PMP Study Resources: PMBOK, PMP Guide plus PMP Sample Exams

PMP study guide and prep book

Many PMP aspirants get confused that the PMP exam is about the PMBOK® Guide. The reality is reading the PMBOK® Guide alone is not enough for the PMP exam.

Yes, though the PMBOK® Guide is published by PMI and, as its name suggests, it covers the body of knowledge of project management, it is meant to be the framework of best practices in project management.

The actual PMP exam is more than the PMBOK® Guide.

According to the PMP Exam Content Outline:

Although many of the domains, tasks, knowledge, and skills outlined by the PMP Examination Content Outline are also covered by the PMBOK® Guide, there are some that are unique to the PMP Examination Content Outline. Candidates studying for the examination will certainly want to include the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide as one of their references, and would be well advised to read other current titles on project management.

This expressly states that a PMP candidate cannot solely rely on the PMBOK® Guide as their one and only source for study. The PMP exam covers way more than what is included in the PMBOK® Guide. It is estimated by many PMP instructors that the PMBOK® Guide guide contains around 80% of the materials that would appear on the PMP exam paper. This means that the other 20% of the exam materials have to be found from “current titles on project management”.

What are the “current titles”? I hear you ask. Unlike the PMI-ACP® Certification exam which includes a booklist of reference titles, the PMP exam does not come with such a list.

Don’t worry. Read on and you will know more about how to tackle this nagging question. The answer lies in “PMP reference books/study guides”.

Below we will briefly discuss the PMP exam prep materials you will need and offer you some of my suggestions that I consider best value for money.

1) The PMBOK® Guide

The “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK® Guide) is published by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMBOK® Guide is currently in its 6th edition. With each update in edition, the PMP exam will also be updated. The PMP exam is now based on the 6th edition of PMBOK® Guide. The PMP Handbook suggests candidates make use of the PMBOK® Guide as one of their references and it is estimated that the PMBOK® Guide contains around 80% of materials required for the PMP exam.

From a survey with 100 PMPs, it is found that over 95% of all PMP aspirants did read the PMBOK® Guide for at least once during their exam preparation. Unless you are super confident of your project management knowledge, it is highly advisable to read through the PMBOK® Guide at least once during your exam study.

It is great to note that once you have become a PMI member, you can download the electronic copy of the PMBOK® Guide for FREE. The downloadable PMBOK® Guide is an encrypted and watermarked version that allows you only to read and print the pages but not copy and paste the text. You should exercise care not to distribute the file to others as it is watermarked with your name on every page. PMI takes intelligence properties infringement very seriously.

However, many of the PMP aspirants expressed that the PMBOK® Guide was a difficult read. Some even thought of giving up the PMP certification as they could not make sense of the PMBOK® Guide. There are two ways out:

  • Hold on and read it through, don’t focus on understanding. You should try to go through the guide as fast as possible.
  • Give up the PMBOK® Guide and make use of a PMP Exam Prep Course or PMP Study Guide (below)

2) PMP Exam Prep Books and Study Guide

There are two reasons you will need a PMP Exam Study Guide:

  • To help you understand the PMBOK® Guide
  • To learn the remaining 10%+ of the knowledge required for the PMP exam as the PMBOK® Guide only covers around 80% of the exam syllabus

A search for PMP Study Guide will give you hundreds of results. One could not help wonder: which book is the best? A better way to ask the question in a more relevant way is: which book suits me most?

Most Popular PMP exam prep books

We will first introduce the most popular books available on the market, these include (according to popularity) – beware that you need to purchase/borrow the PMP Exam prep books that are intended for your PMP Exam version (i.e. new edition for the new PMP Exam):

These are the most popular PMP study guides. Nearly every PMP lessons learned you have read online would name one or more of these as their resources for PMP study. These three books vary widely in their approach to the PMP exam (all updated for the new PMP Exam 2018):

  • Rita’s PMP Book (9th edition which is published on 1 Feb 2018) is most comprehensive (and most wordy) of all. It will give you a lot of extra information not necessary for the PMP exam. However, the tone of the author is a bit condescending (you need to read a few pages to experience it) and the book does not cover the ITTO (Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs) of the PMBOK® Guide very well.
  • Andy Crowe’s PMP Book (How to Pass On Your First Try), in its 6th edition which is published on 1 Apr 2018, is exam oriented. It covers all that is necessary for the PMP exam and nothing more. The format is just like a pile of quick study notes. It does the job of helping you pass the exam well but may make less contribution to your daily job.
  • Head First PMP Book (4th edition, will be published on 9 Sep 2018) is geared towards visual learners. It makes use of the latest findings from cognitive research by including a lot of illustrations, charts and games. It is fun to go through the book while studying for the PMP exam at the same time. However, some serious readers would find the layout of the book too “chaotic”.

