(UPDATED: 08/2020) PMP Application - How to Make it Not Suck!
Aspiring PM’s are blown away when I share these two unknown tips with them

You excitedly submit your application for the PMP.  Then…you are chosen for an audit.

Damn it.

I was one of the “lucky” ones who didn’t get audited. I’d like to think it had a bit to do with luck, research and some preparation.

While I cant help with the luck part (no winner – winner chicken dinner here), I can bestow upon you the research, tips and tricks that helped me get the approval to sit for the exam.

Aside from meeting the experience and timing requirements (which I won’t get into here, but you can read about here and here), aspiring PM’s are blown away when I share these two unknown tips with them.

Ready for it?

In an effort to document my experience and the experience of others, I have talked to quite a few folks and stumbled across online forums where PMP aspirants have discussed their experience with the application audit.

What did I discover?  There was a clear pattern. These applications lacked good project descriptions and did not align to the PMI/PMBOK way.

Take for instance this redditor:
Or this one:

They both talk about their experiences and how they come up short when it came to writing good project descriptions. Since this was a topic I had researched thoroughly before completing my application, I didn’t make those same mistakes and I’m here to help you avoid making them too.

Disclaimer: Since I took the exam in November 2017, some of the application requirements have been updated. What I did notice is that  PMI gives better tips for completing the application.  The two minor differences I read, is that PMI wants the description to include an outcome of the project and accepts abbreviations such as Initiation, “IN.”   This will save on character count for the description. More on that shortly.

Lets jump in!

Project Description
Length, Structure & Content

The description has to be clear and concise and be more than 100 words. The application will not allow you to submit until you can write a project description that is more than 100 words.  The average description is 200-500 words for all eligible projects.

But that’s not it.

PMI does not understand your project lingo at work, so avoid it. Write PMI/PMBOK using the guide below:

  • A brief, one-sentence project objective
  • Project deliverables summarized by process areas (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing – abbreviations are acceptable IN, PL, EX, MC & CL)
  • A brief, one-sentence project outcome

So about 6-7ish sentences.

How about some examples?

I have compiled three examples of answers that I have used successfully through PMI’s application screening. Take a look below:

Example 1:

Objectives: Move business functions to a SaaS platform, which included setup & implementation of data integrations and modules.

IN: A project assessment was completed

PL: Developed comprehensive project, risks, communication and training plans 

EX: Delivery of tasks in per the approved plans 

MC: Changes to scope, schedule or budget were addressed with the project leaders in progress meetings 

CL: Final acceptance of deliverables than lessons learned were discussed.     

Outcome: Project schedule was re baselined and delivered on time.  

Example 2:

Objectives: Transition customer to an online certification process system

IN: A meeting was held to identify key stakeholders for the roll out 

PL: Project plans were created to outline high level and detailed work packages 

EX: Progress meetings were held weekly with the project team and as needed with stakeholders 

MC: The performance was monitored daily to ensure all aspects of the plan were on track 

CL: Following completion of the system, acceptable of deliverables were obtained.   

Outcome: Project was delivered on time 

Example 3:

Objectives: Implement electronic compliance system using the hired subcontractor.

IN: Assigned to lead customer transition to an electronic contract monitoring system 

PL: Outlined the scope and work assignments in a meeting with the team and subcontractor 

EX: Work performed based on deliverables/ work packages in the plan. 

MC: Time sheets were monitored and checked weekly to keep the resource budget on track. 

CL: A closeout meeting was held with all stakeholders.     

Outcome: Project was placed on hold by client 

Now it's your turn!
Use my templated terms below for your application to align best with the examples above. Here’s a list to get you started:

Initiating:

  • Develop project charter
  • Identify risks, assumptions and constraints
  • Identify stakeholders
  • Define high-level scope
  • Perform project assessment

Planning:

  • Present project plan to stakeholders
  • Develop WBS
  • Collect requirements
  • Define scope
  • Prepare project schedule, budget, and other management plans

Executing:

  • Communicate with stakeholders
  • Implement approved changes
  • Manage project team
  • Execute tasks defined in the project plan
  • Obtain and manage resources

Monitoring & Controlling:

  • Assess results of corrective action
  • Monitor & control risks
  • Ensure quality standards are met
  • Manage changes to scope, schedule, and budget
  • Measure project performance

Closing:

  • Archive documents
  • Close project or phase
  • Obtain administrative closure
  • Document lessons learned
  • Obtain final acceptance of deliverables
Putting it all together

So I have been babbling on awhile now. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? (Love those dad jokes/puns by the way)

Let’s recap!

  • Be sure you have enough hours and project experience
  • Project descriptions should be 100 words or more
  • Project descriptions should use the PMI/PMBOK lingo and be written with a sentence or so for each process group of what you did to manage the project
  • Descriptions should also be written describing how you lead and managed projects

While PMI states that audits occur randomly (and I’m not saying they don’t) these are the key areas of the application that those who have been audited said they didn’t do, and those who have said they weren’t.

