Overview of the PMP Application Process

1) Getting Started with the Application

You really want to get started on your application right away. Don’t put this off until after taking a PMP Prep class, because that will likely result in delaying the earliest time you can take the test until approximately two or more weeks until after the class has ended. (Most students say it takes more than a day to fill out the application, PMI will then take a week to process the application, and if the application is audited, that will likely add on another week!)

So, you don’t want that to happen: the best strategy is to get the test scheduled within a week to two after finishing your PMP Prep class. (It’s a “Use it or Lose it” proposition!) In the class, we cover a tremendous amount of material, new definitions and concepts at a very rapid pace, and you really need to plan to put in 2-3 hours a day reviewing notes, doing practice tests and, generally, staying very current with the materials. I then ask, “Are you going to do this consistently three or more weeks after class has ended?” I doubt that very much. So, plan to take the test right after completing your PMP Prep training. In order to do that, it’s best to have the application as much as possible before starting class. Here are some additional points about the application process:

  • Again, plan on taking a full day to complete the application
  • It’s best to fill out the application online. Go to http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP.aspx
  • You can enter project experience going back eight years, but for any project you use, you need to be the key focal point that was “leading” or “directing” the project work. It’s not necessary that you were actually called “Project Manager,” but you need to be in fact the person that led the work, and were in fact the project manager.
  • A change was made to the application process after the spring of 2014, so that it now stops you from entering any additional experience once you have reached 4,500 hours of experience. (This assumes you have a four year college degree. Otherwise, it will stop you after entering 7,500 hours.) Therefore, enter your most current experience first. This assumes you have had the most authority in your more recent projects, and also that it will be easier for you to contact managers for the more recent projects. If your application is audited, you will need to get signatures from these managers vouching that you were the person leading and directing the project activities. For more information on the audit process, see below.
  • You can use experience outside of the normal workplace. For example, if you led or directed activities for a charity, or a local civic group – that’s project management!
  • Roughly, two-thirds of the experience you list should be divided evenly between the categories of “planning,” “executing” or “monitoring and controlling.”  The remaining one-third should be divided between the categories of “initiating” and “closing.”  (See notes below describing the five process groups.)
  • There’s also a requirement on the application for 35 contact hours (or Project Management education hours). These are credit hours from any formal project management instruction you’ve taken. This could be virtual training or classroom training. There is no time restriction on how long ago the training occurred, but you will want to have a certificate for the class in case your application is audited. (Again, for more information on the audit, see below!)  Many students use the hours from their PMP Prep class for the 35 contact hours: (most four day PMP Prep classes provide the 35 hours in and of themselves). In this case, the application cannot be submitted to PMI until the PMP Prep class is completed.

2) Submitting the Application and the Audit Process

  • If you have earned the 35 contact hours before attending a PMP class, you should submit your application before your PMP Prep class. (Again, this will enable you to schedule the test soon after finishing your class.)
  • After submitting your application, PMI will take approximately one week (five business days) to process your application.
  • After approving your application, PMI will inform you that you are now ready to pay for the exam. Do join PMI before paying for the exam. PMI will reduce the price of the test from $555 for non-members to $405 for members. This pays almost exactly for one year’s membership in PMI. As a PMI member there are certain advantages you have. Among other things, these include:
    • You can download for free a .pdf version of the PMBOK®  This will allow you to do electronic searches which is quite helpful.
    • Later, (after obtaining your PMP!) – you might be interested in other PMI certifications such as the PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP or others. You can download free electronic copies of the Practice Standards for these. There are also Practice Standards for the WBS, for Earned Value, for Configuration Management, … You can download these for free as a PMI member.
    • After obtaining your PMP, you can earn PDUs online on the PMI.org website by attending webinars, or viewing recordings of past webinars.   
  • Within moments of paying for the exam, you will find out if you have been selected for an audit!

PMI randomly audits up to 20% of all applications. The audit is not triggered by anything in the application; the audit process is just one key way PMI is validating the PMP certification.

If you are audited, PMI sends you an email with a .pdf attachment that contains letters to go to all the managers you used in your application. You will need to obtain their signatures on the letters vouching for the experience you reported. So, just in case you do get audited, it makes sense to do some “due diligence,” and check with them ahead of time, and let them know you are applying for the PMP. Make sure you can locate them! – (In case this experience is from several years ago at a different company). Let them know you are applying for the PMP, you may get audited, and if so, you will need their signature vouching for the hours and type of experience you are submitting.

