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After “What certification should I get after the PMP? “, the next most common certification-related question I see on LinkedIn and discussion groups is asking how to get ready to write the PMP exam and how much elapsed time should be allowed for this effort.

This question reminds me very much of the fun exercise which I ask learners in my foundational project management course to complete: “How long does it take to catch a fish?“. I ask them to think about all the possible variables which could affect their answer (e.g. type of fish, location, time of day, type of bait) as well as whether they consider this to be a fixed duration activity or a fixed effort activity.

In terms of studying for the exam, there are many different methods available including:

  • Reading PMI’s reference books listed on the PMP certification page
  • Using a reputable self-study guide
  • Taking one or more quality practice exams
  • Attending an on demand PMP preparatory course
  • Attending a live (in person or virtual) PMP preparatory course
  • Watching a number of PMP prep videos
  • Using a PMP exam prep smartphone app

It is usually advisable that a candidate seriously consider using a combination of these as the exam retake cost is high enough that the goal should be to pass on the first attempt.

The candidate will also need to assess how ready they are before implementing one or more of these methods and how much available time they have to commit to preparing. For the former, it is a good idea to take a single quality practice exam (hint: if its free, it probably is not good quality) and use the score on that exam as a baseline. Ideally this practice exam will provide the candidate with their score across the exam domains and tasks so that they know which topics will need greater studying focus.

To answer the second question, once the candidate has completed a readiness assessment and determined how much free time they will have, they can then put together a work-forward schedule to come up with a realistic exam date. As part of this exercise, if they intend to take a preparatory course, they should ensure the course is taken close to when they intend to write the exam, but they should leave themselves a week or two at least after the course to bridge any knowledge gaps they identified by taking the course.

All this to say, the only valid answer to both questions is it depends!

(If you liked this article, why not pick up my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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