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CAPM Study Plan

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28 minutes ago

Important Note: This article is based on the newest exam content outline effective on Jan 2023

In the past few years, I have been involved with hundreds of professionals who would like to have the CAPM certificate, the frequently asked question was: I don’t know from where to begin the journey?

The detailed study plan explained below was created by me relying on my own experience preparing my students to pass the CAPM exam, and from the lessons learned I received from the students I guide.  The plan below is compromised from 12 steps. With busy professionals who cannot give more than 10 hours a week, the plan below is expected to take 4-6 weeks.

Take less than an hour to read this study plan carefully, this plan will save a lot of your time and efforts!

Step one: Do you want to be a CAPM certified?

First, you should have the serious intent to be CAPM certified, this intent might come from the career path you have in the project management field or from your passion to improve your knowledge in this field. Wherever it’s coming from, The CAPM® certification offers recognition to practitioners who are interested in, or just starting, a career in project management, as well as project team members who wish to demonstrate their project management knowledge. This certification indicates knowledge of common practices used by an associate-level project manager. Once you have this intent, and you are willing to invest your time and money, you can be a CAPM certificate holder after 4-6 weeks from this moment.

Are you eligible for the CAPM exam? As per the PMI standards, you must have a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree or the global equivalent, and 23 hours of project management education.  

The CAPM exam fess is $225 for members and $300 for non-members. Therefore, it’s better and money saving to register on the PMI website with the fees of $129 and $10 of application fees, if you are willing to have more than a certificate from the Project management Institute. For more details about the PMI requirements for the CAPM exam and the exam fees, you can check the PMI.org website.

The total cost of this journey will include the exam fees, reference books cost, 35 contact hours course, and miscellaneous costs of supportive documents. If you have the self-learning ability, I will guide you on how to get 100% prepared for the CAPM exam with only $200 including the 23 contact hours, reference book, and high-quality exam simulators. Therefore, the total cost of the CAPM preparation journey will be around 550$ (Including exam fees). If you prefer going to a live classroom in your city to get the educational 23 contact hours, then the cost of the journey might reach $800.

Most of the project management practitioners can afford the $800 to get ready for the exam and apply for it; the real issue is the time investment! Like most of us are having a full-time job and family commitments, you want to find the most effective way to get ready, the step-by-step study plan I prepared based on my experience will save your time. No need to search the web for tons of useless data, 10 hours per week for 4-6 weeks following exactly this plan will guarantee your success from the first attempt.

Step Two: Get your reference books.

Pick your reference book! You will hear from other CAPM aspirants that having the 23 contact hours of education before reading the CAPM reference book is better. In my opinion, reading the reference book you selected for one time at least will be much more effective, this is what I advise my students to do before they attend my workshops. Why? Once you start reading the reference book you will start pointing out the topics where you have weaknesses, you will have a good general knowledge of the content, what are the project management Methods and techniques you want to focus on during the 23 contact hours training, this is the reason why I advise you to read the book. You will be aware of content of the training before you join it, highlight all topics you need to improve your knowledge in then go for the educational training. The first reference you should use is the Achieve CAPM Exam Success, 3rd edition, a concise study guide and desk reference 3rd edition (Check the most up to date edition).  This concise study guide presents all the fundamental knowledge, concepts, exercises, practice questions, and simulated exams needed to prepare for and successfully pass the CAPM® exam on your first try. However, this book is much more than a study guide. It is a valuable desk reference that project team members can use to improve their effectiveness and a good resource for those considering a career in project management. Readers will have free web-based access for 45 days to over 1000 questions including hundreds of situational questions, enabling users to perform practice tests by simulating actual 150-question exams and arrange questions by Knowledge Area. This book is a must-read for the CAPM exam preparation, and you can have a look at it through the link here. This book will definitely help you to understand the topics in CAPM® as well as form a mental picture of the project management knowledge areas. In total, you should spend about two weeks reading this study guide and making your notes, about 2 hours on weekdays and 5 hours on weekend days. The second reference book you should use is the PMBOK® guide–Seventh edition. Including both The Standard for Project Management and the PMBOK® Guide, this modern edition presents 12 principles of project management and eight project performance domains critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes. This book is mandatory for passing the CAPM exam in the first trial, specially that 50% of the new exam questions will be around the Agile and Hybrid project management approaches, which are covered in the PMBOK 7th edition. This book is a must-read for the CAPM exam preparation, and you can have a look at it through the link here. Through amazon, the price of this book starts at $71 which is the best price in the market, or you can download a soft copy for free from the PMI website if you are a PMI member.

