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The PMP Online Exam: Your Guide to Success

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the training and certification landscape for everyone. While we were in lockdown, project managers continued to study for professional certifications. Tools like PMP exam simulators made it easy to learn remotely, from the comfort of your own home.

In parallel, professional bodies like the Project Management Institute (PMI) were busy making sure that it was still possible to continue learning about project management and taking the relevant professional exams.

As a result, the Project Management Professional (PMP)® online exam became the norm for project managers wanting to get a certification to demonstrate their skills and experience.

We talk about this as a big change - and let’s be honest, the pandemic has changed a lot about how we work, study and live. But what exactly does it look like to take the PMP exam online? The basics of applying for the test are still the same, but the shift to being able to sit the examination paper at home has brought some changes.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about taking the PMP exam from home. We’ll share our top tips for PMP exam prep online, through to the pros and cons of online and in-person test taking so you can make the best choice for you. You’ll learn about registering for the exam and what to do afterwards.

We work with thousands of PMP aspirants and certification holders, and we’ve heard many, many stories from students. This article distills all that experience from real project managers into a practical guide for your PMP online exam.

What is PMP online exam certification from home?

The online PMP exam is a 180-question, multiple-choice test. You’ll be at your computer, answering questions that test your knowledge. There are several different types of PMP exam questions, from fill-in-the-blank, hotspot, matching and multiple response. You have 230 minutes to complete the test. If you are taking the test from home, you’ll be using software that enables the proctor to see you which maintains the integrity of the certification.

Why did the PMI shift to having online exams?

PMI shifted to having online exams because it needed to ensure people could still get certified during the pandemic. It’s also a lot more convenient for a range of other reasons: for example, parents with young children might find it difficult to travel a long distance to reach the test center.

The Pew Research Center reports that 61% of workers are not going into the office by choice. There is definitely a cultural shift towards more flexible working and the ability to do more things from home - including taking professional examinations.

Given that so many people take a PMP practice exam online, it makes sense to extend the digital services to provide the option of sitting the exam remotely.

Pros and cons of taking the PMP exam online

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of taking the PMP exam online.

Advantages

Take the test any time. You can be a lot more flexible with when you take the test. If you want to do it in the middle of the night or very early in the morning, you will probably be able to find a test appointment at that time. You wouldn’t be able to access the test center for an in-person test out of hours, so if you need flexibility to manage around your work and personal schedule, then online testing would be a good choice for you.

Minimize interaction with other people. Taking the test from home means you don’t have to travel on public transport or sit in a busy test center with other people during your PMP certification exam. It can minimize your risk of being exposed to illness, and to the stress related with the worry of being ill.

No traveling. You don’t need to travel, which potentially removes the need for an overnight stay and the cost of travel.

No time off work. You can fit your PMP study plan and your examination around your work schedule. If you went to a test center, you’d normally need to take at least half a day off work, which your employer might insist comes out of your vacation allowance.

Disadvantages

You need to have the right computer equipment. This includes a webcam and stable internet connection. We have heard from students who have struggled with the software requirements, so do make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements before you go down this route.

You need to be able to manage firewalls and security permissions. Many students report difficulties with accessing the online testing environment from an employer-issued laptop. Check whether you can configure the firewall, and if you don’t have those permissions on your work computer, consider using a different device. Passing the online assessment is potentially a challenge if you don’t have the right set up so do a test to prove the OnVUE software is working.

You need a quiet testing environment. The proctor may cancel or invalidate your session if they feel you are at risk of getting help during the test. That means you can’t have people wandering around in the background. If home is a busy, noisy place for you, consider taking the examination at work or somewhere else where you will not be disturbed.

You are responsible for the tech. At the testing center, the proctor and the on-site team would be responsible for resolving any issues relating to the computers or software. All you have to do is show up. At home, you are responsible for making sure everything works as it should, and that can be quite stressful.

There are ways to mitigate the disadvantages if you want to take the test from home, for example using free PMP exam questions as a practice tool and checking if your IT kit meets the requirements to run the OnVUE software.

How does the PMP online exam work?

Here is how the PMP online exam works in practice.

