A PMP Study Guide is absolutely essential as part of your preparation to get your PMP certification. You may have done a course but you will need a “second set of eyes” to validate what you’ve learned. You’ll also need to do a few sample exams to prove to yourself that you’re ready to take the exam.
The best self-study materials for me were the Rita Mulcahy PMP exam prep and the Andy Crow PMP study guide. Don’t go overboard on these though. There is an entire cottage industry devoted to extracting maximum dollars from prospective PMP candidates along with “must-have” upsells that you don’t need at all.
A Decent Minimum
All you really need is a decent teaching text, some online sample exams (often provided free with some study guides) and maybe some flashcard type app for your smartphone or computer. Personally I’d recommend doing an intensive course – it gives maximum return on time even though it does cost a lot when self-funded. If you’re not going this route, budget two months of consistent self-study of an hour or two per day.
Whatever your choice, remember you’re just getting yourself to the level where you are sure that you’re going to get the 61% passing mark for the exam. Doing the PMP exam does not teach you how to be a project manager (though you will be a better one for doing it). The purpose of the exam is to show that you understand to a good level the PMI project management framework. Having come through it myself, I’d heartily recommend that any reasonably experienced project manager can align their own experience with that required by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Important tip: make sure your PMP study material is for the current edition of the PMBOK (“Project Management Body of Knowledge”) plus any subsequent updates to the exam.
A word on the PMBOK – the PMI ‘bible’. This book is not a teaching guide, it’s a reference book. You’ll get a free PDF copy along with your PMI membership/exam application. As study material, it is utterly useless in teaching you how to pass the PMP exam. It’s fine as a reference book. Don’t despair when you open it for the first time (you’d have more fun reading the telephone book). I’ve seen many PMPs say they read this book three times over before doing the exam. I salute them, but life is too short, especially if you’re an experienced project manager.
Self-Study or Classroom?
My own experience was that of going the self-study route at first. Once a busy work and home life get in the way it’s harder to get the traction needed to get to the level needed to meet the exam. I bit the bullet and took a one week intensive course. Ideally I’d plan on doing the exam within three weeks of the course. Again, in my case, life intervened and I took it four months later. However, an intensive three days of study doing an online practice exam each day and revising the weak areas brought my average mark reliably to over 80%. I’d recommend being able to consistently hit at least 75% in practice exams before doing the real thing.
In summary, your best PMP study guide is your own common sense and the minimum set of courseware to get you to the 75% passing grade on a practice exam.