pmp exam outline guide

The PMP or Project Management Professional is essentially a globally recognized professional designation that is provided by the PMI or Project Management Institute.  In other words, it may be considered as the gold standard industry recognized certification that is exclusively designed for project managers worldwide. As opposed to the other types of certifications that are typically recognized in certain domains or geographical locations, the PMP is a global certification in the truest sense.

Why PMP?

With a PMP certification, you can use your skills and training in virtually all industries incorporating any type of methodologies and based anywhere in the world. In addition to having varied opportunities across a wide range of employment platforms, a PMP certification can also benefit you in terms of your earning potential and remuneration. According to the Earning Power Salary Survey conducted by the Project Management Institute, employees holding a PMP certification are able to, on an average, draw 20% higher salaries as compared to their counterparts who are not PMP certified. In essence, a PMP certification enables you to understand a global language that connects you to a comprehensive network of experts, professionals, and organizations across the globe.

What you need to know about the PMP exam content online

Before you decide to kick-start your preparation for the Project Management Professional certification exam, you must first identify as to what category of eligibility you fall in. In order to minimize the chances of having your application rejected by the Project Management Institute or PMI, you must ensure that you are indeed eligible for taking up the course. The PMI lays down two fundamental criteria for qualifying for the PMP certification exam based on your academic education.

  • For those holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the candidate must also possess a total of 4500 hours and 36 months’ worth of project management experience.
  • For those holding a high school diploma or an associate’s degree, the candidate must also possess a total of 7500 hours and 60 months’ worth of project management experience.
  • Regardless of whichever segment you fall in, your project management experience must be in leading or directing projects that are not overlapping and cumulative across all the five major process groups namely initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.
  • In addition to this, you would also be required to show a minimum of 35 hours of project management training as well.

While you might feel that it is quite a cumbersome task, there are a lot of certification companies that offer free online tools with which you can easily check your PMP eligibility by simply entering the required fields with your academic and professional details.

What are the five process groups that you must possess hands-on project management experience in?

The five discrete project groups namely initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing is relevant primarily because they provide us with the required organization experience of successfully planning, executing, managing, and completing a full-fledged project. That said, let us have a look at what these individual process groups imply and why they are critical to ensuring a project’s success.


As described by the Project Management Institute, the first and foremost process of initiating helps an individual successfully envision what it is that needs to be achieved. The initiating stage involves formal authorization by the sponsor, defining the initial scope and identifying the stakeholders. By correctly identifying the relevant stakeholders, you can essentially lay down a strong foundation for a project’s subsequent success.

In addition to getting the project and programs sanctioned by the sponsor, it is also imperative to ensure that the project is duly in line with the overall strategic goals of the company. The initiating process stage also involves identification and authorization of a project manager who will be responsible for the successful completion of the project at hand. A lack of successful execution of the initiating stage may result in haphazard handling and execution of a project with no real objectives or goals.


The second process group in project management constitutes planning or establishing the ultimate goal of a particular project. While the initiating stage merely outlines the scope of a project, the planning stage is used for defining the risks, budgets, milestones, summary and other associated factors in a more comprehensive manner. At this stage, the project management teams incorporate progressive elaboration for developing the project documents in a more detailed manner.

As identified by the Project Management Institute, the planning stage comprises a total of twenty-four distinct processes that may be employed by the project managers for successfully accomplishing the project goals. In addition to thinking of the entire project in advance, the project managers also utilize the planning stage to project any potential pitfalls and chalk out relevant risk mitigation plans to respond to any setbacks effectively. Typically, the planning stage helps managers understand not only the in and out of the project scope but also how they can ensure its completion within the budget and the stipulated deadline.


As the name suggests, this process essentially deals with the actual execution of the task at hand. Once the project plan has been successfully created, the execution stage helps in ensuring that all the designated tasks are being carried out as per the stipulated schedule. The team works with the project manager in designing the deliverables and coordinating the resources allocated for the project. In addition to this, the project manager will also not only manage his/her team but also keep it motivated and driven towards a common goal through effective team building activities and exercises.

Apart from ensuring adequate communication with the team, the project manager is also attributed with the task of dealing with the stakeholders and ensuring that the quality of the product is being duly maintained. The executing stage involves proper incorporation of the budget and creation of the required deliverables. Depending upon the overall duration of the project, the execution stage may range from a few days to as long as several years.

Monitoring and Controlling

Although the other process groups essentially occur in a sequential manner, the monitoring and controlling phase continues throughout. The monitoring and controlling phase comprises a number of processes that might be employed to not only track and monitor the performance of the particular project at hand but also to identify any potential pitfalls and implement the required changes to ensure that the project flows successfully towards its completion. In a majority of the cases, a project might not go exactly as planned, and the managers need to review the statistics and initiate adequate corrective actions to avoid any procedural or strategical hurdles along the way.

The process also involves controlling associated areas of schedule, costs, and scope of the project at hand. The project managers are required to define the particular techniques and tools that his/her team would employ to control the aforementioned aspects of the project. However, if any changes are required, they may be carried out only after the change control board authorizes the same. One cannot simply assume that just because they have chalked out a workable plan for the execution of the project, the processes will go on as anticipated and without any deviations from the defined track. It takes constant monitoring and tracking of the processes as they take place to ensure that the project is progressing towards success.


The final and equally critical process group, the closing is where the team not only provides a formal closure to the project but also receives a final sign-off after the customer has accepted the designed product. More often than not, the projects end up failing at this stage given the fact that the team members tend to become more laid back at the end of a project and stop attending meetings and such. However, it is absolutely essential to ensure that the vigilance upheld during the other process groups is duly maintained even at the very end of the project as well. The project must be formally closed after archiving the records, clearing out any outstanding balances, signing off all contracts and such.

 Why the PMP exam is challenging

  • For starters, you need to qualify for applying to the PMP exam on the basis of the stipulated criteria as defined by the Project Management Institute.
  • According to the PMP examination specification, the candidates are evaluated on the basis of a specific percentage of a particular domain:
  1. Initiating the project (13%)
  2. Planning the project (24%)
  3. Executing the project (31%)
  4. Monitoring and controlling the project (25%)
  5. Closing the project (7%)
  • The candidates are required to achieve passing scores across all the five process groups to be able to pass the PMP examination successfully.

The PMP exam features a high difficulty level and as such, each candidate is allotted a maximum of three attempts per year to pass the exam and get a certification. While a lot of candidates are unable to pass the examination in their first attempt, the provision of multiple attempts enables them to stay motivated and succeed in their subsequent endeavors.

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