How to prepare for the PMP exam

February 16, 2021 · 2 min read · By ASU CareerCatalyst

If you want to make a career change to project management, earning your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is the best place to start. Most companies seek the PMP certification when hiring and those with the certification earn a salary on average 20% higher than other project managers. Here’s how to navigate the Project Management Institute’s requirements and get on track to pass the PMP exam.


Before you can even sign up for a test date, you need project management work experience and formal project management education, called contact hours.

If you have a four-year college degree, you need 4,500 hours of work experience in at least three years and 35 contact hours. If you have a high school or associate degree, you need 7,500 work experience hours in at least five years and 35 contact hours.

Both the work experience and contact hours must cover the five areas of project management: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.

Work experience

Getting enough work experience hours can be an especially intimidating part of preparing for the PMP exam, especially if you don’t currently work in project management or a related field. However, the good news is you probably have more hours than you think.

Experience working as a manager or in a project environment can count, even if you’re not the one leading the projects. The Project Management Institute has a relatively broad definition of what qualifies as a project, so any completed work with a specific deadline, workflow and deliverable could be relevant.

If you look back at your past work experience and still need more hours, try reaching out to the project management team at your organization and offer to help out or assist leading a project.

Contact hours

The Project Management Institute requires formal project management education, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your evenings sitting in a classroom if you don’t want to. Self-paced online classes, continuing education courses and company-sponsored programs can also count as contact hours, even if you never meet the instructor face to face.

No matter which style of course you take, it’s recommended you only enroll in courses from Registered Education Providers. These training providers have been reviewed by Project Management Institute, so you can be confident the material will be relevant and meet the institute’s requirements. ASU Continuing and Professional Education is an education provider for the Project Management Institute.

Also, think back and see if there’s any project management training you’ve already completed. Contact hours never expire, so if you completed a project management course three or even 10 years ago, it could count as long as you have the documentation.

Study time

The PMP exam is difficult. There is no official pass or fail rate, but most estimate only about 50-60% pass the exam on their first try. Therefore, it’s smart to spend extra time studying in addition to the 35 education hours required.

The test (and probably your contact hours course) is based on “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.” Create a self-study plan or join a study group and take the time to read and thoroughly understand the concepts and vocabulary in the guide.

There’s also sample test questions and other materials online you can use to practice and make sure you’re familiar with the type of questions you’ll see on exam day.

Prepare for the PMP exam with a project management certificate from Arizona State University


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