- Project Management

Challenges Faced by First-Time PMP Aspirants

They say the PMP certification is not for the frail-hearted. If you are one among those resolute learners with an unswerving spirit to take up the toughest of tasks and relishes claiming victory over them, then I say, you’re going to swagger around this exam as well!

Challenges Faced by First-Time PMP Aspirants
Challenges Faced by First-Time PMP Aspirants

This article emphasizes the self-effort that you need to take on the physical, emotional, and intellectual spheres of your life to overcome the most common challenges that are likely to crop up during the preparatory phase. Before dealing with them one by one, make sure you read this post on how to crack PMP certification, which elaborates on the tips and tricks to get through the PMP exam on the first attempt!

Formulating A Workable Study Plan

How did you manage your studies back in your school days? Were you a morning lark or a night owl? Grab a piece of paper and note down your productive hours, duration of the study, sleep and wake times, breaks if any, the time you spent with your family, and so on during those days.

This might seem an exercise in vain with all the changes in your cognitive and reasoning abilities over time, but trust me, it’ll give you astonishing insights to devise your own strategy that will promote your active learning hours and also address your shortcomings.

Another important factor to consider is the new exam pattern that was rolled out on January 2, 2021, before which 90 to 95% of questions were based on the waterfall model, the traditional project management methodology. Now, on the other hand, the questions on the waterfall and agile methods are equally distributed, that is 50-50 weightage is given to the duo, say the experts. So, if you are someone who doesn’t have experience in the IT sector, then it would be a wise choice to devote more time than usual to practicing the Agile concepts, say most of your pioneers. Guess, that should give you a headstart with preparing your study plan. Create it right away!

Fighting Procrastination

After a pretty long break in study, it’s highly subjective of your persistence that you retrieve your reading potential. Exams apart, as an individual, you need to make it a point that you spend at least an hour a day reading the books of your choice. Don’t ever let lassitude gnaw away at your preparation.

Experts recommend going through the PMBOK guide at least twice to get your concepts right. Another chief recommendation from them is Rita Mulcahy’s PMP prep 10th Edition, which presents practice tests and situational cases. Bear in mind that PMP is an exam with a vast curriculum and a majority of questions would demand analytical thinking to answer, so memorizing is definitely not the key. Hence, rev up, read the mentioned books, revisit the concepts until you get the hang of them, and ace the exam!

Taking Mock Tests

Your performance in the exam highly depends on how you manage your time effectively. Time management is an art that you conquer through determined practice. As far as PMP is concerned, you’ll have 4 hours for the exam without any breaks. It’s going to be a long head-scratching session, so you need to first train yourself to confront it. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you give a lot of timed mock tests. Of course, you should give them only after all your study is complete. That way you can spot which part you spend a lot of time at, improve your speed on it, and thereby mitigate last-minute haste.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

As real-time professionals, you might already have an idea of how to balance your work and life. Now as an aspirant, there comes an added criterion – “study”. Getting the three of them, your work, study, and life, in tandem with each other is the crucial phase of your learning. You need to prioritize your tasks in a way that your study doesn’t get affected. But, it’s obvious that you won’t be able to stick to one schedule throughout because the balance always oscillates with changing plans and priorities. Hence, it’s better to maintain a weekly schedule wherein you can track your events happening in the family, work overtime, etc. and update the same every week.

It’s also mandatory to have a “me time”, a time, say 30 to 40 minutes every day, only for yourself wherein none of these three spheres overlap. You can meditate, listen to songs, or be still in that time period. Be sure to follow this as it improves your creativity and spontaneity, suggest a number of psychological research.

Keeping Consistent Bedtime Routine

It’s natural that there’ll be a change in your sleep pattern once the final week of the exam is on. You never know the reasons for the high stress, loss of appetite, poor mood, etc. All these sudden reactions just before the exam could be avoided when you follow a consistent bedtime routine right from the start of your preparation. Just bear in mind that poor sleep impacts your memory, creativity, and logical reasoning. Thus better sleep than cram for the exam.

Overcoming Exam Anxiety

The most common question that arises in the mind of every first-time PMP aspirant would be “what if I fail my exam on the first attempt?” Just know that you’ll have exactly three attempts for the PMP certification. This awareness will ensure you use them wisely.

It doesn’t stop with that. If you fail the exam on the first attempt, it’s going to be heavy on your pocket too: PMI members need to pay 275 USD and non-PMI members need to pay 375 USD for their subsequent attempts.

Thus, I would say exam fear is a good-to-have factor as it keeps you alert while attempting questions and avoiding mistakes, but at the same time, it carries some obvious cons too. So, keep the anxiety in check!

Some FAQs

  • How tough is the PMP exam?

The exam is a hard nut to crack for non-IT aspirants. Yet it can be cracked with proper preparation.

  • How many attempts do I have to crack PMP?

You have exactly three attempts to crack PMP.

  • What was the recent revision made in the PMP exam pattern?

The new pattern is based on three knowledge areas namely People, Process, and Business Environment, as opposed to the old pattern that targeted five domains: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing.

  • What is the ideal time to prepare for PMP?

Experts say that a professional who has the requisite PDUs(Professional Development Units) can get ready for the exam in 1 to 1.5 months investing 2-4 hours/weekend or 8 hours/week. However, it highly depends on individual capabilities.

  • Can I prepare for PMP on my own without a trainer?

The prerequisite to taking up the PMP exam is 35 PDUs, and you can gain them hassle-free only from an authorized training provider. Instructor-led training always surpasses self-study sessions and also saves time for a first-time aspirant.


Cracking the exam in the first attempt is not an impossible or a daunting task if you get the know-how of overcoming the above-mentioned challenges. Hope the article dealt with all of them in detail. Just implement the measures at appropriate times and you are good to go with the exam. Good luck!

 Ram Tavva
Ram Tavva

Author Bio

 Ram Tavva

Senior Data Scientist and Alumnus of IIM- C (Indian Institute of Management – Kolkata) with over 25 years of professional experience Specialized in Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning.

PMP Certified

ITIL Expert certified APMG, PEOPLECERT and EXIN Accredited Trainer for all modules of ITIL till Expert Trained over 3000+ professionals across the globe Currently authoring a book on ITIL “ITIL MADE EASY”.

Conducted myriad Project management and ITIL Process consulting engagements in various organizations. Performed maturity assessment, gap analysis and Project management process definition and end to end implementation of Project management best practices

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Challenges Faced by First-Time PMP Aspirants

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