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  10 Reasons to buy Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep Book [Updated for PMBOK 5]

If you preparing for the PMP Exam, chances are that you already familiar with Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep book. If you go by the Best PMP Exam Prep Book Survey, 65% respondents recommend this book over any other PMP Exam Prep guide. It's easily the No.1 best-selling PMP Exam Prep book. While you would have heard several favorable comments about this book, you might have also come across some contrasting remarks from critics. Either you love it or you hate it - it's that kind of a book. The critics point out the sarcastic and generally pessimistic tone of the book as the main reason for giving it a thumbs-down. If you have heeded to the advice of the critics and given this book a pass, let me tell you 10 reasons why it should be a part of your study plan.

  1. PMI-isms: The key to passing the PMP Exam is to answer the questions the PMI-way (or PMI-isms). Knowing these PMI-isms is absolutely critical to passing the exam. No matter how good a project manager you are in the real world, you must answer the PMP Exam questions the PMI-way. I think I'm sounding like Rita Mulcahy now :) Chapter 1 of this book hits the nail on its head by listing 62 PMI-isms, which are absolutely essential for passing the exam. This gets you rolling immediately. You'll find many more PMI-isms throughout the book and specifically in the Professional and Social Responsibility Chapter.

  2. Rita's Process Chart: The Process Chart elaborates the PMBOK processes and make them easy to understand. While some critique that it distorts the standard vocabulary that PMI has established, but I would say it does help you get a different perspective on the PMBOK processes. She also emphasizes on the order of the planning processes that in itself is a key to answering many exam questions.

  3. The Sample Questions: The quality of the questions in Rita's book (and her PMP Fastrack Exam Simulator) is the best in my opinion. The book contains about 400 sample questions.

  4. Tricks of the Trade: Each chapter has several "Tricks of the Trade" sections, which offer very useful information and tricks for tackling exam questions and also dealing with project managements issues in real world.

  5. Succinctness: The book is written with a razor-sharp focus on the exam. The wording is precise, and content to the point. There are no wasted words in this book.

  6. Exercises: The book has tons of exercises. It really gives you an opportunity to think, write down your answers in blank spaces provided, look at the answers and compare notes to fill in your gaps.

  7. Games: The book includes many other exercises (read Games) such as Rita's Process Game, What-comes-before/after Game and Project Management Scrabble Game. The games really help get your mind around the course material. Just don't expect the same thrills as from your Playstation.

  8. Templates: The book provides some useful templates and samples of Project Management documents such as the Project Charter and WBS Dictionary. These are really useful for people who don't deal with these documents on their projects.

  9. Content Presentation: Use of visual cues, diagrams, charts, tables and bullet points rather than plain text, make the content easy to digest and remember.

  10. Insider Info: Last but not the least, the book gives lots of insider info like the psychology of the exam authors, how the exam questions are written, the important topics for the exam, Knowledge Area and Process Groups wise level of difficulty of exam questions, the common pitfalls, etc. Rita's knowledge and experience truly reflects in this book. After reading this book, you realize why she's a "household name" among PMP aspirants.

While I agree that the book has a general negative tone to it, so much so that it has a chapter named "Reasons you might fail the exam", I still believe it's an indispensable tool for the PMP Exam. Let me tell you a trick to reading this book (BTW, trick is Rita's favorite word). The first time you read this book, strike-out all the stuff that you find negative, with a black marker. After that, you'll be left with a really useful book.

If you are studying for the PMP Exam, I strongly recommend this book. It's the "Gold Standard" in the PMP Certification world against which all other study material is measured.

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  1. I would like to offer one good reason why using Rita's (or anyone elses books) are NOT a good idea.

    Project management is like learning to drive a car or fly a plane or SCUBA dive. You can read 10,000 books on these topics but that will not help you learn how to actually manage projects better.

    Up until 1998 or so, PMI specifically did not encourage the practice of "teaching to the exam". Since the policy changed, and books like Rita's. Cheetah or my all time favorite, "PMP Exam Prep for Dummies" came along, the value of the PMP has been greatly diminished, to the point where it has no real value in terms of producing better, more competent project managers.

