How Much Time Do You Need to Study for the PMP?

A common question on every non-certified Project Manager’s mind, is how much time do you need to study for the PMP exam.

The answer, of course, depends on the Project Manager. In case the Project Manager is junior, with very little experience (unfortunately some PMP applicants inflate their project management experience in order to be eligible to take the PMP exam), then a couple of months of very hard studying is the norm. In case the Project Manager is experienced, then a month of concentrated studying would be enough.

Note that before, it was easier to pass the exam for inexperienced Project Managers as a lot of questions were formula-based (such as the EVM formulas). Lately, however, it seems that PMI dramatically reduced the number of questions requiring the memorization of formulas and the use of a calculator (some recent PMP applicants have reported to have only seen a couple of such questions in their exam). On the other hand, PMI has substantially increased the focus on complex situational questions, for example: “Two excellent resources resent working with each other, and you need them on the same team, what will you do?” or “A functional manager is interfering with the normal flow of the project by removing resources off their scheduled tasks and giving them other, unrelated tasks. The functional manager “owns” the resources and has seniority over you, how will you handle the situation?”.

Now what makes the whole thing more complicated is that most of the times all the answers make sense in one way or another, but there’ll be one answer that will stand out. The correct answer is always based on PMI’s view of an ideal project management environment, which means that Project Managers are always able to say “No” to anyone and to prioritize the project over the stakeholders’ personal interests without getting fired. The knowledge of the latter concept alone will help Project Mangers a lot in passing their PMP exam. As mentioned before, it’s a good idea to answer questions you’re not sure as you will not be penalized for giving the wrong answers.

Now here’s a quick table explaining, based on the compilation of data from many sources, the time needed to study for the PMP. Note that the table only accounts for those who passed the PMP exam. The number of days has been rounded.

Percentage of PMP applicants Number of study days Time spent studying for the PMP per day
21% Over 90 days 2 hours
58% 60 days 3 hours
13% 30 days 6 hours
8% 15 days 10 hours

The “number of study days” does not include breaks, for example, in the last case, the total number of hours spent studying for the PMP exam is 150. The last case is very concentrated and is not recommended as the PMP applicant has to absorb too much information in too little time.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.

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