PMP Exam-Taking Strategies - Are You Battle-Ready?

5 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

PMP Exam is a 4 hour long battle. You can make these 4 hours the most memorable or the most fateful of your life, depending upon what you do during (and of course, before) those hours. I’m going to offer some tips that can help you make the most of these 4 hours. These are best practices that have worked well for successful candidates. There are no hard and fast rules. I suggest that you practise these tips while you take the mock exams and tailor them according to your style.

PMP Certification Exam Strategies to Pass on the First Attempt

PMP Exam Tips (Part 2)

This article is second in the series of articles on PMP Exam tips. Be sure to also read my first article - Important Tips on PMP Exam Preparation.

  1. Use the first 15 min demo module to your advantage, whichever way you prefer - do brain dumps, meditate, relax, exercise, day-dream, or whatever that makes you comfortable.
  2. Read all the answer options before you answer a question. Lame tip, but many people miss these basics of taking objective-type exams.
  3. Don't leave any question unanswered in the exam, even during the first pass. If you are not sure about the answer, follow your instincts, select an answer choice, and mark the question for review. Most successful candidates will tell you that usually your first guess is the best. Remember, there's no negative marking in the PMP exam.
  4. Don't spend too much time on any single question, especially lengthy questions. You have 1 min and 12 sec per question (200 questions in 240 mins). As I mentioned above, take your best guess, mark the question for review and move on. I know that sometimes it's difficult to put a question out of your mind and move on, and even if you manage to do so, the question keeps nagging you. But this is a skill you need to master by practicing on mock exams.
  5. Bookmark (for review) only those questions, which you are unsure of. Don't bookmark every other question. You might not have sufficient time to review all the questions again. So, save the review time for only those questions that you are really unsure of.
  6. Sometimes, answer to one question lies in another question in the same exam. This is a tip that you should keep in mind for any objective type exam.
  7. Be patient with lengthy questions. Sometimes, a lot of information is just superfluous and does not have any relevance to the question or the answer choices. Many experts recommend reading the last sentence only of wordy question. I, however, prefer to read it completely, rather than leaving it to chance.
  8. Don't get frustrated by difficult questions, specially during the beginning of the exam. Many exam takers (including me) say that they had lots of difficult questions in the beginning. Rather than getting demoralized, you can follow the tips listed above and look forward to easy scoring opportunities ahead. Usually the exam has a good mix of questions with varying level of difficulty. If you get some tough questions in the beginning, you are bound to get some easy ones down the line.
  9. Learn to use the 'elimination' technique on answer choices. For most questions, you can easily eliminate 2 choices. That leaves you with only 2 choices and a success probability of 50% !
  10. Exam contains 25 Pre-test questions, which are not scored. These are trial questions which can possibly be included in the exam in future. If you have prepared well for the exam, used a variety of study material, and still find a totally out-of-the-blue question, chances are that it might be one of 'those 25 questions'. Just take your best guess and move on. Don't even bother marking it for review. If you don't have any clue about it the first time around, you are unlikely to do any better next time around.
  11. Should I take a break during the exam? This is a personal choice. I can sit through two 4 hr exams straight, without a break. But many people can't stare at a monitor for more than 30 mins. You got to decide what works best for you. Work out your strategy during the mock exams.
  12. If you tend to get nervous during exams, I suggest you use the calculator to verify your answers for numerical based questions, even if it's '2+2=4' type calculations. Numerical based questions are a rare easy scoring opportunity on this exam. Don't mess up on these questions. Double-check your answers.

If you have more tips to share with other PMP aspirants, post them here as comments and feel proud of yourself by contributing to others’ success.

Image credit: Unsplash / Michał Parzuchowski

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Dear Harwinder,

I found all most all answers for my questions to prepare for PMP exam. I want to "thank you" for composing all these information together in this blog including FAQ on PMP. I was rushing to take the PMP exam 3rd edition by June 29th. However after going through your forum, I changed my decision. Also as you suggested in one of the reply, do you suggest us to wait for few weeks before we book the exam in 4th edition?

The other query I have is, one of our colleague who took the exam last week and could not cleared in her first attempt suggest that "During the PMP exam if you find the answers as simple, do not choose them as more often it is a trap and the correct answers are the ones which is difficult to guess". Only very few questions are exceptional for this. She felt that she could not clear because the answers which she selected were simple ones. Is this is true?


Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hi Kumar,

Thanks to you for your comments and feedback.

You have asked an interesting question. Yes, it's possible that some of the easy options could be booby traps, but we cannot generalize and say that all such answers would be wrong.

My advise in this case is very simple:

If you find a simple answer choice or a choice that's too obvious, you should be more alert and read all the answer choices carefully before answering the question.

You have to rely on our knowledge and skills gained through experience and exam preparation to answer each question. You cannot go by generalizations or feedback from one or two candidates.

Hope it helps.

Missing Avatar

Please can you provide tips how to address various situational questions in PMP coz some cases choices for answer almost look alike for example
what to do FIRST?
what is the LEAST important thing to do?
What is the BEST things to do?
What PM FORGOT to do ?