Contractor Project Manager

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– Winston Churchill

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How to Apply, Study for, and Pass your PMP Certification hello

I have recently passed my Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) – (July 2011). In this article will explain how I went about applying for the examination, how I studied, the books I used and what I believed helped me pass the PMP Certification.

Why the PMP?
I have been working as a Project Manager for years in the UK and have attained the PRINCE2 (as well as the ISEB IS Project Manager and ISEB PPSO) Project Management qualifications. However my plan is to leave the UK and I wanted to obtain a more internationally focussed Project Management qualification.
The PMP is globally recognised and a when I did a quick check on job adverts for roles in North America and Asia, it seems having the PMP certification is high in demand for Project Managers Globally.

Applying for the PMP
Not just anyone can sit the PMP exam; you need to be a reasonably experienced PM. I would suggest planning to do the PMP exam after around three years experience as a Project Manager.
To apply for the PMP, you need to have either:
A four-year degree (bachelor’s or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
A secondary diploma (high school or the global equivalent) with at least five years of project management experience, with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
If you do not meet the PMP requirements, you may want to look at the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). CAPM is a certificate for someone earlier in their career who does not fulfil the criteria for PMP.

The PMP application process is pretty tricky. First you must create a new user account to start an on-line application ( Once you have created an account you must follow the steps to fill in the on-line form. The form is very comprehensive and you will need to fill in a lot of information regarding your project management experience. My tip is to have a copy of your CV to hand when you fill in this form. One part of the form I found really difficult is to estimate the hours you have spent performing certain Project Management tasks. You cannot just fill in any old thing here to get to the examination stage, PMI audit 1 in every 10 applications to ensure they have been filled in correctly. A few years ago on a previous application my application was audited and I had to get referees who had worked with me to vouch for my experience.
This time around the major problem I had was in accurately estimating the amount of time I spent in hours for each project management task, split over a number of companies, so I devised the spreadsheet below to help me work out if my estimates made sense and added up. Luckily my estimates all made sense. The time I estimated to have spent on each project management task at each company, when totalled up, did not exceed the length of time I spent at that company; furthermore it seemed I had above the requirement for the minimum number of hours spent on these activities.

Studying For the PMP Exam
Once I had been approved to take the exam, I booked an exam date and started to study.
One thing to be said for the exam dates: I found this process to be simple; the PMI website takes you to the Prometric website – the company who administer the computer-based PMP exam. The good thing about the exam being administered through Prometric and being computer-based, means if you can find a test centre near you, you are likely to find a suitable date and time also (the exam is not restricted to any particular day) normally from my experience the times are 08.30am or 01.00pm, for the 4 hour exam.
For those taking the exam in the UK – I sat the exam at a Prometric centre in Leeds (King Street, near the train station) and in London (near Cannon Street Station). There seems to be a Prometric testing centre in most major cities and towns.
The reason I sat the exam twice, is because I failed the exam the first time around. I believe this was due to inadequate preparation.
For the PMP exam, I chose to self-study and not to use a training provider. There are excellent training providers offering one week courses for PMP for between £1100 – £2000. However my choice to self-study was based on the other exam and training commitments I had this year. Also on the fact that, as a contractor, one week on leave from a contract includes an opportunity cost of lack of earning for that week, as well as the cost of the training course. In the UK, unfortunately, there are not any training courses offered on weekends, like there is for PRINCE2 or MSP, perhaps the demand for PMP is not so high in the UK.
Below are the training materials I used to study for the PMP exam.
I recommend the following books for definite; these are the training materials I think were instrumental in me passing the PMP examination:
• Head First PMP: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam – Jennifer Greene & Andrew Stellman (Around £39.95 Amazon)
• PM Fastrack Exam Simulation Software for the PMP Exam: CD ROM Version 6 – Rita Mulcahy (Around $269.00/£165.00 from
• Q & A’s for the PmBok Guide – Project Management Institute (Around £29.99 Amazon)

The following training materials are required for complete study also:
• PMP Exam Prep: Rapid Learning to Pass PMI’s PMP Exam-On Your First Try! – Rita Mulcahy (Around $56.00/£35.00 from
• A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide – Project Management Institute (Around £25.00 Amazon)

The following training materials, I purchased, but did not use for study:
• PMP Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide: Includes Audio CD – Kim Heldman (Around £33.99 Amazon)
• Hot Topics Flashcards For Passing the PMP and CAPM Exam – Rita Mulcahy (Around $22.00/£13.50 from

My main study tasks were to read the Head First Book (I highly recommend this, as it explains the principles really clearly) and use the Rita Mulcahy exam simulation software PMP exam simulation, doing about 20 questions a night. I also found it really helpful to do a full 4 hour PMP exam simulation at the start of any study and at intervals of my study and the end to see how I progressed and how my score improved.

If you want to get an idea how much it will cost to get the adequate training materials and pay for the exam.
The testing fee will cost $555.00/£340.00
If you would like to purchase all the books I listed above they will cost around £350.00
This totals around £700.00 required to obtain this qualification, not including the hard work and study required to pass this exam.

Passing Your PMP Exam
In the actual exam, remember it is a Computer-based exam held at a testing centre, where there may be many other exams of different topics, starting and ending at different times. Below are my tips to help give you the best chance of passing the PMP exam:
• Use the ear plugs provided, to help you concentrate (remember other candidates are taking shorter examinations and so will be coming and going throughout your exam).
• Eat and drink well before the exam (it is a four hour exam and no food or drink is allowed)
• Use the tutorial, to settle into the environment and get used to the software and calm down
• Write the formulas you know on the scratch paper as soon as you can (after tutorial)
• Use the scratch paper
• Look out for words like NOT, LEAST, MOST, LEAST LIKELY, BEST, in questions, as these can trick you, it is easy to miss the question is asking for the LEAST LIKELY, when you see the MOST LIKELY answer in the multiple choice.

Good Luck!!