tense moments waiting for the result but I was so happy to see Pass.

    To all those who are aspiring to take this exam, take Noaman’s advice and follow his recommended approach.

    Thanks again for your helpful information.


  14. Suman

    I had taken my PMP 35 hrs training 5 months back. Do u suggest I take the training again? Due to some reason was not able to take the test then.

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hello Suman,

      From a requirement on applying for the test you are safe – ie. you do not need to take 35 hours of formal training again. However, if you feel that you rusty with PMP study content – you would have to devote a study schedule either via self study or via another formal training program.

      You would be the best person to judge based on your competence and your study style if you fare better via self study or formal training sessions.

      All the best!

  15. Vivek

    This is a wonderful post indeed. I have my exam scheduled in a couple of weeks. I’ve actually been studying off and on for the past 6 months but couldn’t do anything in the last 2. Considering I have some preparation I think your approach of focused study will help me get through.

    1 question – Does it make more sense to learn 1 process group at a time than 1 knowledge area at a time. I don’t understand why all books are going with the knowledge area approach.

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hi Vivek,

      Thank you for your kind words and wish you the best in clearing the exam!

      There is no right or wrong in regards to the learning approach – ie. knowledge area vs process group.
      It is subjective and dependent on the author / tutor’s strength in articulating the content. This needless to say reflects onto few students who think that one approach might be better than the other. But in reality, both can be used to its strength in learning the matter correctly.

      Good luck again!

  16. Naveed

    I have been searching the guide lines as “how to” & “from where to” start my PMP study. I came across with your webpage and my God what a helpful article you have posted for all those like me.

    Zinda Baad,


  17. saba

    Fabulous website! Keep up the great work! :)

  18. nancy

    which would be a reputed PMP training provider?

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hi Nancy,
      There are several reputed training providers all around the world (classroom based as well as online ones). It really depends on your individual participation and commitment to learn consistently & continually over the period of training until you clear the exams!
      All the best,

  19. Eman


    Thanks a lot for the valuable information. I’m currently preparing for my PMP exam. I have taken the course and read PMBOK Ed5 & Rita’s. I have taken my first mock-up exam today and scored 70%. I plane to set my exam on November 17th, 2013. Do you think its achievable? Would you please recommend sources of Mock-up exams that have the same – or even more – difficulty level as the real test.

    Is there anything that you can advise that can help me pass my exam in 2 weeks from now. I’m a bit stressed out. The reason why I need to finish it quickly is that I’m travelling for a month and I dont want to waste all the effort spent in the last 1.5 months on this matter.

    Thanks a lot,

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hi Eman,

      At the outset, congratulations on getting 70% in your first mock-up exam. Yes, with ongoing and continual commitment – I sincerely feel that you should easily clear your exam if scheduled for November 17th. You have to feel confident in your abilities.

      I had posted a number of mock-up exams that I had attempted during my exam preparation – that should be a good start for you.

      In regards to the difficulty level, they are very subjective. It is nice to get a good blend of easy and difficult exams. I don’t think any mock-exam can be realistically compared to the real exam. I personally feel the questions are all similar, but it is the mental preparation to remain focused and undisturbed during the real exam that would keep you in good stand to remember the ITTOs (which form a good chunk of the questions).

      As you are two weeks away, I would recommend you to follow a similar regime to the ones I have posted in my website. Make your own short hand notes. Attempt at least one mock exam every alternate day (at a minimum). And spend time after the exam in learning where you went wrong and update your short hand notes to reflect areas where you felt weak during the mock-up exam. Continue this process until the day of the exam!

      Good luck again and go for it. We will be waiting to hear good news on November 17!

  20. Ashok

    Thanks Noaman

  21. Edward Chung, PMP

    Thanks a lot Noaman for your sharing. I passed my PMP recently. Here is my sharing on the PMP journey. Hope this would be useful to your readers.

  22. Ed Jobs, PMP

    Thanks a lot for your detailed description of your PMP exam study! Your sharing helps PMP aspirants a lot! I would like also to share this article: 100+ Tips on PMI PMP Certification Training & Study by 100+ Recent PMPs which may be of use to other would-be PMPs visiting your blog.

