Gianni Evangelisti Authored By: Gianni Evangelisti
PMP Certification Exam

Whether you’re a young up-and-comer or a veteran employee, it never hurts to earn a new certification. For project managers, the PMP® Certification Exam is the gold standard. Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the PMP is recognized around the world as an esteemed credential.

Like other professional certifications like the CFP or the CAPM certification, the PMP isn’t just for project managers. It can also serve as a credential for related jobs, such as executive-level positions. So, how does it work, and how do you pass? Let’s take a closer look!

The first step to passing any exam is to study. Here are a few resources you can use to maximize your chance of acing the PMP exam.

  • To begin with, you’ll want to read the official foundational standards. You’ll need a membership to the PMI in order to read these. A membership costs $129 per year, and gives you access to everything the PMI has to offer. Their foundational standards cover the basics of what you’ll need to do to pass the exam.
  • Next, you’ll want to read the practice standards and framework. These are more advanced standards that build upon the information in the foundational standards.
  • As long as you’ve got a membership, you can take advantage of PMI’s practice guides.
  • PM Training offers PMP practice tests
  • Oliver Lehman also offers a free practice test for the PMP. From the same site, you can also access more than 3,000 free sample PMP exam questions. PMI members can access an additional 1,000 questions, as well as a downloadable PDF practice test for PMP certification training.
  • offers multiple free practice tests.
  • You can also access free sample PMP questions on SimpliLearn.
  • See our guide to the best PMP exam prep courses for more information on these and other resources.

For More Help

See our review of the best PMP Exam Prep Courses.

PMP Exam Prep

Best PMP Exam Prep Courses

The PMP Certification Exam is divided into five different sections, which are called “domains”. Each domain covers tasks that are required for different stages of project management. The test questions are divided as follows, with a total of 200 questions on the exam:

Domain Number of questions Percentage of questions
Initiating 26 13%
Planning 48 24%
Executing 62 31%
Monitoring and Controlling 50 25%
Closing 14 7%

PMP Exam Questions

The first 25 questions on the exam are experimental and are not counted as part of your score. They’re on the exam to test their validity for future versions of the exam.

  • The Initiating domain relates to the first stages of project management. It covers early assessments, identifying key deliverables, and working with stakeholders to determine the scope of the project.
  • The Planning domain involves finalizing the scope of the project, setting a budget, determining a schedule, and developing plans for procurement and communications. It also involves planning for human resources and risk management.
  • The Executing domain covers the implementation of all the plans developed during the planning stage.
  • The Monitoring and Controlling domain involves adapting to unplanned development, ensuring that deliverables are being met, and ongoing risk assessment.
  • The Closing domain covers legally ending the project, delivering all deliverables to stakeholders, obtaining feedback, and documenting lessons learned.

To take the PMP Certification Exam, you first need to meet all of PMI’s eligibility criteria, which we’ll cover in the next section. You’ll need to provide details and documentation, including letters from employers to verify your relevant work experience. This might take some time, so make sure you have your ducks in a row before you start your application for the exam.

Next, you’ll need to complete your application on PMI’s website. There, you’ll need to provide basic contact information, education information, relevant work experience, and your learning history in project management. From the time you first start your application, you’ll have 90 days to complete it. If it turns out that you need more information than you’ve already gathered, you’ll have some time to gather the missing info.

Once your application has been submitted, PMI will review it. This process typically takes 5 to 10 days. Once the review is complete, PMI will email you to let you know whether or not you’ve been accepted. A small number of applications are randomly audited each year. This can extend the review process.

Once you’ve been approved, you’ll need to pay the registration fee to PMI. This fee varies depending on whether or not you’re a PMI member. For non-members, the PMP Certification cost is $555. For members, the cost is $405. The cost is the same worldwide, regardless of what country you live in. After PMI receives your payment, they’ll email you an eligibility number that’s required for exam scheduling. This number is good for an entire year, and you can take the exam up to three times during that year.

At this point, it’s time to schedule your test. PMP exams are not administered directly by PMI. Instead, they’re administered by Pearson VUE and Pearson VUE test centers. The PMP exam schedule allows for year-round exams, but you’ll still want to schedule well in advance. You cannot take the PMP Certification online. It’s only available inside the test centers.

The PMP Certification Exam is a closed-book exam, so you cannot bring any outside supplies with you, with the exception of your government-issued ID. When you arrive at the exam center, the administrator will ask you to empty your pockets, and provide you with a locker to store your cell phone and any other personal belongings.

The administrator will provide you with a few supplies necessary to complete the exam. Depending on the test center, this might be a scratch paper and pencils or an erasable marker board with markers and an eraser. There’s also a calculator built into the PMP exam PC.

Before the exam, you’ll receive a brief tutorial, and you’ll be asked to take a short survey. Once the survey is complete, the test will begin. The test lasts for four hours, with no scheduled breaks. You can still take a break, but the timer will keep running.

There is one exception to the personal items policy: small personal medical items. Check the Pearson VUE guidelines for more details. For other accommodations, such as more time or a test for the visually impaired, you’ll need to file an accommodations request form with PMI. Make sure to do this as soon as you’ve registered for your exam, to allow time for the accommodation to be made. There are no extra fees for test accommodations.

To qualify for the PMP exam, you need to meet one of two different sets of requirements. The first set of requirements is:

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma or associate’s degree)
  • 35 hours of project management education
  • 7,500 hours of experience in project management

Alternatively, PMI will accept:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 35 hours of project management education
  • 4,500 hours of experience in project management

It’s important to point out that project management experience doesn’t necessarily mean work as an actual project manager. It means any type of project management tasks, provided that the applicant actually led that particular task. In addition, PMP applicants do not have to be PMI members. However, the PMI membership fee costs less than the registration discount for PMI members, and you get access to all the PMI resources we listed earlier.

There’s a common misconception that the PMP passing score is 68.5 percent. In fact, this was only the case until 2005. At that point, PMI raised the passing score all the way to 80.6 percent. 60 days later, PMI again revised the passing score down to 60.6 percent.

Beginning in 2007, PMI stopped providing a particular passing percentage. Instead, scores for each section are simply reported as “proficient”, “moderately proficient”, or “below proficient” in each domain. The exact criteria for achieving these levels of proficiency is not public information.

Can I Retake the Exam if I Fail?

If you fail the PMP exam, you can retake it up to two more times within a one-year window for a discounted fee. After that one-year period, you’ll have to pay the full fee to retake the exam.

Are PMP prep courses worth the money?

PMP prep courses are great for candidates who want to freshen up on material and hit the 35-hour requirement. A prep course is a great investment and will be worth it in the long run.

What are the best PMP prep courses?

When reviewing PMP prep courses, we looked at many different factors. Our top picks included Brain Sensei and PMtraining. Brain Sensei and PMtraining both have tons of practice questions, study videos, and meet the 35-hour requirement.

What Are PDUs?

PDUs are “Professional Develop Units”. These are a measurement of ongoing professional development, which is a requirement for maintaining your PMP certification. One PDU is equivalent to one hour of learning.

Why do Some Applications Get Audited? Who Gets Audited?

PMI audits a certain percentage of applicants each year to be audited. This ensures that applicants actually meet the exam prerequisites. The exact percentage is not public information, but audits are given at random. However, applicants who have previously failed an audit will automatically be audited.


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