How to Fill in the PMP® Application
By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM
Once you’ve decided to go ahead and take the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, there’s one major step to take next. You have to fill in the application form.
The application form for the PMP® exam is online and accessed via the Project Management Institute (PMI)® website. If you have not filled in an online form like this before, it might look daunting. The site asks you to collect various bits of information, and enter them into the form. There are also sections to fill in that cover your knowledge of the topics in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition (yes, really! We’ll come on to that below).
Don’t let this step stop you from reaching your goal of becoming a PMP credential holder. When you know more about what to expect, the online form suddenly becomes a lot easier to complete!
In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what to expect when you apply for the 2019 PMP exam, what information you need to have, and the kinds of things that the PMP assessors are looking for when they review your application. With a bit of knowledge and preparation, you can put together a really strong PMP application that has every chance of success.
Are you applying for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® or the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®? You’ll see that most of this article is focused on project managers applying for their PMP exam. However, there is a section for you later in the article. As you read on, try to think about how the topics discussed could help you make your CAPM® and PMI-ACP® applications stronger. A lot of the best practices for a solid application form overlap with what makes for a successful PMP application.
Let’s get started!
- CHAPTER 1How Do I Apply for PMP Certification?
- CHAPTER 2What is the PMP Application Process?
- CHAPTER 3Where Can I Get the PMP Application Form?
- CHAPTER 4Can I get a PMP Application Form PDF?
- CHAPTER 5How Do I Complete The Contact Information Section?
- CHAPTER 6How Do I Complete The Education Information Section?
- CHAPTER 7How Do I Fill in PMP Experience Hours?
- CHAPTER 8What Do I Put For PMP Experience Examples?
- CHAPTER 9How Do I Add My References on the PMP Form?
- CHAPTER 10How Do I Fill in the Project Management Education Section?
- CHAPTER 11How Long Do You Have to Complete the PMP Application?
- CHAPTER 12How Do I Submit My PMP Application?
- CHAPTER 13PMP Application Tips
- CHAPTER 14How Do I Complete CAPM® or PMI-ACP® Applications?
- CHAPTER 15What If You Notice Errors After You Submit Your Form?
- CHAPTER 16How Long Does the PMP Application Take to Process?
- CHAPTER 17What is a PMP Audit?
- CHAPTER 18What Should You Do If You Get Audited and Your Application is Declined?
- CHAPTER 19What Happens if You Are Declined A Second Time?
- CHAPTER 20What Happens After You Apply for PMP?
How Do I Apply for PMP Certification?
You can apply for the PMP certification online via the PMI website. The application form asks you to provide information about your project management education and experience to ensure you are eligible to take the exam.
What is the PMP Application Process?
The PMP application process starts when you start filling in your online application form. You have 90 days to complete your application once you start. Once your form is submitted, it is reviewed for completeness, which takes up to 5 days. You will then hear whether you are eligible to take the exam and you’ll be asked to pay the exam fee.
Alternatively, you might be notified that your application has been selected for an audit. This is nothing to worry about (as long as you have been honest on your application form), and we explain exactly what that means for you later in this article.
The full application process is set out in the PMP Handbook which is available on the PMI website. The handbook also includes many important facts about the PMP exam and I strongly recommend that you download and read it.
Where Can I Get the PMP Application Form?
The PMP application is available online from the PMI website.
Go to the PMI website and navigate to the application page. If you are not already a PMI member, you will need to create a free account in order to start the process.
Once you have logged in you will see the Certification Program page. There is a list of the available certifications, and you can choose to apply for any of them.
Select ‘Apply for PMP Credential’.
The system will then take you through the 3 steps of the PMP application.
Can I get a PMP Application Form PDF?
You can’t download a PMP application form PDF from the PMI website. The way to apply is by filling in the online form.
Note: A printable version of the application form is available on a case-by-case basis, but for the vast majority of people this will not be an option. Check the Handbook for more details to see whether you could be eligible to request a paper form.
