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I failed the PMP exam… now what?

You took your PMP exam failed on your first attempt after months of studying. Although it probably feels terrible at the time, here’s 13 tips you can employ right away to pass on your next attempt.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful candidates is that the successful ones spend very little time mourning over their “failure”, they focus on what went wrong, and they take the exam again within 2-3 weeks. Although it can be discouraging, don’t give up. Here’s what you need to do to pass on your second try.

1) Evaluate what went wrong & focus on sections that you were below proficient in

Although PMI will not tell you your test scores, they will tell you whether you are below proficient, moderately proficient, or proficient in each of the 5 process groups + ethics. For a sample of the test score results from PMI, see image below.
PMP score report

When you are studying for your second attempt, zero in on the process groups that you did not score highly in. Re-read the PMBOK guide for those areas if necessary and do lots of practice questions.

2. Create a study plan

You know how the old saying goes: “slow and steady wins the race.” Instead of binge study near your exam date, try to do a bit of work every single day.

Create a study plan for yourself that realistic and achievable. Set a schedule that is a mix of reading study guides and doing practice questions. Remember to focus on the areas that you were below proficient in.

3. Fit in studying within your daily

A good idea is to fit studying within your normal routine. Read or watch a few lectures on your way to work. Listen to podcasts when you are at the gym or waiting in line. There are tons of creative ways to fit in a few extra minutes of studying.

4. Join an accountability group

Research has found that one of the best ways to accomplishing your goals is to find an accountability partner. When you are surrounded by people who have the same goal as you, you will be much more motivated to achieve your own goals.

Here’s the link to ExamsPM’s LinkedIn PMP study group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8287715

5. Practice, practice, practice

As I’ve stressed many times during my live trainings, there IS no substitute to doing practice questions.

Here’s why: PMI is a large organization. There are many teams that make up this organization: customer support, marketing, sponsorship, test development, PMBOK creation, etc. The department that creates the PMP certification is different from the department responsible for maintaining and updating the PMBOK guide.

Thus, the team responsible for developing PMP questions is interpreting the PMBOK guide just like you!

This concept is important for you to understand because there is a disconnect between the PMP exam and the PMBOK guide, which means the ONLY way you can successfully prepare for the PMP exam is to do a lot of practice questions.

There is a lot of mystery behind the passing score for the PMP. Although no one knows what the passing score for the PMP exam is anymore, our best guess is that it is between 61-68%. Read more about PMP scoring here.

A good rule of thumb to know whether you are ready or not is: if you scored 80%+ on your first try on 3 full length exams (200 questions each), you are ready for your PMP.

6. Join a PMP certification course

Maybe you just need things explained in a different way? Maybe you did not get proper PMP study material on your first try? If you are looking for a PMP certification course, start by going to one of ExamsPM’s free live classes (1 hour) that is held once a month.

7. Don’t use past experience

Some candidates who have been project managers for decades believe that they can rely on their past experiences to help them with the PMP exam. Unfortunately, this is not true.

PMI has their own way of managing projects (See: What is PMI-ism), and candidates who try to use their real life experiences to answer PMP questions often fail.

8. Don’t wait too long

Book your re-examination within 2-3 weeks of taking your first exam. There is a lot of information in the PMBOK guide, and if you wait too long to retake your exam, you may forget some information.

9. Know your formulas

The formulas on your PMP exam does not involve more than addition, subtraction and multiplication. You also have access to a Windows-based calculator. Formula questions are easy marks for you to get on your PMP.

Make sure you know the complete list of formulas in the PMBOK. Download the complete formula guide here.

10. Manage your time

Remember that you have 4 hours to complete the PMP exam. You need to find a routine that works best for you. For example, your routine could be to do 50 questions and then take a 10 minutes break; do another 50 questions and then take another 10 minutes break, etc.

11. Read the questions twice (when necessary)

If you find that you understand the material in the PMBOK guide, but your test scores are not reflective of that, you may not be reading the questions correctly. PMI does have a unique way of wording their questions, and the only way to be prepared for their style is to do a lot of practice questions. It may also be a good idea (time permitted) to read the questions twice before selecting an answer.

12. Understand ITTOs

ITTOs are a huge part of the PMBOK guide. You have to make sure you understand what they are and how they work before going into your exam.

Here are two resources to help:

13. Don’t get discouraged

Lastly, I know it can be easy to get discouraged when you are not seeing results that you want, but remember that anything worthwhile having in time does not come easily. If it was easy, you wouldn’t treasure it.

If you feel discouraged, remind yourself of why you wanted to get certified in the first place. Remind yourself that you can do it and associate positive feelings with the studying process.

See also: Are you afraid of taking the PMP exam?