Step-by-step PMP Certification Guide 2023

Step-by-step PMP Certification Guide 2016 (for PMBOK Guide 5th Ed.)

~ All you need to know about the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification of the Project Management Institute (PMI) that the PMP Handbook doesn’t tell you clearly

This Complete PMP Certification and Study Guide is dedicated to the many thousands of PMP aspirants visiting my blog in the search for the best way to achieve PMP success.

Your feedback and questions have prompted me to prepare this special guide to help all project managers aiming to gain the initials “PMP” after their titles easier.

It is my humble wish to provide all Aspirants with the most detailed online guide to familiarise themselves with the application and certification processes and procedures and how to prepare and study well for the actual exam by the with the ultimate aim to get the Project Management Professional Certification credential in the first try.

This guide is the fruit of many hours of labours — trying to condense a huge amount of information into digestible bits. I have been there before, so I understand the quest for a comprehensive and yet easy to understand guide to PMP Exam application and preparation.

It is my gift to all Aspirants. Wish you PMP success!

Introduction to this Guide

Learning all the stuff required for the exam is already a daunting task, let alone understanding all the intricacies of the certification process as well as handling all the administrative tasks such as the composing the project description and collecting all the documents required for the fearful PMI audit.

It is no wonder why PMP is often considered one of the most difficult professional certifications to achieve.

But this also means that the certification is one of the most valuable certifications for professional working in project management field owing to the “rigidity” of the certification process.

The information presented by the PMP Handbook published is quite informational …… yet, reading the Handbook alone would not lead you to navigate easily through the various processes to success as PMI compose it really in the form of a “standard” (just as the PMBOK® Guide is not easy to read). As an example, what can be counted as “contact hours” or “working experiences”? Or how to write the project description that satisfies PMI requirements?

Fear not, this Guide attempts to answer all your questions during your PMP application and study in the hope of helping you get certified.

This Complete PMP Certification and Study Guide will guide you through the certification process — from initially understanding what the certification is about, successfully completing the application form (including satisfying the audit requirements), studying and preparing for the actual examination …… to collecting PDUs to maintain your credential (i.e. re-certification) after you have gotten your certificate.

This guide will try to answer all the application and study related questions you might have to free you more time to concentrate on your study for exam success. This guide is applicable to Aspirants in the United States, Europe, Asia and all around the world. The PMP Exam is basically the same no matter where you are taking the exam (except that there are language aids available for aspirants whose mother tongue is not English).

About the Author

The author of this guide is Edward Chung, PMP, PMI-ACP®, ITIL® Foundation.

After going through the PMP certification process all alone by googling and wasting dozens of hours…… I couldn’t help but think that if I could eventually get certified, the first thing I would do was to write a detailed account of my certification experience to help fellow Aspirants ease the certification journey.

This guide is the second step to re-organize the exam process in a more systematic and easier-to-understand way after answering hundreds of Aspirants with their queries.

Contents of this Guide

  1. The PMP Certification Process Overview
  2. How Much Time, Effort and Money are Required for the PMP Credential?
  3. How to Get the Required 35 Hours of PMP Training Cheap and Easy?
  4. PMP Study Resources: PMBOK® Guide, PMP Guide plus Practice Exams
  5. How to Correctly Fill the Online PMP Application Form?
  6. How to Pass the PMP Audit Process Smoothly?
  7. Schedule and Take the PMP Certification Exam
  8. Once You have Passed the PMP Exam …
  9. What You Should Know about PMP PDU

These 9 sections are meant to help you navigate through, firstly, the application process, then study and exam and finally getting PDU for re-certification.

Reading them 1 by 1 and carrying out related actions in sequence will guide you through the certification process with ease.

Certification Roadmap

After communicating with hundreds of Aspirants, it is found that the most pressing questions they had are: do not know where to begin the journey. Is it to begin with a complete study of the PMBOK® Guide? Or to get the 35 Contact Hours of Project Management? Or to fill in the online application form?

