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PMI-SP Exam Study Plan

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This detailed study plan explained below was created by me relying on my own experience preparing for and passing the PMI-SP 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 PMI-SP certified?

How much time and money are required? First, you should have the serious intent to be a PMI-SP certified, this intent might come from the career path you have in the scheduling and project management field or from your passion to improve your knowledge in this field. Wherever it’s coming from, the PMI-SP certification is a great career enhancement for professionals who are involved in project management and specifically planning and scheduling. Once you have this intent and you are willing to invest your time and money, you can be a PMI-SP certificate holder after two to three months from this moment.

Are you eligible for the PMI-SP exam? As per the PMI standards, you must have a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree or the global equivalent), 40 months of project scheduling experience within the last 5 years, and 40 contact hours of project scheduling education, or you should have a four-year degree, 40 months of project scheduling experience within the last 5 years, and 30 contact hours of project scheduling education

The PMI-SP exam fess is $520 for members and $670 for non-members. So, 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-SP exam and the exam fees, you can check the PMI.org website.

The total cost of this journey will include the exam fees, reference book cost, 30 contact hours 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-SP exam with only $200 including the 30 contact hours and reference book! So, the total cost of the PMI-SP exam preparation journey will be around 850$ (Including exam fees, 30 contact hours course, reference book, and high-quality simulated tests. If you prefer going to a live classroom in your city to get the educational 30 contact hours, the cost of this journey might reach $1,500.

Most of the scheduling practitioners can afford the $1,000 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 8-10 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 PMI-SP aspirants that having the 30 contact hours of education before reading the PMI-SP 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 scheduling management processes and practices you want to focus on during the 30 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 PMBOK® Guide–Sixth Edition. It organizes the syllabus material through the process groups, starting by the project management framework, initiating process groups (2 processes), planning process group (24 processes), executing process group (10 processes), monitoring and Controlling process group (12 processes), closing process group (1 process). As you are using this book to prepare for the PMI-SP exam, you need to focus on the scope management, cost management, schedule management, resources management, communication management, and stakeholder management chapters. Expect questions from all these chapters in the real PMI-SP exam. This book is a must-read for the PMI-SP exam preparation, and you can have a look at it through the link here. Through amazon, the price of this book starts at $75 which is the best price in the market, or you can have a used copy in a very good condition with less price. If you are a PMI member, you can download this book for free from their website. The second must read book is Practice Standard for Scheduling - Third Edition. This book is again a must-read reference book for the PMI-SP exam preparation purposes. You can have a look at it through the link here. Through amazon, the price of this book starts at $57 which is the best price in the market, or you can have a used copy in a very good condition with less price. If you are a PMI member, you can download this book for free from their website.

Before you attend the 30 contact hours training course, read the PMBOK 6th edition, with focusing on the chapters listed above. 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-SP exam.

Step Three: Attend the 30 contact hours project scheduling educational (Live class, webinars, or self-learning paced)

Nowadays, getting the 30 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 $1,200 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-SP exam within 3 to 5 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 30 contact hours of scheduling 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, 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 30 contact hours of scheduling education.

In my point of view, if you have the self-learning ability, you can be eligible for the PMI-SP exam using the course I created few weeks after I passed the PMI-SP exam from my first trial, at the end of the course you will have 30 contact hours completion certificate which you can use to fill in your exam application. This training should improve your knowledge in the scheduling 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-SP exam, and it will increase your chances to pass from the first trial. You can enroll in our course for a price of $169 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, schedule, cost, scope, communication, and stakeholder management processes, and take a certificate of attending 30 contact hours of scheduling education at the end of the course.

Step Four: Read again the PMBOK Guide 6th edition 

After attending the 30 contact hours course, it’s the time to read the PMBOK guide 6th edition again. With more focus on the important topics, you have the clear image of the PMI-SP exam framework, what are the schedule management key processes and practices, how do the project flow from scheduling strategy to closure activities. Reading the book again will make you 60% ready to pass the PMI-SP exam, this time with more focus and slow reading.

