PMP Exam Q&A

Here’s how project professional Anna Thornton successfully juggled the responsibilities of work, life and Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam-prep by managing schedules and stakeholders.

Anna Thornton, PMP

What steps did you take to reinforce the commitment it takes to earn a PMP?

Even before I’d completed the application process, I started telling people about what I was up to. The more I talked about my pursuit, the more committed I felt to seeing it through.

How did setting goals and objectives help your preparation?

We’re intensely deadline driven in the arts, so I applied this mentality to managing the application process and exam prep. I set a hard deadline for myself to pass the exam, so that helped me develop a critical path of milestones for preparation and study. I was always focused on maximizing my ROI through taking a smart approach to scheduling and studying resource materials, such as my binder notes from an exam prep course.

How did you juggle career and life obligations?

My family was the primary stakeholder throughout the process, and I needed to keep their needs for my time and energy top of mind. So I set up a study schedule. By following my plan and tracking progress in a spreadsheet, I never had to think about what was next on my list of things to do.

What did your studying schedule look like?

I read and studied on the bus to and from work every day, then again over lunchtime at work, probably two to three times a week. Then I studied again before bed most nights. I amped up studying on weekends closer to the exam. The more planning you do upfront, the easier implementation is along the way.

How did you measure progress?

I took mini exams offered by different resources, such as exam simulators, after reviewing my study guide and each chapter of the PMBOK® Guide. These practice exams helped gauge whether or not I was getting the most out of my study efforts. My scores helped me track progress and showed me where I needed to go back and put in more time to arrive at the result I was striving for.

How did you relieve stress and maintain a positive focus?

My mantra was to breathe and smile—and to picture myself at the finish line with the PMP certificate in my hand.

Anna Thornton, PMP, earned her certification in June 2017. She is human resources manager at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  

Prepare to Commit


On average, successful PMP candidates will spend 35 hours or more to prepare for the exam. But manage your risk: Leave plenty of preparation time before you take the exam.

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