Now that you have chosen the project management career path. What is next? What do you need to take your next step to achieve more goals and glowing like a star among your colleagues? How to differentiate yourself from your peers? The CAPM certificate is the first step for high-end project management jobs. In addition, it comes with higher earning potential, bigger networks, and more challenging projects. So the time comes to determine which one is the best certificate for you at this time in your career. Many people are unsure of choosing a Professional Project Management Certificate (PMP) or Certified Project Management Assistant (CAPM). In order to make this decision, you need to know the difference between the meaning and purpose of the two certificates. Then ask what are the benefits of each credential. In this article, we will review these points to help you make the right decision for your future and your success as a project manager. We will also share the steps for your CAPM exam prep if you choose to obtain this certificate.
What is a CAPM certificate?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a professional certificate known as Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). This certificate is intended for individuals aiming to add project management skills to their current roles. CAPM certification gives recognition to beginner practitioners of project management. It is also ideal for the project team members who aspire to demonstrate their project management knowledge. This certificate indicates knowledge of principles and terminology in the PMBOK. These are generally identified as best practices in project management. Also, project team members can benefit from this certification to align their understanding and work with project managers. The same goes to those who don’t have project experience but are interested in project management. The certificate showcases its holders’ professional knowledge. Most companies recognize CAPM certification as applied practical experience helping in developing skills needed for project management.
What are the benefits of CAPM?
A CAPM certification has many benefits and is definitely worth the time and investment if you decide that this is the certification for you. First, if your ultimate goal is to pass the PMP exam, CAPM puts you on the right track to do it. It proves your credibility with potential employers and increases your capabilities in the work experience required to qualify for the PMP exam. Secondly, if you are not eligible for PMP certification, CAPM certification comes as the second-best option for you.
What is a PMP certificate?
Since we talked about the CAPM certificate, we will briefly go through the most popular PMI credential. This certification is the Project Management Professional, in short PMP. Since the early days PMI developed PMP, it has been the golden medal for project managers worldwide. But PMP requires strict eligibility criteria for its pursuers before they can even attempt to take its exam. These PMP requirements include 5 years of managing projects, 35 hours of PMP training, and a high school diploma degree. Also, if you have a four-year degree, you can benefit from reducing the required project managing experience to 3 years only. Due to the appeal of PMP, these criteria may become frustrating for those who aspire to pursue the PMP certificate. Thus, CAPM comes as a good step for those who don’t satisfy the experience requirement.
CAPM Exam Prep Steps
To take the CAPM exam, you must fulfill the requirements set by PMI, which are as follows:
First, you need to submit your application online or by mail to PMI, PMI response time is faster for electronic requests. Then you have 90 days to complete the application. You also need to pay the certification fee. Accordingly, it takes PMI up to 24 hours to review the application. If your application is selected for the audit process, you have 90 days to submit your audit materials. Then, PMI processes the audit material in 5-7 days. Once PMI approves your application, you can take the exam at any Pearson VUE test center within one year of the date the application approval. As a side note, you can take the test up to 3 times during a year, however, you need to pay the re-examination fee for attempts past the first one.
The CAPM certification stays valid for 5 years from the date of passing the exam and to renew it you need to take a re-examination test. Also, you need to apply for re-accreditation in the last year of your certification course. On the other hand, in case of failure, you need to apply again as a new candidate for CAPM certification. The CAPM exam consists of 150 substantive questions with four options and you have 3 hours to complete the test. 15 out of 150 questions are pre-test questions and are not counted for scoring test points. PMI does not disclose the passing score on the test and the passing score is determined by sound psychometric analysis. Now we are going through the different steps for you to do your CAPM exam prep.
Step #1 – Qualify for CAPM Certification Requirements
As we explained before, one of the key reasons why CAPM certification is gaining high recognition is that it’s achievable, mainly for some professionals who do not have the set of requirements for PMP. So what are CAPM basic requirements are? And how they are less comprehensive than those for PMP certification? In order to qualify for the CAPM test, you must have at least a high school degree (high school diploma, associate degree, or global equivalent). Also, you need to attend 23 hours of formal CAPM exam prep education. Easy huh? Indeed! No experience is required, just attend 23 hours of CAPM exam prep training course and you are ready. This solves the key blocker for PMP eligibility criteria which is experience. Also, it serves you as a good step if you are planning to obtain PMP certification.