Additionally, you will need to provide a copy of your college degree and certificates of the classes you used for the 35 contact hours.

  • You may also have to provide more details for the experience you listed in the application showing that you have appropriate experience in all five process groups: (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing) – see below for more information on the process groups.
  • You will package together all the signed letters from your managers, along with the other documentation, and ship this to PMI.
  • It takes approximately another week for PMI to process this information, and complete the audit.
  • Once the audit is completed – (or, in the more normal case where you are not audited) – you will receive an email from PMI with an authorization code to use for scheduling your exam at a Prometric testing center. (You do have the option to take a written test, but I’ve only had one or two students use this option in the last five years. With the written test, it may take over a month to get the results on the test!)
  • You will use the authorization code to log into the Prometric website – http://www.prometric.com and schedule your exam. (You will be able to see all the testing centers within a certain radius of an address or zip-code you enter. You can then pick any of the testing centers, and check available times to schedule your test.)

 

3) Review of the Five Process Groups and Activities That Belong to Each Category

For your application, you need to list activities that fall into all five process groups defined in the PMBOK Guide: (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing). The bulk (probably about two-thirds) of your time should be comprised by activities in Planning, Executing and Monitoring & Controlling; but you do need to find some activities that also belong to Initiating and Closing. Here are high-level descriptions of the categories, and examples of activities that would occur in each category.

Initiating

  • ­This is where the project is first authorized (Develop Charter), and the phases of the project are authorized.
  • It also includes the activities to identify all the stakeholders: people who are positively or negatively impacted by project.
  • So, list any experience where you assisted senior management in doing project selection: analyzing the ROI or benefits that are expected by the projects being considered. List activities to assist the sponsor in creating and issuing the project charter. Also, describe activities you were involved in to identify the different stakeholders for the project, define their powers and influence on the project, and define strategies for how you will manage the stakeholders.
  • Though it doesn’t need to be a lot, you do need to list some activities in your application that fit into this category.

Planning

  • Of the 47 processes in the PMBOK Guide, 24 are planning processes. We do planning in all ten knowledge areas, so a large amount of the experience you list will fit into the planning category.
  • This includes activities to define the scope statement, create the WBS, develop the schedule, and do cost estimating and determine the budget for the project. It also includes planning for Risks, Quality, Human Resources, Communications and Outsourcing (Procurement) for the project. All these “subsidiary plans” and baselines become part of the Project Management Plan – the most important plan of all.
  • As you describe your planning activities in your application, use the PMI terminology and processes as best as you can.

Executing

  • As a project manager, you spend the bulk of your time directing execution against the project management plan: seeing that all the elements of the plan are being correctly followed and implemented. This includes:
    • Ensuring deliverables & work called for in the plan are created at the right time, by the right people, in the right sequence
    • Running meetings and distributing reports: (status reports, progress reports, variance reports, … )
    • Managing and handling other project communications
    • Doing team development
    • Managing stakeholders
    • Assisting with procurement negotiations for outsourcing activities

Monitoring & Controlling

  • Once we start executing, we must monitor & control our progress. We must check and compare our actual performance for the project against the project management plan. Monitoring and Controlling occurs in almost every knowledge area – (all except HR), – and it occurs from the very beginning of the project to the final close. Describe activities in your application that address:
    • Checking variance against any of the three baselines: Scope, Schedule or Cost baselines
    • Doing Earned Value measurements and forecasting
    • If there is variance from any of the baselines in the project management plan, recommending corrective actions to get back on plan
    • Even better, be proactive and do risk management properly, so negative risks are planned for and anticipated. Take steps in advance to avoid, mitigate or transfer the negative risks.
    • Realize that change is a fact of life for projects. Therefore, plan for change, – and  always have –  a formal configuration management and change control systems.
    • As change occurs, ensure change requests go through a formal evaluation and approval process. Ensure baselines and other affected parts of the project management plan are properly updated; ensure baselines are consistent with one another, and balance is maintained between the “ triple constraints” impacting the project.

Closing

  • Just like you did for the Initiating Process Group, you must find some project activities in your application that fall into the Closing category.  This includes both steps to formally close the project, steps to close project phases, and steps to formally close out any subcontracts negotiated for the project. This includes activities such as:
    • Getting the customer’s final, formal acceptance of all project deliverables
    • Doing a project “post mortem” to capture lessons learned a final time
    • Archiving all project records (both at the end of the project, and the end of project phases)
    • Releasing project resources
    • Assisting senior management with the “phase gate” reviews and possible “kill point” decisions (at the end of project phases)