Recently, I passed the PfMP exam from my first trial, and since then, the frequently asked question from my colleagues is: I don’t know from where to begin the journey?
PMI’s 2015 report, Delivering on Strategy: The Power of Portfolio Management, found that organizations that have mature project portfolio management practices in place gain a significant advantage over competitors in that they “complete 35 percent more of their programs successfully, fail less often and waste less money.” PfMPs are rare, having only been in existence since May 2014 and as of Mar 2021 there are 1035 PfMP certification holders in the world. The detailed study plan explained below was created by me relying on my own experience preparing for and passing the PMI-PfMP exam, and from the lessons learned I received from the students I guide. The plan below is compromised from twelve steps. With busy professionals who cannot give more than 10 hours a week, the plan below is expected to take 8-10 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 PfMP certified?
How much time and money is required?
First, you should have the serious intent to be a Portfolio Management Professional certified, this intent might come from the career path you have in the portfolio management domain or from your passion to improve your knowledge in this field. Wherever it’s coming from, the PMI-PfMP certification is a great career enhancement for professionals who are involved in project management, program management, and portfolio management. Once you have this intent and you are willing to invest your time and money, you can be a PMI-PfMP certificate holder after two to three months from this moment.
Are you eligible for the PMI-PfMP exam? As per the PMI standards, you must have a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree or the global equivalent), 96 months of professional business experience in the last 15 years, and 84 months of portfolio management experience, or you should have a four-year degree, 96 months of professional business experience in the last 15 years, and 84 months of portfolio management experience.
The PMI-PfMP exam fess is $800 for members and $1000 for non-members. Therefore, it’s better and money saving to register for the PMI with the fees of $129 and $10 of application fees, especially if you are willing to have more than a certificate from the Project management Institute (PMI). For more details about the PMI requirements for the PMI-PfMP exam and fees, you can check the PMI.org website.
The total cost of this journey will include the exam fees, reference book cost, an online training course fees and miscellaneous costs of supportive documents. If you have the self-learning ability, I will guide you how to get 100% prepared for the PMI-PfMP exam with only $400 including the preparation course, exam simulators! So, the total cost of the PMI-PfMP exam preparation journey will be around 1,300 $ (Including exam fees, preperation course, reference book, and high-quality simulated tests. If you prefer going to a live classroom in your city to get the preparation course, the cost of this journey might reach $2,000.
Most of the project management practitioners can afford the $1,300 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, you want to find the most effective way to get ready. This 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 8 weeks following exactly this plan will guarantee your success from the first attempt.
Step Two: Get your reference book.
Pick your reference book! You will hear from other PMI-PfMP aspirants that having the online preparation course before reading the PMI-PfMP 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 portfolio management processes you want to focus on during the preparation course, 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 and only reference you should use is the standard for portfolio management 3rd edition. This is a process-based standard, aligned with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, and identified portfolio management processes generally recognized as good practices. This book is a must-read for the PMI-PfMP exam preparation, and you can have a look at it through the link here. Through PMI website, you can download this standard for free through the link here.
Before you attend the PfMP preparation course, read the standard for portfolio management 3rd edition, 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 points you didn’t understand in order to focus on during the training course. You don’t need any other references to prepare for the PMI-PfMP exam.
Step Three: Attend the Portfolio Management Professional Preparation course (Live class, webinars, or self-learning paced)
Nowadays, getting the PMI-PfMP exam preparation course 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 $1,000 to $1,500 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 PMI-PfMP exam within 3 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 preparation course 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, usually prices for such live webinars are from $800 to $1,000.
In my point of view, if you have the self-learning ability, you can be well prepared for the PMI-PfMP exam using the course I created few weeks after I passed the PMI-PfMP exam from my first trial, at the end of the course you will be ready for the exam. This training should improve your knowledge in the portfolio 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 PMI-PfMP exam, and it will increase your chances to pass from the first trial. You can enroll in our course for a price of $179 including three 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, and portfolio management processes.
