Demystifying the PMP Exam: How to Get the Project Manager Certification

Home The Savvy PM Blog Demystifying the PMP Exam: How to Get the Project Manager Certification

If you have any interest in project management, especially if you work in project management, then you have probably heard of the PMP exam.  Passing this exam is the final and crucial step in receiving a PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. The PMP exam was developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in October of 1984.  

What is the PMP Exam?

The PMP Exam is a way of certifying project management professionals in a very similar way that the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Exam certifies accountants.  It allows individuals to promote themselves singularly but also encourages promotions within a company. Taking and passing this exam allows a person to be certified and stand out in the project management field.  

What Are the Benefits of the PMP?

The benefits of the PMP are extensive. They range from personal benefits all the way to career benefits. Since passing the PMP exam is required in the certification process, you’ll want to make a plan to work toward that goal.  And achieving this certification will certainly boost your resume and validate your skills and knowledge in the Project Management Industry.  

While the PMP exam is one of the most comprehensive exams out there right now, the countless hours of study and stress pay off significantly once you have passed the exam.  

First of all, let’s discuss the personal benefits of the PMP.  The hours of study to prepare for this exam are insane. Because of all of your research, time, preparation, and studying, you will learn more about project management than many other things in life. You’ll learn to speak a common language with other PMPs and set yourself up to be more successful on projects. 

Secondly, the PMP is an international certification. This means that not only can you boost your resume in the country in which you live, but you’ll join a global community of like-minded professionals with the potential to open even more doors for your future. Furthermore, the PMP boosts your value in the project management industry at your current job and makes you more attractive to future employers.  These examples highlight the ways that passing the PMP exam has benefited people in a very positive way.  

While the nature of the PMP exam is extremely challenging, these benefits verify that it is worth the time and effort that you must put in to pass the exam.  

How Should I Study for the PMP Exam?

In order to properly prepare yourself for something, you must first understand it.  The PMP exam has experienced a number of changes since its inception in 1984.  The most recent in this series of changes came in January 2021.  

These small but noteworthy differences to the exam will change how you study and prepare. The number of questions has decreased along with the time allowed, and there is a slight change to the break policy.  With that in mind, we’ll discuss in more detail what to expect on the exam.  

Sections of the PMP

We examined the PMP Exam Content Outline to give you a closer look inside the exam blueprint. Currently, in the revised PMP exam, there are three sections.  Each section has different “tasks.” Now, let’s take a moment to look at these three sections.  

1. People

First, we have the “people” section. This section (which is also called a domain) has fourteen different tasks.  This domain alone constitutes forty-two percent of the PMP exam.  These tasks are defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as “the underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain area.”  

The first task in the people domain is about managing conflict.  This section of the domain requires the test taker to interpret, analyze, and evaluate the conflict and also recommend a potential solution.

The next seven tasks focus on the team. These include building, leading, motivating, encouraging, and removing barriers for the team. The remaining six tasks revolve around communication with the stakeholders, overcoming different setbacks, challenges, and misunderstandings.  

As the title of this domain suggests, the emphasis is very heavy on people and different relationships. 

2. Process

The next domain has the most amount of tasks and makes up the highest grading percentage of the exam (fifty percent).  This domain covers the project management processes and is aptly named the “process” section.  

The first task emphasizes the need to execute the project with the proper urgency required to deliver value for the business.  

These seventeen tasks cover the gamut of knowledge areas, from communication, to risk, to procurement, to scheduling, to stakeholder engagement. And, you’ll notice that the “process” tasks fall mostly into one of two categories: planning or managing.

Let’s look at the Planning Category

Six of the tasks in the process domain are purely plan-based.  They go into great detail regarding planning and managing schedules, budgets, quality of products/deliverables, and transitions.  

The planning tasks are extremely important as they help you set up your entire project.  Regardless of predictive or adaptive approaches, every project needs a solid plan serving as a strong foundation.  

Let’s look at the Managing Category

The next type of task in this domain is the managing aspect of the process. These tasks are crucial.  After all, management is inherent in the title of Project Manager, so there is a big emphasis on this. Many of the planning tasks also include managing. In these tasks, the test taker must plan and manage certain aspects of the project.  

The process domain is the longest, most challenging, but also the most practical section of the PMP exam.  It covers the planning and managing aspects of being a project manager. 

