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The Best PMP Study Guides - 2021

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Friday, Jul 23, 2021.

Overview Of The PMP Exam

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam, combined with the requisite experience and education requirements, is the final key to getting your PMP Certification. The exam itself can be quite challenging, and costs $405 (for PMI members or $550 for non-members). Given the costs (both time and money) associated with taking the exam, it’s in your best interest to ace it on your first attempt, and there are tons of resources that can help you do just that.

We’ll cover the exam in detail, and give you our picks for the best PMP study guides, review guides, and flashcards for test year 2021 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

PMP Exam Details

The PMP Exam is composed of 2 sections, practical and written. There are 5 major topics covered in the 200 question multiple choice exam, each of which makes up between 7% to 31% of the total. There are 4 hours allotted for the exam, and it’s generally regarded as quite difficult.

Exam Sections

The 5 major test topics and their percentage of test questions are as follows:

  • Initiating (13%)
  • Planning (24%)
  • Executing (31%)
  • Monitoring and Controlling (25%)
  • Closing (7%)

Additional detail on each of the sections is provided below.

Domain 1: Initiating

The initiating phase consists for tasks such as:

  • Performing project assessments and evaluating feasibility.
  • Stakeholder analysis and aligning expectations.
  • Obtaining a project charter.
  • Identify high level risks.

Domain 2: Planning

In the Planning section, tasks such as these are covered:

  • Review and assess detailed project plans.
  • Develop scope and cost management plans.
  • Develop project and resource management plans.
  • Present plans to relevant stakeholders.

Domain 3: Executing

In the executing section, tasks covered may include:

  • Acquire and manage project resources.
  • Implement approved actions.
  • Maintain stakeholder relationships.
  • Manage information flow.

Domain 4: Monitoring and Controlling

The Monitoring and Controlling section includes tasks such as:

  • Measure project performance.
  • Capture lessons learned.
  • Monitor and assess risks.
  • Manage changes to the project.

Domain 5: Closing

The Closing section consists of:

  • Obtain final acceptance of deliverables.
  • Collate lessons learned.
  • Obtain feedback from stakeholders.
  • Prepare and share final project report.

PMP Frequent Questions

What Is The Best Way To Study For The PMP Exam?

The PMP Exam requires a combination of on the job experience, and self study. As with most exams, a comprehensive Study Guide and Study Plan are the best way to focus your limited study time.

How Much Time Is Needed To Study For the PMP Exam?

Based on a recent survey of successful PMP Exam takers, you should plan on anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months to prepare for the exam. The most common (~30%) length of time spent studying was 2 months.

How Long Is The PMP Exam?

The PMP Exam is 200 multiple choice questions long, and you’re allowed at most 4 hours to complete it.

How Much Does the PMP Exam Cost?

The PMP Exam costs $405 (US) for people who are members of PMI, or $555 for non-PMI members. PMI membership costs $139, so it’s generally better to join if you’re not already a member.

What Is A Passing Score For The PMP Exam?

The PMI doesn’t publish an exact score required to pass, but estimates put it at around 60% of questions (120 of 200) must be answered correctly.

Best PMP Study Guides

PMP Exam Prep

PMP Exam Prep
9th Edition
by Rita Mulcahy

Pros: Complete and comprehensive review of all exam topics, and great practice questions.
Cons: No glossary of terms.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5

PMP Exam Prep is our top pick for best PMP study guide, and is one of the best selling and highest rated PMP exam prep books available. It has a collection of top-notch practice questions, and goes in-depth on all of the major test topics. The full list of features include:

  • Over 400 practice questions.
  • Exclusive exercises and tricks of the trade.
  • Complete coverage of all 5 major exam topics.

The primary attributes of a good study guide in this area are access to practice test questions and a comprehensive review of important material. This guide has both of these things, and are high-quality and user friendly. If you only plan on picking up 1 guide on this list, we recommend you make it PMP Exam Prep!

