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What Type of Project Management Training is Best for the PMP® Certification Exam?

Frustrated Online PMP Learner

PMP Certification Training Methods Ranked Least Effective to Most Effective

There many types of formats and training an eager candidate can take for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) or the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification exam. Most, if not all of these types of training can be counted toward the contact hours needed in order to sit for the exam. We rank these types of PMP certification exam training from number 4 (least effective) to the best at number 1, giving you the pros and cons of each. Let us present one caveat up front. Each type of training has their benefits. As we rank these, we are ranking on the assumption that a candidate is taking the PMP or CAPM exam in the near future and is intent on passing on their first attempt. This should be everyone’s intent as the PMP is not an exam you ever want to have to retake.

4. College Course or Major:

While it is never our intent to discourage candidates from attending college to further their understanding of project management. It is simply the least effective way to prepare for the examination itself. PROS– To garner a deep understanding of the theory of project management, beyond even that of the industry leading Project Management Body of Knowledge or “PMBOK” currently in its 6th Ed., then a college major focused on project management is great. This author has one such graduate degree. These courses or degree programs will touch on many theories of project management and their subsets including Waterfall and Agile. Read the difference between Waterfall and Agile at our blog post “With Agile’s Growth, is Waterfall Dead?” CONS– The CAPM or the PMP is focused entirely on project management in accordance with the PMBOK. As stated above, college courses or degree programs will go over, in length, all the differing theories usually including PMBOK theory, but not exclusively. Additionally, degree programs in project management are several years long. There is no way one can parse, and then retain, all the PMBOK information necessary to pass the examination on its own.

3. Pre-Recorded PMP Courses:

This option may be well suited to garner Professional Development Units or PDU’s after passing the exam in order to retain your PMP certification. Especially if the PMP holder had taken their PMP exam based on a previous edition of the PMBOK and wants to learn the major updates in a newer version. But to sit for their initial examination, this is the second worse idea. The reason many companies advertise and sell these as a live boot camp replacement often at a cheaper price (by just a fraction) is because these companies make a lot of profit on these. Why? Hiring a PMP certified instructor for live courses over-and-over again is much more expensive than paying someone to read off slides. It is my opinion that the Project Management Institute (PMI), the governing body of the PMP and CAPM certification should not count these as contact hours qualifying for the exam. PROS: As stated above, this option is great if you are just trying to earn PDU’s while learning major changes to a newer edition of the PMBOK. This option may be suited for a person that is calling themselves a “project manager” and really does want to learn the base theory of the PMBOK but is not willing to nor intending to sit for the examination. Read about why employers should demand their project managers have certification here. Another pro to pre-recorded lesson modules is for study purposes (after taking a boot camp). Many reputable companies, including PMCertDC (view upcoming courses here) provide recorded refresher courses for those who attended a live boot camp and may need a refresher on a topic they are struggling to understand. But this is “in addition to” and not a replacement to live instruction. The only other possible reason why this may be a good option is if a newer project manager is fresh out of a degree program and retained the information very well, then taking a pre-recorded boot camp may be an option. Still highly discouraged. CONS: So why is this a bad idea? We are glad you asked! For starters, a live course allows for more explanation of a certain slide. In the absence of adequate explanation, students interact with a live instructor until they grasp the intent of a topic before moving on. I was retained once for a company to do pre-recorded lessons. After just the introduction, I declined to continue. I saw immediately the limitations. Additionally, while still serving in the Army, the government paid for me to go through a very well put together pre-recorded class through SkillSoft. But I was not prepared to sit for the exam. Instead, I paid out of pocket to attend a live boot camp. And thank God I did. The PMP exam is no joke! Going back to when I was paid by a company to record lessons, there was so much more that I wanted to say about each slide but couldn’t. It would have ruined the flow according to the company. I immediately resigned. As an instructor of live boot camps, it is simply not a replacement. End of story.

2. Live Online Boot Camp: 

While PMCertDC offers live online boot camps (view upcoming live online boot camps here) that will allow you to pass the PMP or CAPM on the first attempt, it is our opinion that these courses are for those that can remain very focused. If a candidate elects to take this type of training, it should be from a very reputable (preferably local company) that do these online courses mixed with real in-class students. For instance, PMCertDC only holds online training as they are doing in-class training so the online learners are learning with in-class peers. The reason we prefer a local training provider like PMCertDC is that if for some reason, you do not feel you are ready to sit for the exam after the live online course, PMCertDC will allow a candidate to do an in-class boot camp afterwards at no additional cost. PROS: Convenience. Recently I had an online learner from the local area, but stationed in Abu Dhabi with his company. Obviously finding an English taught boot camp in the Middle East would be more than likely impossible. But again, choose very wisely before settling on an online course taught live. CONS: Let’s face it, when learning alone online, distractions are everywhere or boredom sets in. The PMBOK, no matter how dynamic the instructor is boring stuff at times. When not in the presence of other learners, it is that much more boring. In today’s world, instead of paying attention, people are on their smart devices checking Facebook. Even in a physical classroom setting where the instructor is keeping you focused, it is still a temptation to wander off mentally. At home or in the office, there are a million other distractors that may steal your attention. Dogs barking, kids are hungry, spouse needs to ask a question etc. Online learning is great when you do not have other options, but it is not an ideal learning environment for most people.

1. In-Class Boot Camp: 

The best option is a locally led in-class boot camp from a local company (read “6 Reasons to Choose a Local PMP Boot Camp Provider”). There is no need too go to deep into the pros and cons for this number one method of preparing for the PMP or CAPM exam. Basically for all the reasons listed above, the in-class live boot camp is the very best way to prepare for a very tough examination. In graduate school, I had to study different learning styles and one of the most important types of learning is “tacit learning”. Tacit learning is sub-conscious learning by being in the presence of individuals with the same type of career or mission. This is why so many companies are moving away from full-time tele-commuting. There is sub-conscious learning taking place over water cooler conversations, listening in on conversations a cubicle away etc. (read more about tacit knowledge here) The same is true for in-class learning, you learn from others during breaks or on lunch. It is simply too hard to mimic this type of learning even with the best of technology.
Nathan J. Kerr, MS, PMP is the co-owner and founder of PMCertDC – Washington D.C.’s metro area premier project management boot camp provider. With our primary location in Tysons, Virginia, we hold classes throughout the Washington D.C. metro area and anywhere online. We are a proud Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business with a huge impact on the project management world. Visit us at https://pmcertdc.com Read why PMCertDC is awesome here!
PMCertDC PMP Instruction in Action
Nathan J. Kerr, MS, PMP teaching PMP to students.
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