How to get a PMP Certification

In order to obtain a PMP certification you must first adhere to the educational requirements. A four-year degree (bachelor’s or the global equivalent) and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500* hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.

OR a high school diploma with 7500* hours leading and directing projects. Experience may NOT go back more than 8 years.

*experience must be non-overlapping.

Application Process

You will need to send PMI the details of this experience and/or education, so it’s best to gather and prepare this information before you open the application.

Once you’ve determined you meet the eligibility criteria, it’s time to apply. Collect the following information and then use the PMI website to guide you through the process.

Contact information — email, address, phone number

Education attained — school attended, level of education attained, degree date

Domain experience — details of the projects, programs, portfolios you’ve worked on including qualifying hours, dates of employment, role, organization details, reference, and experience summary. Be sure to include specific project details and use terminology from the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge). Your overall experiences must cover ALL five process groups (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing).

Domain education — names of courses completed, institutions attended, dates, qualifying hours

Once you open an application, it will remain active for 90 days after which time it will close.

Tip: in order to complete the application quickly, gather all of the information and documentation beforehand. Otherwise, it will likely take you multiple sessions to complete.

Once PMI receives your application, they will verify that you meet the eligibility criteria and that your experience and/or education is valid and consistent with the guidelines stated in the certification handbook. Typically, the application review period will take 5–10 days, depending on the certification. Once it’s complete, they will email you to move on to the next step.

Save Money

Tip: Join PMI, as it will save you money on the exam fee and continuing education (PDUs), give you access to a wide range of products and knowledge, and also provide you with opportunities to network in the project management world.

Your test will occur at one of Prometric’s worldwide testing sites. Schedule your appointment online at using your eligibility number.

Know what to expect

200 total questions, 25 of which are “experimental”. These questions are used by PMP for the purpose of creating future tests and are not considered in your test score. You will not know which questions are experimental and which are not. It is a computer based exam in which a numeric result is not given and the score needed to pass is not disclosed. Immediately upon completion of the exam, you will receive a pass or fail

Most questions are based on information directly out of the PMBOK. However, the exam may also contain questions related to “common” PM knowledge and processes that are not included in the PMBOK. A good exam prep course (see below) will cover this information.

Review the certification handbook and the exam content outline — they’ll explain the exam format and topics that will be covered. Read current books and articles in your domain topic areas. Know the project management domains, process groups, and ITTOs (inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs)


Consider enrolling in an exam prep course and forming a study group with your colleagues or friends.

The PMP exam is more about one’s knowledge of the PMI project management process (domains, process groups, and ITTOs) than it is about how effectively one can manage a project. Success on the exam is largely based on memorization of this information, but the exam will also expect the taker to be able to apply this information to real-world scenarios. In addition, the PMP exam is also a test of one’s test-taking ability. In other words, one must read the questions VERY carefully to understand exactly what the question is asking. Often, questions will be asked in such a way to trick the reader into thinking it is about one topic, when in fact it is about another.

A good PMP exam prep course will explain this in great detail and provide numerous sample questions, as well as a sample test, to help one get accustomed to the types of questions that will be on the test. I highly recommend taking one of these courses, regardless of other forms of study that one is planning to do.

Understanding your exam results

An overall pass/fail result is generated based on the number of questions you answered correctly

You will also receive a proficiency assignment for each project management domain (Initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing). There are three levels of proficiency: proficient, moderately proficient, and below proficient

PMI defines three levels of proficiency

Proficient – indicates performance is above the average level of knowledge in this domain

Moderately Proficient – indicates performance that is at the average level of knowledge in this domain

Below Proficient – indicates performance is below the average level of knowledge in this domain

Apparently, as of August 2017, this is changing. PMI will now provide more information to help the exam taker identify areas of weakness, along with a different proficiency rating for the process groups: Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement.

Special thank to those who helped me with the article:

Rob Obrien, Lindsey Wilson, and David Yung

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One Comment on “How to get a PMP Certification

  1. Pingback: 9 Traits of Great Engineers

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