    I do a LOT of training in the field of project and program management, and I can clearly tell those in my class who got their PMP who intead of taking the time to actually learn about project management, relied only on books like Rita, Cheetah or Dummies.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  2. Hello Dr. PDG,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your valuable experience. I really appreciate your time and respect your opinion.

    You have mentioned a very interesting point. I have come across, and participated in, many such debates in the past where people claim that these "prep books" and so-called "boot camps" are diminishing the value of PMP Certification. My stance is that we cannot blame these training providers. They are just playing by the "rules" laid out by PMI. I do however feel that the certification format needs an overhaul. It has to be more than a mere "pass the exam".

    I also agree with you that the exam prep books are certainly not reference books for Project Managers, which they can use on their job. I don't recommend these books from that perspective.

    But let me share another perspective here. If a person is an extremely good project manager (on the job) and decides to take the PMP Certification exam without any "preparation", what chance would that person have to pass the exam? I think you can see what I'm trying to say.

    In conclusion, while I agree with you that these exam prep books don't necessarily make you a better project manager, they certainly have their place when it comes to achieving PMP Certification.

    BTW, I really liked your analogy with SCUBA diving. I'll check out your website too and look forward to learning more from you.

    Thanks again.

  3. Hi BW,
    IF a person is an "extremely good" project manager, then why would he or she need the PMP?

    The big question we ask our clients is do you want your people to hold their PMP or do you want better, more competent project managers. And without fail, the answer I get back is more competent project managers.

    Unfortunately, there is absolutely no credible research I have yet to see that shows any causal effect between those who hold their PMP and "successful" project management, nor have I yet to see any causal effect that indicates or support the claim that those who DON'T hold their PMP do not produce projects more successfully.

    Bottom line- the PMP credential has become an incredible cash cow to both PMI and training providers alike and there are previous few of us, especially training providfers like ourselves, willing to stand up and tell the truth- that the emperor that he is naked. (That the PMP has no more value than as an entry level credential, which was exactly what it was originally designed to be, back in 1984- a credential the measured whether people coming from functional departments had sufficient knowledge of the terminology and concepts to be able to be assigned to a project team and not get overwhelmed. The PMP was NEVER intended to serve as the basis for calling oneself a professional project manager.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  4. Hello again Dr. PDG,

    You have a very valid point.

    I think what you said is not just applicable to PMP certification but to most other certification programs, and almost all technology certifications programs. We have a certification program and then we have an entire food-chain around it.

    My take has always been that certification is an entry criteria and a proof of knowledge for the basic concepts and terminology in the respective field. Employers should treat it in that sense and not over-emphasize it's importance. I guess that's what you are trying to say as well. I have come across cases where some employers make certification as the only criteria.

    Hypothetically speaking, if you have 2 people with same skills and knowledge in all respects, but one holds a certification, this person would have an advantage.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Hi again, BW,

    Yes, you are correct. What I described applies to MOST (but not all) knowledge based credentials.

    But the PMP, largely because of it reaching nearly cult status in some countries (India and China in particular) is starting to cause damage to the reputation of project management.

    By "over promising" and "under-delivering", any organization that fails to make clear disclaimers as to what the people holding the certification can and cannot be expected to do, what the credentials stands for and what it doesn't is guilty of what amounts to false and misleading marketing.

    Now, I pick on PMI simply because they are the "900 lb. Gorilla", but others too are just as culpable, IMPO.

    Good night from LA...

    Dr, PDG

  6. Hello Dr.PDG

    I like your comments on PMP, but you got realise that PMP is getting more popular in India and China, and they are going for PMP credentials. As compare to diff countries the education is very well organized in India, a lot of students pocess the certifications in different fields.
    you not suppose to scare, but you got to take the challenge.
    PMI controlling every thing and there is no abuse of the certification.
    If you wanna keep PMP for yourself, why you started your website, it is a challenging oppurtunity, who ever have the guts to take they can.


  7. Hi Anonymous,
    Yes, I fully agree that in China and India, the PMP has taken on a cult status.

    But my loyalty lies with what is good for the practice of project management, which is why I raise concerns over the fact that in India, the focus is on getting the PMP as quickly, as cheaply and as easily as possible, with little or no concern or worries about what they are doing is actually destroying the value of the very thing everyone is craving.