CAPM Exam Prep Step #2 – Attend CAPM Exam Prep Training
As we discussed, in order to be eligible to take the CAPM exam, there are two requirements that must be fulfilled in your CAPM exam prep process. The first one is your general education, assuming you have this, you need to attend 23 hours of PM education. These 23 hours of project management education can serve more than one purpose. For starters, the obvious purpose is to complete the eligibility requirements. ِYou may already have some project management education. As long as you keep records of what you’ve done and when it happened, you may be able to use the current training as part of your 23 hours. For example, if you attended a course that included some project management elements, the hours related to project management count within the requirements of the CAPM. The same applies to your employer-provided training if you have taken an internal course on project management in your company, you can calculate those hours.
So what happens if you do not yet have any project management education, or you cannot prove your training? To be eligible for the test, you must be able to demonstrate that you have reached 23 hours of training. If you haven’t been able to do that yet, the simple answer is to take a CAPM certification course but you have to choose a trusted provider.
Here comes the second purpose we implied above, you can hit 2 birds with one stone when you select your training provider. One hit the eligibility criteria, the second is to start your CAPM exam prep. Many CAPM exam prep training providers offer the training with the outline of the 23 hours requirements as well as providing extensive CAPM exam prep for those who aspire to take the exam.
CAPM Exam Prep Step #3 – Make Practice As Much As Possible
There are many study guides and ideas to plan for the CAPM exam prep, as you need a good knowledge of the PMBOK framework. This includes knowledge of inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques for all project management processes and areas of knowledge to pass this test. Therefore, your best bet for feeling as ready as possible is to take a CAPM exam prep training course. Even if you have project experience and project management knowledge, we still recommend you attend a CAPM exam prep training as it will help you better understand the PMI project management framework. There are many top tier training providers offer CAPM exam prep training based on PMBOK Guide. The most important thing is that you ensure your understanding of the project management knowledge. Then, focus more on incorporating these concepts and understanding the relationship between different processes. Also, you should focus on understanding how to use the same tools and techniques in different processes.
Pay attention to these challenging areas to acquire relevant skills in project management. Another piece of advice, don’t overdo it, there is no need to follow many books; that will be difficult to manage before the exam. Then you need to plan how to study areas of knowledge in project management and test your understanding to identify weak areas. After completing the gaps, you need to take around 2 to 7 mock exams to strengthen your CAPM exam prep. This will give you an indication of where you stand on your certification journey. You should get over 80% on each test, which is an indication that you are on the right track. By analyzing the CAPM exam prep mock tests you can identify further knowledge gaps and work on them.
Study plan and implementation strategy
The CAPM exam prep strategy varies among the candidates based on their current project management skills and they need to plan accordingly. A regular candidate with minimal knowledge of project management needs to plan at least two hours a day for two to three months to pass this test. They can plan an additional two hours during the weekends and holidays. Consistency is the key so don’t miss it even one day in preparation. You need to make sure that you are armed with the necessary CAPM exam prep materials and you attend the appropriate training for this test. You need to plan for an emergency fund as well as time for any unexpected deviations in your CAPM exam prep study plan. This will help you achieve success in the exam.