Before you attend the 23 contact hours training course, read the achieve CAPM exam success, 3rd edition, A Concise study guide and desk reference, reading it for the first time should not take more than 2 weeks. During the first round of reading, highlight the important topics, have a note of the points you didn’t understand in order to focus on during the training course.

Step Three: Attend the 23 educational contact hours (Live class, webinars, or self-learning paced)

Nowadays, getting the 23 contact hours is very easy, it’s your call! Do you prefer attending a live class around? do a simple search in the place you are living in and register for a live class training, usually it costs from $500 to $1,000 depending on the place you are living in, currency, and instructor repetition. The issue of attending such classes that you need to fit your timing to suit the instructor timing, and it’s usually intensive. Instructors are giving the whole material of the CAPM exam within 3-4 days, usually students cannot acknowledge this amount of data within such short time, but still, I know students who prefer having a live class/workshop.

The second option is registering for an interactive online workshop, the instructor will do the 23 contact hours of project management education through online webinars while having 10-15 students, it’s money saving and more flexible, for attending such live interactive webinars you can search the web and usually prices for such live webinars are from $500 to $700, and at the end of the course you will have a certificate of completion with 23 contact hours of project management.

In my point of view, if you have the self-learning ability, you can be eligible for the CAPM exam using the course I created, at the end of the course you will have 23 contact hours completion certificate which you can use to fill in your exam application. This training should improve your knowledge in the project management field and prepare you to pass the exam. Have a look at the course structure through the link here.  It’s a huge save of money comparing to the upper prices, you have more flexibility attending the course content, and whenever you have a question you  can post it on the course Q&A section or directly contact use through the website here. Our course will fully prepare you for the CAPM exam, and it will increase your chances to pass from the first trial. You can enroll in our course for a price of $119 including four high-quality mock exams which are very close to the real exam questions.

Now it’s your decision, you can attend a live class, online interacting class, or a self-paced course provided by Elite Minds. The most important thing is to take the maximum benefits out of the course, understand the exam content and structure, risk management processes, and take a certificate of attending 23 contact hours of project management education at the end of the course.

Step Four: Read again the achieve CAPM exam success, 3rd edition, A Concise study guide and desk reference

After attending the 23 contact hours course, it’s the time to read concise study guide and desk reference again. With more focus on the important topics, you have the clear image of the CAPM exam framework, what are the key project management processes, how do the project flow from initiating to closing. Reading the book again will make you 60% ready to pass the CAPM exam, this time with more focus and slow reading.

Step Five: Read the PMBOK 7th Edition

The PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition – Including both The Standard for Project Management and the PMBOK® Guide, this modern edition presents 12 principles of project management and eight project performance domains critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes. This book is mandatory for passing the CAPM exam in the first trial, specially that 50% of the new exam questions will be around the Agile and Hybrid project management approaches, which are covered in the PMBOK 7th edition. Also, you should give attention to the agile practice guide which is an appendix of the PMBOK 6th edition.

Step Six: Be aware of the CAPM exam structure and each domain share in the exam

Knowing the exam structure will help you highlight the important domains and processes. You will know where to focus, and from which domain the biggest share of question will come. CAPM exam contains 150 multiple choice questions. There are 180 minutes to complete the exam. Now to get my point out of this step, below is the list which shows the domains percentage as per the PMI latest CAPM exam content outline: Project Management Fundamentals and Core Concepts (36%), Predictive, Plan-Based Methodologies (17%), Agile Frameworks/Methodologies (20%), and Business Analysis Frameworks (27%). For the CAPM exam, there is now a 10-minute break in the exam. The break will appear after completion of questions 1–75 and you have reviewed all your answers. Please note, once you review your responses and start your break, you will not be able to return to the questions from the previous exam section.

