Theres variety in popular PMP exam prep tools

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If you are about to start studying for your Project Management Professional exam, you’ll want to make sure your toolkit is bursting with things to help you on the journey to becoming a PMP. There are so many options to consider when looking at the study materials on the market that it can be difficult to know where to start.

First, don’t be overwhelmed by the choice. The tools that your colleagues and classmates are using may not be the right ones for you. How do you learn best? Choose study materials that will help you prepare for PMP certification in a way that best suits your learning style.

You’ll also want to consider your budget. Don’t feel that you have to buy really expensive exam preparation tools. There are products on the market that are both efficient and cost effective. Reading what other students have to say about the study tools they use can also be helpful, so check out independent review sites.

Still stuck for where to start? Here’s my guide to the top 12 most popular PMP exam preparation tools.

PMBOK Guide

PMI’s “ A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” is the workbench of PMP exam preparation tools. It’s the foundation that everything else is built on. This is the most “popular” study material simply because everybody has to read it for the exam. Remember that PMI members get a PDF copy for free.

PMP exam study guides

These are also known as PMP exam prep books. They cover the same materials as the PMBOK guide (above), but in more accessible language. They often explain the concepts in ways that are easier to understand and to learn.

PMP exam courses

Training courses come in many varieties. You could attend a course online or in a classroom. You could study at your own pace or with an instructor. You could choose a boot-camp or to study over many weeks. Look for a PMP exam course that will give you the required 35 contact hours.

Exam simulators and free questions

These are the torch in your toolkit, helping you shine a light on your weaker areas. Taking sample exams via an exam simulator will help you assess your readiness for the real thing. You can find free questions online, but these only go so far, so be sure to sign up for a professionally created simulator from a PMI-registered education provider. Some PMP exam study guides also come with a CD or DVD that contain questions.

Podcasts

Podcasts can be in audio or video format. A PMP podcast is very easy to carry around with you and has the benefit that you can listen to or watch it wherever you are. Some of these are so elaborate that they actually fall into PMI’s Category F (“distance learning”) for PMP exam preparation courses and even offer 35 contact hours.

Flash cards

Flash cards allow you to study and memorize the concepts that you need to know for the exam. You can make your own and carry them with you at all times, so you can test yourself in spare moments. Another alternative is electronic cards that you can use on your phone.

Apps

Apps are becoming more and more popular and there are lots to choose from. For example, there are games that teach you the ITTOs, there are apps that teach concepts with mnemonics and others that test you with questions. Check out the iTunes app store for additional ideas.

Formula study guides

Study guides for PMP formulas are a precision tool. They will help you review and learn the formulas required for the exam in a way that makes it easier to recall them under pressure.

Lessons learned

Don’t underestimate what you can learn from others. Talking to colleagues who already have their PMP certification can be an invaluable resource. If you can’t talk to anyone, read what others have to say about how they studied, what they studied and what their experience was like. You could also get a mentor to help you prepare, and learn from his or her experiences too.

Local PMI chapter

This is the spirit level of the toolkit, helping you stay centered and motivated. Tap into your colleagues at your local PMI chapter. They may have a study group that you could join. At a minimum, you’ll be able to talk to PMPs about how they managed their journey to PMP certification.

Brain dump sheets

A brain dump sheet is a way to recall information under exam conditions. It’s a personal study tool that you can shape to fit the way you study best, and it’s becoming more popular. Create a sheet of paper with all the key information on it, and then practice writing it out until it’s second nature. Then you simply have to do that in the exam, and all the key information will be at your fingertips.

Internet forums

There is a lot of information on Internet forums — and many of them are free. Chat with other students about how their exam preparation is going, or ask advice from seasoned PMPs.

Whatever tools you choose, it is important to study regularly. Try to spend some time on your PMP studies every day. The study materials you buy should reflect the fact that you’ll be using them on a daily basis, so that might influence what you invest in. Tools like electronic versions of flash cards, books and guides are very portable and can be used whenever you have a spare moment.

Finally, studying for your PMP is a difficult job, so choose materials that you enjoy using and find fun. That will make your revision more enjoyable and the PMP credential an achievable target.

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, is an expert in the project management field. He has helped more than 16,000 students prepare for the PMP exam.

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