How to Start Studying for the PMP® Exam

So you decided that you want to take PMI’s PMP® Exam to become one of the rapidly growing number of Project Management Professionals in the world.  You’ve got your book, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), and you have made sure it is the 5th edition.  So now what?  Well, read it.

Easier said than done.  The content of this book is not exactly spine-tingling, page-turning prose that will keep you up at night.  In fact, it can at times be a cure for insomnia.  So, how do you get through it and get something out of it?

Read it with purpose.  Don’t just read it to read it.  That will get you nowhere.  You need to understand what you are reading.  Yes, start at page 1 and continue all the way through to the end (including the appendices) but when you read something you don’t understand, stop.  Ask yourself why it is there.  There is a purpose for every input, tool and technique, and output (ITTO’s).  Figure out that purpose.  The authors had a reason for putting every ITTO where it is in the book.  It may not always be obvious so you may have to figure out a purpose for it.

For example, the Scope Management process of Collect Requirements has a number of predictable tools and techniques associated with it.  For the most part, they are there to gather requirements from a number of people (interviews, focus groups, brainstorming, etc.)  However, there is one tool and technique that is different from the others: Group Decision-Making Techniques.  As you read through the description, it mentions using unanimity, majority, plurality, or dictatorship to reach a group decision.  Wait.  What?  How does that help me collect requirements from the stakeholders?  That answer: is doesn’t.  So, why is it there?

I was not part of the group who wrote the PMBOK®, so I can only guess why that tool and technique is needed.  My guess is that we are gathering numerous requirements from various stakeholder groups, each with their own take on what the project should accomplish.  Chances are good that the stakeholders will not agree on some things – probably many things.  Some of these requirements are going to be contradictory to each other and others may be good ideas but not helpful in resolving the original problem.  Therefore, a small representative group of people are going to need to decide which requirements are going to be met with this project and which ones are not.  To do that, we may have to employ the group decision making techniques.  Problem solved!

Okay, so this may not be the authors’ reasoning but does that really matter?  No.  It makes sense to me.  Now, when I sit for the PMP® exam, I will always remember that Group Decision-Making Techniques are a tool and technique for Collect Requirements.  That is what really matters.

To summarize, don’t waste your time reading the book just for the sake of reading the book.  Spend your time gaining knowledge of the processes by understanding what is in the book and why it is in the book.  There are many more tips and tricks for passing the PMP® exam but this is a good place to start – so get reading!

Your comments or questions about this article are welcome, as are suggestions for future articles.  Feel free to contact me by email at

About the author:  Ms. Barbara J Zimmerman started working in the Information Technology industry over 30 years ago and has project management and training experience in a variety of fields.  She is PMI certified as Project Management Professional (PMP®), Schedule Management Professional (PMI-SP®), and Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP®).   Ms. Zimmerman develops and instructs Project Management courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to