We’ve split our bumper list of PMP study materials into three categories:
Let’s take a look at those categories now so you can start building your library of study materials for the PMP certification exam.
First, this list of PMI essentials is the cornerstone of your self-study plan. The good news is that all of these resources are available free to PMI members, so you can grab them all and make a start on your learning at no cost.
The Exam Content Outline is a PDF document prepared by PMI that outlines the syllabus for the exam. It’s a quick read and a comprehensive guide to the topics that will be tested. It also explains the split of exam questions to give you an idea of the relative importance of each topic.
The Exam Content Outline is essential reading as it sets out exactly what is expected of you during the test. You can use it as a way to tick off topics you already know and to identify areas where you need more work.
Bonus: it’s available free on the PMI website! You don’t even have to be a member.
The PMBOK® Guide is one of the main resources you will need to self study. Published by PMI, it’s available in PDF or print formats, you can access it for free if you are a PMI member.
The vast majority of questions will be related in some way to the information in this book. While there are other resources that are must-read, especially for the agile topics (and we’ll cover those in just a moment), it is rare to find a student who passed the exam without taking a look inside here. Most successful students take the time to read it thoroughly, especially the glossary and tailoring sections.
The Agile Practice Guide is basically the ‘handbook’ to all things Agile. Co-written by PMI and the Agile Alliance, it’s a comprehensive resource to help you understand agile and hybrid methods and how to evaluate and use them in the workplace.
This is another core text and it’s packaged in the same print book and PDF as the PMBOK® Guide. Half your exam questions will relate to agile and hybrid domains, so it’s essential that you have a solid understanding of iterative techniques. This book will provide you with the confidence to tackle those questions.
The Standard for Project Management is an ANSI standard that covers 12 must-know principles for project management. It’s part of the PMBOK® Guide PDF and print book, so if you download that, you’ll also have the Standard. It’s important to read because it helps you set project management practices in the wider business context with a focus on value and project contribution. It’s a quick read, but very useful to help see the bigger picture of what makes a project successful.
PMI Standards+ is a digital learning resource from PMI that gathers together a wide range of good practices, tools, techniques and processes. The information from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) - Sixth Edition is included in Standards+.
This is a free-to-access set of reference materials that let you dive into a wide range of topics, which is particularly valuable as the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide is somewhat light on practical details for the project management processes themselves.
The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is a set of principles that all PMP certified professionals must adhere to. It sets out the expectations for ethical behavior. The Code is worth reading as it provides background information on the right things to do in difficult situations. The PMP exam is highly scenario based, and having a set of ethical guidelines as your moral compass will help you choose the right course of action on the test - and in real life!
Now we’ve looked at the core materials from PMI, it’s time to move on to discuss the essentials that need to be part of your PMP self-study plan. In short, that’s a prep class and a PMP exam simulator. Our favorites are listed below.
The PM PrepCast is a video training course that meets the 35 contact hours of education requirement and helps you fully prepare for the exam. It helps you confidently understand the key concepts, tools and techniques required to succeed on the test. It’s a comprehensive training course that both helps you ace the exam but also prepare to lead projects as a better project manager.
Heads up: this is one of our products and a best-selling course. We’ve helped thousands of students around the world achieve exam success with this flagship training.
The PM Exam Simulator is a test-taking tool that provides realistic questions across all the project domains. Taking mock exams is the number one way to build exam skills and is frequently cited by students as the top exam preparation study technique.
“Most importantly, one month before my exam I did 40 questions from the Prepcast Simulator daily, and on the weekends I did a practice exam,” explains Haley B, who passed on the first attempt. “I took the 10-min breaks each time as if I was taking the real exam, and it helped me get into the routine so I felt ready by exam day. I ended up answering over 1,500 questions in the Simulator, reviewed whatever I got wrong and took notes. I highly recommend spending time on answering questions as it is much more engaging than just reading study material over and over.”
Students who use mock exams feel more confident because they know what to expect. Plus, a deep dive into any questions answered incorrectly means you can revise topics thoroughly. This is another one of our own study resources and it regularly gets 5-star reviews on Trustpilot.
Finally, let’s look at some other study materials that might provide some extra support to students looking for different ways to study or additional resources. These aren’t essential, but many students find them helpful and recommend them.
A PMP exam questions book is a little different to a simulator. For one thing, it’s not interactive, or timed. However, it is a bank of questions along with detailed explanations and further reading suggestions to deepen your knowledge. Our exam questions book is focused on formula and PMP math, which is a topic that often worries students (but it shouldn’t!). If you feel like you would benefit from extra support and practice with numerical questions, especially with the requirement for understanding and interpreting the data, then a questions book is another learning resource to have for your studies.
Flashcards are cards with a topic or concept written on one side and an explanation or definition written on the other side. They can be digital or physical and are designed to help test recall and comprehension.
Ulrike, who passed the test with above target results, advises that you make your own flashcards. “Create your own Flashcards or Flashsheets with your personal weak spots,” she says.
Affectionately known as ‘Rita’, this is a comprehensive and highly recommended text that is frequently listed as one of the top PMP exam prep books by students in our forums. “I read through Rita's book and noted down important points,” says Li Chen, who passed the test with above target results in all domains. “I read very slowly and tried to understand every point mentioned, especially ‘tricks of the trades’.” That’s good advice for any prep book: take your time and read the sections that relate to the topics you are currently studying in your prep course.
Make sure you buy the latest edition of this (or any PMP certification books) as that will be updated to the current PMI requirements.
Another (free) resource that students mention regularly is the video of Ricardo Vargas explaining the project management processes. At around 53 minutes, it’s a detailed and popular resource, especially if you are struggling to understand how the different ‘strands’ of project management fit together.
“I watched Ricardo Vargas’ explanation on process,” says Mark Lester Padua, who passed on his first attempt despite admitting to getting low scores on his mock exams. “It really helps a lot to visualize the bigger picture and understand the process.”
Watch the video below. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back to it during your studies!
Ultimately, the right blend of pmp self-study materials is going to be down to your personal learning style. “Identify the learning method and tools that serve you best independent of what others do,” advises Ulrike.
Self-study might not have been your first choice, but there are lots of resources out there to help you achieve your goals. From choosing the best PMP exam simulator to finding an author whose prep book fits in your laptop bag, there are plenty of materials to get you from beginner to expert with that certification hanging on your wall. Which one will you get first?
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