Step Seven: Highlight your weaknesses and CAPM Exam hot Topics

Now you know how the real CAPM exam will look like, and you have been through the reference books and the 23 contact hours training course. It is normal to have few weakness points which you need to give more attention to. In addition to the points you highlighted, I am listing below the CAPM exam hot topics where the majority of the exam questions come from:

  1. Agile Principles. There are 12 agile principles outlined in The Agile Manifesto in addition to the 4 agile values. These 12 principles for agile software development help establish the tenets of the agile mindset. They are not a set of rules for practicing agile, but a handful of principles to help instill agile thinking. In the CAPM exam, there will be 6-8 questions testing your understanding of these principles and values, and their application in real life scenarios
  2. Iteration Planning. The purpose of iteration planning is to organize the work and define a realistic scope for the iteration. Each Agile Team agrees on a set of stories for the upcoming iteration (the iteration backlog) and summarizes those stories into a set of iteration goals. The iteration backlog and goals are based on the team’s capacity and allow for consideration of each story’s complexity, size, and dependencies on other stories and other teams.
  3. Risk Response Strategies. Project managers should work to eliminate the threats before they occur. Similarly, the project managers should work to ensure that opportunities occur. Likewise, the project manager is also responsible to decrease the probability and impact of threats and increase the probability and impact of opportunities.
  4. Work breakdown Structure. A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a visual, hierarchical and deliverable-oriented deconstruction of a project. It is a helpful diagram for project managers because it allows them to break down their project scope and visualize all the tasks required to complete their projects.
  5. Activity Cost/Duration estimation techniques. When it comes to activity cost and duration estimates, it is important to know what estimation techniques you have to use, and when to use each of those techniques, techniques such as analogues estimating, parametric estimating, three point estimating should be used.
  6. Scrum Framework. Scrum is a framework that helps teams work together. Much like a rugby team (where it gets its name) training for the big game, scrum encourages teams to learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve. For the exam, you should be aware of the Scrum roles, events, and artifacts. Expect 4-6 questions about these topics.
  7. Information radiators. “Information radiator” is the generic term for any of a number of handwritten, drawn, printed or electronic displays which a team places in a highly visible location, so that all team members as well as passers-by can see the latest information at a glance: count of automated tests, velocity, incident reports, continuous integration status, and so on. Expect 2-3 questions in the CAPM exam about these tools.
  8. Project, Program, and Portfolio. A project is a temporary endeavor with a beginning and end, it creates a unique product, service or result. Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Program is a group of related projects, subsidiary programs and program activities managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available of managing them individually, and this should be only done when the program approach adds value, by grouping related projects into a program, an organization can coordinate the management of those projects. Portfolio is a group of programs, individual projects, and other related operational work that are prioritized and implemented to achieve a strategic business goal, this approach will help optimizes the use of resources, enhances the benefits to the organization and reduces risk.
  9. Agile tools and techniques. Agile methods and tools lend themselves most appropriately to systems and projects in which accurate estimates, stable plans, and predictions are often difficult to attain in the early project stages. Agile development favors an adaptive, iterative and evolutionary development approach. For the exam, you will encounter not less than 10-12 questions about the commonly used agile tools and techniques. You will have at least one question about each of the following techniques: MoSCoW, 5-Whys, control charts, agile chartering, Cycle time, WIP, Variance and trend analysis, and risk adjusted backlog.
  10. Earned Value Management. Earned Value Management, earned value is used in performance reviews to measure project performance against the scope, schedule and cost baselines. Earned value analysis (EVA) is an analysis technique that compares the actual schedule and cost to the performance measurement baseline.
  11. User story and story points. A story point is a metric used in agile project management and development to estimate the difficulty of implementing a given user story, which is an abstract measure of effort required to implement it. In simple terms, a story point is a number that tells the team about the difficulty level of the story.
  12. Stakeholder Register. A stakeholder register is a project document with pertinent information about the project stakeholders. It identifies the people, groups, and organizations that have any interest in the project or its outcome. Expect 2-3 questions about this vital project management document in the CAPM exam.
  13. Earned Value Management. Earned Value Management, earned value is used in performance reviews to measure project performance against the scope, schedule and cost baselines. Earned value analysis (EVA) is an analysis technique that compares the actual schedule and cost to the performance measurement baseline. Earned value integrates cost, schedule and scope (work done). Can be used to forecast future performance and project completion dates and costs. EVM compares what you’ve received or produced to what you’ve spent. The EVM continuously monitors the planned value, earned value, and actual costs expended to produce the work of the project. To perform the EVM calculations, you need to first gather the three measurements mentioned earlier: the planned value (PV), actual cost (AC), and earned value (EV). Expect 2-3 questions in the exam about the schedule and cost variances.   

