Practice Tests

When you look on the Internet discussion forums talking about PMP (or CAPM) exam preparation, one of the most consistent recommendations is to do many many practice tests. 

In my view, this is terrible advice!  Practice tests are not a good way to learn the underlying material that you need to know to prepare for the exam.  They take a lot of time and energy to work through — time and energy that you could have used doing more productive study.  If you review the questions that you got wrong at all, it is long after you worked on the question in the first place so the feedback loop is greatly reduced.

Practice questions are an important component of your study strategy.  The difference is that you are doing each practice question one at a time — reading the question, committing to an answer, then checking to see if you answered it correctly, then studying the explanation carefully, to learn as much as you can from the question — whether you answered it incorrectly or correctly.  The feedback loop is immediate and strong.  When this is done in a study group, the benefit is even stronger, as discussion about the question and the explanation can deepen understanding even further.

As you work through practice questions, your understanding of the material is assessed and reinforced.  Also, various tricks and traps that you are likely to see on the exam itself are demonstrated and discussed within the explanations.  You will learn that knowing the underlying material is only half the battle.  The other half is learning various strategies and principles you should use to choose the best answer when two of them seem equally correct.  

Using really good practice questions that come with really good, detailed explanations is super important.  You want to be sure to use practice questions from reliable sources.  It is good to use at least two reliable sources, because authors have different writing styles, and you want some breadth of style.

If you do use a source of practice tests, be sure to use them in ‘study mode' where you are doing each question, one at a time.  Be sure the source is reputable.

Why are practice tests recommended so consistently, when this is such bad advice?  Well first, there is the global group think, where the blind are leading the blind, just repeating what they have heard.  Second, there are people offering “Exam Simulators” and interested in selling their offerings and reinforcing the global group think message.  Third, there are training providers and consulting companies who use “Free Practice Tests” as a honey trap marketing ploy to draw prospects in, and then try to sell them training courses.  With practice tests being such a lousy way to prepare for the exam, it seems to me especially cynical to recommend them like this.


For an overview of our training materials see this brief video