Tips and Tricks for Managing Time During PMP Exam

How to plan the PMP exam duration so that you can finish all the questions and still find time for breaks? Read here my tips on PMP Exam time management.


PMP Time Management

Note: This post is about how to manage the exam time during the PMP® Exam and not about Project Time Management topic.

After you have gone through all the exam prep courses and resources and even getting over 75% in many of the recommended PMP® Exam simulator / mock exam questions, and you have scheduled your exam time slot in your local exam centre, you are almost ready for writing and passing the PMP® Exam — feeling the joy of passing in first try…

But wait. Have you formulated the time management plan for your actual exam yet?

You stand a much higher chance of passing the exam with a well-thought-out time plan for your PMP® Exam than the other Aspirants who just take the exam as it comes (after all, the PMP® Exam is a measure of how well you perform in the exam relative to other exam takers). Below are my personal tried-and-tested tips of time management for writing the exam.

PMP® Exam Time Management Tips

  • Tips 1:
    You have much less than 1.2 minutes for each question

    • Do the simple maths of 4 hours for 200 questions
      • 240 minutes / 200 questions = 1.2 minutes (72 seconds) for each question
    • But don’t forget you would need to allow for time to take breaks (the stop watch will NOT stop while you are taking breaks)
    • Also it is advisable to leave some time near the end of the exam for reviewing all the questions (preferably not just those marked for review) to spot any careless mistakes
    • As each question carries the same weight on the exam paper and there are 15 pre-test questions (which are usually much harder or out of PMP® Exam syllabus), it is highly recommended to set a hard limit for the time to answer each question
    • After considering all the factors, Aspirants may have 50 – 60 seconds to answer each exam question as the hard limit
  • Tips 2:
    Take at least 2 to 3 mock exams (each with 200 questions for 4 hours continuously) to understand your stamina and need for breaks

    • some Aspirants can go through the exam continuously for 4 hours without any breaks while others may need as many as 3 breaks for toilet and clear up their minds
    • Aspirants are highly advised to really simulate the real testing conditions (i.e. taking 200 mock exam questions for 4 hours at a time, preferably at the same time of the day as the scheduled PMP® Exam time slot) so as to understand your own need for breaks
  • Tips 3:
    Account for time to write the brain dumps

    • many PMP® Exam centres nowadays do not allow writing during the exam tutorial time before the beginning of the actual exam
    • you will have also to allow for extra time at the very beginning of the exam to write your own brain dump which may help you save considerable time during the exam
  • Tips 4:
    Take 10 – 15 minutes for each break

    • For each break, you will need to undergo all the security measures taken when you show up for the exam:
      • present your ID
      • leave all your belongings in the locker
      • checking the pockets before a camera
      • sign in
    • You may even have to wait for the exam invigilator to be ready to serve you as there are many other exam takers at the same centre.
    • Also the toilet may be quite far away from your exam room (mine was 2 floors away), this would take up considerable time to locate and get to the toilet.
    • Though it normally take several minutes for toilet break, after considering all the above factors, it is advisable to schedule at least 10 minutes for each break.
  • Tips 5:
    People perform worse under pressure

    • So be prepared that you may not be able to perform as well as you are doing exam simulators or mock exams
    • My own experience and many others have told us that the first 10 or so exam questions are much harder than we have on mock exams (and that’s demoralizing) — but if you persist and don’t lose heart, you will find the later questions much easier
    • You are also advised to take also into accounts of the pressure of the real exam, you may end up need one more breaks than taking mock exams
  • Tips 6:
    In case you are not good at calculation questions, just guess an answer and move on ASAP

    • It may be a good idea to just guess all the calculation questions immediately without even reading the question, select an answer at random, mark them up for review and move on to the next one — this will leave you more time to tackle those questions you are confident at which will in turns build up your exam confidence (guessing answers will not get negative marks if wrong)
    • After you have finished all exam questions, go back to those calculation questions and you may be more comfortable with solving them as you have already built up your confidence
    • (just in theory) It is also advisable to guess the same answer choice for all these questions as the opportunity for guessing the right answer is higher

My PMP® Exam Time Management Plan

My time management plan for the exam is simple and straight forward:

  • have all the 200 questions to be answered with 3 hours — around 50 seconds for each question
  • putting a hard upper limit for the time to be spent on any single question (100 seconds) — after the time limit has been reached, guess an answer, mark it for review and move on immediately
  • scheduled 2 breaks for toilet and rest (each of 10 minutes) — one after finishing 120 questions, the other after finishing all 200 questions
  • remaining 40 minutes for reviewing all PMP® questions, whether marked for review or not

How My Plan Turned Out to Be

My time management plan generally worked as expected except:

  • the first 10 questions or so are so difficulty that I spent around 60 – 70 seconds on each of them and I was under much pressure (however, later questions are pretty straight forward)
  • I could not finish the whole exam in 3 hours, I needed 10 minutes more but I still made use of 2 breaks as planned
  • the toilet is much further away from the exam room that takes a longer walking time (so the actual break for relaxation is shorter than expected)
  • I can review all 200 questions during the time remained and still could submit the exam 5 minutes earlier

In the end, I got 4 Proficient and 1 Moderately Proficient (more about my exam experience here).

Additional Tips on Taking the PMP® Exam

After you have a time management plan for your 4-hour exam duration, you may also like to know more psychological preparation tips so that you can write the exam with the best possible condition.

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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February 23, 2017