The following outlines the recommended sequence leading to certification:

  1. Don’t read the PMBOK® Guide on your own, take a course that helps you prepare for the exam (formerly called PMP Exam Prep course). In fact, there are lots of choice ranging from face-to-face classroom lecture, online courses and podcast courses. However, from 2021, PMI doesn’t allow course providers to claim they are offering PMP Exam Prep courses anymore (only the ones offered thru PMI/PMI Education Partners are allowed to be called Exam Prep Courses and no more pre-recorded courses are allowed). Don’t worry, you can still get much help from taking online courses that offer training in passing the PMP Exam, the only downside is that you will need to collect the course outline and syllabus to get the 35 Contact Hours of Project Management education which well justifies the much lower price tag!
  2. Purchase/borrow all the required study materials including the PMBOK® Guide, at least one reference book and some practice/mock exams
  3. Apply online for the exam. You will need to describe your working experience in PMI’s terms and the prep course you have taken will help you finish the application form easily.
  4. Fix a date for your exam after you have received confirmation from PMI or passed the audit, if applicable.
  5. Study hard for the exam with your study materials. Working on as many as practice exams as possible.
  6. Pass the exam.
  7. Begin earning PDUs for your 3-year recertification cycle.

Following the above sequence will allow you to go through the certification process in the most logical and easiest way.

What’s Next?

Get an overview of the certification process with the help of an infographic.


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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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29 Responses

    How do I make a donation?

  2. Erimiyas Eyassu says:

    Hello, I already took 35 HRs for PMP 2020 exam couple of years ago and I heard that PMI has new format for PMP 2021 exam. My organization wanted me to certify for 2021 PMP in an accelerated way. What is the best way to go about preparing and seating for the exam and pass in the first try for we can’t afford to wait for we have several upcoming projects in the pipe to manage? Thanks

    • Edward Chung says:

      Since you have already got the 35 Contact Hours which is valid for life. All you need to do is to study the PMBOK Guide as a refresher and take as many mock exams until you get comfortable with the new PMP Exam 2021 format. Wish you PMP success!

      • Safa Aalala says:

        Hi, I have the same question as Erimiyas Eyassu, to be clear: how to do teh mapping between the new 3 domains/tasks/enablers and PMBOK edition 6 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas + agile guide? practically, do we need to review teh PMBOK and forget about the new exam outlines?

      • Edward Chung says:

        I would say, in a low voice, yes. The exam outline is actually not much of relevance. The secret to getting PMP success lies in having as many PMP mock exam questions answered. Wish you PMP success!

  3. Brandon says:

    Today 9/27/19 I sat and passed my PMP exam. Edward I give a lot of credit to your web page notes and reviews. I chose the PrepCast partially because of your review. You have done a great thing and I forward your page to anyone who is planning or studying for the PMP.

    Thank you very much.

  4. Mladen says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the great information. I am currently planning the 2-3 months preparation and I have one question… it seems a popular practice to get the 35 hours in a face-to-face course and then directly sit the PMP exam straight after. The benefits there being that there shouldn’t be any distractions so in those 5-6 days you will be only in the PMP mood.
    What do you think about this? I am still wondering what is the right order (Course-books-exam, or books-course-exam).

    Many thanks

    • Edward Chung says:

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, sitting a face-to-face PMP course and attempt the PMP exam right afterwards (also known as PMP bootcamps) is a great way to get PMP certified. But, you will have to take at least a week’s off and have to spend quite a lot of money on this. Books/online courses are a great alternative. I took an online PMP course that helped me pass the exam in the first attempt.

      I would highly advise you to understand which method suits you most and go ahead. Wish you PMP success!

  5. Rashid says:

    Hello Edward, Can you kindly recommend an online PMP course and a reference book which is based on PMBOK 6. Much appreciated.

    • Edward Chung says:

      I am currently working on this. You may consider the following first:

      1) PMP Exam Prep: Accelerated Learning to Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam 9th Edition by Rita (one of the most popular PMP reference book of all time)
      2) The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, Sixth Edition by Andy Crowe (I make use of the previous version of this book to pass my PMP Exam)
      3) Head First PMP: A Learner’s Companion to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam 4th Edition (to be published in September 2018) – you will like this book if you are a visual learner, preferring looking at diagrams and charts instead of full pages of text

      Wish you PMP success!

  6. Cicely Robinson says:

    I have just found your blog, and am following you on Twitter. I sincerely want to thank you for providing your experience, and knowledge.

  7. Vijay Garudeswar says:

    Edward can you guide me how to prepare for pmp 6th edition. Iam planning to take the exam during June 4 . So I wanted to ensure whether the prep time is good enough ?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Vijay,

      Average PMP Aspirants take around 2 months to be well prepared for the PMP Exam. As you have around 3 months which is pretty enough for your exam prep. Though the PMP Exam will be updated to be based on PMBOK 6, the preparation method and plan will be quite similar to the current ones. Please read my lessons learned and exam prep resources first and let me know if you have any queries.