Before the exam:

  • I. Meet the requirement for the exam including 35 contact hours of training
  • II. Apply online
  • III. Book your test with PearsonVUE
  • IV. Prepare for the PMP online exam

During the exam:

  • V. Check in online
  • VI. Take the online exam

After the exam:

  • VII. Wait for your result
  • VIII. Celebrate!

Let’s look at each of those steps in more detail so you can get ready for the test.

Before the exam

There are four steps to work through before your exam day. Here’s what to do.

1. Meet the requirement for the exam including 35 contact hours of training

The PMP exam requirements have not changed. You still need

  • A four-year degree
  • 36 months leading projects
  • 35 hours of project management education/training or hold the CAPM® certification

or

  • A high school diploma or an associate’s degree (or global equivalent)
  • 60 months leading projects
  • 35 hours of project management education/training or hold the CAPM® certification

When people ask us what online classes do I need to take for the PMP exam, we are slightly biased! Given that we provide one of the top rated online courses (that meets the 35 hours requirement too), we recommend taking our video training class and using the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition as one of your main study guides.

2. Apply online

Go to www.certification.pmi.org/ to register with PMI so you can apply for the PMP certification. It’s a very easy process, as long as you have collected all your evidence in advance. Make sure you have all the relevant information to hand, such as your previous employers and the projects you have worked on.

If you do need to pause your application and come back to it later, you can easily do that. The system will save your progress so you can return to it when you have time.

3. Book your test with PearsonVUE

When your application is considered successful, you will receive an email inviting you to book your test. Navigate to the PearsonVUE website and book your exam time and date. Follow the instructions in your email.

Chantal shared her online exam experience and says: “Right after booking, you will get an email from PearsonVue to confirm your appointment. Read that email as it contains information about what to do before the exam and on exam day as well as the rescheduling/cancellation policies.”

4. Prepare for the PMP online exam

Preparing for the online exam is a little different to preparing for going to a test center. During your PMP exam preparation, you’ll still want to use a variety of PMP exam prep books to review the topics and take a dedicated training class that will guide you through the material so you are confident about the subject matter.

In addition, most successful candidates go through the process of selecting a PMP exam simulator to get familiar with the types of questions and format of the software used during the test itself.

So far, so much the same as if you had booked into a test center. What’s different is the prep required for taking your test at home.

Here are some additional pointers for preparing for the online exam at home.

Run a system test. Use the system checker tool on the PearsonVUE website.

Prepare a space for the test. Find a private, quiet location in your home or workplace where you can sit for the whole duration of the test without being distracted or disturbed. Make sure the walls are empty and your desk can be cleared easily.

Get your ID ready. Make sure you have the right ID and it is to hand for the online checks when you connect for the test.

During the exam

By the time you get to exam day you’ll be completely ready. There actually isn’t that much to do on this day – apart from taking the test itself! Here are the two steps to follow.

1. Check in online

Doing the online PMP examination means following a very specific check in process. Here’s how to check in online on the exam day.

  • Step 1: Ensure you have the OnVUE software
  • Step 2: Take your check in photos
  • Step 3: Accept terms and conditions
  • Step 4: Verify your test
  • Step 5: Meet your greeter and go!

Step 1: Ensure you have the OnVUE software

On exam day, you can check in online 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Log into the OnVUE system: you already created a login when you scheduled your exam, so make sure you have those details handy.

Running late? Don’t panic too much. You can check in up to 15 minutes after your scheduled appointment time.

Click the ‘Begin Exam’ button to start the check in process. You will see a button that says ‘Copy Access Code’. Click to copy the code. It is unique to you (so don’t copy the code in our image below!).

Next, click ‘Download OnVUE’.

If you have already run the system test as part of your tech check, you might already have it on your computer.

Once the OnVUE application is downloaded, navigate to the file and click to run it. It will not run automatically so you have to kick off that process manually.

Close all your other applications. OnVUE will try to close them for you but we think it’s more controllable to do it yourself if you can.