You may click on the book covers above to try reading a few pages of the books on Amazon. I personally make use of Andy Crowe’s book for my PMP exam and it takes only 4 hours to finish reading it once.

Which PMP Exam Study Guide Suits Me Most?

As a conclusion from the survey of 100 PMPs, the following two questions would help you identify your best PMP study companion.

Question 1: Does the PMBOK® Guide make sense to you? Do you ‘leave no stone unturned’ in your quest for knowledge?

3) PMP Practice / Sample Exams (Mock Exams)

After all, taking an exam with 200 questions for 4 hours continuously requires not only full preparation but also your stamina and strategy.

All PMP instructors would advise you to sit for one 200-questions PMP sample exam at least once. You will need to know when you need a break to refresh and to go to the bathroom.

But it is more advisable to take as many as PMP practice exams as you can practically make it.

How to obtain as many practice exam as possible without breaking your bank is another pressing question. Luckily, many quality mock exams are available for free. You can find a list of free PMP practice exams here.

How do I Know if I am Well Prepared for the Real Exam?

Most PMP instructors would advise candidates to achieve around 75%-80% or above upon their first attempt of a PMP sample exam. You should note that:

  • The PMP sample exam must not have been attempted before
  • The exam is completed in one sitting within the 4-hour time limit
  • The exam is attempted in a PMP sample exam simulator (i.e. with exam interface similar to the actual computer-based conditions)

These will allow you to understand your readiness for the PMP exam. If you still haven’t achieved 75% when the exam date is near, it is advisable to postpone the real PMP exam and practice more until you are ready.


What’s Next?

After you have obtained/chosen your PMP study companions (i.e. PMBOK® Guide, PMP mock practice exams, PMP study guide, etc.), it is time to actually fill in your PMP application online through the PMI website to officially begin your PMP certification journey.


Most Popular PMP Certification Exam Articles

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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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23 Responses

  1. Kiran Mudiyam says:

    Thanks Edward for your blog. Your blog helped me to ‘re-start’ my PMP preparation and today I cleared my PMP. The 47 most confused pair terms were very useful.
    Keep adding more useful information for 2021 PMP aspirants.

  2. Balaji says:

    Hello Edward, Thanks for your valuable inputs!.
    I recently bought Andy Crowe’s 6th edition and I noticed the exam outline ( % of exam)is different when compared to PMI ‘s latest handbook ( exam outline ). i.e As per Andy `Crowe’s 6th edition, Executing and Closing has 30 % and 8 % respectively. Whereas as per PMI it says Executing: 31 % & Closing 7 %.
    Kindly clarify.

    • Edward Chung says:

      PMI’s handbook is always to go-to document if you find otherwise info. PMI updated the percentage distribution recently for the new PMP Exam. Maybe Andy missed that. Anyway, follow what PMI says.

      Wish you PMP success!

  3. Lovegrk says:

    Your site is an excellent source of information for to-be PMPs. Thanks for all the condensed information in one place.
    I have borrowed a PMBOK 5th Edition book(hard copy) from my friend. I am aware that I have to follow PMBOK-6th edition for the exams (post march 2018). THinking of saving some money, I am planning to use this book along with the online knowledge pool of differences between 5th edition and 6th edition. Will my strategy work? Is it too difficult to adapt for the changes?

    • Tryp says:

      I am thinking about doing the same, purchase a used 5th edition instead of the new 6th. How did you do? Did this work out for you?

  4. jane says:

    i’m 120 pages into Rita’s book and boy, is the author condescending! The author even insults non-native english speakers not even 5 pages into the first chapter! I’m too invested in my studies now that I don’t want to turn back. But my goodness, all of the “if you don’t do this in real life, then you won’t pass the exam!” UGH so rude

    • Edward Chung says:

      Yes Jane, many PMP Aspirants have found Rita’s tone condescending, but if you just ignore those and concentrate on finding the gems, this book is really very useful in helping you pass the PMP Exam. My advice would be to stay with it and “unseen” those irrelevant and rude sentences.

      Wish you PMP success!

  5. Chase says:

    Hello Edward,

    I had the same question as Christian. I have see Andy Crowe’s book for PMP and it is almost 600 pages. Rita’s is about the same amount of pages, but I have spent way more than 4 hours reading through it. How does reading the Andy Crowe book compare to Rita’s?

    • Edward Chung says:

      Thanks Chase for your query. The Andy Crowe’s book includes lots of mock exam questions and the text are much more widely spaced. It is a pretty easy read. But, it only touches on what are needed for the PMP Exam only. On the other side, Rita’s book covers much more in-depth project management knowledge and is way MORE useful to your daily work. The choice is certainly up to you.

      Wish you PMP success!

  6. Christian says:

    Hi Edward,

    Your site is an excellent source of information for to-be PMPs. One question I have: you wrote ” I personally make use of Andy Crowe’s book for my PMP® exam and it takes only 4 hours to finish reading it once”. 4 hours? Are you a particularly fast reader, or is this book so thin?

