PMP Preparation – Part 3: PMP Prep Book Reviews

I include myself as one of the people who followed the “deep” method in preparing for the PMP exam outline in Part 2, and the benefit is that I read pretty much all the most popular prep books out there in detail and some texts, several times. Hopefully, this will benefit the reader so that they can pick and choose the best book(s) based on how they want to prepare. Here’s the list:

1. I Think, Therefore I Plan: Mastering the methods and meditations of project management, by Don Kim. ISBN: 0692831002


Of course I’m being biased here, but my book covers the core fundamental methods as well as the deeper philosophical reasons for why you would use a particular method over another.  It is written in a jargon free (or as little as one could do for a book on formal PM topics) and conversational style, yet goes deep into the methodological process and philosophical meditations of project management like no other book in the industry.  This is a book that will be useful both before and well after you take and pass the PMP exam!

Furthermore, a companion PMP preparation guide mapped to the book as well a link to a reputable PMP test bank simulator provider will be developed and released in mid 2017.  You can find out more at the book’s support page.

2. Head First PMP: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam, 3rd Ed., by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene. ISBN: 1449364918


Innovative book that uses lots of quirky visuals and other non-traditional methods to make studying for the PMP less tedious. This helps to reinforce and better retain topics important from the PMBOK that would otherwise require grinding repetition to retain in a more traditional textbook.

May not be to everyone’s taste, but for me, it helped break the tedium of studying the other more traditional prep books. I think it’s best used in conjunction with another prep book, but the book is stand alone in that you don’t have to reference the PMBOK to fully understand the text.

3. PMP Exam Prep, Eighth Edition – Updated: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam, by Rita Mulcahy. ISBN: 1932735658

Probably the most well known of the prep books. The book is really focused on getting you to pass the exam, and really pushes memorizing and test taking techniques. Not as self contained as the above two text, as you are referred to the PMBOK quite often.

Personally I found the tone of her text too threatening, in that she makes the PMP exam sound harder then it is in my opinion. Also, the book seems best suited to be used in conjunction with her prep classes, rather than to be read by itself.

4. The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, Fifth Edition, by Andy Crowe. ISBN: 098276085X

Like Whitaker’s text, this is a good introductory book to read to ease your way into studying for the PMP, but unlike Whitaker’s book, it is not self contained. Has to be read in conjunction with the PMBOK for full benefit. Also, found some of the ITTO listings to be incomplete and the explanations not too in-depth.

5. Achieve PMP Exam Success, 5th Edition: A Concise Study Guide for the Busy Project Manager, by Margaret Y. Chu, Diane Altwies, and Edward Walker. ISBN: 1604270888

The book I used in this the PMI-LA class I took in Spring 2007 and the class I taught in Fall 2007.  Found this best used in the class, and especially as a review the last couple weeks before the exam.  In fact, I used it extensively for that and also found the CD with sample questions extremely helpful.  For this edition though, the questions are all online.

6. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)–Fifth Edition, by The Project Management Institute, ISBN: 1935589679


I think it goes without saying that if your going to take the PMP exam, you must have this reference text. About 80% of what is in the exam is in this text. If you join PMI, an electronic copy is sent to you, but having a hard copy is sometimes convinient especially if you want to read it straight through.

The following books, while not specifically geared to preparing you for the PMP exam can and will be quite helpful:

1. Information Technology Project Management, by Kathy Schwalbe. ISBN: 1285452348


The book is structured by all 9 PMBOK knowledge areas, and while not specifically a PMP prep book, covers all the topics of the PMBOK and does so from an IT project management viewpoint.

Gives very detailed, though somewhat text bookish (is used as a college text on IT project management) definitions, discussion questions, exercises, and suggested readings of PM techniques and methodologies, and is great for seeing how one would use PMBOK-like techniques from an IT industry viewpoint. In addition, has many relevant and real-world case studies.

2. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, by Harold, Ph.D. Kerzner. ISBN: 1118022270


Probably the most comprehensive book on PM. The latest 11th edition was written with the PMP/PMBOK preparation in mind, and each chapter concludes with questions and answers.

Chapters 11-20 go into the heart of project management such as planning, scheduling, cost control, estimating, procurement and quality. These chapter are indeed “hard-core” project management tools and techniques that are systematically discussed in depth. But this is where much of the meat of project management is discussed and where all the major PMP exam subjects are covered. Particularly relevant are these chapters:

11 – Planning

12 – Network Scheduling Techniques

14 – Pricing and Estimating

15 – Cost Control

17 – Risk Management

19 – Contracts and Procurement

20 – Quality Management

Was told in the Spring 2007 class, that though considered the “Bible” (which it is!) on PM, that it is a big scary book. I read it from cover to cover, and did not find it to be so at all. Definitely easier to read then the PMBOK in my opinion!


Leave a Reply

Please solve the simple math to prevent comment spam * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.