Here are some frequently asked questions about the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam. Click on any question to get more information.
The Project Management Professional (PMP®) is the top-ranked project management certification in North America. It demonstrates that you have the specific skills employers are looking for in project managers. Those skills include the technical competencies needed for managing projects and the soft skills and understanding of the business environment that connects the organizational strategy to projects. There are currently over one million professionals worldwide who have earned the PMP® credential.
PMI is the accrediting body for the PMP exam, which was created to validate your skills and knowledge as a practicing project manager. The exam is designed to test your knowledge on generally accepted practices of managing projects, your understanding of the required interpersonal skills for effectively leading teams in today’s environment, and the needed background of the business end of projects and how projects fulfill organizational objectives. The PMP exam is based on feedback from project leaders and practitioners around the globe and is updated regularly to ensure the content reflects current theory and practices.
The PMP certification is an excellent asset to demonstrate your knowledge, experience, and skills to employers and clients alike. Its merit is internationally accredited and globally respected; the certification increases hiring chances, especially for higher-paying positions. Some positions will only consider applicants with the certification.
To be eligible for the certification, applicants need to have either:
• Without a Bachelor’s degree, five years (60 months) of project management experience leading the project is required. Additionally, 35 contact hours of formal project management education is needed unless the applicant has earned the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) credential by the time of application submission.
• With a Bachelor’s degree, three years (36 months) of project management experience leading the project is required, and 35 contact hours of formal project management education completed by the time of application submission.
To be eligible for the PMP exam, practitioners must have three years of experience managing and leading project management activities. The exam is rigorous and will require many hours of preparation. Some in the industry have cited an average of three months of studying several hours per day. However, how much preparation this will be, varies by the individual.
You can apply through PMI’s online certification system. You have 90 days to complete and submit the application once you begin the application process. If you are unable to complete an online application, Customer Care may send you a printable version that you can mail to PMI.
The exam costs $555 for non-PMI members and $405 for members. Reexamination costs slightly less, at $375 for nonmembers and $275 for members. For your total PMP® certification cost, you should also factor in the expenses from any exam prep courses and study materials.
PMI states that the average successful PMP candidate spends a minimum of 35 hours preparing for the exam. Many estimates have also cited three months of studying several hours per day on average, though this will vary by individual.
The test has three main sections known as domains which focus on different facets of project management. The sections and their percentage of the overall test are as follows:
People (42%, 75/76 questions):
The soft skills needed to lead project teams
Process (50%, 90 questions):
The technical skills of managing a project
Business Environment (8%, 14/15 questions):
The link between projects and company strategy
The exam is designed to test the applicant’s ability to apply the concepts from these three domains to appropriate real-world project scenarios. It does this through 180 questions, which may be asked in the form of multiple-choice, multiple answers, fill-in-the-blank, matching, and “hot spot” (interaction with a graphic) formats.
Many estimates find that 40–50% of test-takers fail on their first try. Due to the range of skills tested, the length of the exam in the given amount of time, and the amount of preparation needed, the PMP® exam is considered difficult.
The guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide) was created based on a need to define and gain broad agreement on the project management body of work. Not intending to be exhaustive, project management experts and practitioners have highlighted key aspects of this body of knowledge in the PMBOK Guide. The guide has evolved over the decades as the discipline of project management evolved and includes what the profession considers are generally recognized good project management practices.
The examination consists of 180 questions: 175 scored and 5 unscored. Question formats include multiple-choice, multiple answers, fill in the blank, matching, and “hot spot” where you interact with a graphic. Computer-based exams are 230 minutes in length with two 10-minute breaks. Paper-based exams do not offer breaks.
The PMP exam is changed approximately every four years, with the most recent change occurring in 2021.
No. Nothing is allowed to be brought into the testing center. This includes study materials and personal items.
After an application is approved, you have a one-year eligibility period in which you can take the test (up to 3 times). You can only schedule your exam after submitting your certification payment and are given a unique eligibility ID. Whether in person at a test center or remotely from your location, scheduling occurs through Pearson VUE. You can reschedule or cancel your exam up to 2 days before your appointment, but any change within 30 days of the testing date will result in a $70 fee.
Testing takes place either at a Pearson Vue test center or can be taken remotely from your own location. If an applicant prefers to take the exam remotely, a private area with reliable internet and a computer equipped with a webcam is required. All exams, whether in-person or virtual, are proctored.
The passing score is established by psychometric analysis from subject matter experts; there is not a certain number of questions you can get right to pass. Questions are scored differently based on difficulty and how a candidate’s choices show their ability to perform well. Thus, one person may pass despite scoring a few percentage points lower than someone else who failed.
Candidates who take the computer-based exam will receive their exam reports showing their preliminary results upon completion of the exam. A digital copy will be uploaded to their online certification system no more than ten business days after the test. Candidates who take a paper-based examination will receive their report 6–8 weeks after the examination, which can be accessed online. Results are considered preliminary until PMI emails you the official acknowledgment of your test results.
According to a 2017 survey by PMI, the median salaries of those in the United States holding the PMP credential were 25% higher than those without the certification.
The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Manager Professional (PMP) are both well-respected certifications. The CAPM exam is designed for those just starting out in the project management profession, while the PMP exam is designed for those who already have several years of project management experience.
The main difference between the two exams is the testing of project management knowledge versus the application of that knowledge. For example, the PMP exam tests applicants on how they would apply project management concepts and practices through a series of scenario-based questions that approximate on-the-job experiences.
The CAPM exam, in contrast, is designed to test only the applicant’s knowledge of the PMBOK Guide without necessarily asking how these might be applied. The CAPM credential provides an excellent base from which project managers may start their careers in the discipline.