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Tips on Applying for and Passing the PMP® or CAPM® Exam – Part VII – Exam-Taking Tips (#7 in the series Tips on Applying for and Passing the PMP® or CAPM® Exam)
By Vicki Wrona, PMP – Global Knowledge Instructor

Exam-Taking Tips: Stress-Enhancers and Possible Fixes

Clock Ticking – This is not referring to a physical clock ticking on the wall (although there may be one), but rather to a clock on the PC screen that is ticking down the time spent and time remaining on the exam. While it helps you pace yourself during the exam, it can also add stress if you fall behind on time. Be aware of this. Pacing yourself is very important. To ensure you do not fall behind on time, work through the questions fairly quickly, but do not read the questions or answers too quickly and miss the finer points. Use the clock as much as you need to gauge your progress, but do not dwell on it unnecessarily. Keep in mind that you have 1.2 minutes per question on average. Most people have no trouble finishing the test in time, normally with enough time to review answers. To do this, though, you must remain cognizant of the time.

Noisy Testing Center – You will be in a testing room with other people who will be typing, stretching, coughing, entering and leaving the room, etc. This could be noisy and distracting. Be prepared for this mentally, as well as consider bringing earplugs to the testing center.

Uncomfortable Testing Center – In addition to lots of movement, the center may be too hot or too cold. Dressing in layers helps alleviate this problem. By dressing in layers, you can also use a jacket or sweater as a lumbar support or a chair cushion, if necessary.

Exam-Taking Tips: Stress-Relievers

Arrive Early – Avoid additional stress by knowing the location of the test center and directions to get there, and by arriving early.

Rest Up – Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam. Take the evening off before the test to give your brain a chance to absorb all this information. If the test is scheduled later in the day, take it easy before the exam. Don’t try to study or work all day and take the exam in the late afternoon.

Formulate a Plan – Do not underestimate the physical, mental, and emotional strain of a 4-hour exam. Be prepared by having a plan, such as standing up and stretching every hour, or leaving the testing room to eat a snack bar that you brought or to drink something. Also, while taking the test, have a plan as to how you will mark and track questions for future review. For example, let’s say you narrow the possible answers for a particular question down to two, but are not sure which is the better answer. In addition to ‘marking’ the question in the computer for future review, you can also write the number of this question and the two answers you have down on your scratch paper, saving yourself time when you come back to review the question later. Also, write down a keyword or note of what the question is about, as some questions are answered elsewhere in the exam. If you find an answer elsewhere, you will not have to search to update your answer. You may find that anywhere from 2 to 4 questions are answered elsewhere in the exam.

Get Ready for a Brain Dump – Just before entering the testing room, review any formulas or notes as necessary, then put your notes away in the locker provided. Once you enter the testing room, use the scratch paper given to you (in a few facilities this may be a white board rather than paper) to record formulas, notes, memory joggers, or any other information you want at your disposal during the test. Once this is put on paper, it eases your mind, allowing you to fully concentrate on the test question at hand rather than worry about remembering formulas or getting confused later.

Flash Cards – Adults learn once they see or hear information on average three times. To get this repetition, utilize several different study techniques. For example, read through whatever study materials you have, noting areas of further study needed. For items requiring further study, create a flash card for each item, putting the question on the front and answer on the back. Flash cards can be useful because they can be shuffled to avoid memorizing items in a certain order and also because once an item is learned, the card can be removed and put in another stack, saving you time. It is also extremely gratifying to see the stack of cards to study shrink and the stack of known items grow.

Additional Exam-Taking Tips

Answer All Questions – Unanswered questions count as a wrong answer.

Fill in the Blanks – Sometimes, the correct answer is not grammatically correct when filled in the blank on a question.

Take the Tutorial – Be sure you understand the computer system for this exam. Taking the tutorial may also give you a few minutes to calm down before beginning the exam.

Read All Answer Choices – Before selecting an answer, read all the choices first. Don’t select the first option that sounds correct. Sometimes there will be more than one correct answer, or sometimes the answer is correct but does not answer the question that was asked.

Use Mnemonic Devices – These are techniques that are used to increase memory recall by creating a silly picture in your mind, devising a clever saying to help recall facts, or remembering a series of words by taking the first letter of each word to create a personal acronym or memorable phrase. The sillier the picture or phrase, the easier the item will be to remember.

Vicki Wrona, PMP, has been managing projects and mentoring project managers for the past 18 years in both the private and public sectors, in manufacturing, service, and IT. Over the past 7 years, she has personally trained over 3,100 people through Global Knowledge. She is the President of Forward Momentum, LLC, an 8(a) company.

This article was originally published in Global Knowledge’s Business Brief e-newsletter. Global Knowledge delivers comprehensive hands-on project management, business process, and professional skills training. Visit our online Knowledge Center at for free white papers, webinars, and more.

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