Can You Pass PMP Without Reading The PMBOK Guide?

How Many?

Can you pass the PMP exam without reading the PMBOK Guide? How many times should you read it?

Short answer. A PMP aspirant must read the PMBOK Guide carefully to successfully pass the exam. It is the best book available on the subject.

Let me explain this in detail.

Can You Pass PMP Certification Exam Without Reading The PMBOK Guide

Many of my trainees ask the above questions. There is no easy or the right answer to these questions.

I have known people to pass the exam without studying the PMBOK Guide. But, in my opinion, one must read the PMBOK Guide at least once to improve the chances of successfully passing the PMP exam. The number of times any subject book should be read totally depends on one’s personal reading style and comprehension of English language.

I think PMBOK Guide(or any subject book) reading is akin to driving a motor car on a road.

So answer to the above question may depends on your driving style and obstructions on the road.

Some of you may say that you drive a motor bike and not a car. You would ask, “Will I be able to study the PMBOK Guide”.

Er…Oh! Yes.

It is a known fact that PMBOK Guide reading is not the easiest of reading and it presents many difficulties (obstructions). Let us consider following drivers (readers):

1. A hasty driver who changes lanes frequently and who does not care about bumps or signals or any other obstructions – This person would skim the book very quickly and may not read the difficult topics as carefully as one should thus necessitating multiple reading of PMBOK Guide. This person may have to read PMBOK Guide 3-4 time in bits and parts.

2. A slow driver who always drives in a lane and who stops at all signals, slows down on bumps – This person will read slowly and try to understand each topic carefully. If this person requires further clarity she/he would refer to a subsidiary source (a good reference book) while still reading PMBOK Guide. Only 1 reading might be enough for this person.

3. A cab driver who stops at signals but does not care too much about bumps and other traffic obstructions – This person will read the more difficult topics of PMBOK Guide carefully while she/he may ignore some other less difficult topics. She/he may need to read PMBOK Guide 2-3 times.

4. A destination/time oriented driver who just wants to reach destination in a specified time – This person is goal oriented and does not deviate from the goal come whatever may; she/he just wants to complete the PMBOK Guide reading. In many ways she/he is like a hasty driver who will not care about any obstructions and she/he may take a different route if she/he find a major traffic jam ahead (i.e. read from a different reference book). This person will also require multiple reading of PMBOK Guide.

So the answer our question can be given only by you. There is no right way out of the above 4 ways of reading PMBOK Guide – it is a matter personal preference. A slow reader may take double the time as required by a fast reader but she/he will be more thorough while reading the first time.

How should one read PMBOK Guide if it so difficult?

Refer to my earlier posts on this subject

How to read PMBOK Guide?
How to read PMBOK Guide? Part Deux!
How to read PMBOK Guide? Concluding remarks!

Has PMI made it mandatory to read PMBOK Guide for passing the exam?

No. Of-course not. PMP exam is based on PMBOK Guide and the exam questions have language similar to what is used in PMBOK Guide. You can refer to many other books for exam preparation. However, it is worthwhile to read PMBOK Guide – to understand the structure and language of PMBOK Guide. It will improve your chances of passing the exam.

Will you pass the exam if you read PMBOK Guide 5 times, 10 times?

No one knows for sure :(.

PMP exam is not about reading PMBOK Guide or reading it so many times. There are so many other things that you need to do. Specifically you should also attempt many sample questions.

Can you pass the exam without reading PMBOK Guide?

Yes, you may be able to pass the exam without reading PMBOK Guide even once. Some of your friends might have done so. But why take chances? The exam is based on PMBOK Guide and exam questions regularly use the language as written in PMBOK Guide so your chances of success improve if you have read and understood PMBOK Guide. Not studying PMBOK Guide can lead to failure in the PMP exam.

Good luck to all PMP aspirants.

Praveen Malik, PMP

​Praveen Malik ​is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with a rich 23+ years of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor, Coach and ​Advisor. He ​has successfully trained thousands of aspirants for the PM certification exams.

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