How to help students and coworkers overcome test anxiety when taking the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam.

By Diane Buckley-Altwies, PMP, author of Achieve PMP Exam Success, 6th Edition

They’ve worked hard to get to this point in their lives.  Being able to add the PMPâ designation to their name and title can translate into greater success and a more rewarding career.  So, it’s natural that they’re feeling a bit stressed about taking the certification exam.  But they don’t need to sweat it. Here are some tips to keep your students cool and collected:

1.           Remember, a lapse in memory is normal.  They will not know all the answers.  Remind them to take their time and do their best. 

2.           Encourage them to relax before, during and after the exam.  Taking deep breaths can help, as can standing to stretch about every 40 minutes.

3.          Remind them to resist the urge to panic.  If they give themselves a goal (aka, “after each hour, I’m going to take a water or bathroom break”) so that they can refocus when anxious feelings arise helps the see the light at the end of this tunnel. There are no scheduled breaks during the exam, but planning their own short breaks can give them time to stretch and calm their nerves.  

4.          Direct them to read the questions very carefully, then decide in their minds what the right answer should be BEFORE looking at the answer choices provided.  They’ll feel more confident each time the answer they envision is one provided in the choices. 

5.          If they’re really stumped, they should mark that question and move on.  They can come back to it later, and many times other questions will jog their memory for the answer on a prior question.  Drawing a blank only increases the pressure, so ask them put it out of their mind and come back to it once they’ve finished the other questions.  It might be much clearer to them then.

Those taking the PMP Exam have four hours to complete 200 questions, which translates to about 1 ½ minutes per question. Just remember to coach them to stay on track, keep calm, and rely on the knowledge and insights they’ve learned in your PMPâ certification classes.  They can do this!!

Click here to learn more and/or purchase licenses for the Achieve PMPâ Exam Success, 6th Edition


About the author:  Diane Buckley-Altwies, PMP, CEO of Core Performance Concepts, has been managing software development projects for nearly 30 years as a program manager or project manager in the insurance, financial services, and healthcare industries. She is author of multiple books about project management certification, including the proven best-selling study guide Achieve PMPâ Exam Success, 6th Edition, which is used in conjunction with the PMI PMBOK® Guide.  This textbook presents all the fundamental knowledge, concepts, exercises, and practice exam questions a project manager needs to prepare for and successfully pass the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification Exam on the first try, while cutting study time in half.

About the Project Management Institute (PMI): The Project Management Institute is the world’s leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program and portfolio management profession. Founded in 1969, PMI delivers value for more than 2.9 million professionals working in nearly every country in the world through global advocacy, collaboration, education and research. PMI advances careers, improves organizational success and further matures the profession of project management through its globally recognized standards, certifications, resources, tools, academic research, publications, professional development courses, and networking opportunities.