Are you interested in or starting your career in project management? Are you looking for a way to gain credibility with project managers and employers? Then taking the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® exam should be on your “to-do” list. The CAPM® exam is developed and administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI)® and provides recognition of individuals who are just starting their career or are interested in project management. Those who pass the CAPM have demonstrate knowledge of the principles and terminology within A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). This may seem like a lot for someone just starting out in project management, but don’t worry, while the material may seem overwhelming there are a few important factors to consider when preparing to successfully earn your CAPM certificate. Understanding the exam eligibility requirements, learning the project management principles, developing a solid study plan and sticking to it, as well as practicing exam-taking strategies are essential ingredients for CAPM exam success.
Secret Ingredient #1: Eligibility Requirements
Being the CAPM is designed for those interested in or just starting out in the project management field the eligibility requirements are minimal; however, you still need to have an understanding of what they are prior to applying. There are two options for eligibility and the base for both is the requirement to have a secondary diploma (high school diploma / global equivalent). Beyond the base requirement of a secondary diploma, one option is having project experience and the other option is having formal education.
The project experience option requires 1,500 hours of professional hours on a project team. If you select this option you will need to report on your work on projects within the five project management process groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing) summarizing your experience for each project. Each project should be individually recorded no matter how many projects you have worked on.
The formal education option requires 23 contact hours of formal education. If you select this option you need to record hours spent on learning objectives in project management such as project scope, quality, cost, time, human resources, procurement, communications, risk, and integration management. You can gain these hours through several avenues to include PMI® Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s), PMI Chapters, employer sponsored programs, training companies, distance learning companies, and university or collage programs. One thing to keep in mind is one hour of classroom training equates to one contact hour. For example, if you take a university course that meets three hours a week for 15 weeks you will earn 45 contact hours. Another note on contact hours is they must be completed prior to the time of your exam.
Secret Ingredient #2: Learning Project Management Principles
Specific principles addressed in the CAPM exam include learning project management and processes in context, as well as integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, communication, risk, procurement, and stakeholder management. Each of these principles are covered in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). You must understand them individually and how they work together to ensure overall success in project management. It is essential to use the most current version of the PMBOK® Guide for studying and review.
Secret Ingredient #3: Developing a solid plan to study for the exam & sticking to it
As with all standardized exams, the CAPM covers a wide variety of material in a relatively short period of time. Don’t be discouraged! Remember that careful planning and structure are essential to your exam success. It is important to develop a CAPM Exam Study Plan to reduce the material into manageable portions. People often find they work well with a structured exam preparation course that provides focused instruction over a specific timeline. If you select the formal education option for meeting the eligibility requirements you can use this course work to help provide structure to your study plan. Just remember, if you select an online course make sure it has an end of the course assessment with a written certification of participation and completion of required hours of instruction.
The CAPM exam consists of 150 questions to be answered in three hours. Questions on the exam fit into the following categories: understating project management and processes in context (15%), integration management (12%), scope management (11%), time management (12%), cost management (7%), quality management (6%), human resource management (8%), communication management (6%), risk management (9%), procurement management (7%), and stakeholder management (7%). Many people often divide up their study time in a similar manner, dedicating more hours to those topics that are tested more heavily. Others take practice exams and note specific weak areas in their knowledge and then choosing to focus more review time on those topics. When developing your study plan make sure it is suited to match your strengths and weaknesses as well as your test timeline.
Create a realistic plan with a manageable schedule of material you wish to cover each day. Most resources recommend spending one to two hours a day for four to eight weeks in preparation. You can approach developing a plan like a mini-project where weekly goals are set and progress is tracked. As part of developing your study plan, don't forget to plan time for external commitments and responsibilities. Also schedule in some downtime and breaks to keep from burning out.
Secret Ingredient #4: CAPM Exam-Taking Strategy
The CAPM exam consists of 150 - multiple choice questions conducted on a computer at a Prometric testing center. The test starts with a 15-minute tutorial followed by three hours to complete the exam. Included in the 150 questions are 15 pretest questions that are not graded and are used for future exam purposes. You cannot take anything into the exam; however, you will be provided with paper and pencils to jot down thoughts and notes during the exam. The exam is only administered in English, but if English is your second language there are a variety of language aids available.
Practice exams are available from a variety of test preparation websites. Practice exams help with becoming familiar with the style and format of questions and allows for practice of taking a three-hour exam. It is commonly recommended that consistently scoring above 80% on practice exams is a strong indicator of success for the real thing. Evaluate your progress each week to determine how comfortable you feel with each topic area. Arriving to the test canter with confidence on exam day means half the battle is already won.
Specific tips for test day strategies include sleeping well the night before, eating a healthy breakfast, wearing comfortable clothing, and arriving early. Before beginning the exam, many like to utilize the paper provided to write out things like formulas, lists of processes with their inputs and outputs, as well as tools and techniques that will be useful throughout the exam. Breaks are not built into the three hours allotted for the exam, but consider planning on taking one or two. Don’t waste too much time on a single question; if you get stuck mark it for review and move on.
Applying these four simple steps will help ensure your valuable time and CAPM exam cost is not wasted. Successful completion of the CAPM depends on your ability to understand and apply project management principles, to thoroughly prepare with a solid study plan, and to bring everything smoothly together on a stressful exam day. Preparation is the key to reducing stress and guaranteeing success.
