Tricks for Successful PMP Application Narratives

Updated: Apr 28

The Project Management Professional (PMP) exam can be very daunting. Before you can even take the exam you have to have an accepted application to even sit for the exam. Writing the narratives for each project in your application can be almost as daunting as the exam itself. It can be especially daunting for military members who are trying to write a narrative that the evaluators will understand without using a lot of military jargon. If you follow a few simple things you will have no problem writing those application narratives.

1. Project Management Professional Exam Content Outline (PMPECO) is your Bible. The PMPECO guide is published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and can be found on the PMI website at:

https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/project-management-professional-exam-outline.pdf?v=32020aff-e3ef-4b32-b3c7-a7bd3c61698c

PMPECO should be the base document you use for writing your project narratives. The verbiage you use and the tasks you use in your narrative should follow the 42 tasks within the 5 performance domains.

TRICK OF THE TRADE: The PMPECO Task verbiage is what the PMI evaluators understand and are looking for. Help them by making it clear what PMPECO Task you are referencing in your narrative.

EXAMPLE: A PMPECO Planning Task could be something like: “Developed a cost management plan ensuring scope, schedule and resources were all taken into consideration” NOTE: This is a clear reference to the PMPECO Planning Task 3.

2. Narratives have a Format. All project narratives should follow a simple format to make them clear to PMI evaluators. Each format should include 6 components: 1. Project Goal statement; 2. PMPECO Initiating Task statement; 3. PMPECO Planning Task statement; 4. PMPECO Executing Task statement; 5. PMPECO Monitoring and Controlling Task statement; and 6. PMPECO Closing Task statement (try to have your Closing task relate back to the project goal to show an outcome).

TRICK OF THE TRADE: Make it easy for the PMI evaluator to identify the task you are describing. Use the format:

Project goal was to …….. I - PMPECO Initiating Task….. P - PMPECO Planning Task….. E - PMPECO Executing Task…….. M - PMPECO Monitoring and Controlling Task….. C - PMPECO Closing Task………

EXAMPLE: Project goal was to decrease movement timeline for transportation movements by 40%. I - Performed an assessment of lessons learned from similar projects. P - Reviewed requirements to improve movement processes. E - Managed the task execution for a cross functional team mapping the process looking for areas for process improvement. M - Monitored risk by determining the affect changes had on the rest of the movement process. C - Obtained final acceptance of the new movement process from key stakeholders decreasing movement timeline by 48%.

3. Add Variety to the Narratives. Using a PMPECO Task repetitively in narratives looks to evaluators as more operational than project focused. Having a variety in narrative tasks shows a PMI evaluator that you were truly doing projects and that you understand the various aspects of project management.

TRICK OF THE TRADE: When using PMPECO in writing your narrative tasks try to only use a task once or twice. This is especially important when you only have a few projects (5 or less). In your narratives, also try not to use the exact (or extremely similar) task verbiage in multiple projects even if the projects are similar in nature. Find a different PMPECO task that fits with the project and use it instead.

EXAMPLE: Look at each narrative and map the tasks in each narrative back to PMPECO. Count how many times you use individual tasks and relook the narrative tasks that are used more than a few times.

4. Number of Characters Matter. Keep in mind the project narratives can only be 550 CHARACTERS not WORDS long. This includes spaces, punctuation, and other symbols that count against that 550 characters. Your narrative should be between 300 and 550 characters but on the 550 side of the character count. You need to be concise in the verbiage you use to make sure your project is fully understood without taking away any of the meaning.

TRICK OF THE TRADE: Take out non needed punctuation. This is not English class so save some characters but cutting some punctuation. Do not double space after sentences and take out spaces where possible. It might not seem like a lot but every character counts and should be value added to your narrative.

EXAMPLE:

Instead of: “I – Participated in the development of the project charter by gathering data from project stakeholders.

Use: “I-Participated in the development of the project charter by gathering data from project stakeholders

Result: You save 10 characters by: Eliminating (2) spaces (around the – after the I); eliminating the period at the end of the sentence; and cutting the word “project” (understood and not needed in the sentence).

5. “De-Militarize” your Narrative. PMI members that review your application were probably never in the military and do not understand military terms, acronyms and what to you seems like common military jargon. Write your narratives with that in mind. In other words, “de-militarize” your narrative.

TRICK OF THE TRADE: Use terms that are common to project management and that are used in Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) and the Project Management Professional Exam Content Outline (PMPECO).

EXAMPLE:

Militarized: “Obtained project charter approval from the Brigade Commander.”

De-Militarized: “Obtained project charter approval from the Project Sponsor.”


The Project Management Institute (PMI) reviews all applications and audits do happen. A portion of the applications will be randomly selected for audit but following the simple things above can help reduce your chance of getting audited due to errors or misunderstandings within your narratives.

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