The online form is faster and easier for most people to use. It’s designed to be user-friendly. You don’t have to worry about completing it all at the same time. You can save your responses and go back to the form whenever you like, as long as you do complete it within 90 days of starting.
When the PDF application form was available in the past, people used to take a photocopy to have for their own records. You can still get a copy for your information using the online form. There is the option to print out a copy of your application once it is complete.
How Do I Complete The Contact Information Section?
The first step of the online PMP form is to complete your application. There are 8 sections. The first two sections relate to your contact information.
The system will ask for your contact home address and a contact work address and a couple of other easy-to-complete pieces of contact info like phone number and email address.
You’ll get to choose your preferred contact information including how you would like your name to appear on your certificate.
How Do I Complete The Education Information Section?
Enter the highest level of education that you have attained and the high school, college or university you attended. You’ll also need to know the year you received your degree.
There is an option to state whether or not your degree was PMI accredited. You can find out if your degree is accredited by PMI at the Global Accreditation Center website. But don't worry too much about this because this information is only for PMI's internal record keeping. Any degree is valid, even if it is not PMI accredited.
This section is where the first review of your eligibility takes place. In order to be eligible to take the PMP® exam, you need to hold either a 4-year degree or international equivalent, or a high school diploma.
If you do not meet those eligibility requirements, it’s time to think about your educational background and whether one of the other credentials would be more appropriate for you. For example, CAPM® has an entry route that does not require any formal school-based education as long as you have 23 hours of project management training completed by the time you sit for the exam.
How Do I Fill in PMP Experience Hours?
The next section of the form asks for your domain experience. This is the part of the form most people find hardest. It’s important to get this section right as you need to show your project management experience in order to be eligible for the exam.
You are asked to complete full details of your work experience on projects. The form asks for:
- Details of the projects you have lead and directed including qualifying hours
- The dates of your employment
- The role you played on the project
- Information about the organization where the project was carried out
- Contact details of someone who can act as a reference for you on that project
What are Qualifying Hours?
Qualifying hours are the hours you spent leading, managing and directing a project. PMI is looking for either a total of 7,500 hours of experience (if you have high school diploma-level education) or 4,500 hours of experience (if you have a degree).
Think of qualifying hours like elapsed duration and effort duration on a project schedule. It’s OK for your project dates to overlap. Many people manage multiple projects at the same time. However, time spent on leading overlapping projects only counts as per the elapsed time. You may have managed three projects in January, but the elapsed time is still only one month.
To reiterate: Each calendar month only counts as a single month of experience even if you managed multiple projects.
Try to limit your reported hours to 40 hours per week. You don’t need to try to impress PMI® with how many hours you are working or how many projects you can juggle at any one time. However, we all work in the real world, and sometimes there are legitimate reasons why you would record more than 40 hours in a week. For example, around the time of a big delivery milestone, you may need to work extended hours. This is not uncommon for specialized contractors that may have long gaps between projects.
If you do record excessive hours in the PMP experience hours section -- over 40 hours/week for a very long time -- you will need to be able to justify the hours if necessary by providing written documentation to PMI. So make sure you have detailed back up to use if you are audited, such as timesheets or client invoices that state hours worked and the work carried out.
The people who review your application will look to see whether you can demonstrate that you have spent sufficient time leading and directing the project work across the 5 process groups described in the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition.
For each project:
- Write a one-sentence description of the project objective
- Summarize the project deliverables by process group (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing)
- Write a one-sentence description of the project outcome
It’s important that you show that you have experience in all five process groups. You don’t have to demonstrate your experience in all the processes.
As you only have a small space to document each project, you want to get as much information in each description as possible. Currently, you are allowed 550 characters, so make the most of them!
