Dear PM Advisor, Feb 17, 2014

Dear PM Advisor I’ve been taking practice PMP tests and struggle with ones where they ask me something is a tool or technique in one of the processes. Other than memorizing every single tool, technique, input and output in every process, how am I supposed to know these?

Feeling like a tool in San Diego.

Dear Tool,

And I mean that in the nicest sense of the word. There are a few tricks I’ve discovered to help you with this problem. The first one is, as you’ve suggested, memorizing every input, tool, technique and output in every process. I have a cheat sheet that you can memorize linked here.

Cheat Sheet 2013

It will take a normal person about five hours to do so. If you are willing to spend the time on this, bring it with you in your mind and spend the first 10 minutes of your four hours taking the test transcribing this on the pieces of paper they give you. Then, when you are faced with these questions, look them up and you know you got another question right.

For those who’d rather spend their time doing other things, here are some hints:

Quite often, the test will ask you which of the following is not a tool or technique in a particular process. The first thing you need to do is decide if one of the answers is not even a tool or technique. You can determine that by looking at these two rules:

  • Tools or Techniques = doing something
  • Inputs or Outputs = something you can hold

So if you look at an option, picture it in your mind. Is it something you do or something you can hold after someone has done something? If it is the former, it's a tool or technique. If the latter, its either an input or an output.

Let's look at an example randomly flipped to in the PMBOK. Here is the Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis Process.


  • Risk Management Plan
  • Scope Baseline
  • Risk Register
  • Environmental Enterprise Factors
  • Organizational Process Assets

Tools & Techniques

  • Risk Probability and Impact Assessment
  • Probability & Impact Matrix
  • Risk Data Qualification Assessment
  • Risk Categorization
  • Risk Urgency Assessment
  • Expert Judgment


  • Project Document Updates

Do you see how the Tools and Techniques groups are things you do? Assessments, Filling out a Matrix, using Expert Judgment, Categorizations.

This trick won't help in all cases but it should narrow your choices to one in half of those types of questions.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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