Getting a PMP certification is an excellent way to kickstart a fruitful career in project management, but the preparation process is undoubtedly no walk in the park. That’s why many people might wonder how likely they are to pass the exam and get certified, to see if it’s worth the effort.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should venture on this journey, read on to find out how likely you are to pass the PMP exam and how to increase your chances of succeeding.
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The PMP Exam Structure
The thing about PMP exams is that not only do you need to pass them, but you also need to meet the minimum experience requirements both on the educational side and on the experience side. This is a hands-on experience that I can’t integrate into the guide, though I can tell you how you can meet the minimum requirements.
On the academic side, you should know how the exam is structured. The PMP exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and it’s a computer-based one, so you can take it at any Prometric CBT website. The questions are divided into five performance domains:
- The first domain: Initiating (13%).
- The second domain: Planning (24%).
- The third domain: Executing (31%).
- The fourth domain: Monitoring and Controlling (25%).
- The fifth domain: Closing (7%).
As you can see, the performance domains aren’t equally weighted. You could focus your efforts on the highest weighted ones, especially executing, which is where the exam is most concentrated.
Also, familiarize yourself with the areas or topics in which you’ll be examined, which are as follows: Scope, Cost, Time, Quality, Communications, Procurement, Human Resources, Risk, Professional Responsibility, and Integration.
You should know that the average preparation time for the test is around 35 hours, which you should devote to learning about the different sections of the exam and practicing the type of questions you’ll be faced with. Another good way to prepare is to check out the sample questions that you’ll find available online.
PMP Passing Rate
While a lot of people believe that the passing rate of the PMP exam is 61%, the official PMI website doesn’t say so, and this isn’t an official percentage. The matter of fact is that nobody can name a fixed PMP pass rate as each candidate gets an entirely different set of questions, so the passing score is bound to vary.
It also depends on how difficult the level of questions you’ll be getting is. Not to mention, each question has its own weight, so there’s no way to pinpoint it.
You’ll need a higher passing score if you get the easy questions. In comparison, another candidate might need a lower score if they get the difficult ones, making it almost impossible to determine the minimum score you need to pass the exam.
History of the PMP Exam Pass Rate
Until 2005, the PMI’s announced passing score was 68.5%, which means that if someone wanted to pass, they needed to answer 137 questions out of the 200 correctly. Then, PMI made a jump in the passing score to make it 80.6%, which means you would have needed to correctly answer 141 out of the 175 questions.
However, with that drastic increase, there was a reduction in the number of candidates, so it only lasted two months before they revised and reset the score from 80.6% to 60.6%, which means you’d need to answer 106 questions out of the 175 correctly.
Yet, another change was made in 2007, where the PMI replaced the percentages in each domain with proficiency levels.
This was made possible by the PMI’s adoption of the psychometric analysis approach to gain a more scientific judgment on score determinations. Experts from all over the world examine and cross-reference the data of candidate performance to judge how they performed and ensure a justified PMP exam difficulty.
So, What do the Proficiency Levels Mean?
There’s no official indication regarding the combination of proficiency levels you’d need to attain a certain PMP result. But from the analysis or reports of the PMP exam results, there are some observations that one can’t help but make, and they are as follows:
- A candidate that attains proficiency in the 5 performance domains undoubtedly has reached the PMP exam pass score.
- A candidate that attains proficiency in 4 performance domains and moderate proficiency in the 5th has reached the PMP exam pass score.
- Moderate proficiency in all 5 domains means a candidate might have reached the PMP exam pass score.
- Proficiency in 3 performance domains and below proficiency in the other 2 means a high probability of passing the PMP exam.
- A candidate that attains moderate proficiency in 4 performance domains and below proficiency in the 5th is highly likely to pass the PMP exam.
- Below proficiency in 3 performance domains, regardless of what you’ve achieved in the others, means a high chance of not passing the PMP exam.
- Moderate proficiency in 3 performance domains and below proficiency in 2 means a high chance of failing the exam.
- A candidate that attains below proficiency in more than 3 domains has a high chance of not reaching the PMP exam pass score.
Minimum Experience Requirements
As I’ve mentioned before, to pass the PMP exam, you need to have met some minimum requirements set by the PMI in two categories: education and experience, and there are 3 general requirements:
- 35 contact hours with education that’s related to project management.
- Three years or more of experience with projects.
- Attainment of at least secondary education.
However, it’s worth mentioning that the requirements differ according to your level of education, and in this section, I’ll break it down for you.
Secondary Education as the Highest Degree
If you have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree, you’ll need to meet the following 3 minimum requirements:
- At least 5 years of experience with project management.
- 7,500 hours of project managing, directing, and leading.
- 35 hours of education related to project management.
You don’t have to have managed an entire project by yourself, but active participation in a project environment is sufficient to meet the criterion. However, it’s worth mentioning that 3.5 years of the 5-year requirement has to be spent on leading and directing projects.
Still, having been assigned a project management role or having supervised a team, team member, or even junior team member is enough to qualify and meet the requirement.
Four-Year Degree Education or Above
If you have a higher education degree, including bachelor, masters, and doctorate, then you’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- 3 years of project management experience.
- 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects.
- 35 hours of education relative to project management.
Similar to the situation above, all you need to do to establish your 4,500 hours of project management is active participation in a project environment. From the 3 years, you’d need 2 years spent on directing and leading projects.