You need to show that you have knowledge and skills that span all the process groups, but you don’t need to show them for every project. With so few characters available, you would soon run out of space if you decided to explain everything! For example, you should analyze the stakeholders on each project. When you are writing your descriptions, if you did analyze stakeholders, you can mention it in one or two project descriptions. You don’t have to mention the fact you analyzed stakeholders in every description, even if you did it every time.
Think about using as many keywords as you can in your descriptions. This is your time to shine! You’ll also see some examples on the application form itself which can help you better understand what PMI is looking for. Keep entering project descriptions until you reach the total amount of hours that you require. Remember that the hours relate to the work you have done leading and directing the project. Overall, you still need to demonstrate that you have a minimum of 3 years of experience managing projects.
5 Quick Tips for PMP Experience Hours
- Use abbreviations to save space:
- Initiating: IN
- Planning: PL
- Execution: EX
- Monitoring and Controlling: MC
- Closing: CL
What Do I Put For PMP Experience Examples?
One of the questions we get most often from our students is “Do you have examples of what to say for the experience section?”
Any projects that you have led and directed in a professional capacity are good for inclusion. PMI is not looking for specific industries or types of project. The important thing to remember is to help them understand what you have done and why you meet the requirements. Avoid acronyms that won’t be understood outside of your business, and write in ‘project management speak’ rather than using technical terms. Align the words you use to the terminology in the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition as far as you can.
PLEASE NOTE: Your PMP application must be truthful and represent your personal experience using your own words. The examples in this article are shared here from other people’s applications in order to illustrate various aspects of how to fill in the PMP application form online. They are not intended for you to copy/paste into your application form!
In the table below we’ve highlighted some good and bad ways to describe your experience. The good ways use PMI vocabulary and link to a process group. The bad ways describe the same activity, but not in a way that makes it easy for PMI to validate that you have the required experience to take the exam.
|Good experience example||Bad experience example|
|IN: Developed project charter||Created project kick-off document|
|IN: Developed WBS||Wrote product breakdown structure|
|EX: Managed the team through the delivery||Held regular team meetings|
Below is a sample ‘template’ for your PMP experience requirements. This format has been proven to work and is what many of our students use on their applications for PMP.
The aim is to summarize the project management tasks you managed. Write a one-line title for the project description. Then include:
- Project description (the objectives, key deliverables, and outcome)
- Product deliverables (to end users)
- Project deliverables (needed to manage the project)
It can help to see an example of what a real applicant filled in on their form. Below, you can see quotes from the applications of some of our students. Please don’t copy these experience examples word for word on your own application. We’re sharing real PMP experience examples so that you can get an idea of the way to phrase your own experience to best show off your skills.
Example project descriptions from real applications:
Design of training material for customers on telecommunications principals
Objective: To research, design & present training material in the form of presentations aimed at educating new re-sellers on fundamental telecoms principles & standards
Role: I managed the whole project. IN: Developed the charter and identified key stakeholders. PL: Planned the scope of the project while considering time and cost and quality. EX: Coordinated the execution of the research & development of the material by graphic designers. MC: Monitored schedule and quality. CL: Documented Project Closure
Outcomes: Material presented at conference
Installation of a Session Border Controller for Finance department
Objective: The Installation of a new Session Border Controller (SBC) to replace the existing equipment which was end of life
Role: I managed the full project life cycle. IN: Documented project charter highlighting business case. PL: Facilitated requirements workshops, developed budget, schedule, risk and communication plan. ES: Led engineers through execution & QA. MC: Closely monitored schedule, budget & risk. CL: SBC implemented and project signed off by sponsor.
Outcome: SBC implemented and existing equipment decommissioned.
The design of a Wi-Fi solution for apartment block
Objective: To provide a proposal to provide Wi-Fi coverage to an apartment block for over top services of voice and data
Role: I initiated and planned the project by IN: developing the charter and identifying stakeholders. PL: I documented the project management plan which included, scope, time, quality and risk management plans. EX: I directed the team during execution while MC: controlling the scope and quality. CL: Submitted tender on time with feasible solution that met customers’ requirements
Key deliverables and outcomes: Comprehensive Tender submitted to customer
How Do I Add My References on the PMP Form?
