Earn Your PMI-SP®, Part 3: What You Need to Study

In my journey to conquer the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Scheduling Professional PMI-SP® exam, the first thing I did was search on both Google and Microsoft Bing for preparation guides. Amazingly, I came up empty handed. The only study materials I found were books from PMI. In the hopes of finding someone else who had passed the exam, I posted “looking for study buddies” on my Western Michigan’s PMI® chapter forum site. As it turned out, several people wanted to know more about the exam, so I initiated an email study group. I also added a few people whom I had run across at the last PMI® conference.

After months of searching for anyone who had taken the test before, I received responses from a few people who had tackled the beta version of the exam. Their suggestions were to study the PMBOK Guide, which turned out to be an excellent tip. I had a few things going for me regarding preparation: I teach a class related to Microsoft Project every week, and I had already memorized anything related to this software.

To identify any scheduling software gaps, I went through Chapter 4 of PMI®’s Practice Standard for Scheduling and made sure I knew all the components and that I could define them in my own words. I didn’t memorize every detail, but I did focus a lot of time on anything related to the Critical Path Method. In terms of the Practice Standard for Scheduling, I read everything and memorized as many lists and definitions that I had time for. As it turned out, I ran short on time beginning with Chapter 4 on and that didn’t really seem to hurt me.

Since I knew the PMBOK Guide was important, I decided to focus a lot of time on learning inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. Back when I took the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, this was something I didn’t spend a lot of time on, and I thought it hurt me. I tried very hard to memorize those items for time, cost, and communication and it really did help. However, I forgot to thoroughly read and memorize all the definitions, which left gaps in my test-taking preparations. Luckily, I read through other sections of the PMBOK Guide and there seemed to be a random scattering of questions through many other knowledge areas. Having passed the PMP® exam before, this test was definitely a blessing, because I didn’t have to learn every concept from scratch.

The only other book I spent a lot of time studying was PMP®: Project Management Professional Study Guide by Kim Heldman. I spent countless hours calculating manual critical paths and doing forward/backward passes. This proved to be helpful during exam time.

Test-taking Tips for the Scheduling Professional Exam

By Raul A. Rmer

1. Know the PMBOK® 4th edition. You’ll definitely need it, since questions may come from every angle.
2. Applicants without a good planning background should purchase the PMI-SP®, the Practice Standard for Scheduling.
3. Understand activity sequencing in network diagrams as the precedence diagramming method (PDM)®.
4. Understand the calculation of the critical path method (CPM)®, free float, etc.
5. Understand the tools and techniques of time management.
6. Understand the earned value technique (EVT)® as schedule variance (SV)®, cost variance (CV)®, schedule performance indicator (SPI)®, cost performance index (CPI)®, estimate to complete (ETC)®, and estimate at completion (EAC)® concepts, and when to apply them, including what SPI® and CPI® indicate when they’re less than one or greater than one.

Raul A. Rmer, PMP, PMI-SP, is Senior Consultant Planner at the Decommissioning Services Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Visaginas, Lithuania. He has vast experience in estimating, planning, and scheduling projects using multiple tools. Contact him at romerraul@gmail.com.

PMI®’s suggested reading included the PMI®-Scheduling Professional Examinations Specification guide. Because — as I reported in part two of this series — that guide was all of 15 pages long. How important could it really be? I gave it a quick glance. Bad idea. The specification guide provided both the structure for the exam and an explanation of what a scheduler does in each domain. During the exam I could have used this information to figure out what did or didn’t belong in the multiple choice options. My advice would be to invest your money and then scrutinize what the guide states.

All I can say is that I’m glad the exam is over. Now I’m working with my employer to develop a preparation course for the certification. If you’ve read through this series and you’re still interested in tackling the exam, we’re seeking individuals for upcoming webinars and courses. Send me an email to be added to the list.

In the meantime, good luck with your own study efforts!

Read Part 1 of this series.
Read Part 2 of this series.

Avatar photo
Written by Cindy M. Lewis

Cindy Lewis is an awarded Microsoft Project MVP and an expert in scheduling with a long history in project management. She holds numerous credentials in the field including: PMP, PMI-SP, MS, MOS, and MCT. She serves on the board of the MPUG Detroit chapter and is a frequent speaker at conferences and events across the country . Cindy’s personal passion is sharing knowledge with others and helping them grow and achieve personal success. Her training philosophy is known as the 4 Pillars of Success® which is also the name of her company. Feel free to connect with Cindy on social media or contact her directly through her website www.4pillarsofsuccess.com.

Share This Post
  1. Hi Bob,

    This is a link I found on PMI’s website. Also within this page, there are other links. I hope this helps. pmi.org/certification/PMI-Scheduling-Professional-PMI-SP/PMI-SP-Role-Delineation-Study.aspx

    I know PMI changes their documents and links on a regular basis.


  2. For anyone following the discussion for this exam, I have been selected to be the instructor for the PMI-SP prep course being held by PMI SNEC chapter in February: http://www.snec-pmi.org.

  3. Hi

    i have completed my PMP and PMI-ACP , Planning now for PMI-SP, i just gone through your blog it was nice. I have one clarification. could you able to share me a sample application

  4. Thank you everyone for continuing to reach out to me for this very old article. Here is the link to the latest materials from PMI that you need to obtain: https://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/scheduling-sp/exam-prep

    PMI-SP Handbook
    PMI-SP Exam Content Outline
    Practice Standard for Scheduling
    PMBOK Guide

    All of the above are required in your preparation for this exam. You will need additional materials on Cost and Time to aid in your studies. You will have to decide what other materials could assist you based on your experience.

    Note – I have offered a PMI-SP prep class several times over the past few years, but no one has signed up or the class was cancelled by the host due to low enrollment. You will have to reach out to me directly if you want to try to schedule a class or short prep session with me.

    I hope this helps,

Leave a Reply