We recommend you start the check in as early as you can. Andrew found it a time-consuming process. “I found the registration took longer than I expected,” he says. “My laptop took nearly 5 minutes to display the exam screen after running the system checks, which was a little unnerving.”

Step 2: Take your check in photos

The system needs confirmation that you are who you say you are and that you are completing the test in an appropriate location. That’s why you are asked to take photos of:

  • Yourself (a headshot)
  • The location where you will take the test
  • Your ID.

You can use your mobile phone or a webcam to take the photos. Follow the system instructions to take and upload the pictures.

Tip: Your headshot photo will be compared to your ID photo, so take your picture against a plain wall to make it easy for the comparison to happen. Try to look as much like your ID photo as possible!

You’ll be asked to take four photos of the area where you are taking the test. These give the greeter and proctor confidence that they have a full view of your workspace. They are looking for things like writing on notices on the walls or on boards that might be notes for you, or having other people in earshot. This check is to make sure that you are unable to cheat during the test.

Christiana says her online exam process went smoothly. “The check-in process was easy and it is nice you can use the Pearson mobile app to take the pictures that are required,” she says.

Step 3: Accept terms and conditions

Next, agree to any terms and conditions you see on screen. If you do not agree, your testing session will be over before you have even begun!

The terms are essential for moving ahead to the exam. For example, you might see a requirement that you do not share the test questions with other candidates.

You may also have to provide your phone number in case the proctor needs to get in touch with you for any reason.

Step 4: Verify your test

The software will check that you are sitting the right exam. It will ask you to verify that you are here for the PMP exam online and not any other test.

Step 5: Meet your greeter and go!

The system isn’t completely automated. You’ll also see a greeter, or proctor, who will also check your ID and workspace meet the requirements. Once they are happy, you are cleared to go ahead and start the test.

2. Take the online exam

Once your proctor has released your test, the exam begins!

At that point you have the option to get a tour of the software, and we recommend that you do that. Even if you have used an exam simulator, it is still worth familiarizing yourself with the tool and it only takes a few minutes.

3 tips for PMP aspirants

Keep your original booking email.

Your confirmation email from PearsonVUE will include a link to check in. Keep that email safe until test day. Use the link to check in. You can choose whether to scan the QR code and do the check in on your phone or do it at your computer. Using your phone will make it easier for taking the photos.

Monitor your body language.

One student had their examination revoked due to reading out the questions. “I did read aloud on the first question,” they said. “I wasn't aware that mumbling was not allowed in the exam as well.” Don’t read aloud, don’t cover your mouth or face and stay in view of the camera at all times.

Use your breaks carefully.

The PMP exam allows for breaks, but you must be back on time. If you run over on your break you will not be allowed another one. Another student used their breaks for stretching and snacks. “When you take the exam at home, after 60 questions your timer will stop and a 10 mins timer will start,” they say. “During that time you can step out of the room and have light snacks and beverages. I personally had some fruits to keep myself energetic and hydrated. Basically, you don't have time to take a full meal.”

After the exam

Congratulations, you have finished the PMP online exam! There are only two more things to do.

Wait for your result

When you have completed the exam, you will see your test score on screen. There may also be an optional survey. You’ve already spent a lot of time at the computer answering questions, so don’t feel you have to take the survey!

Read the instructions on screen very carefully so you exit the application properly. If you don’t follow the instructions, you might find your exam revoked. While you will no doubt be excited with your success and keen for a stretch, stay seated and in view of the camera until you have completely exited the program.

Celebrate!

The very final thing to do is to take a giant breath and appreciate how far you have come. You’ve achieved a huge milestone in your project management career and you should be very proud of what you accomplished.

If you can, take the rest of the day off to decompress from the experience and to enjoy your success.

Conclusion

There is a lot to think about when taking the online PMP exam. Minimize stress on the day by using a PMP exam simulator that carefully mimics the digital test environment. That’s one less thing to worry about! You’ll already be confident navigating through the exam and as soon as you get going you’ll be on familiar ground.

In this article, we reviewed the important things to know when taking your PMP exam online including how to prepare, how to check in and what happens when the exam concludes. Now you are ready to take the PMP exam at home. Good luck with your test!

Training for Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®

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