Fill in the name of the manager, direct supervisor or project sponsor for each project. These people are your references.
References are people who can comment on the role you played on the project. PMI will not routinely contact your references but if your application is selected for audit, they will want to hear from the people you name.
This is a way to keep applicants honest! You can use your manager, your mentor, another colleague or the project sponsor as someone who can vouch for the fact that you were leading and directing the project and carrying out the role that you said you did.
Here is my recommendation for you: Ask their permission before you write their names on your application form. They need to be willing to verify your experience including the hours you worked in case you get audited. With this in mind, it is worth sharing your application form with them so that they agree with what you have written before you submit it. This can help avoid disputes later.
Verifying your experience isn’t a big job for your references but it’s still polite to ask them in advance!
You will need to be able to get in touch with them if you are audited, so it’s helpful for them to know that you are applying. It also means that you have the correct contact details for them! If you do need to involve them in your application audit you’ll want to get in touch with them quickly so that they can provide any necessary information. In particular, they will need to confirm that you acted in a role that was leading and directing the work, not simply a project contributor.
How Do I Fill in the Project Management Education Section?
The last section of the PMP application form covers your project management education. In this section, you need to evidence that you have completed the required amount of project management training hours. That’s 35 contact hours for the PMP application.
You need to record the details of your training provider, the dates you attended the training and the name of the training program. Make sure you have these details to hand before you start completing your application.
Your project management education must have been completed by the time you submit your application.
You don’t have to upload your training certificates in this section. Your training provider will give you a certificate of attendance as evidence that you did the course, but you are not asked to provide this unless your application is audited.
What To Do If You Don’t Have The Correct Number of Education Hours
If you add up your total project management training hours and don’t have enough to meet the requirements, you need to get some more! An easy way to achieve all of your required education hours is to sign up for the Project Management PrepCast. This video-based training course is from OSP International LLC, a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P) so you can be assured of the training quality AND the fact that PMI will accept your education hours as sufficient.
Please watch this free lesson to see the quality of the training provided by The PM PrepCast:
How Long Do You Have to Complete the PMP Application?
You have 90 days to complete the application form. If you are prepared with all the required information when you make a start, you probably won’t need that long. You can save the application as you go, leaving it unfinished and coming back to it when you have more time or more information. You will be able to edit information that you have already entered right up to the time that you submit the application to PMI.
PMI will use the email address you provided to send you reminders if you haven’t logged back in to complete the form.
Note: You cannot cancel your application. If you change your mind once you start filling it in, you will have to wait until the 90 days have passed and your application will expire.
How Do I Submit My PMP Application?
You’ve reached the end of the online PMP application form, and you’ve completed every section. The only thing that remains to be done is to click to submit your form.
You should also download a copy of your application for your own records. It can be helpful to have a copy if you are audited or if you need to refer back to it in the future.
When you are happy that the information in your application form is as accurate and complete as it can be, follow the guidance on the screen to submit your form.
You will be asked to confirm that you have read and agree to the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and the Certification Application/Renewal Agreement. You will have already seen this Agreement as part of the PMP Handbook.
Click to submit your form and it is on its way!
PMP Application Tips
- Make sure there is someone at the address you provide who can receive any correspondence from PMI® and your PMP certificate when it is delivered
- Double-check your experience section to be sure you can show experience across all the process groups
- Talk to your references before you apply so you know they are going to be available if required
- File all your evidence for your project management education in one place. If you need to access it for an audit, you’ll easily be able to find the certificates you need
- Give yourself enough time. It can take longer than you expect to fill in all the information
How Do I Complete CAPM® or PMI-ACP® Applications?
While the guidance in this article is mainly aimed at project managers applying for PMP®, the general principles are the same for other PMI certifications.
Applicants for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certificate also need to fill in their experience and education requirements online.
