The Fast-Track Guide to PMP Certification for Busy Working Professionals 2021

The Step-by-step Guide on how to stay sane while pursuing PMP Certification and taking care of your professional and family lives at the same time. Updated for the latest PMP Exam.

The Fast-Track Guide to PMP Certification for Busy Working Professionals

Don’t worry, the level of difficult is expected to be pretty much the same as the previous version of the PMP Exam. Quite a few Aspirants have passed the new PMP Exam and they shared that they prepare for the PMP Exam just like before (i.e. PMP Exam Prep course + PMBOK® Guide + PMP Reference book + mock exams)! This website has been thoroughly updated for the new PMP Exam (e.g. I have updated my study notes on this website to be based on PMBOK® Guide 6, the mock exams updated, the review on latest versions of the PMP Exam prep courses rewritten, etc.). Hope that you will find something useful for your PMP success here!

Is not enough time stopping you from getting PMP certified?

You are a busy working professional and your time is valuable. You have heard that it is time-consuming to get PMP Certification and therefore you have not begun your exam journey — yet. Do you know that you can become a PMP without much disruption to your professional and family life? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

This Guide is written especially with busy professionals like YOU in mind. Contained here are no-frills info on how to get Certified in the least amount of time with tons of time-saving and cost-saving tips. Nothing more. Period.

I spent tens of hours surfing the internet and reading PMI documents only to understand HOW to get PMP Certification as the information is not readily available anywhere — and I tried to write down what I have discovered along the way below. I hope my experience would help fellow aspirants.

Enough said. Let’s begin the journey.


Yes, I want to be a PMP. Now what?

Glad that you have made a wonderful choice for the PMP title (note: if you are still considering whether to pursue the Certification, read here to know whether PMP is for you). I never regret putting my energy and efforts into getting certified. Below I have summarized the steps involved in getting the certificate for your easy reading:


Action Step 1 — Check Whether You are Eligible for the Exam

Determine whether you are eligible for applying for the Certification according to the 2 criteria below:

  1. A degree + 3 years (with at least 4,500 hours) of project management experience OR
    High school diploma + 5 years (with at least 7,500 hours) of project management experience
  2. 35 contact hour of formal project management training gained through the following means:
    • as part of your college / university education on project management
    • project management lectures / exam prep courses / bootcamps
    • online project management / exam preparation courses (more on this option later)

Note: You need not be in the capacity of a “Project Manager” to have the experience counted but your job should be mainly about planning and leading projects through the whole life-cycle of the project.


Action Step 2 — Verify that You Have the Required Information

Make sure you have all the required documentations / certificates to validate your education and experience before applying for certification, including:

  • University / High school certificate
  • 35 contact hour certificate (don’t worry if you haven’t got your contact hour at this step)
  • Details and proof of your project management experience — You may also wish to ask your supervisor (the one who would sign your professional experience verification form if you are requested an audit) to agree to your project management experience to save you hassles later.


Action Step 3 — Take Exam Prep Course [Optional but Recommended] (US$150 – US$1000+)

If you currently hold the CAPM® Certification, you will be granted an exempt from this 35 Contact Hours of Project Management Education requirement!

If you have not got the 35 contact hour certificate, you can take an exam prep course to get you one and help you to prepare for the exam.

If you have the 35 contact hour certificate, you are also highly recommended to take the course since it is likely that your 35 contact hours may not be based on the PMBOK® Guide — which accounts for a large portion of the exam syllabus. Plus, you can get at least 35 PDUs for your re-certification provided that you complete the course after your exam.

Contrary to popular belief, PMP Exam Prep courses are not necessarily time-consuming nor expensive. There are online distance learning options.

However, from 2021, PMI does not allow its registered education providers (PMI Authorized Training Partner (A.T.P.)) to provide the cheapest option of pre-recorded online courses. Yet, one can still make use of the training and experience sharing of those courses to help them to prepare for the PMP Exam though the courses are no longer considered “pre-approved” by PMI — you will only need an added step of collecting all the course outline/content/certificate indicating that you have at least 35 qualifying hours of project management studies.

