PMP Certification: How to get PMP Certification in 6 Steps

18 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

How to get PMP Certification in 6 Steps How to get PMP Certification? A detailed PMP Study Plan for getting PMP certified: The objective of this page is to help jump-start your journey toward PMP certification and becoming a PMI Certified Project Management Professional (PMP). There’s a plethora of information available about the PMP exam on the internet. However, the challenge that faces most PMP aspirants is to figure out where to start. Sometimes, it may take upto 6 - 12 months for an individual to just figure out all the requisite information. This page will help you focus on the essentials by providing you with filtered content.

This page explains my proprietary (*winks*) 6-Step approach on How to become a PMP in a reasonable amount of time and effort, and using the most economical means available.

Do you meet the PMP eligibility criteria?

PMP Certification Eligibility Criteria

PMP Certification Experience - PalinIt’s all right to have the motivation to become a PMP, but it is also important to check whether you meet the rigorous eligibility criteria set by PMI, before you invest time in exam preparation.

To be eligible for the PMP credential, you must meet certain educational and professional experience requirements. All project management experience must have been accrued within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission.

The eligibility requirements depend upon your Education Background.

  1. If you hold a Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate's degree or global equivalent), then you need:
    • Project Management Experience: Minimum five years/60 months unique nonoverlapping professional project management experience.
    • Project Management Education: 35 contact hours of formal project management education OR CAPM® Certification.
  2. If you hold a Four-year degree (bachelor's degree or global equivalent), then you need:
    • Project Management Experience: Minimum three years/36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience.
    • Project Management Education: 35 contact hours of formal project management education OR CAPM® Certification.
  3. If you hold a Bachelor's or post-graduate degree from a GAC accredited program (bachelor's degree or master's or global equivalent), then you need:
    • Project Management Experience: Minimum two years/24 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience.
    • Project Management Education: GAC course work can be used to fulfill the 35 contact hours of formal project management education requirement.

For complete details, refer to the PMP Handbook and PMP Exam Content Outline.

PMP Study Material you’ll need

PMP Certification Google Search ResultsSo much PMP study material is available online for the PMP Exam that finding the “best” material can be a daunting task. A simple search on Google for “PMP Certification” results in more than 30 million results! It is a challenge that most PMP aspirants face when they begin their journey. They just do not know where to start from and what is “right” for them.

To address this challenge, I have compiled a list of the very “best” PMP study material, which can help jump-start your PMP exam prep and save you considerable amount of precious time in siphoning through huge volume of information. If you get this resource, you are well and truly on your path toward achieving the PMP credentials.

But before I unveil the hidden treasure of information, I want to request a favor. After you review the material, please post your comments and suggestions to help me improve the information further.

Having passed the exam, I can assure you that the material that I’m going to share with you is more than sufficient for anyone to pass the exam.


Please use this information at your own discretion. Remember, what worked for me may not work for you! Your mileage may vary.

PMP Study Plan

My 6-step approach will require approximately 4 months of preparation. See the schedule in the Gantt chart above. Note that some of the steps run simultaneously. For example, you can start your preparation (Step 5) while PMI is reviewing your application (Step 3).

PMP Certification Study Plan

You need to study for 1-2 hours everyday for 4 months, and approximately 200 hrs in total, including 40 hours of PM training. See my estimated preparation time break-up in the table below. You can certainly reduce the duration (even down to 6 weeks) by devoting 4-5 hours each day.

PMP Certification Prep Time

6 steps to achieving PMP credentials

Step 1: Sign-up for Project Management Institute (PMI) membership

How to get PMP Certification Step 1 Set your target certification exam date, and sign-up for Project Management Institute (PMI) membership. This should be done before you even begin your preparation. Detailed information about membership and exam is available on the PMI website.

Let’s assume that your preparation time is 4 months. So, working backward, you should sign up for PMI membership about 4 months prior to your target exam date. At this time, PMI membership fee is USD 139, including USD 10 application fee.

PMI membership has several benefits. Some of the PMI membership benefits include:

  • Savings on PMP Exam Cost Do you know that PMI Membership plus PMP certification exam fee for members is less than just PMP exam fee for non-members. Here's how:

    - PMI Membership = USD 139
    - PMP Exam Fee for members = USD 405
    - Total cost for Membership and Exam = USD 544 (Member cost)

    PMP Exam Fee for Non-members = USD 555 (Non-member cost)

    As you can see, despite paying for the PMI membership fee, PMI members still end up with a net saving of $11. So if you have decided to take the PMP exam, signing up for PMI membership is a no brainer! Refer to the PMP Handbook for more details.
  • Free soft copy of latest edition of PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition.
  • Access to tons of educational content on
  • Free access to award-winning, informative publications.