It’s similar for the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®. If you are applying for this certification, be careful to use the relevant Agile terminology from the Agile Practice Guide when describing your project management experience.
What If You Notice Errors After You Submit Your Form?
We are only human! Genuine mistakes happen all the time. PMI understands that these things happen. The honest and ethical approach is to contact them via email, chat, or the phone and ask them how to resolve the issue. Then follow their instructions.
Remember, PMI is not 'in the business' of rejecting your application. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. PMI really wants you to become a PMP credential holder! If you have made an honest mistake it is probably something they have seen before. They are usually quite helpful in getting mistakes corrected so let them know as soon as you can and take whatever steps they ask you to.
How Long Does the PMP Application Take to Process?
PMI take 5 days to process your application and to carry out an application completeness review. This checks that you have submitted everything required and meet the criteria to be eligible to take the PMP® exam.
During this time, there is nothing that you can do except sit and wait! Hopefully, you will not need to wait for the whole 5 days, but if PMI is busy and there are a lot of applications to process, they may need all of that time to review your online form.
The 5 days are calendar days, so if you are trying to work out when you are likely to hear back from PMI, remember that you can count the weekend days too!
At the end of the processing period you will either receive confirmation that you are eligible to sit for the exam, or you will be asked to go through the PMI audit process.
If you receive notification that you are eligible, you can go ahead and pay the exam fee. Then you can schedule your exam.
If you receive notification that your application has been selected for audit, you will need to take part in the audit process before you can schedule your exam.
What is a PMP Audit?
The PMP audit process is a way for PMI to quality check applications. Being selected for an audit is random (although PMI does reserve the right to audit any application at any time, even after you have received the PMP credential).
There are no extra fees associated with being audited, so it will not cost you any extra money if you are selected.
If your application is selected for audit, you’ll receive notification by email. You won’t be able to pay the certification fee until you have been through the audit process.
The email you receive will include all the details you need to follow the audit process. Generally, you will be asked to provide supplementary information to support your application, in the form of materials that evidence what you said on the application form.
For example, you might be asked to supply:
- Copies of your diploma or degree certificate
- Signatures from your project sponsor, direct supervisor or manager on the projects you listed on the form (your references)
- Copies of your certificates or evidence from the training provider that shows you reached the 35 contact hours for project management education. You may need to submit them all if you listed more than one training provider
If you have prepared well, it should be easy to find this information. You have 90 days to post the relevant information back to PMI.
Once they have received your evidence, the PMP audit will take around 5 to 7 business days to complete.
What Should You Do If You Get Audited and Your Application is Declined?
Many students worry about the PMP audit process. Specifically, the big concern is that they will be audited and then PMI will decline their application, saying that they do not meet the eligibility criteria.
So what should you do if that happens?
PMI will normally provide the reason for rejecting your application. For example:
- You didn’t achieve the required training contact hours
- The projects you submitted are not classed as projects by PMI as they read more like operational tasks in the descriptions
- You used terminology that the reviewer was not familiar with
- You did not show that you were leading the projects, and instead, your descriptions showed you were only a participant in the project
- Your descriptions were too vague (which might happen if you are trying not to disclose sensitive details in commercially confidential projects)
- You did not cover all the process groups fully enough
- The project management methodology used is unclear in your descriptions
There might be other reasons as well. Read your email carefully to understand why your application was rejected.
If you believe that you have been rejected incorrectly, you will need to reapply, making sure you change the elements that caused you to fail in the first place.
In our experience, candidates have had good success from contacting PMI regarding their application. You can email them, write to them, use the online chat or even call. Try to get hold of the exact reviewer who looked at your application. If you can contact them, you can learn what issues they spotted in your application so that you can address them.
Speaking to the audit team at PMI may enable you to speed up the review of your application. We’ve heard from students who have been given feedback on the day directly from the reviewers. Speaking to them may also give you other ways to address their concerns. For example, one applicant was allowed to provide verification via email as long as the signatures emailed came directly from her references and not from herself.