PMP Study Guide

PMP Study Guide
10th Edition
by Kim Heldman

Pros: Excellent practice questions and exams, and strong review content.
Cons: Information layout can be unintuitive in some spots.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PMP Study Guide didn’t make the top of our list, but it’s still a completely viable resource for people preparing for the PMP. It has 2 full length practice exams that are a pretty good representation of the types and difficulty of questions you’ll encounter on the real exam. The full list of features include:

  • 2 custom practice exams.
  • 175 electronic flashcards.
  • Searchable key term glossary.
  • 2 hours of audio instructions and review.

The PMP Study Guide has solid resources for every test taker, and a variety of learning-styles. It’s great for an in-depth review of the material covered, or for just last minute exam prep. Whatever your use case, there’s some truly great information contained in this book.

The PMP Exam

The PMP Exam
6th Edition
by Andy Crowe

Pros: Good number of practice questions and topic coverage.
Cons: Some practice questions are not realistic of the actual question difficulty.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try is another great resource for PMP students looking to succeed on the first try. It contains a full review of PMP Exam topics, and comes with plenty of useful practice questions. Features include:

  • All the processes, inputs, tools, and outputs that will be tested
  • Insider secrets, test tricks and tips
  • Links to 60 videos explaining concepts
  • Over 400 practice exam questions including end of chapter quizzes and a simulated final exam
  • Meaningful exercises designed to strengthen mastery of key concepts

The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try is clearly organized and presents the material in an easily understandable format. All of the concepts, and every process, input, tool and technique, and output is clearly explained.

PMP Exam Prep Simplified

PMP Exam Prep Simplified
6th Edition
by Andrew Ramdayal

Pros: Lots of useful and relevant practice questions.
Cons: Not as in-depth as other guides on this list.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5

PMP Exam Prep Simplified is a more abbreviated guide than the others on this list. It has tons of great practice questions, test tips, and full length mock exam. Features include:

  • Over 500 realistic exam practice questions.
  • Hot Topics review section.
  • Full Length Mock Exam.
  • Exam tips and tricks section.

If you have a good handle on the material already, and are just looking for practice questions and an idea of what you’ll encounter on test day, this book is a great bet. It’s especially useful for last minute review and ensuring you’re well prepared for the format and difficulty of actual questions.

Best PMP Flashcards

In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, aspiring PMP candidates will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best PMP Flashcards are outlined below.

The PMP Exam: Flash Cards

The PMP Exam: Flash Cards
5th Edition
by Velociteach

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

The PMP Exam: Flash Cards is our top pick for flashcards to help you prepare for the PMP exam. It has over 250 cards containing tons of information across all test topics. Key features include:

  • Over 250 flashcards.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

Flashcards have a tremendous benefit for students who elect to use them in their test preparation. Repetitive drilling on major topics is a good way to help in the days leading up to the exam. If you plan to pick up flashcards to help in your studies, these are your best bet!

The PMP Exam: Quick Reference Guide

The PMP Exam: Quick Reference Guide
6th Edition
by Andy Crowe

Pros: Critical information in condensed form.
Cons: Can be hard to read for people without great eyesight.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

The PMP Exam: Quick Reference Guide isn’t actually a flashcard set, but it makes sense to include in this section. This is a condensed 1 sheeter containing the most critical information you’ll need to know and reference frequently in order to pass the PMP Exam. Key features include:

  • Presents all 47 processes along with the key inputs, tools, and outputs, this helpful tool also depicts techniques.
  • Common formulas are well organized and presented for quick reference.

This item is a great way to keep critical information at your fingertips. Obviously it’s not as comprehensive as a full review guide above, but it can be super handy while you’re preparing for the exam!

Wrapping Up

For Project Management Professionals, the PMP Exam can be the key to higher pay, more responsibility, and tons of other benefits. Study manuals, flashcards, and practice tests are a huge help to many people, and if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of them.

We’ve rounded up the best PMP Exam study guides and flashcards and presented them above. To recap our recommendations:

Top Study Guide RecommendationPMP Exam Prep
Top Flashcard RecommendationThe PMP Exam: Flash Cards

Our top pick for best PMP Study Guide is PMP Exam Prep. It’s the most comprehensive and accurate guide on our list, and has the best practice questions and other resources included.

For top flashcard pick, we recommend The PMP Exam: Flash Cards. It’s got over 250 highly relevant cards covering all topics from the exam.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best PMP resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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