One such great example of cost effective online PMP Course is the PM PrepCast™.

Online courses allow you to make good use of your “idle time” (i.e. the time you originally spent on waiting, transportation or day-dreaming).

There are also other “PMI approved” PMP bootcamps would cost you over US$1000 and you have to take a week’s off from your work to attend the lessons. Online bootcamps are also available now. Some say that the PMP bootcamps are very useful. So, take them if your budget allows.


Action Step 4 — Purchase Exam Prep Book(s)/Guide(s) (<US$100)

Your course may include lecture notes and / or your instructors may recommend you to purchase a separate Exam Prep book in order to fully prepare for the PMP Exam. The following are the 3 most popular ever PMP Exam prep book for your consideration, any one of this would be able to help you pass the PMP Exam in first try:

  • If you want to know the ins and outs of project management beyond the PMP ExamRita’s PMP Book is yours.
  • If you want to pass the PMP Exam with minimal efforts, Andy Crowe’s How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your First Try will not fail you.
  • If you are a visual learner and learn best with diagrams and charts, choose Head First PMP Book.

Why would you need an additional exam prep book in addition to the PMBOK® Guide? Well, the PMBOK® Guide is not the exam syllabus! These guides will provide you with the missing information from the PMBOK® Guide that you would be tested in the exam.

I chose the Andy Crowe’s book to help me prepare for my exam with the least amount of time.

Note: There is NO need to purchase the PMBOK® Guide as you can download a copy for FREE (which can also be printed) after becoming a member of the PMI.


Action Step 5 — Join PMI as a Member (for US$139)

The PMP Exam Fee (of the most common Computer Based Test) for non-members is US$555 while that for members is US$405.

The saving of US$150 for the exam fee for members is higher than that of the first year PMI membership fee of US$139 (if you do not join the regional PMI chapter; US$129 annually afterwards). Plus you can download the PMBOK® Guide for FREE (a US$47.98 value). Plus you can get PDU once certified for FREE ……


Action Step 6 — Apply for the PMP Exam (for US$405)

You can simply apply for the exam in the members’ area of your PMI member account. At this stage, you just need to enter the details of your personal, education and working experience without providing any proof (you will need to show your certificates, etc. if you are selected for an audit).

You are highly recommended to apply immediately after you have gotten your 35 Contact Hour Certificate.

I made a mistake of applying for the exam too late. As all applicants are subject to Audit which will cost you an extra of up to 1 month of time. I was chosen for the Audit which was unexpected at the time of application.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to apply for the exam early on so that you can really plan your exam date.

You will have to pay the exam fee at this step.

No worry if you are not well-prepared for the exam yet as you have up to 1 year of time to schedule and take your exam once approved.

Note: In case if you are chosen for the Audit, it is fairly easy to pass the audit provided that you provide all the required documents on time. Read here for the detailed account of my Audit and how I passed it.


Action Step 7 — Schedule the Exam Time Slot

After you have successfully passed the exam application stage, you will be given an exam code for you to book the exam time slot online through Prometric at

Detailed instructions will be included in the email from PMI.

It is highly recommended to book the exam time slot early even if you feel you are not well-prepared for the exam for 2 reasons:

  • PMP is a popular certification, exam time slots fill up fast; even now online PMP Exam is available 24/7, the available proctored exam timeslot is still limited;
  • After you have fixed the exam date, you will be urged to study fast and prepare well — from my own experience, this will accelerate your study!

You are advised to chose a time slot when you will feel most refreshed (probably on Monday morning when the stress of your work is still at a distance).

Don’t worry, you can postpone the exam is you are not ready by the scheduled time for FREE provided that you make the arrangement 30 days before your exam date (or you will have to pay a small fee for the change within 30 days).

If you would like to play safe, you can also schedule the PMP Exam after you have prepared well for the exam.

But be warned that the exam time slots for your preferred exam centres do fill up fast — you may end up taking the exam on a date that is not your most preferred time.