Step Five: Read the Practice Standard for Scheduling - Third Edition

After completing the PMBOK guide 6th edition, it is the right time to have a deeper insight into the scheduling tools, practices, and techniques, and this what you will have after completing the scheduling standard. This is just a more constricted version of the PMBOK, which you should be studying from first and foremost. This is a helpful book and many of the real exam questions were from this book! The book is mainly categorizing the most advanced scheduling management practices and techniques. If you still didn’t get this book, it is again a must read one, you can have a look at the book through the link here.

Step Six: Be aware of the PMI-SP 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-SP exam is composed of 170 multiple choice questions which you have to complete in 3 hours 30 minutes. 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: Schedule Strategy (14%), Schedule Planning and Development (31%), Schedule Monitoring and Controlling (35%), Schedule Closeout (6%), and Stakeholder Communications Management (14%). You need to master the schedule, scope, and cost management processes! Understand deeply each of them, memorize the key inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs. In addition, you need to understand all related terms, this will increase your probability passing the exam from the first attempt.

Step Seven: Highlight your weaknesses and PMI-SP Exam hot Topics

Now you know how the real PMI-SP exam will look like, and you have been through the reference books and the 30 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 PMI-SP exam hot topics where the majority of the exam questions come from:

  1. 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 12-15 questions in the exam about To Complete Performance Index (TCPI), and other earned value measurements such as Schedule Variance (SV), Cost Variance (CV), Cost Performance Index (CPI), Schedule Performance Index (SPI).
  2. Schedule model instance reporting formats. The schedule model instance can produce multiple report formats based upon the stage of the development of the project, project-required reports, and the primary user. Expect 4-5 questions in the exam about the proper reporting format various project levels. Study well table 3-2 in the scheduling standard.
  3. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. In the PMI-SP exam, expect 4-5 questions about the WBS and its relation with defining and sequencing project activities.
  4. Resource histogram, calendar, and breakdown structure. Expect 5 questions in the PMI-SP exam about these three concepts. The resource histogram is a tool that is often used by the project management team and or as a means of providing a visual representation to the team and to all of those interested parties. Resource Calendar indicates the days, dates and time a particular resource (human resources/machines/etc.) will work. Resource breakdown structure (RBS) is a graphical representation of the hierarchical structure of resources by category and resource type where each level is broken down until it is small enough to be used in conjunction with the work breakdown structure (WBS).
  5. Critical Path Method. A critical path in project management is the longest sequence of activities that must be finished on time in order for the entire project to be complete. In the PMI-SP exam, you should expect around 7 questions about this technique. In this technique questions, you will have a network diagram or dependencies table, and you need to determine the critical path, near critical path, or assess the impact in case any change of activities durations.
  6. ITTOs. In the PMI-SP exam, you should expect 2-3 questions about few processes’ inputs and outputs. In my exam, I faced three questions, about monitor stakeholder engagement process outputs, develop schedule inputs, and create WBS inputs. I also had one question about the description of develop project charter and identify stakeholders processes.
  7. Scheduling core concepts. As this is the scheduling professional exam, you should expect a lot of questions about different scheduling concepts and practices. The ones I can remember I faced in my exam are: Level of efforts activities, Out of sequence concept, finish not later than concept, Parkinson’s law, lag and lead, crashing, Hammock, managing changes, and schedule instance model.
  8. What if analysis technique. The what-if scenario analysis is a project management process that evaluates different scenarios to predict their effects – both positive and negative – on the project objectives. This is one of the modeling techniques used in the Develop Schedule process. In the PMI-SP exam, you should expect 4-5 questions about this technique.
  9. Schedule closure activities. Activities related to finalizing all schedule activities, evaluating schedule performance against the original baseline, documenting lessons learned, and distributing final schedule information. In the PMI-SP exam, you should expect 5-7 questions about the schedule closure domain, and the majority of them will be from the exam content outline tasks related to this domain.
  10. Schedule management plan. The Schedule Management Plan defines how the project schedule is managed throughout the project lifecycle. The plan provides guidance and sets expectations for project schedule policies and procedures for planning, developing, managing, executing, and controlling the project schedule. Expect 2-3 questions about this document in the exam.
  11. Schedule risk assessment. Managing schedule risks is an important aspect for any professional scheduler. In the exam, expect 4-5 questions about this topic, and how schedule risks information should be communicated with stakeholders.
  12. PERT estimation. PERT is an estimating technique that uses a weighted average of three numbers to come up with a final estimate. The resulting PERT estimate is calculated as (O + 4M + P)/6. This is called a “weighted average” since the most likely estimate is weighted four times as much as the other two values. Expect 2 math questions about this technique in the exam.
  13. Resources productivity and availability. Even this topic is not covered in the scheduling standard, expect 2 math questions about these concepts in the PMI-SP exam. In our PMI-SP exam simulators, you can practice such questions.
  14. Tools and Techniques: Gap analysis, tornado diagram, communication channels, decomposition, Monte Carlo analysis, Power interest grid quadrants, parametric estimation technique. Expect at least one question in the PMI-SP exam about each of these techniques.