    The easier PMI makes it to get, the less the real value. And what we are seeing now is the beginning of a backlash as EMPLOYERS begin to realize that a person holding the PMP, especially a high number (recent) PMP means little or nothing.

    The ones I am most surprised at are those who already hold their PMP. Because what is happening is cheapening the value of their PMP.

    Bottom line- My best advice to you is to start looking for the competency based credentials.... Those are what our clients are looking for now.....

    Dr. PDG

  8. Thanks Dr. PDG,

    I really appericiate your toughts.
    I like Brain Washer blog and Comments, this the only website I use to motivate myself.

    Thanks to this website creators.

  9. Hello once again Dr. PDG,

    You have presented very good points and have engaged us in a very meaningful discussion.

    1. I believe that any certification program should be a differentiator for professionals who possess advanced skills and knowledge, and add value to the profession. In this respect, I agree with you that PMP Certification is losing some value, maybe not as drastically as you described though. I also agree that there's a need for some changes.

    2. PMP certification is intended for "experienced" project managers. But, the subjective nature of the "entry criteria" and the lack of rigor in auditing applications (on PMI's part) is making it a "free for all" thing. As long as PMI can ensure that only qualifying candidates get to write the exam, there's nothing wrong in making the course material "easy" to understand. After all, we are trying to help people "learn", not confuse them.

    There are some points where I differ with you.

    First, I would like to ask you whether your comments (about PMP acquiring a cult status in China and India) were based on some real data or on your own experience or perception?

    Does PMI release any data on the demographics of their credential holders and the recent geographical trends? It would be very interesting to see such info.

    1. As far as I can tell (from my experience), there's equal or probably more interest in PMP Certification in other parts of the world, especially the US and the Middle East. India is a distant second to the US, but considering that India has 4 times the population and a huge educated work -force, it hardly comes as a surprise to me.

    2. Regarding your point on getting the certification "cheaply", I don't believe in making education exclusive to people in developed nations, just by making it "expensive".

    There are other certifications that are priced according to the currency value of the country. It's very unfortunate that PMI doesn't follow that practice. PMP Exam costs $555. If you add the cost of trainings, books and other resources, it can easily climb upto
    $2K or Rs.100K. For you, it may be less than a day's income but for a Project Manager in a small company in India, it's equivalent to almost 2 months salary. How can we blame them for looking for "cheaper" avenues to get certified?

    I think we are mixing 2 different issues here. For me a certification program should be a differentiator, but the cost of education should not be made a road-block for anyone wishing to acquire it.


  10. Hi Mr Brain,

    It will nice if you can include Andy Crowe's book in your best book Poll.

    I am preparing for the PMP exam right now, I initially bought Rita's book, and then cancelled the order in favor of Andy's book.

    His book is very highly rated on Amazon, pretty close to Rita's. There are some negative feedback due to the ease of the questions. But over-all if it supposed to be an excellent resource.


  11. Hi BW,

    I agreed with your comments and thoughts, Dr.PDG is mixing two different topics here. PMI doesn't issue any demograhic data, and its all on your experience (no of hrs) and your education, how you understandable the process of Project Management.

    The fee for PMP is alright, for us in USA.
    In few days I am going to write the exam.

    Thanks again.
    Mohammad Ziauddin (Zee)

  12. Hi Mohammad Zee,
    Our data is coming not from PMI, but from the 2,000 or so people we train each year.

    What we are seeing is a decline in the quality of incoming students who are less interested in actually learning about project management but are seeking to earn their PMP as quickly as possible with as little work as possibel and as cheaply as possible.

    What our 20 years of data is indicating is that, while the PMP is growing in popularity in places like China, India and to a lesser degree, the Middle East, the credibility and value is declining, as our clients realize that having 2,000 or 3,000 PMP's in their organization does NOT result in projects being run more successfully.

    My suggestion gentlemen is not to shoot the messenger. I am telling you what we see based on hard numbers.

    The decision is yours to make as to whether you feel the PMP is a good investment or not, but keep in mind that our Fortune 500 clients, who originally supported the PMP, are now moving to more technically focused knowledge based credentials or better yet, true Competency based credentials.

