Is PMBOK Guide Enough To Pass The PMP Certification Exam?

Is PMBOK Guide enough to pass the PMP certification exam

PMP aspirants have several questions about the PMBOK Guide and the certification exam. We have written this post to allay the confusion around the PMBOK Guide.

You will find answers to the following questions in this post:

  1. Is PMBOK Guide enough to pass the PMP certification exam?
  2. Can you pass the PMP exam without reading the PMBOK Guide?
  3. Is it essential and mandatory to study the PMBOK Guide?
  4. How to read the PMBOK Guide?
  5. How many times should you read the PMBOK Guide?

People ask the above questions because the PMBOK Guide is not only difficult and hard to read but also boring and soporific. By the end of this post, you will know a way to read the PMBOK Guide.

Note 1: The PMBOK Guide is free for the PMI members. However, I would suggest you to invest in a paper copy of the PMBOK Guide because it is easier to study from a proper book. You can click on the following links to check prices on Amazon.

Note 2: Find out which version of the PMBOK Guide is being used for the PMP exam and how different are PMBOK Guide 6th and 7th editions.

Note 3: I have written two posts on number of questions in the PMP certification exam and PMP exam format. You can read that as well to remove the confusion around the certification exam.

Is PMBOK Guide Enough to Pass the PMP Certification Exam?

No. You will need additional study material to pass the exam.

Even though PMI has published Guide and it is considered as a reference book for the PMP exam, the exam is not based the Guide.

The PMP exam is based on the tasks described in the Exam Content Outline. The exam poses questions around these tasks. Explanation for some of these tasks is not contained in the PMBOK Guide, so it becomes essential to refer to other study material to prepare for the exam.

Furthermore, the Guide is only one of the reference books for the PMP exam. There are many other books which are part of PMI’s reference list.

Apart from the PMI’s reference list, there are umpteen other resources to study for the PMP exam. We would recommend you to read at least one PMP exam prep book and practice questions from a good simulation software. You can refer to any one of the following books:

  1. Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep
  2. Andy Crowe’s PMP Book
  3. Kim Heldman’s PMP Study Guide
  4. Andrew Ramdayal’s PMP Exam Prep Simplified
  5. Head First PMP

A good simulator will validate your study and give you confidence before appearing for the exam. You can check out our PMP Simulator for practicing very tough PMP style questions. It is available at a very reasonable price.

Can you Pass the PMP Exam without Reading the PMBOK Guide?

Yes, it is possible to pass the PMP exam without reading the PMBOK Guide.

In our experience, as training providers, we have seen many people who passed the exam without reading the PMBOK Guide. There have been many such cases in the past.

Having said that, we will not recommend you to attempt the exam without reading the PMBOK Guide.

The PMP exam is a tough and expensive exam; you should not take any chances with it. You should not leave any stone unturned if you want to clear the exam in your first attempt.

There is no doubt that reading the Guide is not an easy task but we have shared a way to tackle this challenge in this article.

Is it Essential and Mandatory to Study the PMBOK Guide?

A simple answer to the above question is a No. As discussed in the previous section, studying the PMBOK Guide is not essential to pass the PMP exam.

You read the Guide if you want to. PMI has not made it mandatory for the exam.

Having said that, we would highly recommend to read the PMBOK Guide at least once before taking the exam.

The Guide is published by the PMI. It contains the terminology and good practices of project management as espoused by PMI. Since PMI holds the PMP exam, studying the Guide can increase your chances of passing the exam.

How to Read the PMBOK Guide?

This questions usually bugs the new PMP aspirants who have just started their preparation.

Many aspirants start reading the PMBOK Guide straightaway without attending a 35 contact hours training. In our experience, this is not a good idea. The Guide is a difficult book to read and it becomes so much more difficult without the guidance from a knowledgeable instructor.

We would recommend you to attend a 35 hours PMP training course before taking a stab at the Guide. It will help you to understand the structure of the Guide and also the terminologies contained in it. Studying Guide will become much more easy after attending a training program.

In addition to a good training program, following points will help you in studying the Guide easily:

  1. Understand and not memorize

You must follow this technique right from chapter one until you finish all the chapters. This way you will understand and can answer the questions if it is a conceptual one.

  1. Read Process Group-wise

Since the PMBOK guide follows the knowledge area methodology and many of us have the misconception that it is the best way to prepare. But it is NOT because the real-life project follows the Process Group.

Thus, following the Process Group will help you in a must greater extent.

  1. Read it along with a reference book

Of course, referring to other books is equally important. You should also refer to other sources along with the guide. This way you will have others perspective to a particular task. Hence by doing this PMBOK guide will become an easy read.

Meanwhile, who would want to clear the PMP exam in their first attempt with confidence? Right!

  1. Determine the relationships between processes

By far we all know that there are 5 process groups and 49 processes. So, each process has input and output. Now,  these inputs and outputs are inter-related in such a manner that output from one process becomes the input for another.

So, all the processes are interlinked and are in a relationship with other processes.

  1. Relate it to your projects

When you start reading the Guide, you should relate the Guide’s concepts to your current and previous projects. This way you will have a good understanding of Guide. It will not only help you to clearing the exam but also help you in your project.

How Many Times Should you Read the PMBOK Guide?

Will I pass the exam if I read the PMBOK Guide for 3 times or 5 times?

Actually, no one can answer this question for you except you. Only you can judge yourself and the level of your grasping power.

Following are a few pointers that will help you read the Guide only once or twice:

Many aspirants skip the difficult topics while studying but we would advise you to read the Guide thoroughly. This way you will require lesser number of iteration to study for the exam.

Many aspirants set a target of completing the Guide in a a few days. Unlike a fiction book, the Guide has to be read slowly by giving proper breaks. If you read it quickly, you might not read it properly and hence will need to read it more than once.

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.


You should definitely read the PMBOK guide if you want to be fully prepared for the PMP exam and want to pass it in your first attempt. In addition, you should use one or two other reference books for the exam prep.

As mentioned in one of previous sections, you should start your exam preparation by attending a 35 contact hours course. It will give you a proper platform for studying the Guide.

If you are serious about passing the PMP exam then there is nothing to lose by enrolling into a 35 contact hours course. A 35 contact hours training is mandatory for appearing in the PMP exam and its certificate remains valid till you appear for the exam.

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Our PMP training program contains a lot of study material that will help you to pass the exam in your first attempt. You can buy our training program at a very reasonable cost.

Our PMP program is priced as low as USD 149 in USA. Our training is unmatched in the industry. It will enable you to pass the PMP exam in your first attempt and, in case you are unsuccessful, we will refund 100% training fee.

Over To You

What is your point of view about the PMBOK Guide? Do you think it is necessary to read PMBOK Guide? Does it really help in the exam preparation?

Do you have any other questions related to the PMBOK Guide in you mind?

Let us know in the comment section.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, we will receive a small commission but at no extra cost to you. Other than this, we have not taken any payments or gifts for putting any affiliate link. We belive our recommendations can genuinely help you in prepraing for the certification exam.

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  1. Two full thumbs up for this magnificent article of yours. I’ve really enjoyed reading this article today and I think this might be one of the best articles that I’ve read yet. Please, keep this work going on in the same quality.

  2. I would recommend studying from the PMBOK Guide latest edition. You will have to make a study plan to cover each chapter. Of course, it is not easy. However, I would also advise referring to books like Andy Crowe’s The PMP Exam and Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep. These books are helpful while preparing for the PMP exam.

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