Step Eight: It’s the time to test your self

At this stage, you are almost ready to go for the real CAPM exam, one step remains before you schedule your exam date, test your readiness for the real CAPM exam. At this stage you are done with the 23 contact hours, read the reference books needed, highlighted the hot topics of the exam, and familiar with the exam structure. I have created a course that contains four simulated tests each with 150 questions which you need to complete in three hours. Overall, the course contains 600 questions, my practice tests questions are like the real CAPM exam questions. CAPM exam questions are short and direct to the point. The concept of this step is to check if you are ready to schedule your exam or not. You can enroll in the CAPM exam preparation package through the link here, or you can buy only the four exams set through the link here. Set in your room, open the laptop, have a plain A4 paper, with simple calculator, off your mobile and be away from any possible interruption, you must finish the 150 questions in 3 hours with a passing score of minimum 80%. Go for practice test # 1, you will practice the other exams of the course in later stages. It’s ok if you were not able to complete the 150 questions within exam time frame in the first attempt, what’s important is to get a score of +80%, if you got this result, move to next step, if not, don’t worry, just refer back to step four of this study plan and repeat tell you reach this step again, and this time use practice test # 2. Go forward with this study plan once you get a result of 80% or more.

Step Nine: Schedule your exam 1 week ahead

Now it’s the time to schedule your exam date, go for the PMI.org website and follow steps below to fill your application online:

Visit the website pmi.org, select membership from the home page upper bar. Choose the individual membership type which will cost you 129$ + 10 $. Press on join now, fill in your information and create your account.

Now once you are done with the PMI log in and membership process, go back to the home page and select certifications from the home page upper bar and choose Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) ®then press on apply now. 

  1. Fill in your address and work address, then fill your contact information (Email address and phone number).
  2. Fill in your attained education information (bachelor’s degree or diploma).
  3. Fill in your project management educational hours, title of the course, institute name, start and end dates of the course, and the number of hours.
  4. Mention your name as how you want it to appear on the certificate.
  5. Read the agreement then click the box “I agree“.
  6. Review your application then submit.
  7. Pay the Exam Fees.

Wait for the notice authorizing you either to schedule your exam or to inform you that your application will be subjected to an audit before it’s approved. Once your application is approved, you can schedule your exam date two weeks ahead by checking parametric centers available in your location and their availability. Note that once you receive your authorization notice; you must pass the exam within one year.

Step Ten: Practice, practice, practice

From my experience helping students pass the CAPM exam, one of the core reasons why people fail in their first trial is the shortage of time, solving 150 questions within 3 hours’ time frame isn’t easy! The best practice to come over the timing challenge is to practice as much as you can. Practicing the exam questions will get you closer to the real exam environment, you can have an idea about the exam questions through the free resources I include in this blog. The next stage shall be practicing timely tested simulation exams, practice the real exam environment, through the course you enrolled into in step eight! Have a plain A4 paper, with simple calculator, off your mobile and be away from any possible interruption. You have to finish the 150 questions in 3 hours with a passing score of minimum 80%. Practice the second, third, and fourth exams of the course and be ready with the real exam circumstances. If you didn’t enroll for the 4 tests in step eight, here is the link where you can do with $39 only.

Step Eleven: Go and Pass

One night before the exam, relax and have a good sleep. In the morning, have a good breakfast, and be at the testing center 1 hour before the exam. Once you enter the examination room, you will have your own desktop with a simple calculator, few white papers, and a pencil. Read the exam tutorial which will appear automatically on the screen, it will explain for you that the exam includes 150 questions and that exam timing is 3 hours. Start your exam, you will be able to mark the question you are not sure of its answer in order to review later on, do not keep your eyes on the timer, take a look each 50 questions only. Don’t get confused during the exam, just highlight questions you are not sure of their answers and go for the next question. Once you are done, click finish, they will ask you to do a short survey about the testing center; once you are done you will have your exam result with a short report of each domain score.

Step Twelve: What’s next? Maintain your certificate gaining PDU’s

Once you get the CAPM certificate, your journey to maintain your certificate each three years will begin, you need to gain 15 PDU’s within three years of time to renew your CAPM status. In this article am listing all key points you need to know about the PDU’s. PDU refers to professional development unit. There are two types of professional development units (PDUs) that you can claim towards renewal —Education and Giving Back to the Profession. Under each of these categories there are numerous options and, once you’ve satisfied certain educational requirements, the rest is up to you.