Step 2: Earn 35 Contact Hours of Project Management Education

How to get PMP Certification Step 2 In Step 2, you need to get 35 Contact Hours of Project Management education, which is a pre-requisite for the PMP exam. Several classroom and online trainings are available that can help you meet this requirement. Classroom trainings can cost upto $2500. Online and self-paced courses are more economical.

I recommend using the self-paced learning option - PM Prepcast. Not only does it provide top quality Project Management training, it will also help you earn your 35 Contact Hours.

If you go with the Prepcast option, I suggest that you read the corresponding chapters from the PMBOK Guide as you go through the Prepcast lessons. The Prepcast really brings PMBOK Guide to life and makes PMBOK Guide very easy to understand. If you follow this approach, you can get your 35 Contact Hours and complete the first pass of the PMBOK Guide simultaneously within the first month itself.

Step 3: Apply for PMP Certification Exam with PMI

How to get PMP Certification Step 3

After you earn your 35 Contact Hours, apply for PMP certification exam with PMI. The explanation of the application process is a topic in itself and I won’t delve into it too much.

At a high-level, you need to follow these steps:

  • You can apply for PMP Certification online using PMI's Online Certification System.
  • You need to report your project management experience (hours) to PMI as part of your application. In the last few years, PMI has substantially simplified the online PMP Exam Application form.
  • You need to achieve 35 Contact Hours of Project Management education "before" you apply for PMP Certification with PMI. Therefore, step 2 is a pre-requisite for step 3.
  • PMI reviews your application and if it is determined to be complete, PMI will send you an email to submit the exam fee. PMI typically takes about 1 week for application approval. Your application approval is valid for one-year from the date you receive the approval email.
  • After you pay for the exam, PMI will send you an email indicating one of the following next steps:
    • Examination scheduling instructions to help you schedule your examination, OR
    • Notification informing you that your application has been randomly selected for audit
  • If you receive exam scheduling instructions, you can go ahead and schedule your exam with Pearson VUE (Step 4).
  • If your application is selected for an audit, PMI will provide you the follow-up instructions to comply with the audit.

Important Note

PMI does not ask for any documentation or other evidence at the time of application. However, if your application is selected for audit, you will be asked to provide copies of your degree/diploma certificates, signatures from your manager(s)/supervisor(s) verifying your project management experience and your Contact Hours certificate(s).

Step 4: Book the PMP Exam with Pearson VUE Testing Center

How to get PMP Certification Step 4

You can book the exam after you receive the email from PMI with exam scheduling instructions. PMP exam is administered by Pearson VUE. Book the exam with Pearson VUE well in advance (at least 2 months in advance), as slots are always limited. Having a clear target date will also bring focus into your preparation. Note that you have exactly one year to take the exam from the date your application is approved. It is your responsibility to ensure that you book and take your exam with Pearson VUE within that one year eligibility window.


Are you finding it difficult to get your preferred exam slot with Pearson VUE? Here's a tip for you - Secret Key to that Elusive Date with Prometric (NOTE: the exam used to be administered by Prometic but the technique is applicable to Pearson VUE also).

Step 5: Get the best PMP Study Material and Study

How to get PMP Certification Step 5 All the resources that you need for the PMP exam (such as books, online forums, mock tests, exam simulators, etc.) are listed on this page:

Best PMP Certification Resources on the Web

Let’s take a closer look at the resources.

  • Books: PMBOK + Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep + the free online books should be sufficient to pass the exam.
  • Online Forums: Join one or more online forums mentioned on PMP Certification Exam Online Forums page. You can also join my own forum PM Hangout if you want quality advice for free. These forums offer Lessons Learned by exam takers, PMP Exam Tips & Tricks, free question banks and more. Read as many lessons learned posts as you can find.
  • Free mock exams: Attempt at least 2000 sample questions from the list of 7000+ Free PMP Certification Sample Exam Questions.
  • Other exams simulators: Apart from free mock exams, I recommend that you invest in one good commercial exam simulator. My personal favorite is Rita Mulcahy's PM Fastrack program. It's expensive, but the quality is really top notch and the standard is comparable to the real PMP exam.

Another good and more economical option is PMP Exam Simulator - 1800 Qs.

If you were to attempt even half of the practice exams mentioned above, you would be staring at a mountain of 3000+ questions! With this amount of practice, your chances of success would be very high.

Few additional tips:

You can spend about 3 months in studying all the material at least two time. From my experience, you would need to review all the material 3 times before you take the exam to have a really good chance of success (again, your mileage may vary).

Step 6: Take the PMP Exam and Pass!

