Ask PMI Anything: How Should I Prepare for the PMP Exam?

The PMP certification is world-renowned and an incredibly valuable credential. So, taking the PMP exam requires careful preparation and training. In this post, Sierra Hampton-Simmons explains how to select a quality training provider and what PMI is doing to keep the PMP exam safe, secure and credible.

Written by Sierra Hampton-Simmons • 10 March 2022


Image by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash

The Project Management Professional (PMP)® is one of the world’s most valuable professional certifications. A quick Google search reveals that it’s at the top of just about any list of most valued credentials.

As with any accreditation, however, the value of the PMP rests on the integrity of the exam that underlies it. For the PMP to mean anything, organizations must believe that the process for earning the certification is rigorous, impartial and trustworthy.

That’s why PMI devotes so much time and resources to protecting the confidentiality of the PMP exam and the integrity of the exam-taking procedure. We want to make sure that you, as a current or prospective certification holder, benefit fully from the PMP’s sterling reputation.

But it’s not just about reputation or setting yourself apart from other job applicants. According to PMI’s latest salary survey, respondents holding a PMP certification reported higher median salaries than those without a certification—16 percent higher on average across the 40 countries surveyed.

Ensuring High-Quality Prep Experience

Ensuring the integrity of the PMP starts with the exam itself and with exam preparation. To qualify for the exam, you must complete 35 hours of training and promise to abstain from any misconduct while taking the test. That means following the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and abiding by all PMI Certification Program policies and requirements.

How to satisfy the training requirement? The best way is to take an instructor-led PMP prep course with an Authorized Training Partner or ATP. To qualify as an ATP, a training organization must undergo rigorous vetting and ongoing monitoring by PMI. They also commit to using certified trainers and PMI-certified course materials specifically developed based off of the PMP Exam Content Outline, which acts as the roadmap for the PMP exam. This ensures you learn the concepts that will be tested on the exam. Candidates often choose to take an ATP’s interactive, instructor-led course because they want a learning experience inclusive of discussion and dialogue with peers and their PMP-certified instructor.

Finding an ATP is easy. There’s a comprehensive database of ATPs on the PMI website. You can search by location, language, dates available and modality (in-person or virtual), among other criteria. And if you see advertising for PMP exam prep courses online or on social media, we recommend looking for their digital ATP badge, which specifies when they became an ATP and how long the authorization is good for. This will help ensure their services are legitimate.

If you would prefer to earn these hours at your own pace instead of registering for an ATP’s interactive course, you can also pursue PMI’s self-paced online offering on The training includes videos and exercises aligned to the PMP exam content and will help you satisfy the 35-hour requirement, but you can work at your own pace and at the times most convenient for you.

It’s also worth noting that many PMI chapters offer PMP exam prep opportunities in conjunction with an ATP, and some are even ATPs themselves. And, of course, there are independent organizations that offer exam prep courses—including many local universities and colleges.

What to Avoid Leading Up to Your Exam

PMI is—and has always been—dedicated to having the highest levels of integrity and security for our exams.

Unfortunately, exam misconduct is a reality. It’s important that candidates can identify potential scams run by disreputable training organizations so they can avoid this misconduct. You should be wary of:

  1. Organizations or trainers that promote “100% pass rates”
  2. Trainers that “guarantee” you will pass
  3. Trainers that say they have “seen the test”
  4. Trainers that promise to “pass without taking the exam”

Advertisements with these kinds of claims often occur on WhatsApp, LinkedIn, WeChat and other social media platforms, and you may receive direct messages from these “service providers.” While these services are often simply scams to get your money and disappear, some go further and encourage candidates to commit intentional misconduct during the exam session, including taking pictures or notes of exam questions allowing another person to take the exam for you.

And we have even seen cases where the “service provider” seemingly reports the candidate for misconduct to ruin the candidate’s chances of pursuing any PMI certification. We think this happens if the candidate is not willing to pay the “service provider” more money after committing the act of misconduct. In cases like these, it appears that the “service provider” files an anonymous tip with evidence that the misconduct occurred to penalize the candidate. When we discover evidence of misconduct, we must act in accordance with our policies and procedures, which can result in a permanent ban on an individual.

If you are contacted by a service provider suggesting any misconduct, do not engage or give them any personal information. We urge you to report them immediately by sending a screenshot of the message or advertisement to [email protected] and we will investigate the misconduct.

To counter misconduct, our rigorous exam security program uses the industry's best practices, and we continue to add new enhancements to authenticate applicants as well as detect and react to misconduct. We analyze candidate behavior during the exam and are analyzing the exam results faster. We also work closely with our worldwide exam vendor and use a separate security firm to perform data forensics and identify any patterns of cheating or misconduct.

But we do have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to exam misconduct and will act immediately when we become aware of it. The penalties for cheating on an exam are serious. We will invalidate and cancel scores, revoke certifications and memberships (if applicable), permanently ban candidates from taking future PMI exams, and will even work with local authorities to pursue criminal action.

All these efforts around exam security are designed to preserve and protect the integrity not just of the PMP but of all the certifications and offerings that PMI has. We understand how important—and how valuable—these certifications are. It’s our special responsibility and privilege to make sure they stay on the Top 10 lists for many years to come.

Sierra Hampton-Simmons headshot

Sierra Hampton-Simmons
Vice President, Products & Certifications | PMI

Sierra Hampton-Simmons joined PMI in the fall of 2013 to manage PMI’s Certification programs and currently serves as the VP, Products. She has over two decades of experience as an expert in digital product development and management with a track record for transforming and developing lucrative brands to include relevant performance-based testing and training. At PMI, Sierra is responsible for the entire portfolio of products including certifications, online learning, and standards and publications. She led innovations that included the evolving the PMP, PMI Study Hall, and the addition of the new Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (PMI-CP) certification program.

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