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How Much Time Is Required for PMP Exam Preparation?

A short answer to the question stated in this article’s title is that it can take between eight to twelve weeks to prepare for the PMP Exam.

Before elaborating, I’d like to address a completely different question. That is, how much time is required for preparation for running a marathon?

Assuming that you are a novice runner, you may need five hours of preparation time per week in the initial weeks, but later an increase to about twenty hours per week. Of course, these time estimates will vary from individual to individual based on fitness level, prior experience, and many other factors.

I am not a marathon coach; my expertise lies in PMP preparation. So, why am I talking about marathon? Simply to illustrate a point. I am suggesting that one must persevere in order to achieve something that you have not done before. Passing the PMP Exam is like running a marathon.

Like a marathon runner, everyone’s circumstances are different. The time required for the PMP Exam preparation is different for each individual. What may work for someone else may not work for you. However, like every endeavor, passing the PMP Exam universally requires sound planning and hard work.

In truth, I have written this article to address two topics: what all you should study for passing the PMP Exam and how you should prepare your personal preparation schedule.

 

The Scope of PMP Exam Preparation

You should at least use the following sources when studying for the PMP Exam.

1. Study material from your 35-contact hours of training

You should begin your preparation by taking a 35-contact hour training course. The contact hour training is a mandatory requirement when apply to take the PMP Exam. The training will not only give you initial momentum and motivation, but should also help you to understand the nitty-gritty of PMBOK Guide concepts.

It is paramount that the study material provided by the training becomes your first source of study. Many aspirants start with the PMBOK Guide (see the next point) and become frustrated with the preparation as it a difficult book to read.

2. The PMBOK Guide

Many aspirants think that studying the PMBOK Guide will be enough for them to pass the PMP Exam. In my previous article, I wrote about the popular misconception that the PMP Exam is based on the PMBOK Guide. Although the guide is one of the essential items to study, it’s important to go beyond the PMBOK Guide.

3. One reference book based on the PMBOK Guide

The majority of the PMP Exam is based content written in the PMBOK Guide, so it should be your primary source of study for the exam, but as we’ve said, the guide does not cover everything. You will want to buy at least one other reference book covering things that are part of the PMP Exam curriculum, but which are not described in the PMBOK Guide.

4. A test simulator for practicing sample exam questions

There is an old adage that says practice makes perfect. The PMP Exam is one of the most difficult exams in the world. As part of your preparation, you should practice doing a number of sample questions. Depending on your proficiency within the field of project management and your knowledge of the PMBOK Guide concepts, you might need to practice anywhere between 1500-2000 questions.

In addition to the above steps, refer to the Internet for additional reference and practice. You likely know that you’ll need to study a lot to the pass the exam. We have now described what all needs to be studied. The next step is to find out how much time to plan for your studies.

 

Time Required for the PMP Study

A formal PMP Exam preparation schedule is essential for passing the certification test on your first attempt. Since we have broken down the whole scope into four major study components, I believe it will be easy to create a personalized study schedule.

A study schedule can be prepared by sequentially following the below written steps while studying for the PMP Exam. These steps provide broad guidelines for the exam preparation. Tweak them as per your convenience and expertise.

  1. There are thirteen chapters in the PMBOK Guide. Most of your study will be related to these chapters. Study one chapter at a time.
  2. Start your preparation by studying a chapter from the study material provided by your training company. You can follow the videos and consult your training notes.
  3. After studying a chapter from the training material, I recommend moving to the PMBOK Guide’s chapter on the same topic. Study these two side-by-side.
  4. You can also include other credible study sources that you might have access to, again with a focus on the same topic.
  5. After completing a chapter, you should do some sample questions. Your performance on the sample tests will help you in gauging your knowledge level.
  6. If you are satisfied with your performance in the step above, then move to the next chapter/topic and so on.
  7. Finally once you’ve worked through all 13 chapters, do some full length sample tests.

Depending on the size of a chapter, you will need anywhere between one and two hours to finish the training material. In addition, you would need about three to four hours for the PMBOK Guide and reference book study. Lastly, you would need about one to two hours each for practicing some end-of-chapter sample test.

In my estimation, you would need to set aside about seven to nine hours for completing a chapter. This is an indicative duration and might change depending on many factors like your current skill level, length of the chapter, etc. On a higher side, you may need 120 hours to finish all 13 chapters.

To wrap up, I suggest doing three to four full length mock tests as part of the final preparation. This might take you another 20-30 hours. Overall, it is safe to plan for 150 hours for exam preparation.

 

PMP Preparation Schedule

I suggested that you might need 150 hours for the PMP Exam preparation in the previous section, but this is not a definitive figure. Some people who have good project management experience and are already familiar with the PMP Exam study material may not require as much time. On the other hand, some other aspirants may need as many as 200 hours.

Your situation is unique to you, so only you can estimate how many hours you would need. You may not know until we get started. Either way, let’s translate these number of hours into number of days. The number of days is obviously dependent on the total number of hours required for the study and number of hours you can devote each day for studying.

Assuming you need a total of 150 hours, and you can devote three hours per day for studying, you will need 50 days for the PMP Exam preparation.

Fifty days is approximately seven weeks, but including contingencies, let’s round it off to approximately eight.

With a time estimate for the preparation, prepare a simple schedule by writing the steps described in the previous section against each day of your study period.

Here is an example.

Conclusion

I have seen aspirants cracking the exam in less than two weeks, but I don’t recommend it. It is best to take ample time to finish your studies before taking the exam. Between eight to twelve weeks is a reasonable time frame for most people.

A formal PMP study schedule is important for passing the exam. If you want to pass the exam in your first attempt, you should start your preparation by creating a proper schedule.

Before wrapping up, I would like to talk about two related things.

Firstly, I have heard that some aspirants are worried about the impending PMP Exam change.  PMP Exam is going to change on January 2, 2021. There is no reason to be worried because there is still enough time to pass the exam before the change.

Secondly, I have not recommended any training or books in this article because everyone’s situation is unique. What may be suitable for one may not suitable for another. So, go ahead and choose your study materials, finalize your PMP Exam preparation schedule, and get going. I wish you all the luck!

What are your thoughts about a formal PMP Exam schedule? How much time do YOU think is needed to crack the exam? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Praveen Malik
Written by Praveen Malik

Praveen Malik, PMP, has two-plus decades of experience as a project management instructor and consultant. He regularly conducts project management workshops in India and abroad and shares his project management thinking in his blog, PM by PM.

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2 Comments
  1. Great article, Praveen. Thank you! Since the PMP exam actually draws on 10 different reference publications (the PMBOK being primary, as you’ve stated), candidates may want to consider taking a prep course where these references are distilled down to what they need to know (maybe to accompany the reference book you mention). The pacing of the course will help drive the study schedule you outline. PMI now controls the prep material through the ATP process, so using a PMI-certified Authorized Training Partner is essential.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for the heads up

    Reply

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