Head First PMP, 2nd Edition - Review based on Personal Experience

In your quest to achieve the PMP certification, you will encounter many books which promise to help you pass the exam on the first try. One such book is O'Reilly's Head First PMP, 2nd Edition, a book which might seem unusual to many learning to become certified project managers. I've used this book myself to get my PMP certification and, after passing the exam, I would like to share the experience I had with it.

"Head First" thinks of their readers as learners

The first thing that will make this book standout is its highly visual style of delivering knowledge to its readers. If you quickly browse through it, you will see drawings, animals, sketches, pictures of people doing apparently crazy things. All these to keep your attention active, make you remember the key points you need for the PMP exam.

If you start reading it, you will most probably love its conversational style. The authors of the book actually talk to you instead of preaching what you should know. And I've always loved conversations instead of having a teacher delivering a dry and impersonal speech.

Another thing which makes this book stand out is the fact that it asks you questions, it continuously tries to make you think about the important concepts which need to be understood and not have you learn them by heart.

All these elements might seem silly to some, but they were actually one of the main reasons why I managed to stay focused while learning for my PMP exam. The book not only helped me to learn, but I also laughed at some of the jokes made by the authors. It made me think, start writing answers to their questions, think hard about some concepts and read more on the internet about others. Visual, personal, interactive learning works, at least for me. And especially when it comes to such serious topics such as a PMP certification.

Head First PMP

Aiming for Completeness

While this book does aim to be complete, there are a few things which are left out. First of all, it is the chapter on professional responsibility. However, I do not consider this to be a big miss. This chapter is more than straightforward. All you have to do is download PMI's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and read it. If you feel like you need a bit more help, try Jim Owens's PMP Exam Tips on Ethics and Professional Responsibility [PDF download]. It's really really easy. Nothing special to be truly explained in a book.

There are also a few secondary things missing. For example, this book doesn't cover all cost management formulas such as CPPC (Cost Plus Percentage of Cost). Actually, cost management is the only area where I actually noticed stuff not being covered compared to other books. If you compare closely, you might identify others minor things too. However, I would dare to make the point that the authors did not miss anything critical for you to get the exam. To me, they just made the choice of sticking to the important things, without filling our brains with things which are not too relevant for the exam or real-life.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

If there is one thing this book does over and over again is to have you exercise everything you learn. You have intermediary questions, crosswords, process magnets, 'dumb' questions spread throughout each chapter. At the end of each chapter there is a series of 20 to 25 questions (depending on the chapter) which simulate possible exam questions for that chapter. Then, at the very end of the book, there is a complete PMP exam simulation of 400 questions.

The questions at the end of each chapter can be improved though. They are a bit on the easy side compared to other books. Therefore, in order to be comfortable when you take the exam, make sure you get around 80 to 85% of the questions right. However, the exam at the end of the book, which simulates an entire PMP exam is very close to the actual reality of a PMP exam. I've found other simulation exams (online ones or from other books) to be uncessarily complicated, frustrating and reflecting a lot less the reality of the exam itself.

Therefore, if you decide to stick with this book and, at the PMP simulation exam, you have a score of 75% or higher, then go with confidence to the certification exam. You will pass.

Another good aspect of the book is that it truly explains all answers. In other books you just get the correct answer and when you just don't agree with it, you get no explanation why it is correct and your choice is not. Well, this kind of frustration doesn't happen with the questions in Head First PMP. Everything is explained in a logical manner so that you understand. While doing exercises from Rita's PMP Exam Prep book, you have no idea how many times i was frustrated and just did not agree with the so called "correct" answer.

Verdict - Buy

Even though I browsed through many books when learning for the PMP exam, I chose to stick to Head First PMP, 2nd Edition and I truly believe it was a good choice. If you study using this book and the PMBOK as a reference, go through all the exercises and a few others found online, you will be in good shape. I can only recommend you to buy it. You can find it on both Amazon UK and Amazon US. If you order the book using these links we will also receive a small commission to support the expenses of the site. A big thank you to those who do so.

Also, O'Reilly and Google have published it online for free. Go to the Google Books - PMP Head First page and you can read it directly in your browser.

If you've read this book, don't hesitate to share your experience with us. We really want to know what you think about it.

Related content:

The Project Manager - Mastering the Art of Delivery
Tips and tricks for getting PMP Certified
What You Will NOT Earn From a PMP Certification


"Also, O'Reilly and Google have published it online for free. Go to the Google Books - PMP Head First page and you can read it directly in your browser" - actually it's an extensive preview (while indeed extensive- i.e. you can browse thru many sections of the book, it is still only a preview- some pages are blocked and also there's a limit re: number of pages you can see.

I used this book too, was main reason I passed, better than the other rather dry books on the market

- nice2 - sales1