Home Project Management General Training So you want to be a PMP? - Part 5: The Exam
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So you want to be a PMP? - Part 5: The Exam Print
In the last four months we have reviewed the process of applying for and studying for the PMP exam.
This month we will review the exam itself.

Before sitting the test

One PMP I talked to before the exam told me that you could sit an on-line test over the Internet. The on-line test uses the same system as the one you will use in the real exam, and if you find it, there is one less thing to do on the day.

I never found the site, but if you know how to do it,
then let me know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
I will post the answer in a later article, if anyone can tell me.

There are some standard things you should do before sitting any test:

  • Make sure you know where the exam location is
  • Do not be late
  • Have your exam plan mapped out in your mind - mine is documented below


Test Software Functions

The online test has a number of functions. You need to understand these to decide how you can use them in the test.
The functions are:


  • At any time you can go to a menu of options.
  • View one question at a time.
  • Answer a question, mark a question for later revision, or not answer it at all.
  • Review all questions - starting at the first question, stepping through them one at a time.
  • Review all questions without an answer - starting at the first unanswered questions, stepping through them one at a time.
  • Review all marked questions - starting at the first marked question, stepping through them one at a time.
  • When answering a question, you can go back to the menu, which lets you change the way you are reviewing the questions.
  • If you know the number of a question you can review that question only. This might be useful if you write the number of a question down.
  • There is no summary of the questions except by number (1 to 200).
  • Using the number summary you can see which are marked or not answered. There is no automatic counter of the questions.
  • The time remaining is ticking away in the top right hand corner of the screen.
  • You can end the exam at any time (to be used only when you are sure you have really finished - there is no going back from this step!).


Exam Plan

I had my game plan in mind when I sat the exam.
This is what I did:


  • First time through, I answered a question if I definitely knew the answer. If I was reasonably sure, or could make an educated guess, I answered the question and marked it for review, and if I had no idea, I left it blank.
  • I did the first 100 questions and then had a five minute break (ration your breaks, because the clock keeps running).
  • I did the second 100 questions and then had a five minute break.
  • Then I did a calculation as to how much I thought I would have got if I stopped there. I assumed I would have 80% of the definites right, 50% of the not sures, and 0% of the not answered ones. This told me I was borderline, but at least I felt I could work to a comfortable pass level.
  • Then I answered the questions I had not answered at all (i.e. the tough ones). By taking time on the tough ones, I found I could get a good feeling for the answer.
  • Then I had lunch - see later.
  • Then I reviewed the answer to the questions I had marked (i.e. the unsure ones). Again taking time here, by eliminating some answers I knew were wrong or having taken time from seeing a question previously, I found that I could provide a better quality of answer.
  • Finally, I went through every question looking for the stupid mistakes (I found two!). This took me around 80 minutes.
  • I intended to use all my time unless I had reviewed every question's answer at least once.


Once you press the end exam button - or whatever it was called - you find out pretty quickly whether you have passed or not.

Scheduling the Exam - Lunch, Breaks or Medication

One thing to consider is that you will have to concentrate and be at your best for up to four hours. Think carefully about when you are going to take nutrition, breaks, and if you take medication you might need to consider this. Your own body cycle will influence this a great deal. Think about when you are at your best. When you are most sluggish.

You can schedule the four hour exam any time during Prometric's working day, so you have some flexibility - do not just schedule it at any time.

Take the day off for the exam - once you have finished, pass or fail - you will not be fit to do anything.

And when scheduling the exam, do not underestimate the effect it will have on your thinking around the time of the exam. I got very focussed and other things that were happening got distinctly less focus. I guess I am saying do not schedule it too close to your next live date.

The Exam Itself

Most of this is self explanatory, so again, I will not regurgitate anything commonly available. However, there are a couple of points worth making:


You get a number of sheets of paper in the exam, and a number of sheets of clear plastic with erasable pens. I hoarded my paper carefully, and used very little. I had loads of paper left over. Assuming you are not profligate with your paper, you will be fine.

Number the calculations you make with the question you are answering. Then when you review the question you can check the calculation quickly if you want.


You will get a locker that you get the key for, where you can put your stuff, while you are in the exam room.

Following the exam

There are two things to mention in passing about following the exam.


Where I come from every project plan should have one important task in it. The post project p***-up or PPP. You might know of it as the celebration. Go on - have that beer - you have earned it!


Finally, you will have to continue learning to keep your PMP certification. However now it becomes easier because you have more flexibility in how you learn. Basically, you have to earn 60 PDUs in three years, where a PDU is equivalent to one hours structured learning. Once you have got your PMP you need to start planning how to get your PDUs.


The PMP is a significant qualification growing in importance worldwide. With good project management experience and a well laid out plan, it is achievable. Go into it with your eyes open, plan carefully, and I will look forward to seeing your PMP announcement soon!

Go for it.

2001 © Brian Simpson

About the Author:

Brian passed his PMP in February 2001. He is married to Tina and the father of Daniel. Brian has been managing IT projects for over 11 years both in the UK and New Zealand. He is in the process of returning with his family to the UK. Brian can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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