      Wish you PMP success!

  8. Anthony Ngucaj says:

    Hello Edward thank you for this amazing blog however I have a question as to how to meet the requirements. Do I have to do the experience form or can I just apply using the credits from the classes? I would really like to finish the application process.

    Thank You,
    Anthony Ngucaj

  9. Chase says:

    I took the test and I passed! So I wanted to share with the community my preparation and results to hopefully help others gauge when they are ready.

    I first purchased a PMP Exam Prep by Joseph Phillips (on I felt like I was somewhat ready, until I started reading Rita. Then I started to understand how little I knew about the PMP Process.

    So I set out to read Rita. I am a slow reader, so it took months. I would read a chapter, then flipped through the Hot Topic Flashcards, and then take the quiz at the end of each section. I averaged 77% (range from 60% to 87%).

    After I completed reading through Rita, I skimmed through the material again focusing on key points. I then typed up a list of the topics on the flashcards that I was still needing to memorize and created a study list.

    Then I did the practice tests that you recommended in this order and here are my scores:

    I took the Edwell 75Q test and got 88%
    Then I took the Lehmann 75Q online test and got a 67%
    Then I took the PM PrepCast Exam Simulator (Three 30 question sample tests) and got
    Then I took the Lehmann 175Q test throughout 1 day in about 7 different blocks (because I didn’t have time to do the whole thing in one chunk) and got a 75.4%

    After each test, I went through all the problems and if I was not sure about why I got it wrong (or right) I added it to my study list. It got to be about 14 pages long, but every time I went through it I got better and better at remembering terms.

    I was a little discouraged because I had gotten so low on the PM PrepCast exams, but done relatively well on the Lehmann tests. This seems to be backwards of what is usually done.

    I ended up taking the test a couple days later and, although the questions did match up most closely with the PM PrepCast type of questions, I did much better on the actual test than what I did on the PM PrepCast exams. I found that the PM PrepCast questions were almost trying to trick you, where the test was just asking an honest question.

    I walked out of the test with “Above Target” in all 5 processes. I was ecstatic!

    Edward, I really appreciate the resources you have put together here. I know that they helped me to pass the test!

    Thoughts on my actual test:

    I skipped questions I didn’t understand or wasn’t sure about and got to the end with about 40 minutes to spare.
    I counted up the questions I hadn’t answered and there were about 35 of them.
    I reviewed and answered the best I could and then reviewed the questions I had marked for review until I had run out of time.
    I didn’t take time for any breaks. Just a solid 4 hours at the computer.
    The strike-through system wasn’t working very well. I never tried to highlight, but anytime I tried to strike through an answer, half of the problem got selected and then you couldn’t unselect it. Doesn’t prohibit anything, but it made it a bit harder to concentrate.
    Lot’s of Stakeholder Communication questions
    No math questions that required a calculator. (only 2 or 3 in total)
    A few of CPI/SPI questions that did not require any calculations
    Around 8 questions asking about business case/Investment decisions (I’m guessing to get ready for the PMBOK Ed.6 updates)
    Note: I only took the test the 1 time and passed – Thankfully

    I hope this helps others!

  10. Kay says:

    Hi Edward,

    If the contact hours were in a class room setting almost 3 years ago. Do you know if they still count?? I am re starting the process after taking a break due to very demanding work schedule.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Kay,

      Yes, the contact hours are valid forever. All you need to do is to obtain the course completion certificate as well as the course outline (not necessary for courses offered by PMI R.E.P.).

      Wish you PMP success!

  11. Shlomi says:

    There is a typo in the upper box.
    Add “L” to the “This Compete PMP Certification and Study Guide”

  12. Blanche says:

    I’d like to thank you for your commendable effort to walk us through the PMP process and your continuous encouragement to everyone interested. I would like to know if you have any information about PMI’s PBA? Thanks for your time.

  13. Salman Haider says:


    First of all am thankful for your ITIL guide which helped me through the certification exam. Furthermore, please let me know how much time did you take in the pmp prepration through PMP precast. Thanks.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Salman,

      It took me around 60 hours or so to go through all the PM Prepcast lessons (most of which are done during transit time, i.e. taking the metro and walking). As for the overall PMP Exam preparation, it is around 150 hours. Thanks!

  14. mohamed mahran says:


    How to download The Complete PMP Certification and Study Guide (for PMBOK 5)?