3 Crucial Content Study Tips for the PMP Exam

Megan Suitts on Nov 12, 2014 8:50:00 AM

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The role of a project manager is, at its core, to get things done. An experienced project manager can ensure that projects are completed on time, on budget and to the highest possible standard.

Any project’s aims are achieved through the "application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience" (Association for Project Management). How these elements are combined will depend on the individual project.

Knowing how to apply them effectively can be the difference between the success and failure of a project. Project managers need to be able to convince potential clients that they have exactly what the client is looking for. One way to do this is to become accredited.

Earning your accreditation involves having a certain level of experience and education behind you. If you meet these requirements, you can apply for your Project Management Professional (PMP) credential.

Central to achieving this is passing an exam that consists of 200 multiple choice questions. The Project Management Institute (PMI) suggests that thorough preparation is essential to passing the exam.

It goes on to state that at least 35 hours of study is required to reach the desired level of knowledge.

The purpose of the exam, amongst other things, is to test applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the "Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping" matrix.PMBOK

At the first glance, the matrix found in the fifth edition of the PMBOK Guide is a foreboding grid of knowledge areas, process groups and processes.

However, once these areas are broken down they are less daunting, and the relationships between them begin to take shape.

By using these three PMP content study tips, you will gain the understanding you need to tackle the exam head on.

Understanding the Project Management Processes

The 'Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping’ matrix contains:

  • 47 Project Management Processes

  • 10 Knowledge areas, and

  • 5 Processing groups

By working through each of the PMP content study tips, you will gain a deeper understanding of each section of the matrix.

The foundation of the matrix is the 47 Project Management Processes. Each process can be defined as a "way of transforming an input into an output using proven tools and techniques" (Project Management PrepCast).

Put simply, it is what you are going to do to achieve the goal you want.

By understanding how individual actions affect the outcome of a given project, you can begin to create a mental map of what is the best course of actions to the project on track.

It allows you to explain this map to those involved in the project, ensuring you are all working towards the same goals. A secondary reason for understanding the key processes is that it helps minimize potential friction with project owners.

Another way to understand these processes is to picture them as the glue holding the different elements of the project in place. The better your understanding, the stronger the glue.

The matrix identifies 47 processes including:

  • Schedule management planning

  • Clarifying activitiespmp exam

  • Sequencing activities

  • Estimating activity resources

  • Estimating activity duration

  • Schedule development

All of the above examples come from one knowledge area. The role and purpose of the knowledge areas will be expanded in the following section of the PMP content study tips.

A full list of the 47 processes can be found at Study Stack, along with ideas on how best to remember the processes. Once you have memorized the 47 processes you have the building blocks for the rest of the matrix.

Knowing the 10 Knowledge areas

As stated earlier, each of the three PMP content study tips is interrelated because the three areas of the matrix are connected.

The key thing to remember here is that the 47 processes are being divided into 10 knowledge areas. No new information is being added. It is simply a way of understanding how groups of processes work together and are reliant on each other.

The previous example showed the processes for the knowledge area of time management. Other knowledge areas include:

  • Integration management

  • Scope management, and

  • Cost management

At this stage of the matrix, you are provided with definitions of each process. Each definition is clear and related to the planning and actions that you will already go through on every project.

By exploring the definitions of these processes, you can see how they fit together, and how each process is required in order for a project to be successfully completed.

Using the Time Management area as an example, this is clear to see:

  • Schedule management planning - Establishing policies, procedures, and documentation for developing, planning, executing, and implementing the schedule.

  • Estimate activity resources - Estimate the type and qualities of material, HR, equipment, or supplies required for each activity

  • Develop a schedule - Analyzing activity sequences, duration, resource requirements and constraints to create a schedule model.

However, the processes are not only grouped by knowledge area; they are also grouped by theme.

Putting together the Process groups

The third of the PMP content study tips concentrates on these themes. There are five themes or processing groups:

  • Initiating

  • Planning

  • Executing

  • Monitoring and Controlling, and

  • Closing

The first and most important thing to remember about these groups is that they should not be considered as phases or as a sequence. Edward Designer states that the project manager should "tailor the choices of processes to fit in individual processes."

The purpose of the process groups is to bring together the activities that are relevant to a specific project and to each phase of the project. Here are examples from Quizlet of the process that are relevant to a specific group:

  • Initiating - "The processes performed to define a new project or a new phase of an existing project by obtaining authorization to start a project or phase."

  • Monitoring and controlling - "The processes required to track, review, and regulate the progress and performance of the project; identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required and initiate the corresponding changes."

A project manager should be able to "identify ways in which the process groups interact with each other through the life of your project" (Project Management precast).

In terms of the PMP content study tips and the matrix, knowledge areas can be understood as what you need to know and the process groups are what you and your team need to do.

By following these PMP content study tips, you will be well underway to achieving your credentialing goals.

The key is to learn, by heart, the 47 processes and then to apply your learning, knowledge and experience to understanding of the entire matrix.

Interested in learning more about the PMP exam? Download our FREE eBook today!

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