Your study plan should cover the following stages:
- Complete 23 hours CAPM exam prep course
- Prepare a CAPM exam prep plan with clear milestones for knowledge review
- Read through the PMBOK Guide
- Take notes of points of focus as you go
- Test your knowledge at the end of each knowledge area
- Identify knowledge gaps and restudy the related areas of knowledge
- Ask for advice from your tutor and join study group study
- Practice tests based on areas of knowledge
- Take 2 to 7 CAPM exam prep simulation program
CAPM Exam Prep Step #4 – Schedule & Sit for Your CAPM Exam
The next step in your CAPM exam prep is to schedule your CAMP exam itself, easy huh? Don’t be so sure about that, CAPM may seem easier than PMP but rest assured it is not that easy. You need to make sure you are well prepared for the exam by following the CAPM exam prep steps we offered above. Then you need to understand the following about CAPM exam prep:
Exam content structure
First of all the exam structure, CAPM exam contains the following content ratios across different knowledge areas:
- Understanding the key project management framework and key concepts (15%)
- Integration management (12%)
- Project scope management (11%)
- Time management (12%)
- Project cost management (7%)
- Quality management (6%)
- Project human resources management (8%)
- Communications management (6%)
- Project risk management (9%)
- Procurement Management (7%)
- Project stakeholders management (7%)
Types of questions in the CAPM test
Also, as a part of your CAPM exam prep, you need to understand the type of questions you will have to answer during the exam. PMI always offers its exam questions in the MCQ format. So you need to train yourself over this type of question. Also, keep in mind that these questions vary between knowledge check questions and situational questions. Thus you need to deepen your understanding of the topics not just memorizing the knowledge. Also, you need to support your understanding by exploring the practical example of how to apply project management knowledge. Then as a part of your CAPM exam prep, you should have had a number of practice questions and practice exams. Of course, if you followed the plan we advised you to follow earlier in the article you will cover all these points easily.
Here are the different types of questions you can see in the CAPM exam
- Tools, techniques, inputs, and outputs of the project management process-related questions.
- Questions with two or more correct answers but you need to select the best answer.
- Makeup conditions questions
- Questions where understanding is important
- Basic mathematics knowledge of project management related questions
- Situational questions where you need to consider a different set of data before deciding the right answer
- CAPM exam prep math questions
How do you prepare for questions regarding tools, techniques, inputs, and outputs for the project management process?
For the direct questions, you can answer well in using your CAPM exam prep gained knowledge. You need a very good knowledge of the PMBOK Guide created with the same approach. Since you have limited or no real-time project management experience, memory also plays a role in answering these questions. Focus on memorizing concepts after understanding them. This would help answer well in these areas.
Unlike PMP exam math questions, CAPM math questions are very direct and most of the time they ask you ask directly for different formulas. Thus your CAPM exam prep won’t require much in-depth preparation for math questions. Even applying the formulas is less frequent on the exam. We have many formulas that we need to know for each set of project management processes and understand that it will give a lot of learning related to project management. This will help you address these questions in the exam.
However, for the situational questions, you need to sharpen your mind and use your imagination, in addition to the practical examples you studied to reach the right answer.
As a CAPM exam taker, you need to avoid the following mistakes during your CAPM exam prep. Thus read the following tips carefully and avoid falling in these mistakes. PMI exams are high standard tests and do not reduce test quality and your CAPM exam prep should reflect the same. So if your preparation is not good, you will be surprised and have no idea what to do. Limited knowledge in some areas of knowledge leads to exam failure. You must have a good understanding of all areas of knowledge to pass the test.
Reschedule the exam date several times
Reschedule the test only if it is necessary due to emergency situations. Stick to the exam date. If you do not stick to a certain date, your study plan will not be tracked properly.
Choose not to follow a study plan
If you look at unsuccessful candidates you will find something in common: The willingness to invest in all the tools needed to prepare themselves well for the exam. This includes not having a CAPM exam prep plan and study loosely based on availability. This CAPM exam prep plan may seem not necessary but the truth is it is not optional. Having a CAPM exam prep plan as essential as taking the exam itself. To understand the concept well, you need to do a lot of tests related to every area of project management knowledge. The process helps you get rid of your weakness, and successfully prepare yourself for the test. You need to have a question bank on hand to practice a lot of questions and plan to get one or register for an online course on the same thing.
