by Cornelius Fichtner, PMP

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 7: Exam Day Logistics

Nov 29, 2010
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Don't blow your chances of passing the PMP exam and earning PMP certification by failing to prepare for exam day logistics. Here's what you need to do before the exam and on exam day to make sure you're ready mentally, physically and logistically.

You have devoted months to studying for the PMP exam. You’ve spent hard-earned money on study materials and classes, and you’ve sacrificed your social life all in the name of earning your PMP certification. Don’t blow all that time, money and effort by failing to prepare for exam day logistics: Understand the check-in process at the test center; know what identification you need to bring; and always, expect the unexpected.

To ensure that you’ll perform at your best the day you take the PMP exam, make the following mental, physical and logistical preparations both before and on the day of the test.

Editor’s Note: Given the interest in project management certification, and PMP expert Cornelius Fichtner have prepared a series of how-to articles designed to help interested parties prepare for the PMP exam. This article is the seventh in the series.

Before the Exam

1. Get a good night’s sleep. If you don’t know the material by the night before you’re scheduled to take the exam, cramming with an overnight study session is not going to further your chances of passing. Instead, set a time the day or evening before the exam when you are going to stop studying. The best thing you can do to make sure you’re rested and ready for the big day is to get a good night’s sleep.

2. Take the WHOLE day off. If you’re taking the PMP exam on a work day, plan to take that entire day off from work. You don’t want to have to worry while you’re taking the exam about what will greet you at the office when you rush to work after taking this four-hour, 200-question test.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast. Food and drinks are not allowed in the test area. Be sure to eat a quality breakfast the day of your exam–something with protein and carbohydrates that will stick with you for the four hours you will be in the exam area. Avoid eating any type of food that you would consider “exotic.” I failed to heed this advice once, tried a new dish for lunch, and felt sick during most of my PMP exam.

4. Dress comfortably. You’re going to be seated at a computer for four hours taking the PMP exam, so wear comfortable clothes. Bring a sweater with you in case the testing center is chilly. You may need to remove your sweater at check in for security purposes, but you should be able to wear it during the test if the room gets cold. Just ask.

5. Cancellations. If you need to cancel or reschedule your PMP exam for any reason, do so at least 48 hours in advance. Otherwise, you will forfeit your full PMP-credential fee and have to pay it again to take the exam.

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The Day of the Exam

1. The check-in process. On the day of your examination, arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment. You will need to sign in, present a government-issued identification, and provide your unique PMI identification code. You may also be asked to provide the confirmation number you received when you scheduled your exam.

If your government-issued ID does not have a photograph or signature, you will need a secondary identification with your photograph and signature, whichever is missing from the primary ID. For a list of acceptable identifications, see the Project Management Institute’s PMP Credential Handbook.

The name on your government-issued ID MUST match your name exactly as it appears on your PMP exam scheduling notification. If it doesn’t, you will not be permitted to take the test. Neither the Project Management Institute (PMI) nor Prometric (the test administrator) will make any exception, so save yourself a lot of heartache and confirm it as soon as you receive your scheduling notification.

2. What not to bring. The testing center will provide you with paper, a pencil and a calculator (on the exam computer). You may not bring anything–or anyone–with you into the exam room. This includes your cell phone, your own calculator, a coat, dictionary, eye glasses case, etc. Some test centers have lockers for your personal items. The complete list of items that you cannot bring in is in the “Exam Site Requirements & Instructions” section of the PMP Credential Handbook.

3. Expect Murphy’s Law. Since every testing center is different, you should expect the unexpected. In my case, noisy construction was going on outside the testing center during the entire exam, and a student from South Africa wrote that he wasn’t allowed to take any breaks for any reason. He was told that if he stood up from his chair, this meant that he was done with the exam. So whatever comes your way, roll with it. Concentrate on what is really important, which is taking and passing the exam.

4. Ready, Set, GO! Before you begin your test, you must familiarize yourself with your workstation. Go through the tutorial. Its purpose is to inform you about the logistics of the computer-based PMP exam. You will probably be familiar with it if you studied using a PMP exam simulator that paralleled the PMP exam logistics. Even so, watch it to make sure there are no surprises.

You have 15 minutes for the tutorial, but you should be finished in about 5. Use the rest of the time to get ready. For instance, since you cannot bring your notes with you, do a “brain dump” by writing down the most important facts for you to remember on your scrap paper before you begin the test. Then, take a deep breath and click “Start Exam.”

5. After the Exam. Your exam result (pass or fail) will be available to you on your computer screen almost immediately after you take the exam. You will also receive a printed examination report with proficiency ratings in each project management process group. If you don’t pass, you will know where you fell short and will know what to study if you decide to retake the exam.

If you have passed, congratulations! You are now a certified PMP and can immediately place those three letters after your name. But your professional journey doesn’t end there because the PMP certification does not last for life. It is valid for three years, after which time you have to re-certify. In the next article, I will talk about the PMI’s CCRS (Continuing Certification Requirements System) and what it means to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) to re-certify.

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, is a noted project management expert with nearly 20 years of project management experience in various industries. He has helped over 11,000 students in their PMP Exam Prep with The Project Management PrepCast, a downloadable and portable exam prep video workshop. A former PMI Chapter president, Fichtner is currently an active volunteer in his local PMI chapter and a member of PMI’s New Media Council. He is also the host of the Project Management Podcast and the PDU Podcast.