PMI PDU requirements for the CAPM certification is a quality assurance mechanism to ensure CAPM certificate holders are up to date with latest project management concepts, best practices and trends; simply, the PDU is a system which will encourage CAPM certificate holders for continues education.

In general, 1 CAPM® PDU equals 1 hour of participation in the PDU activity, PMI accepts PDUs to be recorded in quarterly increment (in the multiple of 0.25 PDU) for educational activities, for the rest CAPM® PDUs must be submitted in multiples of 1 PDU.

On the other hand, if you are not able to accumulate 15 CAPM® PDU during your 3-year cycle, the CAPM® credential will be suspended. PMI gives you 1 extra year to earn the required PDU. But be reminded that the next 3-year re-certification cycle will still be counted from your original credential end date. 

Once you collect the 15 PDU’s, you can apply for the credential renewal for $60 if you are a PMI member and $150 if you are not. Below I am listing the best ways to earn to PDU’s for the CAPM exam

Your day job, Earn 8 PDU’s for FREE. If you work as a project manager/business analyst this is probably the easiest way to tick off up to 4 PDU’s per three-year period. For the details on this and the other PDU categories mentioned below please refer to the link here.

Learn deeply practical project management on Udemy, earn 15 PDU’s @$10. A course created by William Stewart, applying the project management processes into practical life. Highly recommended for project management and risk management practitioners, and you can earn 15 PDU’s for the CAPM renewal process, the course contains 9 hours of video, you can register here for $10.

Learn MS project beginner to expert on Udemy, earn 9 PDU’s @ $10. Microsoft project is the most commonly used scheduling software in project management; even you are not a planner! you should be aware of using MS project, Srikanth Shirodkar created the best seller MS project course on Udemy, which you make use of to learn MS project and earn 9 PDU’s for your CAPM renewal process, the course is 9 hours videos, and you can register through the link here for $10.

Learn Microsoft Excel for Project Managers on Udemy, earn 5 PDU’s @$10. Microsoft Excel can help you with so much of that! In this course you’re going to explore lots of things that Microsoft Excel can do for project management. You’ll dive into formatting, charting, conditional formatting, and building a custom dashboard and report. If you don’t have a more advanced project management software, that’s okay, you can do much of that business right in Microsoft Excel, this course is worth five (5) Professional Development Units with the Project Management Institute, the course is 5 hours videos, and you can register through the link here for $10.

Volunteer Service. Become a volunteer of your local project management association like PMI Saudi chapter or PMI Jordan chapter and earn 1 PDU for each hour of service. A letter or certificate from the organization acknowledging the participation is required for confirmation.

Create new Project Management Knowledge. There is a lot you can do in this category to earn PDUs. You could be authoring or co-authoring articles, books or newsletters, present a webinar or podcast, or create and present a project management course. Each will earn you PDUs. The rule is that every hour spent in preparing and delivering these activities is equal to one PDU. The PDUs claimed in this category count toward the 12 PDU’s maximum.

Self-Study. Do you consume a lot of materials like reading articles or books, watching videos? If you participated in any of these activities and the topic at hand was relevant to project management, had a specified purpose and used knowledgeable resources then you can claim 1 PDU for each hour spent on this as “self-study”.

How to Submit PDU?

PMI supplies you with an online “Continuing Certification Requirements System” to record your PDU. After you have attended PDU activities, you can submit the PDU activity details through the Continuing Credential Requirements System (CCRS). If you participate in a webinar by PMI or projectmanagement.com, your PDU will be automatically recorded and there is no need to enter it manually.

After you have submitted the PDU request, PMI will review and approve the PDUs. You will receive an email and the PDU will be added to your account once PMI approve your request. PMI may require you to submit supporting documents with reference to the particular categories of PDU you are claiming within 5 days in order to evaluate your claim, after you have collected enough PDUs in your CAPM® renewal cycle, PMI will send you an email asking you to complete the form and pay for credential renewal. The CAPM® renewal fee is US$60 for PMI members and US$150 for non-members as I mentioned earlier, the renewal application and payment process must be completed in 90 days after your credential end date for you to keep your CAPM® status. PMI will send the new CAPM® certificate to you within 6 to 8 weeks. Your PDU application might be selected for audit randomly before you are approved for CAPM® renewal. You will need to present proof/documentation for all the PDU claimed during the 3-year cycle to PMI for verification.

Good Luck in your Journey!