Also, we put together this great template to help you with your application.  You can download it here!

Good luck!

P.S. – We’re all friends here. Share your experience from the audit so others can learn from your mistakes and not make them.

Or better yet, share your best dad joke/pun. That is more for me.

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Comments (43)

Hi Echo,

Good morning!

I like below example for PMI application for the exam.
Is this an actual example?
Can we ask for more documented PM experience examples that passed PMI application that are from Production and Manufacturing Industry?

I like below example:
EXAMPLE 1:
Objectives: Move business functions to a SaaS platform, which included setup & implementation of data integrations and modules.

IN: A project assessment was completed

PL: Developed comprehensive project, risks, communication and training plans

EX: Delivery of tasks in per the approved plans

MC: Changes to scope, schedule or budget were addressed with the project leaders in progress meetings

CL: Final acceptance of deliverables than lessons learned were discussed.

Outcome: Project schedule was re baselined and delivered on time.

Hi Jordan,

Yes, this is a real example I used when I submitted my own application. Off hand, I don’t have any specific examples for manufacturing. I think a lot of it is interchangeable. If you send me what you have, I’d be happy to help review and give some feedback!

Hi Echo,

I am completing my application and I was wondering if you would help me review my spreadsheets before I enter the information to application?

Hi Jerrah! Of course I’d be happy to. Send me an email and I’ll take a look.

Hi there. Can I possibly send you my project examples for review? I am in the process of getting my application together.

I am into fiber Optics implementation/rollout with over 10years experience and would like to put in for PMP exam.

Kindly assist with Objective in line with PMP guidelineProject Description *

Provide a high-level description that summarizes your experience and includes the project objective, outcome, your role on the project, and your responsibilities and deliverables. A typical response is between 200 to 500 words.

I think “Fiber Optics Implementation and Rollout” would work just fine.

Hello,
I’m confused how this is a real example. It is only 78 words?
How did you get the application to accept it?

I have been thinking that same thing with every example under 100 words on every website – so confused…

My PMP application got rejected the first time. I used your tips and advice in my second submission and my application was approved. Thanks for this awesome post.

Hi Kaushik – So happy to hear!!!?

Hi Echo,

I was hoping you could help clear up an area of confusion for me. Which process group would UAT testing fall under? Would it Execution or Monitoring and Controlling (Validate Scope)?

Thanks in advance!

Great question! It’s not a clear cut answer. I’d put it under execution, manage quality.

Thanks for a great post!

I wanted to know how many hours can you claim for a project that lasted a year. You project example claims 660 Hrs.. which is too little for a 1-year project. Also would you be willing to review and suggest changes to my application? Thanks in advance!

Hey Vaibhav,

Glad you enjoyed the article!

Regarding the example project, it says the project lasted for about a year, but the time spent on the project was 660 hours. It would be higher if this was a full time (40 hrs/week) project for the entire year, but that’s pretty rare. Not unheard, but not too common.

You can claim as many hours that you worked on a project. So if you worked 40 hrs/week on one project for an entire year, then the total would be really high (52 weeks @ 40hrs/week is 2,080 hours.

When does a joke become a Dad joke?

— When it becomes apparent.

The mountains aren’t just funny, they’re

— Hill areas

How does the moon cut his hair?

— Ecplise it

OMG Kevin!!! These are great! Please keep them coming! There can never be too many dad jokes!

Hi!
I was getting ready to submit my application this week and set a date. I had all my hours calculated on a spreadsheet and out of curiosity decided to Google PMP Audits and went down a rabbit hole lol
Either way, I am SOOOOO glad I did because I stumbled across this blog and now I can update my spreadsheet to ensure I have the correct information on the submission. I also found in the rabbit hole, that Volunteer work DOES NOT COUNT UGH! I was a Board Member and their PM for a year without pay so now I have to rework my spreadsheet and hopefully, I have enough time for this submission.
Wish me luck!

So glad you found us! Best of luck on your submission and PMP journey!

This was the most helpful info I have found regarding the application – thanks! I am not clear on where the actual hours per each project/process (not months) are to be indicated. Will the application allow an attachment with a separate spreadsheet?

Hi Lori – PMI just changed the requirements for capturing experience. They now only as for # of months, not hours. We’ve update the application on the blog to reflect that. This article will also be updated to reflect that and will be re-published tomorrow!

I submitted my application this is my second audit and it was still rejected. I am so lost as to what my application is missing. I know my mistakes from the first time and I thought I correct them

Hi Amber! Sorry to hear about the audit. Don’t stress! Let me know what the feedback was, and hopefully I can provide some guidance and course correction to get your application though next time around.

Thanks for this article – very glad I found it as it hopefully saved me from an audit. One question I have: Because of the nature of my job, most of my projects when stripped down to remove the narrative details, sticking strictly to PM lingo and avoiding industry specifics, result in descriptions that are very similar except for the objective. Do you think having repetitive project descriptions is likely to result in my application getting rejected?

A different objective is good! The idea is that you use a variety of Pm lingo so it doesn’t sound repetitive or like operational work. I can do a quick review if you send a few examples over!