Step Four: Apply for the Portfolio Management Professional Exam Panel Review
As it is an online application, you will need to register for My PMI account at the PMI website. According to PMI, you will need the following information:
- Contact information — email, address, phone number
- Education attained — school attended, level of education attained, degree date
- Domain experience — details of the projects, programs, portfolios you’ve worked on including qualifying hours, dates of employment, role, organization details, reference, and experience summary
- Domain education — names of courses completed, institutions attended, dates, qualifying hours
You may also indicate preferred exam language in the online registration which may be an advantage for you if English is not your native language. Once you have all the details above and the documents needed, you can start with filling out the online application form. Please note that the account will only be active for 90 days once you’ve started on the application process.
Panel Review: The initial evaluation occurs through an extensive application review during which a panel of portfolio managers will assess your professional experience based on your responses to the Portfolio Management Experience Summaries provided on the application.
Elite Minds can also assist with application review, and this service can be purchased separately through reaching out here. We will assign a PfMP certified professional to work with you. This is a standalone service. Important: This is a resource-intensive service. We also had instances in which the English language was problematic. Thus, we reserve the right to reject candidates for this service. If you would like to request this service, send us a message through this website. To request this service, please reach out through [email protected]
Step Five: Read again the PMI standard for Portfolio Management
After attending the PfMP exam preparation course, it’s the time to read the PMI standard for portfolio management again. With more focus on the important topics, you have the clear image of the PMI-PfMP exam framework, what are the 16 portfolio management processes, how do the portfolio flow from defining to authorizing and controlling. Reading the book again will make you 70% ready to pass the PMI-PfMP exam, this time with more focus and slow reading.
Step Six: Be aware of the PMI-PfMP 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. The PMI-PfMP exam is composed of 170 multiple choice questions which you have to complete in 4 hours. Now to get my point out of this step, below is the list which shows the domains percentage as per the PMI latest exam content outline: Strategic alignment (25%), Governance (20%), Portfolio performance (25%), Portfolio risk management (15%), and communication management (15%). You need to master the 16 portfolio management processes! Understand deeply each of them, memorize the key inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs. In addition, you need to understand all related terms, give those 16 processes a lot of time, this will increase your probability passing the exam from the first attempt.
Step Seven: Highlight your weaknesses and PMI-PfMP Exam hot Topics
Now you know how the real PMI-PfMP exam will look like, and you have been through the reference book and the preparation 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 PMI-PfMP exam hot topics where the majority of the exam questions come from:
- Inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs (ITTO). ITTO stands for Input, Tools and Techniques, and Output. Almost all PfMP aspirants are scared of ITTO-based questions, and they try to find the easiest way to solve them. This is a never-ending process because there is no shortcut to solving these types of questions.
- Weighted Ranking and Scoring Techniques. Weighted ranking and scoring techniques are used for ranking and scoring portfolio components within each category based on values assigned. Portfolio components are ranked according to preestablished criteria.
- Composite Index. It is a statistical tool that groups together many different indexes in order to create a representation of overall portfolio performance. Typically, the elements of a composite index are combined in a standardized way so that large amounts of data can be presented easily. This topic is not covered in the standard, however, you should expect 2 math questions about it.
- Portfolio Efficient Frontier. It gives the decision makers the analytical tool to optimize portfolios given the resource constraints. The portfolio, is referred to as “efficient” if it has the best possible expected level of return for its level of risk (usually proxied by the standard deviation of the portfolio’s return). Diversification may allow for the same portfolio expected return with reduced risk.
- Probability impact assessment. Risk probabilities and impacts are rated according to the definitions given in the portfolio risk management plan. In the PfMP exam, expect 2 questions with tables. The table will have four threats and opportunities, with probability and impact of each, and asking you about which risk should be addressed.
- Portfolio Management Plan. The portfolio management plan provides portfolio oversight with the format and planned criteria for developing, maintaining, and controlling the portfolio and its components. The plan documents the intended approach to managing the portfolio and its components in order to meet the organization strategy and objectives.
- Gap Analysis. A gap analysis is performed to compare the current portfolio mix and components with the new strategic direction and the “to-be” organizational vision. This is essential to properly manage strategic change.
- Project Management Information System (PMIS). A portfolio management information system (PMIS) is a tool, manual or automated, for information collection and distribution to support the portfolio management processes. The PMIS may include costs, performance metrics, risk information, and other information needed to manage and control portfolio performance.
- Governance Model. The governance model defines the way the organizational assets and resources are planned to be managed within the portfolio according to the specific environment of the organization.