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

At this stage, you are almost ready to go for the real PMI-SP exam, one step remains before you schedule your exam date, test your readiness for the real PMI-SP exam. At this stage you are done with the 30 contact hours, read the two reference books needed, highlighted the hot topics of the exam, and familiar with the exam structure. I have created an exam simulator that contains four simulated tests each with 170 questions which you need to complete in 210 minutes. Overall, the course contains 680 questions, my practice tests questions are like the real PMI-SP exam questions as I wrote them few days after I passed the exam. PMI-SP 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-SP 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 170 questions in 3 hours 30 minutes with a passing score of minimum 80%. Go for practice test # 1, you will practice the second, third, and fourth 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% plus, 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 below to fill your application online:

1.  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.

2.  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 Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)® then press on apply now. 

3.  Fill in your address and work address, then fill your contact information (Email address and phone number).

4.  Fill in your attained education information (bachelor’s degree or diploma).

5.  Start with the requirements overview then save and continue. 

6.  Press on the project experience link and fill in your projects experience with the following:

  1. Start and end date of each project
  2. You’re role (Job Title) and the industry field.
  3. Your organization name and address.
  4. Your reporting manager/colleague and his/her contact information (Email and address)
  5. Your experience divided into 5 parts,

Note: The description of each project shall not exceed 500 characters!

Keep doing and mention all the projects you want to until you have the sum of all projects as the required hours of the exam.

7. Fill in your scheduling educational hours, title of the course, institute name, start and end dates of the course, and the number of hours.

8. Mention your name as how you want it to appear on the certificate.

9. Read the agreement then click the box “I agree “.

10. Review your application then submit.

11. Pay the Exam Fees, $520 as you are already a member.

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.

In case your application was selected for the audit, relax, they will send you an experience audit form- verification form - for each experience you mentioned, you should sign it from your supervisor or colleague, and send a copy of your bachelor’s degree certificate and your 30 contact hours training certificate. If you took one of the above courses, print the softcopy you will have at the end of the course and send it, it will be accepted for sure (As I did it myself). You should send a hardcopy of all these documents to the address mentioned on the PMI website and wait for the results. It’s very rare to fail in the audit process, the only reasons of failure are: having false information “Fraud “, candidates choose not to attempt audit – one year suspension period or not being able to verify the experience or the educational hours.

Step Ten: Practice, practice, practice

From my experience helping students pass the PMI-SP 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 3 hours and 30 minutes 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 3 hours and 30 minutes with a passing score of minimum 80% plus. 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 simulates tests in step eight, here is the link where you can do with $49 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 3 hours and 30 minutes. 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-SP certificate, your journey to maintain your certificate each three years will begin, you need to gain 30 PDU’s within three years of time to renew your PMI-SP 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-SP certification is a quality assurance mechanism to ensure PMI-SP certificate holders are up to date with latest project management and scheduling fields concepts, best practices and trends; simply, the PDU is a system which will encourage PMI-SP certificate holders for continues education.

In general, 1 PMI-SP® 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-SP® PDUs must be submitted in multiples of 1 PDU.

On the other hand, if you are not able to accumulate 30 PMI-SP® PDU during your 3-year cycle, the PMI-SP® 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 30 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-SP 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 business analysis practitioners, and you can earn 15 PDU’s for the PMI SP 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-SP 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-SP® renewal cycle, PMI will send you an email asking you to complete the form and pay for credential renewal. The PMI-SP® 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-SP® status. PMI will send the new PMI-SP® certificate to you within 6 to 8 weeks. Your PDU application might be selected for audit randomly before you are approved for PMI-SP® 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!  

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