How to get PMP Certification Step 5 Last, but the not the least, take the exam. If you follow the schedule from step 1-5, you should sail through smoothly. You can take the exam even earlier if you feel prepared, and you manage to find an exam slot with Pearson VUE.

PMP exam is four hours long, which is a lot longer than usual 2-3 hr exams that most people are used to. You need to condition your mind and body to build your stamina, as this doesn’t come naturally to many people. Therefore, it is very important that you attempt a few (at least 2-3) full-length mock exams.

The exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions. Out of 200, only 175 questions are actually scored. Remaining 25 are ‘trial’ questions and are not scored. But, you would not know which questions are scored and which are not. My best guess is that any questions that refer to terms which are not referenced in the PMBOK are probably not scored. But again, that’s an unproven theory.

The distribution of exam questions across different project management process groups is (updated for PMP Exam 2016):

PMP Exam Domain-wise Percentage Distribution of Questions

Refer to the PMP Handbook for complete details on the exam information and blueprint.

Do you want to know the best way to earn 35 Contact Hours for PMP? Read the next section to find out.

Project Management Prepcast

This is the new video version of the extremely popular PM Prepcast and is based on PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition. A few words on the Prepcast for those who are not familiar with it:

  • It is a video Podcast compared to the previous audio-only version.
  • It has 111 lessons and total duration is over 47 hours - 38 hours video and 9.5 hours of audio.
  • You can use it on your computer, iPod, iPhone or any modern smartphone, tablet or multimedia player.
  • Using this workshop, you can earn the 35 Contact Hours, which are a pre-requisite for the PMP Exam, at your own pace and anywhere.
  • You need to pass a 25 question online test to receive your 35 Contact Hours Certificate. You need to answer 17 out of 25 questions correctly in order to pass the exam. You can take the test 2 weeks after purchasing the Prepcast. The good part is that you can take it anytime and as many times as you want.
  • It comes with lot of bonus material, the most useful of which is a sample exam with 60 tough questions.
  • It comes with an unconditional money-back guarantee.
  • Price: $299.99

I have an evaluation copy of Prepcast and did a comprehensive review. I suggest that you read my review of PM Prepcast before purchasing it. If you are interested in the Prepcast, you can buy it by clicking on the button below:

Worried about ITTOs for the PMP Exam? Help is on the way!


BrainBOK ITTO Explorer is by far the best tool to master PMBOK 5th Edition ITTOs for the PMP exam. Apart from the ITTO explorer, it has 2000 flashcards, free and paid practice exams, a challenging formula-based questions exam, quizzes and a lot more. By spending about $50, you can easily save 2-4 weeks of preparation time, and make your preparation more efficient, effective and enjoyable.

With 1800 practice questions under your belt, your chances of success are high!

PM Exam Simulator

PM Exam Simulator is a PMP Exam Simulator from the makers of the ground-breaking PM Prepcast. Here are some quick product details:

  • 1800-question exam simulator i.e. 9 full-length 200-question exams
  • A full exam dedicated to ITTO based questions
  • Based on PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition
  • Multiple exam modes
  • Detailed answer explanations
  • Unlimited 24x7 access
  • 4 bonus items
  • Online only (requires internet connection to work)
  • Compatible with all major browsers
  • Publisher: OSP International, a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.)
  • Free Trial: Yes (3-day, 2-exam, 60-question)
  • Money back guarantee: Yes (2-week, 2-exam)
  • Price: $99.99 (for 90 days)

If you are interested in the PM Exam Simulator, you can buy it by clicking on the button below:

PMP Application Audit Secrets

Let me tell you some secrets ...

Here’s an article on PMP certification application audit that will help you understand the audit process and proactively prepare for the audit.

Myths and Facts about PMP Passing Score

Let's bust some myths too ...

Here are some popular myths and some little known facts about the PMP exam passing score:

Good luck to all PMP aspirants !

Good Luck is Hard Work!

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Missing Avatar

I am aspiring for CAPM certification. I see, there is plethora of information on PMP certification, please enlighten me on CAPM exam. I have around 4 years and 7 months of over all experience In IT. I am a software developer but I am keen to transit to project management roles. Please help !


Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hi Aanchal,

The steps to pass the CAPM are similar to those for PMP. First download the CAPM handbook and go through it to check your eligibility and detailed information on the exam format. CAPM is directly based on the PMBOK Guide. Sign up for the PMI membership to get your copy of the PMBOK Guide. Membership will give you some discount on the exam fee too. In addition, get a CAPM Study Guide (Head First PMP would do too). You can also consider signing up for BrainBOK to cut down on your study time and help you with PMBOK ITTOs (Inputs, Tools and Techniques, Outputs), which are a major component of the CAPM exam.

If you have further questions, post them at PM Hangout where I answer questions related to PM certifications.

Good luck!