- Portfolio risk register. Portfolio risks are documented in a risk register. The development of the risk register begins with develop portfolio risk management Plan. The risk register ultimately contains the outcomes of the manage portfolio risks process.
- Risk attitude. Risk Attitude is at high level and shows the natural inclination or basic nature of organizations if they are willing to take risk or not. It represent a response chosen by stakeholders which is driven by their perception of a specific situation.
- Common techniques. Tools and techniques like trend analysis, variance analysis, scenario analysis, quantitative analysis, and capability and capacity analysis will appear frequently in the exam.
- Prioritization Analysis. The portfolio strategic plan should contain a prioritization model or approach that guides the ongoing decisions as to which portfolio components should be added, terminated, or changed.
Step Eight: It’s the time to test your self
At this stage, you are almost ready to go for the real PMI-PfMP exam, one step remains before you schedule your exam date, test your readiness for the real PMI-PfMP exam. At this stage you are done with the exam preparation course, read the standard for portfolio management needed, highlighted the hot topics of the exam, and familiar with the exam structure. I have created a course that contains three simulated tests each with 170 questions which you need to complete in four hours. Overall, the course contains 510 questions, my practice tests questions are like the real PMI-PfMP exam questions as I wrote them few days after I passed the exam. PMI-PfMP exam questions are not short and direct to the point! The majority of the 170 questions are situational such as: Which of the following describes the best action? What’s next? What’s first to do? Else than situational questions, you will have long wordy questions, the concept of this step is to check if you are ready to schedule your exam or not. You can enroll in the PMI-PfMP exam preparation package through the link here, or you can buy only the three 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 170 questions in four hours with a passing score of 80%. Go for practice test # 1, you will practice the second and third exams of the course in later stages.
It’s ok if you were not able to complete the 170 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 2 weeks ahead
Now it’s the time to schedule your exam date, go for the PMI.org website and follow steps explained in step #4.
Wait for the notice authorizing you to schedule your exam after completion of the panel review. 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 PMI-PfMP exam, one of the core reasons why people fail in their first trial is the shortage of time, solving 170 questions (Most of them are situational and long) within 4 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. 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 170 questions in 4 hours with a passing score of minimum 80%. Practice the second and third exams of the course and be ready with the real exam circumstances. If you didn’t enroll for the 3 simulates tests in step eight, here is the link where you can do with $79 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 170 multiple choice questions and that exam timing is 4 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. A lot of the exam questions will be a case description followed by a question asking what the best is to do, in this type of questions you cannot guarantee 100% that you picked the right answer, but trust me, just follow the knowledge you learned in the preparation journey and for sure you will pick the right answer. 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 PMI-PfMP certificate, your journey to maintain your certificate each three years will begin, you need to gain 60 PDU’s within three years of time to renew your PMI-PfMP 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 PMI-PfMP certification is a quality assurance mechanism to ensure PMI-PfMP certificate holders are up to date with latest project management and portfolio management fields concepts, best practices and trends; simply, the PDU is a system which will encourage PMI-PfMP certificate holders for continues education. In general, 1 PMI-PfMP® 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 PMI-PfMP® PDUs must be submitted in multiples of 1 PDU.
On the other hand, if you are not able to accumulate 60 PMI-PfMP® PDU during your 3-year cycle, the PMI-PfMP® 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 60 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 PMI-PfMP exam
Your day job, Earn 8 PDU’s for FREE. If you work as a project manager/program manager/portfolio manager 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 portfolio management practitioners, and you can earn 15 PDU’s for the PMI PfMP 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 PMI-PfMP 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.
PMP seminar on Udemy, Earn 35 PDU’s @ $10. Formal academic educational courses related to Project Management is one of the easier categories, Joseph Philips created a course on Udemy which includes 35 PDU’s with 20 Hours of Technical project management, 9 hours of business skills, and 6 hours of leadership skills. At the end of the course, you will have a certificate of completion which you can submit for the PMI renewal process, this seminar is considered as a great tool to refresh your knowledge in the PMBOK material. The course is 24 hours video, 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 PMI-PfMP® renewal cycle, PMI will send you an email asking you to complete the form and pay for credential renewal. The PMI-PfMP® 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 PMI-PfMP® status. PMI will send the new PMI-PfMP® certificate to you within 6 to 8 weeks. Your PDU application might be selected for audit randomly before you are approved for PMI-PfMP® 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!