Do I Need to Read Through PMBOK Guide? How Many Times?

Note: This is an extract from the report: 100+ Tips on PMI® PMP® Certification Training & Study by 100+ Recent PMP®s

The PMBOK® Guide (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) published by the Project Management Institute is the only literature specified for the preparation of the PMP® Certification exam. However as the PMBOK® Guide is a standard document, it is not intended to be fully understood only by reading through it. Is it necessary to read through the PMBOK® Guide?

  Do I Need to Read Through the PMBOK® Guide? How Many Times?

To many PMP® aspirants, the PMBOK® Guide is a sleeping pill. Though the first few chapters are easy to understand and read, the latter chapters about the process are filled with wordy description of discrete inputs, tools and techniques and outputs (there are over 650 of them). Many people find it very difficult to just read through these, let alone understand and memorize these for the PMP® exam.

Is it utterly important to read through it? From the survey of 100+ Project Management Professionals who have successfully passed the PMP® Certification exam, the answer is a resounding YES.

The following chart indicates the number of times the PMP®s have read through the PMBOK® Guide. More than 54% of them read through the PMBOK® Guide once, 25% of them twice, around 10% of them even thrice. Only around 5% of them stated that they have not read through the PMBOK® Guide once yet they were successfully in passing the PMP® exam. It is safe to say that over 95% of PMP®s have actually read through the PMBOK® Guide.

graph showing number of time reading pmbok guide: around 55% of PMPs read it once

Many PMP®s suggest that it is a must read to through PMBOK® Guide as as all exam prep reference books and PMP® training courses do not contain 100% of the materials contained in the PMBOK® Guide (which is actually the syllabus of the PMP® Certification exam). One has to really understand all the subject matters contained in the Guide to be fully prepared for the exam.

Though the PMBOK® Guide is often regarded as difficult to read and understand, it is commended for doing a good job in explaining all topics. Reference books often fail in comparison in terms of depth and breath of the materials. E.g. Rita’s PMP® book was often criticized for lacking detailed descriptions of the ITTOs. You may risk missing a lot of questions if you rely solely on the reference materials. In fact, most PMP® exam prep materials or study aids requires you to read through the PMBOK® Guide at the same time you study through them.

Also, the appendix and glossary of the Guide is often highly regarded by PMP®s, they are useful for recalling the contents and can be used for last minute revision before the exam. The glossary provides clear, concise and formal definitions for terms appearing in the Guide. Moreover, these are the ultimate definitions of the terms as recognized by PMI®.

One PMP® even wrote in its lessons learned:

Wish I had spent less time studying the PMP® prep material and spent more time on the PMBOK® Guide!


If you are in doubt of whether you’ll need to read through the PMBOK® Guide, do read through it! It will help much in your PMP® exam.

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