Book review: PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Review Guide

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PMP Project Management Professional Exam Review Guide has a practical, descriptive title – and it’s a practical, descriptive book. Kim Heldman and Vanina Mangano have written this book specifically for those project managers aiming to sit their PMP exam. It’s structured logically, taking you through the project lifecycle.

The book starts with a review of the foundations of a project: all the basics about what constitutes a project and the project environment. Then it gets into the detail of what PMPs need to know to manage a project from start to finish. It covers Initiating, has a large section on Planning, followed by Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing. Finally, the book ends with an interesting section on social and professional responsibility – something all project managers, regardless of whether they choose the PMI accreditation route or not, should be interested in.

Each chapter finishes with review questions so that you can test yourself against what you have learned. I also liked the ‘Exam Essentials’ boxes that are scattered throughout the text and highlight key pointers essential for exam success.

Overall, the book is graphically very interesting and the authors use a lot of diagrams, graphs and charts to make learning the PMP syllabus more appealing. However, a lot of the book is made up of lists, especially inputs and outputs of processes. This is because the book is essentially a review guide, not a comprehensive study tool by itself. It is a partner text to the Sybex PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide, which is twice as fat. As a result, the Review Guide covers the topics in exactly that – review format. It’s not the most comprehensive of texts, but it is concise, which is perfect if you don’t want to carry your copy of PMBoK or the Study Guide around with you all the time.

It’s difficult to read the Review Guide from start to finish, and it probably wasn’t designed to be used that way. This is perhaps why it has a fabulous index. It’s not a habit of mine to praise the index in books, but I did find this one really good!

Overall,  my experience of this book is that it is solid but dry, and the review questions at the end of each chapter are the only place where you’ll find any reference to scenarios or real life. The bulk of the text focuses squarely on getting a candidate through the exam, and it will certainly help do that. It also comes with a CD, which is another learning aid.

If you are studying for the PMP exam and need a handy reference guide to the key processes, this could be a good book for you. However, if you want to learn how to manage a project and put those skills to work in the real world, don’t start with this book. It is good, but only for the right audience – and that’s prospective PMP candidates.

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