    Either way, our company offers training at all levels- PMP, AACE's more advanced knowledge based credentials competency development.

    Bottom line- If you were my own kids, my recommendation to you would be to not waste your time on the PMP, but "catch the next wave".

    Dr. PDG, Systems Dynamics Society convention, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

  13. I read all the comments above..I couldnt find any one commening about the book review. I am PMP aspirant. I got lot of books on Project Mangement and few preparatory books for PMP exam. I am just confused which book I should refer for the exam. And Harwinder, somewhere in your blog, you mentioned PMBOK+RITA prep book with practice exams, more than enough to pass the exam.. is it really enough?

  14. Hello Saleem,

    Thanks for your comments.

    You are right. We digressed from the topic and started discussing other things. Maybe that discouraged people from posting their comments. Shariq did mention that he prefers Andy Crowe's book over Rita's.

    First, let me make it clear that "No single books is sufficient to pass the exam". You need PMBOK Guide + One good book + lots of other reference material to pass the exam.

    A few months ago, I had done a survey on the best PMP exam prep books. You can see the results here:

    Best PMP Exam Prep Book

    Majority voted for Rita's book. I personally like her book too. For my own preparation, I had used PMBOK + Rita's book + Rita's Fastrack Simulation software. Other than these, I relied mostly on free material such as books available on Books24x7 (to PMI members) for specific topics, articles on Wikipedia and other websites, information gathered from forums, etc.

    But, many people don't like Rita's book. A good analogy would be the iPhone. It has millions of fans and probably an equal number of critics too.

    If someone's going to buy the books, I won't recommend buying more than one. But if you already have a few books, I would suggest that you use one book as the main guide, and refer to other books for specific topics, which are not clear from the main book.

    Hope it helps.

  15. Thanks Harwinder... I noted your helps. I read your lesson learned too.

  16. I have to laugh when I see a PhD talking about practicality since there has also been no evidence that those with advance degrees such as MBA, DBA, PhD or MSc are any better at the art of running a business yet we see them running around demanding hundreds per hour for consulting, training etc. Bottom line is that those who are in academics and whose only credentials are academic and running consulting and training businesses should not be too critical or others who are doing essentially the same thing.

  17. Wow Anonymous......

    Given that I am the only PhD posting in this thread, am I safe in assuming you were referring to my PhD? Would it help to know that I was a successful building contractor for close to 30 years and that the academic degrees are recent additions, obtained when I was in my mid to late 50's?

    Would it make you feel better if you knew that even today, part of our "training and consulting" company is in the property management business and that we continue to bid on "hard money" (fixed price) contracts where our own money is on the line if we fail to manage the projects effectively?

    So what part of "practicality" do you feel I am weak on or missing?

    And keep one thing in mind- no one can "demand" hundreds of dollars per hour in the marketplace and get away with it unless they consistently deliver value for that money.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

  18. Hi PDG,

    Initially i am not big fan (even now) of PMI certification, bez i dont see any change in the method of handling the projects before and after Certification by my managers with whom i worked in IT.

    But i convinced with the fact that any certification enhance your basic knowlege or introduce new concepts to you.

    So, i start googling about PMP certification then I came across this nice blog, but after reading your comments i am thinking again about taking the exam...

    But as a elder to all of us you suggested "Catch the next wave" OR go for "competency based credentials". Can you elaborate these and suggest the some options, which will helpful to next level in career growth...

  19. @SOMA,
    Not sure where you are based, but probably the most "mature" alternative to PMI which offers COMPETENCY based credentials is the International Project Management Association- IPMA. I know there is a branch in India as well as the USA the Australian Institute of Project Managers (AIPM) also just joined IPMA, and they were perhaps the first to come out with a competency based credential, the RegPM.

    For those who are serious about PMO's, my recommendation are the very tough knowledge based credentials offered by AACE. well marketed, but HIGHLY respected, especially in the Middle East, and just now starting to gain traction in South and Eastern Asia.

    To see the various global credentials benchmarked against the US Professional Engineer (PE) license, check out some preliminary research I have done and continue to refine.

    Hope this helps you in making the right or best decision for your career?

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia


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