One of our students who was audited got in touch with PMI to find out why. Here is what he had to say about the experience.
I sent the audit team one of my revised response to validate if it would satisfy the project description. I explained that I didn't want to waste my managers' time and I would really appreciate it if they could review a sample first. The PMI audit team was kind enough to review my sample revision and confirm it was OK.
I know it seems like a hassle being selected for audit, but having gone through the process I actually feel more confident and proud that my work experience has been reviewed and approved by PMI. Hopefully, you will feel the same that your experience is getting the stamp of approval.
Now that you have a good idea about why your application wasn’t considered suitable, you can prepare your application again, addressing the concerns.
What Happens if You Are Declined A Second Time?
If you are audited the first time, it’s highly likely that your next applications will be audited too. We sometimes hear from students who have had a second, third or fourth application declined during the audit process.
You need to spend some time working out why you were declined. Then, if you still believe you do meet the eligibility requirements, you need to prepare your application again. Having someone read over your form before you submit it might help, and talk to the audit team at PMI if you can.
Ultimately, you need to try to make your experience and education requirements match what they are looking for, in terminology that makes it easy for them to understand your achievements. It should go without saying that you cannot stretch the truth, exaggerate your involvement or embellish your achievements in any way. Your application must be completely honest. If your participation on a project doesn’t show what you are truly capable of, can you use a different project where you were actively leading and managing the work instead?
Check the Handbook for details about when you can apply again.
Note: If you were declined for lying on your application, then you can’t apply again for any of PMI’s certifications. Ever.
Do you want to hear the story of a PMI audit? Jonathan Hebert’s application was audited and he explains what happens in episode 391 of the Project Management Podcast. Click here to listen now.
The PM Podcast Episode 391: My Agile Exam Application Got Audited
Today you are going to meet Jonathan Hebert (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-hebert-pmp-csm-pmi-acp-0712471) who not only passed his PMI-ACP® Exam, but he also got audited in the process. So he has a story to tell!
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss Jonathan's overall experience, how he got his PMI-ACP Exam Prep, his general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
What Happens After You Apply for PMP?
Once you have submitted your online PMP application form, you will receive an email from PMI. This will tell you whether your application has been accepted or whether you need to go through the audit process.
We described the audit process above. If you are not selected for an audit, you will receive confirmation that your application can progress to the next step.
The next step is to pay the fee. The fee you will need to pay depends on whether you are a PMI member or not. It is cheaper to apply for the exam as a PMI member, so you may want to opt to become a member before submitting your PMP application. Then you will benefit from the lower application fee.
When PMI receive your payment, you will receive notification of your eligibility and you will be able to book your exam.
The complete guide to how to fill in the PMP® application has covered everything you need to know about submitting your PMP application to PMI. You are now armed with all the information required to successfully complete your online PMP application form and – hopefully – receive your eligibility link to book your exam.
Here’s a summary of the steps for applying for your PMP credential.
- Apply online via the PMI website
- Complete your contact details
- Complete your education details
- Complete your project experience hours
- Get permission from your references to use them on the form
- Complete your project management education hours
- Double-check your form before you submit it (save it and submit it within 90 days if you can’t complete it all in one sitting)
- Be truthful on the PMP application!
- If you are selected for audit, provide the required information within 90 days
- If you fail the audit, work out why you were rejected including contacting PMI if possible, revise your application and try again
So what are you waiting for? Spend an evening gathering the information you need to start your application and make a start! Your PMP credential is not that far away, and your journey to PMP success begins with logging on and starting your application. Good luck!
© 2020 OSP International LLC. All rights reserved. This copyrighted article may not be reproduced without express written consent of OSP International LLC.
About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 50,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at http://www.pm-prepcast.com/pmprepcast and The PMP Exam Simulator at http://www.pm-prepcast.com/simulator.