Action Step 8 — Prepare for the Exam

By the time, you should have taken an exam course which helps you to familiarize yourself with the PMP Exam syllabus (including the PMBOK® Guide).

Different people have many different styles of learning. You are advised to formulate the best study plan for you so that you can understand and memorize important facts and formulas for your PMP Exam.

As a reference, my exam study plan includes the following:

  1. Go through the online exam prep course AND
    Read the PMBOK® Guide alongside the online exam prep course. [3 Weeks]
  2. Read the Exam Prep Book you have purchased in Step 4 and finish all the sample questions included. [1 Week]
  3. Attempt 1 sample exam to check your current status. [1 Day]
  4. Re-read the PMBOK® Guide and the Exam Prep Book. [1 Week]
  5. Attempt as many as sample exams as you can find, record your results and understand your mistakes. [2 Weeks]

Altogether I spent around 7 weeks on the actual study while still being able to attend to my professional and family obligations…… with just a few disruptions to my normal daily life.

Here are my study notes in case you will find them useful. I would highly recommend you to write your own study notes.


Action Step 9 — Are You Ready for the Exam?

“How do I know if I am ready for the PMP Exam?” This is one of the most common questions Aspirants would have.

Trainers and aspirants alike recommend that the most credible way of assessing whether you are ready to sit for & pass the exam is to check whether you can get around 75% or above in quality practice exams in the first attempt.

There are a few time-tested PMP sample exams that you can put to use for FREE:

  • Oliver Lehmann (Online) — 100 Questions
  • PM Exam Simulator (Free 3-day Trial)
  • Oliver Lehmann (Downloadable PDF) — 175 Questions
  • Edwel Mock Exam — 200 Questions
  • and more

(links to the above exams can be found here)

As a reference, I got around over 80% in all of these sample exams in the first attempt and I got 4 “Above Target” and 1 “Target” in my exam.

Attempting full 200-question sample exams is definitely advised as you will understand when you will need a break and you can mentally be well prepared for the actual Exam.


Action Step 10 — Take and Pass the PMP Exam

Remember to go to the exam centre at least 1/2 hours earlier than the scheduled time to allow time for traffic congestion or relaxation.

Do bring your printed email confirmation of the exam appointment from Prometric.

I do not advise you to make full use of your time before the Exam for revision. The exam is a rather long exam with 200 questions to be answered in 4 hours.

Keep your cool during the exam as you may find some more difficult questions first. Believe me that the questions are going to be easier later on. That’s my very own experience.

After 4 hours, you will be crowned “PMP”! Congratulations!


The PMP Exam is difficult but you can pass it in the first attempt with enough preparation! Hope this guide has pointed you in the right direction with the right mindset for getting certified.

If you would like to learn more about the exam processes and details, The Complete PMP Certification and Study Guide (for PMBOK® Guide 6) is here to help you.

Should you have any further queries, I am more than happy to answer. Helping fellow aspirants is MY way of giving back to the project management community.


Wish you PMP success!

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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26 Responses

  1. Omer Kaya says:

    Hello Edward,

    The “” website has a very important place for me among the information-based websites that I have reviewed and used until today. So, I want to get in contact with you about my similar projects. Could you please send your e-mail address?

    Omer Kaya, MSc, PMP

  2. Jerry says:

    Hi Edward, if i take PMP course last year on PMBOK fifth edition but not take exam, now PMBOK GUIDE 6TH ED. need to obtain another 35 contact hrs ? Known that you mentioned 35 contact hrs valid for life. But don’t know any limitation, thanks in advance.

    • Edward Chung says:

      There is no need to take another 35 contact hours as 35 contact hours earned are valid forever. However, you may need to study for the PMP Exam based on PMBOK 6th edition all over again as the 6th edition is quite different from the 5th one.

      Wish you PMP success!

  3. Hi Edward,

    Just a friendly observation, in your “About Edward” narrative, you have spelled the word certification incorrectly:

    You state: Please review ‘certificaition’. It should be ‘certification’.

