Creating Flash Cards to Study for the PMP® Certification Exam

Do you remember all those math cards flash cards your parents would torture you with in elementary school?  Someone would pop up a card with a simple math equation on one side and you would have to figure out what was on the other side.  You had to answer as quickly as you could and you never knew what was coming next.  Your parents would drill you over and over again until you could spit out what was on the other side without thinking.  Well, that was an effective way to study math.  Believe it or not, that is also a very effective way to study for the PMP® Certification Exam.

The drill still works.  Adults can learn from this method as well as children. In fact, PMBOK Guide® flash cards can be found for sale just about everywhere.  But before you plunk down $29.99 or more for someone else’s cards, why don’t you make your own for only the cost of a deck of 3” x 5” index cards?

Buy yourself a pack of cards and count out 47 of them.  That number should sound familiar – it is the number of processes in the 5th edition of the PMBOK Guide®.  On the front of each card, put the name of the process.  Turn it over and on the back put the Knowledge Area, Process Group, and a brief definition of the process.  I call that the “blurb”.  The formal definition of the process can be found as the first sentence after the process introduction but some of them can be quite wordy.  Feel free to paraphrase and shorten the blurb to something you understand and remember.  These are your study cards after all.

Then, shuffle them like a deck of cards and start randomly going through them.  You should know each of the processes well enough that by glancing at either side of the card, you can rattle off everything on the flip side.  It should not matter what side of the card you are viewing.  You need to know all these processes inside-out and upside-down.  If you are feeling especially confident, add in the major Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs to the blurb side.  They will add a layer of intricacy that will help you understand and remember the processes better.

This is a great way to do short bursts of study.  Take the cards with you everywhere you go.  These 47 cards can easily fit into a pocket or purse.  Pull them out when you have a couple of minutes.  Test yourself.  Redeem the time you are waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, sitting at that two minute red light, or hanging out in front of the neighbor’s mailbox waiting for your dog to finish his business.  These cards can be put to use anytime, anywhere.  Better yet, use them to take revenge on your children by making them hold the cards for you.  Be careful since kids can be unyielding sticklers in making sure you repeat every word on the flip side verbatim.

Self-made flash cards have the added benefit of forcing you to leaf through the book to find the information.  That is always a helpful exercise.  Who knows, you may just learn something accidentally.  Studiers who have used flash cards have reported feeling more confident with the materials when they sit for the exam and that is always a good thing.  So be sure to create those flash cards and use them daily to familiarize yourself with the processes.  The effort will be worthwhile.

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