    And the other question I have is around the PMP Exam language aid: how does this work exactly on the exam? Is it possible to switch it on and off as needed? My worry is that it will get in my way when answering questions, but I would like to have it as a “backup scenario” just in case I don’t understand something (I am not a native English speaker either).

    Thank you!

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Christian,

      Yes, Andy Crowe’s book is so thin that you can read through it within 4 hours (provided that you do not practices the questions included in the book). Andy only includes the most important information there.

      If you elect to use the language aids for the PMP Exam, the language you have opted for will appear below the normal English question on each page of the exam. You will still need to answer the question on the English portion, the language aids are there for your reference only. There is no way to turn off the language aids.

      If I were you, I would definitely opt for the language aids and you may be able to find some hints on the correct answer based on the differences in translation.

      Wish you PMP success!

  7. Bryan says:

    Hi Edward,

    First of all, thanks for the efforts and a sincere appreciation to your contributions.

    I wanted some advise from your journey on PMP.

    A bit of my current progress,
    1) I’ve completed a 4 days classroom course and it comes with an unlimited 13 hours of e learning 2 months ago.
    2) I’ve read through the once PMBOK 5th edition and done my own notes.
    3) I’ve read through the Head First PMP 3rd edition and strengthen my notes earlier. (P/S: I’m a visual learner)
    I’ve gone through all the exercises and questions BUT not the mock test yet. My rough scores around these exercise are around 70-80% on first attempt.

    Personally, I’m estimating that 70% ready and I’m evaluating how should I approach my last 30% effort before i take the mock exam.

    1) I’m in the stage where I’m contemplating if I want to get Rita’s or Andy Crowe PMP read it before I attempt the mock tests available in your sites. Main reason, I wanted to avoid “over study” as each author has different style of presenting the info and i find it may be confusing.
    Andy Crowe sounds tempting as it took you 4 hours to read it once.

    2) Or I should just stick with what I’ve read so far and skim it through again to strengthen my overall readiness before attempting the mock exams
    3) Or I should practice more mock exams under actual simulated condition and identify my weak areas. This is also another reason I’ve not started by 4 hours mock exams as I’ve limited slots which I need to plan it out.
    4) Or any other approach that you would recommend?

    I’m looking for a second opinion for aspirant that have completed “studying” phase and I’ve still have 5 weeks before the scheduled exam.

    Looking forward for your reply.


    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Bryan,

      Thanks a lot for sharing your study progress. I can see that you are on the right track to get certified.

      If I were you, I would try taking a complete 200 questions mock PMP exam (for a whole 4 hours) to understand my current position and to identify my weaknesses. This is the most effective way to complete your remaining 30% of study rather than reading another book or going through the study notes again.

      Do remember to read through all the explanations for the questions (in particular those you have got wrong). Try to get at least 75% for every first try of mock exams and you are ready to go.

      I am sure you will be able to make it pretty soon. Wish you PMP success!

  8. KJ says:

    hello Edward,
    firstly, thank you for compiling and presenting all information. I would like to know what resource you would recommend for someone who has started preparing for the pmp. I would like to test my knowledge as and when I prepare. what relevant resource do you suggest for chapter wise knowledge check. Any pointers for chapter wise questions?

  9. Hassan says:

    Hi Edward,
    I used your website extensively while preparing for my PMP. Well, thank you very much indeed as I did clear my PMP today! It’s unbelievable this amount of materials is available for free. Thank you for your selfless service!

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Hassan,,

      Congratulations on passing the PMP Exam! I am sure your experience will be helpful to fellow PMP Aspirants! Would you so kind to share your lessons learned with us to pass on the love? Please email me at [email protected] and I will have it posted asap.

      Thanks in advance!

  10. David says:

    Hi, I used PMBOK Guide and “McGraw-Hill Education PMP Project Management Professional Exam”. Worked great for me.

    All the best

  11. Sandeep says:

    Hi Edward,
    You blog is absolutely awesome and helped me a great bit to clear my PMP. The study material is very concise and touches all the important concepts for a quick review. Many thanks again and keep up the great work! 🙂

  12. Ahmed says:

    Hey Lungile,

    How long did it take you to study for the exam?

    Edward, thanks so much for your post! Appreciate this blog and what your doing for the PMP community!


  13. Lungile Khambule says:

    Thank you for an awesome site. I followed most of the advises given and I have passed my PMP on first attempt. I used PMBOK, Rita and Kim books

  14. Andre van der Merwe says:

    Another awesome exam prep book is Kim Heldman’s PMP Study Guide. It’s written in “everyday language” according to process groups (not to knowledge areas like the PMBOK), and contains lots of practice exam questions at the end of each chapter. Here is her website: