The Project Management Professional, (PMP)®, exam is an exhaustive exercise for any project manager who takes it. The exam presents 200 questions that cover the entire spectrum of the project management field. The exam is established by the Project Management Institute, (PMI)®, which crafts questions from their Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK)®. the definitive text of project management topics. There are questions about project inititiation, planning, execution, control and integration. In order to test the whole range of project knowledge, questions of ethics are also on the exam. All of these make a strenuous exam that is a complete ordeal when you write it. The process is fair, however. The project manager who prepares for the PMP exam has a good chance of passing the exam given enough advance practice. The key is to understand how the questions are formulated and to truly understand what is asked. It also helps to know the style of the questions. Often the questions are intentionally deceiving. You may find something like:
A project manager is asked to organize an initial project discovery meeting. The project sponsor is present as is a project manager who worked on a similar project in the past. You make an agenda and introduce the project topics that you understand them to be. A lively discussion of the project particulars ensues. The project preliminary budget is discussed in some detail. What is the best thing to do after the initial project meeting?

This question is typical. A great amount of descriptive text presents a scenario that leads into may different types of questions. In the end, a very simple question is asked. The prepared PMP candidate would know in advance what the prescribed action is after an initial project meeting. The rest of the text in the question is a diversion. If the PMP candidate takes a lot of time reading and understanding the nuances of the given text, they may be wasting time. There is a limited amount of time to complete the exam. Some questions are designed to use that time if the candidate is not careful. A quick scan of the question, starting at the end of it first, will establish that this question is somewhat of a trick. Adequate exam preparation will allow the PMP candidate to be aware of these types of questions and let the candidate answer them successfully, in a short amount of time.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
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Note: The fifth edition is now available. The PMP exam will be based on the fourth edition until June 2013, at least.

Basically, the PMP exam is organized into a few categories. There is perhaps a third of the questions that are related to general project and business knowledge. Things like business ethics, team structure and business processes will comprise these kinds of questions. Many of these questions will be general knowledge. In the worst case, the PMP exam candidate will be able to read the four possible answers and relate these to the question. Typically, one or two of the possible answer choices will be absolutely irrelevant to the question. Perhaps two of the remaining possible choice will seem to make sense. You then need to evaluate them on their own merits. If the possible answer says something like "The project manager will always prepare a communications status report for the project sponsor", you should be wary. Words like "always", "never", "constantly" are keys. Rarely in project management are processes so absolute that "never" or "always" apply. Instead, "perhaps", "mostly" or "often" are the norm for project managers. It is not an exact science, project management. If the question is trying to imply a rigid response, perhaps that answer choice is not the best one. The possible PMP exam choices are often a matter of what is the best response. Some questions will actually say "what is the best possible next action". Or they will ask "what process should be done next". The four possible choices will all be processes that could be done next, but only one of them will fit with the PMI project methodology ordering structure.

Another category of questions involve the memorization of the topics, and ordering, found in the PMBOK. This is by design. The PMI want exam candidates to know that the initiation process comes first. It is followed by planning, execution and so on. There is a logical progression of project management topics. The fact that real world projects may skip certain project management processes, or perform them out of sequence, is of no concern to the PMP exam designers. You must know the sequence of the processes. You must also know which inputs are used during each project process and which outputs result. While there are many of these inputs and outputs, it isn't absolutely to memorize them. A logical determination of them may be sufficient. A work breakdown structure, or WBS, output is not likely to be a communications plan. The input into the project close process is not likely to be the project schedule. These are basic points of knowledge that adequate study by the PMP candidate will reveal.

There is likely to be a few questions related to the earned value of the project work. A number of calculations are defined in the PMBOK that relate to earned values. Other calculations such as the number of communications channels may be expected. These are based on formulas that must be memorized. Candidates often ensure that they can recite these by rote. During the initial minutes of the exam, candidates write them down on the scrap paper provided. This frees the mind of the information and prepares the candidate for the real questions to be answered.

After jotting down your formulas and any other memorization points that you have, then you can approach the test questions. There are a lot of them and even though you have a fair amount of time to complete the exam, you don't want to be wasteful with your time. Always do a quick scan of the questions. Some people look at the end of the question first. This may instantly show what is asked. The long preamble to the question might be a diversion. If you see exactly what is asked at the end of the question, then you can read the beginning text actively noting the keywords that you expect. Other approaches are to look for short questions on the exam and answer those first. This gives you the ability to get a lot of questions answered in a minimum of time. You would then have ample time remaining in which to answer the longer PMP exam questions. There is no penalty for skipping any question, even the hard ones. With adequate preparation and attention to the time allotted for the actual writing of the exam, you should have no trouble answering all of the questions. There should even be time left over to review your answers.