Published here February 2014


Musings Index

Do PMP Boot Camp Classes Help Pass the Exam?

A discussion started on PMI Career Central, an official PMI Group on LinkedIn.
Edited for web presentation and published here February 2014.

In August 2013, Nicole Hultberg posed the question: "Do PMP Boot Camp classes really help pass the exam? In response, two members of the group offered insightful observations.

To the question, Matthew Weaver, PMP, CSM, ITIL, responded:

Nicole, that is a great question. My quick answer is: 'Do you want to pass the exam?' Okay, of course you do. Most training companies, mine included, report pass rates in the 90-plus percent range. PMI, when referenced on the matter, says around one-third fail, as that is the norm for industry certification bodies using psychometric test methods. Thus, presuming our stats are correct, the alternatives must have a very high failure rate!

Editor's Note: A number of readers may want to know what a "Boot Camp" is. It is a term adopted by the US military to describe an intensive basic training camp for instruction of new recruits, most specifically for the US Navy or Marine Corps. In this case, the term is used to refer to intensive training courses for those new recruits to project management preparing to take the Project Management Institute's ("PMI") Project Management Professional ("PMP") exam. Since Matthew Weaver offers PMP classes in various formats, the question provided him with an opportunity to do a little self-promotion.

Matthew continued:

Personally, I do not like the boot camp format, especially as it has shrunk to four days over the past two years and some companies try to pull it off in three days. But, to be competitive, most of us have settled on the four-day format. Putting 35 hours of instruction and practice exams into a four day format, thus 9-hours a day, doesn't leave students with much time to catch their breadth, to digest the material, or to follow-up on areas they might find challenging. The alternatives, which others and I also offer, are three weekend classes, five-day classes, and six-week classes comprised of meeting twice weekly in 2-hour evening sessions. The longer, six-week classes give you time to ready and practice between sessions, which I believe is best.

Okay, regardless of the format, you've also got the choice of sitting in a classroom or take the class online. We offer both 100% live, led by an instructor. We show no appreciable difference in pass/fail rates. In a classroom you get more interactivity, lose some of that online but gain the convenience of taking the class from any that you can get and sustain an Internet connection.

Live or recorded. To me this is a no-brainer. A live class means you can ask the instructor questions; you can spend additional time on a topic. You also get the interaction with an instructor and fellow students, sharing real-life examples that give meaning to the course content. Priceless. My company's classes are 100% live.

Okay, content. A class gives you everything. If you were, by comparison, to simply study the PMBOK® Guide, you'd miss much of the above, plus content not in the book but on the exam. Sure, a good study guide might help, but, again, you are back to the pass/fail rate. If all of our pass/fail rates are accurate, and I have no reason to doubt most, that leaves self-study with a high failure rate.

Finally, consider timing. A class gives you focus. Regardless of four or five day, three weekends, or six-week format, you have a clear start and finish. Once done, you submit your application (which, like my company, I suspect all companies will help with). PMI takes three-to-five days to process, then Prometric makes you pick a test date at least three days into the future, and, presuming you are ready, you take and pass the exam 7 to about 21 days after your class finishes. Alternative routes might take months, risking being distracted by life, possibly for years or even never.

For reference, here are two related blog articles that I have written on the subject:


Anyway, happy to answer any questions you might have - Matthew

There followed a number of short responses expressing different preferences in approach.

Hugo Waigand interjected and had this to say:

The responses show how different we are as individuals. No style, presentation or recipe will work equally well for everybody. I would sum it up as follows: Read a good prep book before you attend anything. Trying to learn Project Management and getting a good base understanding for the PMI approach to it is next to impossible in any exam prep class.

I've facilitated several prep courses for our local PMI chapter as a volunteer. Joining a chapter and attending some meetings gets you familiarized with folks and the organization. I would not attend any prep class before you feel prepared and have signed on and been approved to take the exam. People often do that the other way around. The prep class should be the last step in your preparation before sitting the exam, not the first. That will give you the final confirmation that you are ready.

Starting the application process after finishing those classes takes time and increases the risk of forgetting. In my opinion, Boot Camps work as well as other formats, depending on the individual presenting, though the term is horrible and misleading. A military boot camp teaches a civilian the basics of military life and warfare, prep classes, no matter the format will not do any teaching, just firming up, what you should already have learned and know.

I did read and study material for over six months, joined our chapter and had the application on file and approved before I attended a 5 day prep class two weeks before the set exam date. I passed with 92 % the first time in 2004. I repeated a similar procedure for the PMI-ACP in 2011 and passed it with 96% on the first day the exam was given.

Finally passing the exam does not prove much more than that you have prepared for it, understanding the material and the PMI approach to Project Management will help you pass the exam, studying the material and learning and thinking about the topics and relating them to your work experience is what builds the real value for you, your career and your potential employer.

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