‘PMP Study Group’ is a popular thread in the PM Prepcast Forum where students are always looking for people to study and learn with online. PMP exam study groups for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification also meet in person.
So what should you look for in a study group and how do you know whether a group would be a good fit for you?
In this article, we’ll share everything we know about looking for and joining a PMP study group, and we’ve been helping students pass their exams for many years, so we have seen quite a few groups in our time!
Before diving into how to look for a study group, let’s answer the question you’ve been asking yourself: should I bother? Is it really worth joining a group when so much of your learning can be done independently with the support of online training materials? You don’t really need to hang out with other people to talk about project management, do you?
Well, that depends on you! There are plenty of PMP advantages and disadvantages to being part of a learning circle with experienced practitioners studying something new. For example:
Group learning techniques like a task log or team contract can hold you accountable which means you can achieve your goal of earning your certification faster because you are motivated to keep pace with the group.
In our experience, most students weigh up the self-study vs group study options before making their final choice, but ultimately individuals tend to know what will work best for them.
Many people prefer learning as part of a group as they inherently know that is how they will be most motivated to use their learning time effectively. There is something about shared goals and being held accountable by your peers that helps structure your personal learning. If the peer pressure of having others counting on you to show up is what gets you going, then probably a collaborative approach to your exam prep is going to help you get to exam success faster.
Does that sound like you? If so, read on for some tips for what to look for before you join with your peers to learn together.
We recommend that you consider the following criteria when searching for PMP study groups.
Let’s look at each of those in a little more detail so you can make the best choice about how to approach your PMP exam prep.
What learning materials is the group intending to make use of? Groups work better when everyone has access to the same core training materials, whether that is PMP books, online video classes, an exam simulator or something else. You might add a different supplementary reading book here or there, but we think the main study time is more effective when you are all talking about the same content. Then you can dive into the material together and discuss the current topic, video or chapter, making sure everyone is confident with the subject before moving on.
If you are joining an online study group that is already operating, check what materials they have and consider whether you would want to use those materials. If you already own a different PMP practice exam for example, it might be better to seek out people who have access to the same as you. You will find one!
Another consideration is how many members will be in the group. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but as you can imagine, group study with 15 people is very different to group study with four. Smaller groups tend to work better as you can really get to know your study buddies and build relationships with them to help each other stay motivated and get through the test.
Sometimes those connections can become useful people to have in your network going forward as well. There is a chance that you might feel a little lost in a larger class, as if no one really knows you or what you are struggling with. It can be harder to ask questions or get the attention you need if you are particularly stuck on a concept. Large gatherings can be broken down into smaller sub-groups to avoid that feeling and make sure everyone has the support required to learn at a suitable pace.
If you are joining a study session (or setting up your own), think about how many people you have. Apply The Rule of 7 and keep the number small!
All PMP candidates have to meet certain criteria in order to apply for the exam at all, so you can assume that your study buddies have some project management experience. However, experience can vary: learning with someone who only has a couple of years in the project office and learning with a veteran program manager can feel like very different experiences.
One of the purposes of learning as a team is so that you can benefit from each other’s background and knowledge. Sharing anecdotes and examples helps you see the application of the theory, and stories are an effective teaching strategy. Telling your project stories and hearing those of others can really help the concepts come to life.
There is no perfect make up to a study circle. Some online groups form within the workplace, where everyone has the shared experience of working with the same employer. That can be useful. You might prefer to study with a mixed group of people who have very different professional backgrounds to you, perhaps in different industries or at different stages in their careers. That can be helpful too, as you get to see the concepts in use across a wide range of projects as they share their experiences.
Sometimes you might not have much choice, especially if you are choosing to attend a face-to-face session or your employer has set one up for you. In that case, just be mindful of who is in the group and ask questions to better understand their professional background so you can all share and learn from each other.
How practical will it be for your group to meet? If everyone else is in a different timezone, you could find yourself getting up extra early or staying up late to meet with your PMP study group online. That might suit your schedule, so take advantage of that if you know you won’t be able to meet and learn at any other time! However, most study groups tend to work best when people are in a similar time zone to each other.
Another factor is your work diary: will you all be able to find a regular, convenient time to meet? This is often a big barrier for people - we all know that project’s don’t always run smoothly and your calendar can change at a moment’s notice. Ideally, enough people will be able to regularly commit to a time slot so you can get some momentum going, even if from time to time someone misses a session.
As long as most people can join most of the time, your sessions will still be profitable. However, if you are the person constantly finding it hard to make the designated time slot, be aware that you might quickly fall behind the rest of your peers. You could end up doing most of your PMP exam prep on your own anyway if that is the case. Check out our PMP self study tips if you think that might happen to you.
Now we get to the big decision: how will the group come together to learn? If you have already decided that an in-person study group is for you, that’s relatively easy. Simply agree a location to meet, perhaps using the facilities at work or a local meeting room, conference venue, or even a coffee shop.
The pandemic that began in 2019 changed the way many people were able to get together and that meant virtual work became much more manageable and acceptable. If you feel comfortable having your camera on and chatting online, then perhaps an online meet up is for you. There are lots of online web conferencing tools to choose from, and you probably already have a couple installed on your computer. Decide what software you are going to use, check everyone has access to it and then share any links that members need.
If you are joining an existing learning circle, ask what tools they use to meet online and check that you can access those. Many work-owned computers and laptops will block you from installing additional software, and trying to interact with your learning buddies on a web conference from your tiny phone screen is no fun! Remember, you’ll also probably be switching between windows sharing your PMP study materials and personal notes too.
Finally, consider how long you want to be studying for, and check if the group’s expectations will meet that. If you want to cram for the PMP exam and get the test booked in for next month, make sure you are studying alongside people who share your goal! If everyone else is making steady progress towards an exam date in six months, you’ll be rushing ahead and will find the experience frustrating as your colleagues won’t be at the same place as you.
Have a conversation with the people you are expecting to learn alongside before you join in, just to set expectations and reassure yourself that you will all be progressing at the same pace.
Copyright © 2008 - 2023 OSP International LLC.
The PM Exam Simulator is a mark of OSP International LLC. PMI, PMBOK, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CAPM, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, and PMI-PBA are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.