Not taking mock exams
Another common mistake while CAPM exam prep is not practicing exam questions through a CAPM test simulator. A high-quality exam sample helps you analyze where you are at the time. Taking the 3-hour test requires strength, physical and mental techniques to stay focused. This experiment in performing the test in the simulation environment helps you to plan the real test well. It is better to face the problem in the mock test than in the real exam. There are questions from all areas of knowledge and this will give an indication of your understanding of project management process groups and areas of knowledge.
Schedule the CAPM exam
Now that you are ready to sit for the CAPM exam, followed the proposed steps for the CAPM exam prep that we offered you. You can get ready to schedule your and take the exam and make your CAPM exam prep come to fruition. PMI offers its exams through Pearson VUE test centers and you can look up the nearest test center to your location accordingly. At the same time, and luckily for you, PMI offers another more convenient option for CAPM exam takers. This option is the CAPM proctored online exam at your home or at your office. You can choose a convenient method for you. Before deciding which option you would take you should first review the online proctored exam requirements.
This will help you prepare the environment you need in case you decide to go for the proctored option. As a side note, if you are this type of people who need to feel the exam environment of test centers then it’s better to go for it.
Before your exam
After completing your CAPM exam prep, we highly recommend that you take two days off before your CAPM exam date. This will give your mind the time it needs to process everything you’ve learned so far. Also, you can have some relaxation from your CAPM exam prep related activities. If you choose to utilize Pearson VUE, pay a visit to the examination place before the exam date. This will allow you to understand the amount of time it takes to reach the place. On the other hand, if you choose the proctored online exam, make a note in your CAPM exam prep to test the examination platform 1 day before the exam date
On CAPM exam day
Of course, you have scheduled the exam on the day that suits you. As we mentioned, you can take a CAPM test online at your home by monitoring online, or you can take the test at the Pearson VUE test center as well. As a part of your CAPM exam prep, you must prepare yourself for the exam formalities. Thus you need to bring your PMI authorization letter and an ID with the same name as your authorization letter.
At this point, all of your hard work during your CAPM exam prep comes to the test, follow these tips to avoid wasting your efforts:
- Once the exam starts, if you are having trouble remembering any concepts, write those concepts down on your worksheet. This will help relax your mind before the exam.
- You will see one question at a time. However, you have the option to tag the question for later review and you can move forward and backward. If you’ve read the question multiple times and you are exhausted, use the breathing technique to relax.
- Focus on the question and the answer. If you were thinking about question ten when answering question 80, you did not focus well on almost 70 questions and the result should be a disaster for you.
- Answer every question from a PMI perspective.
- Follow the removal strategy to get rid of the wrong options. This will help to answer more questions correctly.
- Use every 3 hours for the test and never leave the test room before. Take the test based on your plan and take the exam. Never allow the test to control you.
CAPM Exam Prep Step #5 – Gear Up for PMP Certification
If you pass the CAPM exam successfully after following CAPM exam prep, then congratulations on your CAPM certificate granted for 5 years. Then you will receive your CAPM certification from PMI through email. Your CAPM exam prep has proven successful and you can have some rest and celebrate your achievement.
Now, what is next? After successfully applying your CAPM exam prep plan and achieving the credential you will likely gain enough project management experience. Thus, you may think forward and look forward to the transition to PMP® certification at some near-future point. We recommend that you keep track of your progress in your career and measure your position in meeting PMP requirements. And if you pass the 5 years CAPM validity, you may take the PMP exam instead of taking the CAPM reexamination.
As a matter of fact, being an active CAPM owner will give you an advantage while pursuing the PMP certification. Because CAPM holders do not need to meet the PMP requirement of Project Management Education 35 contact hours.
In this article, we have discussed CAPM certification details and offered you a proposed CAPM exam prep plan. Also, we moved through the most important steps for CAPM exam prep and given you the recipe for an effective CAPM exam prep plan. Then we covered the CAPM exam prep before exam tips, tricks, and best practices that you may use to pass the CAPM exam. And as a part of the CAPM exam prep process, we explained the importance of CAPM certification in context with the more popular PMP certificate. Now you are fully ready for your CAPM exam prep journey, we wish you the best of luck.