  23. Obi Oduche

    PMstudy recently launched their new PMP online courses (with Videos on all chapters of PMBOK). It is awesome. I’ve my exam on Feb 22 and I have a one month gold plan costing $199 only. It gives me 40 contact hours as well along with 4 full length simulated practice tests and videos.

    Please check it out at http://www.pmstudy.com/enroll.asp

  24. Phillis

    These are really fantastic ideas in regarding blogging. You have touched some good factors here.
    Any way keep up wrinting.

  25. Ubaid

    Dear Noman !! i hope u will be doing well , I have done bachelors in Textiles and Masters in Project Management !! i have around 3 years of experience in textile operations not related to projects (realistic ), i didn’t find any opportunity in job related to Projects, but i am still searching.
    I have a good know how of project management but theoretical, Currently i planning for PMP exam jan or feb 2015
    i am little bit confused either practical life exam is essential for PMP exam score or not ???
    PMP exam related to practical life experience in project management effect your score ??

    I have scored in mock test 64% without studying PMbok or rita after masters In project management back in 2013

  26. Mr. Mak S

    Very informative. I need my PMP certification. Thanks for taking the time to help others understand a possible route to take for the PMP

  27. Nabila

    Hi Noman,

    I wanted to apply for pmp exam in coming april 2016. Can i have your notes please.

    I am on my sabatical , so very juch not in touch with studies, thought your notes will help me. Please reply.


    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hello Nabila,

      All my notes can be found on the website. Kindly go over all posts under Project Management and you shall find lots of documentation to assist you.

      Good luck,

  28. Syed Quadri

    Dear Noaman
    What is the PMP materials you have other than this which is the pdf format. Your website is helpful for those who are preparing for the PMP certification examination.



    1. Noaman Sayed

      Dear Syed,

      All the PMP materials that I had used have been posted on this blog (with the exception of PMBOK).

      Good luck!

  29. sripath

    Thanks a lot for posting the study material Noaman, it is helping me a lot in my preparation. i got inspiration from you that you were able to complete in such a short time

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Your welcome Sripath. Wish you all the best!

  30. Joseph Moore

    Thanks for sharing the ideas of PMP and the ways of your preparation for the exam. The Project Management Professional (PMP)® is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers.If you become PMP certified it would add a lot of value to your career.

  31. Michael Davis

    A very useful and important article.The plan for the study material for pmp certification is good. The ideas you shared about your journey is effective and it will definietly help others to become PMP certified. Project Managers have a lot of responsibility on how to deal with the existing project and deal with new projects .They need to plan, to execute, to measure, to evaluate, to communicate.

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Thank you Michael!

  32. Daniel Adam

    Hello, Its quite informative article. Thanks for sharing.Key project management responsibilities include creating clear and attainable project objectives, building the project requirements, and managing the constraints of the project management triangle, which are cost, time, scope, and quality.

    1. Noaman Sayed

      Thank you Daniel.

  33. Sunny


    Thank you for the tips on how to tackle the exam. Having read all of the other comments, it is reassuring to hear the successes everyone has experienced in passing. This will be my 2nd attempt due to not taking the exam seriously my 1st time around.

    The first time I attempted the exam was prior to January 2016 (old exam/content format). Now I will be attempting the new version.

    Q1: Do you have any tips on the new content and how much of change it should be on the studying? I hear 25% of the content has changed. However, I do not see a major difference in the hardcopy 5th Ed. of the text book compared to the soft copy found on PMI.
    Q2: Do you happen to have a study template (excel) in which you could share with me and others?



    1. Noaman Sayed

      Hi Sunny,

      Thank you for your message.

      1. To be honest, I haven’t gone through the changes between the said edition changes. I don’t think edition change would result in such a massive change that would result in failure for a candidate that had learnt the previous edition (assuming the candidate is an experienced PM). That said, there is no harm in going over online posts to see changes that people have highlighted.
      2. The excel chart is already present on the post. Kindly check the first bullet point under Week 3 for the excel file and second bullet point for the Word document.

      Thanks & good luck!

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