If you’ve arrived here it’s because you are probably looking for the best study techniques for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® Exam. You’re in luck! We support thousands of students to successfully pass their Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams, and we know exactly what techniques work.
In this article I’ll cover four common study techniques, tell you whether they are effective and explain how to get the most out of them so your study time is focused and useful.
Technique 1 – Reading, Highlighting and Underlining the Guide
Many of us will be used to this study technique: go through a text, read it (sometimes aloud) and highlight or underline the portions that we want to draw special attention to for later.
Is It Effective?
Not really. Research published by the Association for Psychological Science shows that although people use this technique, highlighting and underlining isn’t an effective way to learn. In fact, it might stop you learning effectively because it focuses your mind to specific facts and not the bigger picture concepts.
However, reading by itself is a good technique to get started so do take the time to read through the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
How To Make This CAPM® Study Technique More Effective
Don’t simply read. Try to read actively, asking yourself questions as you go through sections of the PMBOK® Guide. How does this relate to your work? Why is it relevant to the job of a project manager? What notes can you take that will help you remember this concept?
Read alternative books as well. There are lots of study guides that will help you for your CAPM Exam prep and make the concepts ‘real’.
Technique 2 – Listen to The PM PrepCast™ (for CAPM)
The PM PrepCast™ (for CAPM) is a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® Exam prep video workshop. You can watch the lessons wherever you are, whenever is convenient using your tablet or smart phone.
Once you’ve been through the 140 lessons you’ll have covered all the material required to get you through the exam.
Is It Effective?
Yes! The research also shows that spreading out your study sessions is far more effective than cramming. The PM Prepcast (for CAPM) is a great way to plan your exam prep over time, spacing out your learning sessions. When your study tools are already broken down into digestible, flexible chunks it’s far easier to master the concepts and build on what you have already learned.
The PM Prepcast (for CAPM) also includes real-world examples, which students say are crucial to being able to understand the concepts. The more you can grasp how the ideas are used in the workplace, the easier it is to recall that information in the exam.
Technique 3 – Taking Notes on the Guide
Writing your own notes is another common study technique that you probably learned at school. You can create your own flashcards
Taking notes is the act of write down important information while reading the material to be learned. This is another technique many of us learned while in school.
Is It Effective?
Yes, if you do it effectively. Simply copying out the PMBOK® Guide isn’t going to add any value to your understanding of the key concepts.
Taking notes can be time-consuming so use your time wisely. Concentrate on areas where you know you need to review the principles and take notes in your own words, or make a mind-map, instead of copying.
How To Make This CAPM® Study Technique More Effective
Here are two ways to make taking notes more effective as a study technique for CAPM®.
#1: Create Your Own Flashcards
Take your notes in a way that allows you to hide key terms and definitions by either folding the page over or covering it with another sheet. Then you can test yourself and your ability to recall important concepts and what they mean.
It’s easy to do this if you structure your notes in two columns. In one column, write the name of the term or concept. In the other, write the definition or the key piece of information you want to remember.
This technique works best when you use loose leaf paper which you can organize into a binder. Notebooks are good for keeping all your notes together, and they are highly portable if you study on the go, but they don’t lend themselves as well for making flashcards like this.
#2: Use a Brain Dump
A brain dump is where you write down everything you know about a topic. Once you’ve read a section of the PMBOK® Guide, start a fresh piece of paper or a new page in your notebook and write down everything you can remember about that concept. You can do this as a list, a mind-map or whatever format helps you remember most clearly.
Then check back to make sure that you included everything important. The more often you do this kind of note taking, the easier you will find it to recall information during the exam.
This technique makes note taking far more effective because you are filtering information and recalling it in a way that works with your own learning preferences.
Technique 4 – Taking a CAPM Practice Exam
There are a lot of ways to use practice test questions in your preparation for the CAPM® Exam. You can work through questions that relate to the topic you have just studied, or as a way to identify where you might want to focus again when you come back to review a topic. Or you could take a full length three hour, one hundred and fifty question CAPM practice exam.
Practicing exam taking techniques is just as important as ensuring you have a full grasp on the concepts and ideas behind project management. It’s probably been some time since you sat in an exam room and worked solidly on something in stressful conditions for three hours. As well as giving you confidence that you know your material, practice exams also give you confidence that you can pace yourself, get through the questions and are well prepared for what the actual exam situation is going to be like.
If you are looking for a CAPM Exam practice test that is close to the CAPM Exam, look into using the CAPM Exam Simulator.
Is It Effective?
Yes! Testing yourself as you go through the material, through using flashcards or the questions at the end of a chapter in a prep book are a good way to improve your skills. You’re learning how the questions are phrased and what sort of answers you are likely to see.
However, the best way to make this a really effective study technique is to take a full-length practice CAPM Exam under timed conditions, so you get used to the pressure of the clock counting down!
Conclusion: CAPM Study Techniques
You’re a busy person so you want to spend time on study techniques that are proven to be effective. While some of your choices are going to be down to your personal best ways of working (like whether you take notes as a mind-map or a list) there are definitely some study techniques that outperform others.
Focus on taking effective notes, using CAPM study tools to support your learning and spreading your study sessions out over time. Use the PMBOK® Guide and practice answering test questions to prepare yourself for the real thing. Finally, take advantage of the knowledge others have gained from their study experience by visiting online forums.