How to Pass Your PMP Exam in 30 Days

Speedy_figure_1Preparing for the PMP exam takes time. While I don’t typically advocate a fast approach, sometimes there are “legitimate” reasons that require you to sit for the exam that quickly. Perhaps your employer has established this deadline for contractual reasons; perhaps you have found a highly desirable open position you would like to apply to but need the PMP for highest qualification; or perhaps you signed up to take the exam nearly a year ago but procrastinated and now you only have 30 days left before your eligibility runs out.

If you’re asking yourself where to start if you need to pass the PMP® exam in 30 days, you’ve come to the right article. Be patient, stay calm and continue reading. Preparing for the PMP exam will take daily dedication to studying and understanding the material. But remember! You can do anything for 30 days.

What follows are key steps, processes and resources that — along with your dedication — will allow you to prepare for and pass the PMP exam in 30 days (or less). Let me begin with some general thoughts on how to get started.

Make Sure You’re Eligible

Ready to get your PMP done in a very short period? First, make sure you’re eligible to become a PMI®-certified project manager.

Do you have a high school diploma, an associate degree or the global equivalent of these? Then you must have a minimum of five years (60 months) of unique, non-overlapping professional project management experience of which at least 7,500 hours must have been spent leading and directing project tasks. (Non-overlapping means that if you managed two projects in the year 2006, then that only counts as 12 months and not as 24.) Do you have a bachelor degree or its equivalent in your country? Then you must have a minimum of three years (36 months) of unique, non-overlapping professional project management experience of which at least 4,500 hours must have been spent leading and directing project tasks. In both cases, you must also show that you have had 35 contact hours of project management training. The good news is that all project management related training from your entire life counts. So, if you are 30 years old and you took a two-day PM class when you were 21 years old, then you already have 16 contact hours. (One contact hour is equivalent to one actual hour (60 minutes) of training or instruction received.)

Set a Plan

Now set a preliminary plan. A key thing to remember during this process is that attaining the PMP certification shows your commitment to the project management profession and demonstrates credibility allowing for higher salaries as well as raising your resume above non-PMP certification holders. So don’t get discouraged during this process.

After you’ve verified your eligibility to sit for the test, don’t panic. Relax. Take a deep breath. Focus. Then start clearing your calendar to allow for sufficient daily study time, and understand this will not be an easy path to success. In addition to studying A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), you will also benefit by reading through lessons learned from others who have prepared (and passed) on a “fast track” method.

My article, Creating Your PMP Study Plan — The Complete Guide, provides a clear process with 11 best practices to create a customized study plan. The article also provides PMP study plan templates to help you get started. It’s important to design a study plan that best fits your learning style (visual, auditory or tactile). Do you learn best in groups or individually? Knowing your learning style is important to understanding how to approach your studies for the PMP exam.

One method you could establish as a framework for your study time is to divide your available study window (in this case 30 days) by the percentage for each of the five domains on the test. This table demonstrates:

Domain Percentage on TestStudy Time
Initiation13%3.9 days
Planning24%6.2 days
Executing31%9.3 days
Monitoring and Controlling25%7.5 days
Closing7%2.1 days

Within this 30-day window, you will also need to take practice tests — perhaps at the 15-day, 21 day and 29-day marks — or even more often. I cover some good mock tests in this article. To learn more about the exam content, visit the PMP Examination Content Outline on the PMI® website. If you total these days up, you get 29 days, which allows you one optional day that you can spend on review.

Down to 10 Days?

If you’re down to 10 days and you’re far from ready to tackle your PMP test, about the only real approach is to attend a PMP boot camp. There are two major disadvantages with a boot camp:

  • The expense (usually in the range of $1,500-$2,500); and
  • Your ability to absorb the material (memorization vs. true learning).

The advantage offered by PMP boot camps is speed. Most boot camps are three to five days long, and the PMP test is available on the last day of the boot camp. However, even boot camps do require significant “self-study” prior to and during attendance, which can be confusing to plan for and accomplish when you’re low on time. (For more on this, check out “5 Reasons Not to Attend a PMP Exam Boot Camp.”)

Need Your PMP Fast? Think Again!

If you have the option to study for more than 30 days, I suggest you take it! Slow down, take your time, and ABSORB. The best way to pass the PMP exam is through methodical study, review and application.

This additional time will allow you to learn the material in a manner that lets you understand and implement the standards and theories — instead of relying on memorization to get through the test. This form of deeper learning enables you to grasp how the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs interrelate. Taking a slower approach will give you the chance to absorb the information and learn how to apply the knowledge to any of your projects.

After nearly a decade as a PMP exam trainer, I advocate this slower approach, which grants your brain enough time to absorb and retain the information for easier recall in the future. The key is to allow yourself a lot of hands-on practice and review time to become comfortable with the information.

Preparing for the PMP exam takes dedication, endurance and time. The average exam prep time is three to four months. But if you have a legitimate reason to do it in a shorter period, well, fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.

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Written by Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 47,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast and The PM Exam Simulator.
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  1. Interesting article. I appreciate the breakout comparison for percentage of test and approximate time to study for each domain.

  2. Very insightful instruction. This is exactly the method that I used to pass the CAPM, and will use it again for the PMP. I am transitioning at mid-career from general and operations management toward IT project management. I have an MBA, and have performed project management in a matrix environment for higher education database conversions and operations projects.

    What would you recommend to provide the IT foundation to make this giant leap? I am presently conducting self-taught courses on Sharepoint, Microsoft Project, and Visio, with the hope of acquiring the Microsoft Project certification first, then securing an entry level project assistant, coordinator, or assistant project manager position.

    Do you have any recommendations?

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