Strictly speaking, the only thing you absolutely have to buy to prepare for the PMP® examination are a copy of The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) on which the exam is principally based. Indeed, some individuals choose to self-study and others prefer to rely on an instructor or study group for help.
Regardless, there is a wide range of free resources available to you. Some of these resources are offered as samples by vendors hoping to sell you more support, while others are truly free. Indeed, you may desire to pay for additional support in your credential quest. Just be on guard to avoid any automatic charges you might incur after signing up with a given vendor. In some cases, you may receive promotional mailings, but this is normally optional.
Here we do not endorse or describe any free resources in order of priority or quality. Our intent is to make you aware of things you can turn to in your credential quest. There are no doubt many hundreds of sources of good prep material to be found on the Internet.
Of course, there are the “near free” simulators that come with a plethora of books. In some few cases, the simulator may require a purchase beyond the book’s initial cost and we will mention only a couple of the many.
Recall from our discussion of how to prepare for the examination that it is essential that your practice questions must be highly situational in nature, but still based on the material in the PMBOK Guide®. This means, of course that the underlying PMBOK Guide® information may be hidden inside the question.
Also recall from the discussion in another article on this site that “fact-recall oriented” questions are fine for early study, but more situational “real-life application” questions are important later.
Let’s address the characteristics of a good exam simulator. Numerous exam simulators are available. Some are available for free temporary trial before purchase, and some are free. (Many are available for a fee, of course.)
In the early going, paper-based exams are fine, and you will find lots of questions in that format. Just be sure that you get adequate practice with a software simulator at full-speed (finishing 200 questions in four hours) before deciding you are ready for the exam.
A great PMP exam simulator has the following characteristics, although few free versions have them all.
- As mentioned, the questions should be difficult (the exam is, of course) and highly situational.
- Results of each exam try should give your score in each Knowledge Area, allowing you to allocate your study and reading more heavily in those areas in which you are weakest. This measure is a critical criterion in allowing you to allocate your study time investment efficiently.
- The exam should be timed and allow presentation of a four-hour exam with pause capability.
- While every good exam question helps, your simulator should have at least six to eight hundred quality questions and, if repeated, questions should be presented in a different order. That said, don’t rely on any limited set of questions to adequately prepare you for the exam.
- You should be allowed to mark questions in order to return to them later. In another article, we discuss the strategy you would use here.
- The simulator should offer explanations for the answer to each question.
For the early going in your test practice, here is a good resource.
At this site, you can use a test environment like the actual exam software. It would be a good idea to give it a spin.
You’ll find the questions here to be very good test preparation.
Particularly difficult questions are here.
You can find some good practice material here.
You will find a large number of questions here, but only if you are a PMI member.
Here you will find a wealth of quite realistic exam questions and other useful exam prep information and guidance.
If you have an Android phone or tablet, you’ll find this site quite convenient for productively filling life’s inevitable wait times.
A couple of hundred questions can be found here, and they are not easy.
Flashcards are an excellent tool for developing quick recognition of the terminology and concepts underlying the exam. You will find an excellent flashcard tool here. You may wish to print out the cards for easy use.
Because you must study the PMBOK® in order to prepare for the exam, let’s pretend that it is “free” because you already have it. The book’s glossary is a great study in itself, particularly in identifying those terms that you may not be familiar with or perhaps have a slight misconception of (the latter is not uncommon). Because there can be questions (a very limited number) that aren’t from the PMBOK Guide®, glossaries are useful. Another great glossary resource can be found here.
Groups You Can Join
While they don’t offer the in-person experience available through PMI local chapters, participation in an online group pays off in many ways including free resources including practice questions and exam advice, networking, a much wider and more diverse audience and more. Of particular interest are:
At Yahoo: https://groups.yahoo.com/group/PMHUB
The PMI New Practitioners Community of Practice (NPCOP)
The COP is free to join, but you must be a PMI member. It offers all kinds of great materials and guidance for getting past the exam stage, and wonderful tools you can use after you obtain it. You’ll also be sharing information, templates and ideas with individuals who are at your same stage of development.
We have only scratched the surface of the available resources. This is particularly true if you decide on self-study as opposed to taking a formal class either online or in person. It is advisable to supplement your study materials with books, and we discuss those in a separate article.