  4. Kish says:

    Thank you for the information. I was at stand still since after several attempts I was unable to increase my score above 68%. I felt rushed to take the current exam since it was explained that the new exam is more complicated. After reading information on your page I feel less intimidated. I now have my confidence back and will continue my studies more diligently.

    • Edward Chung says:

      I would highly advise you to continue working on mock exams and understand why you have got answers wrong. In this way, you will be much closer to your PMP success!

  5. Clint Malik says:

    Thank you for this article. This is literally the motivation to actually pursue this now. I’m a business analyst in the DC area, and I feel my natural trajectory is the PMP cert. As a family man myself, this is very rewarding. I was wondering if you could be a part mentor if needed. I certain I can get thru this on my own with the right tool, but just in case I have question, I would love to go to you for insight.

  6. Hi Edward,

    I find your content very useful in my preparation for PMPexam. I am taking PMP exam on 30 Jan. Could you please share link to download mind maps that will help me to prepare.

    Deepika Dania

  7. Cameron says:

    Thank you for the information in a concise and precise manner. I really appreciate it when people make these topics simple and provide exact information on the steps needed.


  8. Su san says:

    Hi, how should i prepare for pmp exam? I failed exam twice already. It seems to be coz of my study is not throughly. Tks

    • Edward Chung says:

      You should be very stressed. I understand your frustrations. Have you followed the outline list above? Try to treat every exam attempt as a completely new one and go through the steps thoroughly. Success is not far away!

      You may refer to this lessons learned from a recent exam taker who failed the exam in the first try:

      Wish you PMP success!

      • Su san says:

        Thanks you, Edwards, currently , my score are around 60% only & i will read PMBOK & Rita’s twice thoroughly too. Over 90% are situational questions. My weeknest is if question is asking which one you need to do first, i m doubt & i thought i choose wrongly. Gaps btn knowledge & conditional process .

      • Edward Chung says:

        Try to do as many mock exam questions as possible. This way, you can improve your confidence in answering those “what you need to do first” questions.

        Have faith in yourself. You can do it!

  9. Ron Pena says:

    Hi Edward,

    Thanks so much for this, I passed last week with 3 Profficients and 2 MP’s… mainly due to your guide and tips

    Highly recommend the Andy Crowe book that highlights and expands on key points, as well as doing the brain dump before you start answering the questions.

    There were setbacks and highlights, but highly agree with everything you mention in this guide

  10. Proquotient says:

    Many people want to get the PMP Certification but are unable to do so because of tight schedules and lack of time. This article is very helpful for those people as it gives a step by step guide on how you can get this certification even with time constraints.

  11. Raj kumar says:


    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Raj,

      There is no need to give documents about your project management experience. All you need is to provide information on your supervisors/colleagues of the projects that are included in the PMP application form. If you are requested an audit, then you will need to ask your named supervisors/colleagues to sign the verification forms and have the forms mailed back to PMI.

      Wish you PMP success!

  12. jawad says:

    Hi , I have got 35 hrs PDU a year before, will it still be considered ?


  13. Varun says:

    Dear Edward

    This is with regard to project management experience audit, do i have to mention the roles and responsibilities on a company letterhead and get it signed by the supervisor ?
    I worked as Quality Assurance Engineer, Senior QA Eng and Test lead in last 5 yrs, is my work experience relevant, I am involved in providing estimations of project, Test planning and Test execution and control ?
    How is the details of the project management experience provided to the PMI, I mean on company letterhead or a form is available ?
    Are they any defined set of roles or responsibilities or keyword that audit people look into, please advise ?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Varun,

      There is no need to provide the proof of working experience on a company letterhead, all you need to do is to find your named supervisors to sign the experience verification forms provided by PMI (with the details of your project management pre-filled based on what you have submitted in your PMP application) and then ask your supervisors to seal the form in an envelope and return them to you.

      You will then have to mail the whole package (including your educational certificates) back to PMI to complete the audit.

      Hope this helps.