[…] the hours rendered for each of past projects is a tedious as hell. So thank heavens, I found this template from YourPMSidekick that helped me in organizing my experience […]

hi there…i downloaded the spreadsheet last week but when i input info in, i get the “NAME?” error and it doesn’t add up the hours. please advise. thanks!

There are a lot of variables here that could cause this. A common one is the version of Excel.

Which version of Excel are you using? Anything before Excel 2010 will have issues with the formulas.

If you’re still having issues, shoot me an email – joey@yourpmsidekick.com

Hi there! I am a meeting/tradeshow planner and have been executing tradeshows for various clients for over 4 years. However, the process tends to be very similar for each event. Do you think that will be acceptable for the application? There are sub-projects within the larger project, but those too would be very similar for each event. Any feedback is appreciated.
Thanks
Franziska

Hi Franziska,

Were the objectives the same? Is there anything that differentiate projects from the others? If they sound too similar, it may seem more like an operation vs a project.

Thanks!

Hi Eco Woolf, thank you for posting this great article for PMP applicants. I have a question about the examples you have provided. Is that all you wrote for each example? For instance, did you have to write any further description about what the executed tasks were, or what the detailed scope was? I’m not sure if “executed tasks according to detailed scope” is sufficient or if i have to go into detail about what those tasks were.

Hi Jane,

Previously, the descriptions were very limited so the descriptions were sufficient. More recently, PMI is allowing longer descriptions. It is really up to you, I always error the side of caution. Be sure you’re leveraging PMI lingo so you’re not audited. My application was approved the first round.

Hi Echo!
Love your tips, very easy and helpful! If an R&D project was closed due to closure of the company itself, how should I specify it in the application form? Will it have a negative impact on my application form?
Can I describe this state of project in the Knowledge Area – Close: Close project or phase?
Also, in the OUTCOME section, is it ok to write that project was closed before delivering a final product due to closure of the company?
Highly appreciate your feedback,
Anna

Hi Anna,

I would put it in the outcome section. If the other sections do not apply, leave it blank.

I hope that helps!

Hi Echo,

How to put the IT Agile experience ? I worked the last 3 years for the same project but in Agile mode ? Not really a end because we had value at each iteration. I don’t really see an end if i can say that…

I can put Agile as a methodology in my description ? Other advise ?

Great post !

Thanks,

Hello,

I am in the process of completing my application and just ran across your examples. Is there anyway I can send you what I wrote prior to seeing your examples so I can figure out a way to word it better?

Thank you

Does this article also describe the current application process, I have seen a few examples where the project description was going into details, see the example below: Is what I have pasted below a valid example to follow?
————————
Project Objective: The objective of the project was to revamp seven Additional Skill Identifiers (ASI) and transform them into Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) to better align with new military functionalities and strategic efforts.

My role: My role during the project was to be the project manager for the realignment.

My Responsibilities: The responsibilities of being the project manager for this project included working with stakeholders and MOSs team members to formulate new military policies, facilitating meetings, and developing draft proposals to senior management for approval. I was also responsible for identifying talented and qualified individuals who fit the required demographic needed of subject matter experts for each of the seven newly assigned MOSs, to diversify the implementation of the MOSs revamping team.

My activities: I identified stakeholders and helped drafting project charter. I created the project management plan, including the scope statement and WBS. I communicated consistently to stakeholders on the project progress and project changes. I acquired and managed resources during execution to ensure the right type and quantity of resources were available to complete the project activities. I assured quality standards remained by creating standard quality checklists. At the end of the project, I formally closed the project and transitioned it to operations.

Deliverable: The final deliverable was the creation of seven new MOSs, training and mission capabilities defined, and policies and procedures that strategically aligned with the Army’s unique vision and improved relations across the organization.

Project Outcome: The outcome of the project was a dramatic decrease in MOS assigned Soldiers, updated and defined mission requirements, improved productivity levels, reduction in Soldier turnover, and unprecedented cost savings to the Army.
————————————

Hello Echo Wolf,

Great post, it was exactly what I was looking for as I had no guidance on how to go about completing the PMP application. Will it be possible for you to review my descriptions based on your suggestions?

Respectfully,
Sto

I have been reading and researching the best way to create the descriptions and while I think I have it right I tend to second guess myself. Can I send an example for review, I would welcome any input to reduce my chance of being audited. I am trying to take the test before the end of this year.

Thank you

How is this a real example? It only has 77 words.

Hi there!
Thank you for your help in making it easier for us! Great help!

I’ve noticed that you’ve put develop training plans in Planning process group. Isn’t training is in ‘develop team’ and in execution process group?

I would kindly appreciate your feedback!
Anna

Hi Echo,

Great info and examples. Would you be able to review my applications.?
I would appreciate your feedback?

Hi Echo, I finished one example for the application. Would you mind reviewing it and providing feedback. I’ll use it as a template for the rest of my application once I have the proper format locked down! Would greatly appreciate it

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