3. Business Environment

The last domain of the PMP exam is named “business environment.” This domain is worth eight percent of the PMP exam and is much shorter than the other two sections. There are only four tasks, but even though there are not many tasks and it does not count for much of the exam, this section is still challenging. The first task requires the test takers to plan and manage compliance. In this first task, the project manager is required to determine legal risk as well, which is a significant and weighty assignment. Compliance… sounds like a blast, right?!

The second task involves evaluating, investigating, and documenting the benefits and values delivered by the project. The PMP exam will also test your knowledge of apprising the stakeholders about the progress of value gained from the project. The third task instructs you to evaluate and address the external business environment changes for the impact on scope. 

This means you must survey changes in the market, technology, etc., and assess the impact on the scope of the project in regards to this. The fourth and final task is about the support of organizational change, which may happen external to the project, or your project might be the catalyst of that change. Either way, the project manager is expected to understand and assess the culture of the organization and then evaluate the change of this project on the culture and determine required actions based on this change.  

Is the PMP Difficult?

This is one of the main questions people will ask us about the PMP exam.  

How hard is this test? 

What are my chances of passing? 

Truthfully, this exam is one of the most challenging exams in the world.  This exam takes approximately four hours and consists of 180 questions related to the 3 domains discussed above.  Not only are there a lot of questions to answer in the allotted time, but the wording of questions can be confusing and misleading.  

Remember, this exam is broad, covering a multitude of topics over the entire project management industry globally.  And, one of the key points we cover in our class is that the student must get in the mindset of PMI. The correct answer for the exam may not match up with your personal, real-world experience!  Quick example: for the exam, every project must have a signed project charter. No charter means no project. (That probably doesn’t match your on-the-job experience.) Don’t worry – we share lots of tips like this in class to help you know the proper strategy to pass on your first try.

The good news is that we offer many valuable resources that can help you pass this exam.  Quality PMP certification preparation is a must if you wish to pass this exam, especially if you are trying to pass on the first try!  

Trusted Resources to Prepare

The best way to prepare for this exam is to take a self-paced, online course or an instructor-led class, like the ones we offer at Velociteach.  An online course will help you prepare and study for your exam while also offering you practice exams and the essential education and training you need to be eligible for the certification.

With our PMP Exam Prep + Agile boot camp, you’ll have everything you need to pass the exam, including four days of teaching from one of our excellent instructors, Andy Crowe’s best-selling textbook, our online course, and practice exams. If you don’t pass your exam on the first try, we’ll provide a detailed study plan to ensure you pass on the next try. If you don’t pass your exam three times within one year of your original class date, we’ll refund your course tuition.  Get certified, or get your money back.

Valuable Resources:

  • Textbooks, Quick References Guides, and more
  • Self-paced, online courses that include video and audio instruction, practice tests, formula sheets, exercises and more…
  • Instructor-led boot camps offered in person or virtually, led by PMP-certified instructors.  Our 4-day boot camps include everything above plus a bounty of study materials, support from the Velociteach team, and a money-back guarantee.

What Is the Actual Process?

The process for registering with PMI and taking the PMP exam is quite extensive. We walk through the application process in this video. One step is to join the PMI (Project Management Institute).  Joining PMI is optional but strongly recommended as you will receive member benefits including a discount on the PMP exam fee.

To qualify to take the PMP exam, you’ll have a few requirements to meet. You must have either a high school diploma/ associate’s degree/ global equivalent, plus sixty months of professional project management experience, plus thirty-five hours of formal project management training OR a bachelor’s the degree/ global equivalent, plus thirty-six months of professional project management experience, plus thirty-five hours of formal project management education.  

The cost of becoming a member is $139* dollars. If you become a member, you will save money when you have to register for the PMP exam.  If you are a PMI member, the fee for registering is $405*, but if you are not a member, then the fee is $555*.  

After you have been approved to take the exam, you have a year to pass the exam. You are able to take the exam up to three times during this period. Even if you fail this exam, you are able to take it again. With every attempt, you become more proficient and understand the overall process even better. 

The next step: take and pass this one hundred eighty-question exam.


In summary, the PMP certification is extremely helpful and beneficial for those in the project management career field.  The PMP exam is a complicated and difficult test that takes many hours of studying and practice.  

Thankfully, there are many resources that will allow you to succeed and pass with flying colors.  Hopefully, this article has been helpful to prepare you for your attempt at the PMP exam. Good luck!

  1. Certifications – Project Management Professional (PMP)® (
  2. What is PMP certification, and what are the benefits of earning it? (
  3. Microsoft Word – PMP Examination Content Outline – June 2019 (

*Subject to change. These are the fees as of the date of this post.