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So what made me fall in love with PMI's project management approach? I like to think that I'm a logical guy. I also like to think I'm not balding, have a great sense of humor, and can cook a mean steak—but that's beside the point.

To me, PMI's approach is the most logical, most forgiving approach to project management. It was also the way I learned project management, so it was easier to accept their approach and see how it can adapt to any project management model.

PMI offers the Project Management Professional certification. If you've been around the IT world for the past 10 years, you've experienced—or been blasted by—the flood of certifications that will allegedly help you earn more, prove your worth, verify your knowledge, and add letters behind your name.

Certification has become big business. Search this site. Search the web. Browse through your local bookstore. There's even a magazine devoted to certification. I'm sure I don't need to tell you any more about certifications in general, but let me tell you specifically about the PMP. First of all, it's not the Pimp certification. I get this one all the time:

THEM: "Ha-ha, Joe. You're a certified Pimp. Ha-ha."

ME: "Yeah, pretty funny."

THEM: "Ha-ha, Joe. You're a certified Pimp. Get it? PMP? PiMP? Where's your purple suit and gold teeth?"

ME: "Yeah, pretty funny. How's your mother?"

You'll have that conversation too after you've heard this "ha-ha" for the billionth time.

Not everyone can take the exam. To earn your PMP certification, you must first qualify for the exam. You have to prove education and hours of experience, and pass a 200-question exam. After the exam, you maintain your certification by earning Professional Development Units (PDUs) through continuing education and PMI participation.

Once you submit your application, there's a chance that PMI will audit your experience and education qualifications. This means that you'll have to provide contact info for supervisors of your projects, proof of stated education, and your shoe size. Figure 2 shows the current paths to qualify to take the exam.

Figure 2

Figure 2 PMP candidates have to qualify for the PMP examination.

See how this certification is different from the ones from Microsoft, CompTIA, and others? It's more than just your check clearing the bank. There's a weeding process.

Did you notice that I said these are the current requirements? I bet you did. The PMP certification will change on September 30, 2005. The new certification requirements center on these key changes:

  • Exam qualifications. The new exam will require candidates to document specific project management experience, such as leading and directing project activities. This is not a current requirement for the PMP certification.
  • Experience documentation. Right now you don't have to provide names and numbers of supervisors of the projects you've managed—unless your application gets audited. Once the new exam goes live, you'll have to provide contact info on the exam application for all project experience.
  • Audits and review. PMI promises that all new applications will pass through an enhanced review process. And if you're one of the lucky ones to get audited, you'll get an instant notification that your application is being audited. Oh, the joy.
  • Passing score. Right now, the passing score for the PMP exam is 68.5%. On the new exam, you'll need 81.7% to pass. Right now, you need just 137 of 200 questions correct. On the new exam, you'll have to answer 141 of 175 questions correctly. But get this—there will a total of 200 questions, but 25 of the questions don't count toward your passing score. These 25 questions are peppered throughout the exam to test their validity for potential use in future exams.
  • Three strikes. If you don't pass the new PMP exam within three attempts, you're out. That's right. Part of the new PMP exam is that candidates will have three chances to pass the exam and then, well, they're done for.

As you can imagine, there's some incentive to pass your PMP exam before the exam changes. The good news, for now, is that once you earn your PMP you're in for life—assuming that you maintain your required PDUs. If you've invested any time in studying and qualifying for the PMP exam, I advise you to take it before the new exam goes live.

And I should know. I wrote the book PMP Project Management Professional Study Guide (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2003) and have watched sales rocket over the past few months. In addition, on my web site I sell a set of cards dubbed PMP Essentials that have all of the PMP exam facts you must know to pass. These have also been selling. My point? You're not alone in your quest for PMP certification, but if you're going to pass the exam before it changes you'd better act now.

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