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How Hard Is the PMP Exam and How to Crack It?

19th Feb, 2024
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    How Hard Is the PMP Exam and How to Crack It?

    Project Management is growing in importance across industries. With millions of project-related roles appearing every year, the opportunities are endless. To stand a chance to get hired at top companies in project-related roles you should probably get a project management certification.  PMP exam preparation is a process of consistent studying and practice. When deciding to attempt a PMP certification you should prepare yourself for this sustained effort in studying and practicing project management concepts.  

    While you could easily get a project management certification, not all certifications will have enough credibility to prove your mastery over project management concepts and practice. The number one certification is the Project Management Professional® or PMP® Certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The certification has stringent prerequisites in terms of academic and professional qualifications. After completing the project management trainings like PMP, a candidate will have to clear the PMP exam to get an elite PMP title 

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    Is It Difficult to Get the PMP Certification?

    The PMP Certification is undoubtedly a step in the right direction if you want to build a career in project management. The first step is to check if you meet the PMP eligibility criteria. You need at least an associate degree, high school diploma, or an equivalent qualification, you will also need to have at least three years of experience in a project leadership role. You will also need to attend 35 hours of trainer-led PMP training. If you hold a valid CAPM certification, the training is optional 

    Once you have met all the eligibility criteria, you will still need to take the PMP exam and clear it. So, how hard is the PMP exam? The short answer is it is hard enough to require serious preparation that could take a few months. So, if you are well prepared and have practiced taking mock exams, then the PMP exam will not be hard for you.

    If you are not well prepared and you are not familiar with all the contents included in the syllabus, you will find it hard to clear the PMP Exam. 

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    Why Is the PMP Exam Difficult?

    The PMP Certification is a validation of the skills and ability of its holder. To maintain credibility for this certification, PMI ensures that only those professionals who have experience in project management and have an excellent understanding of project management concepts are awarded the PMP certification.  

    PMP does not publish the required percentage to pass the PMP exam. The percentage required to pass the exam is based on the difficulty level of that individual exam. So, you could pass even if you score below what you target and pass, or you could score high and still fail to meet the passing percentage.

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    How Hard Is the PMP Certification Exam?

    The PMP Certification exam is difficult. It is designed to test your knowledge across the breadth of project management concepts and practices. If you are not prepared for the level of questions you would face in the exam you will find it hard to score well. Getting familiar with the PMP exam format is also essential apart from mastering the concepts and practices surrounding project management.

    What Makes the PMP Exam Difficult?

    The material that you need to prepare for PMP is comprehensive and in depth. Hence it requires a significant amount of time and effort to prepare for the exam in a reasonable manner. If your preparation is not complete, you will find it hard to pass the exam. The syllabus is based on Exam Content Outline that includes ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK ® Guide)’ which is published by PMI as a reference. This publication covers ten knowledge areas in project management apart from different methods, tools, models, and content related to how you could implement learning in live projects. The PMP Exam need not have questions only based on the guide, there could be questions from any project management related area. By enrolling in a top PMP Bootcamps can provide you with valuable resources, expert guidance, and focused training to enhance your chances of success

    What Materials Need to be Covered? 

    The PMBOK Guide is currently in its seventh edition. It is a 370-page document divided into 4 sections. The first section gives an introduction. The second section covers project performance domains. In the third section you will get to learn how to adapt and tailor project management to your individual projects. The fourth section covers models, methods, and artifacts.  

    There are further details you can find in the appendix where you will find a variety of useful information about project management. Apart from the guide you will also need to rely on Project Management resources like project management books, articles, blogs, case studies etc. to prepare sufficiently. KnowledgeHut PMP exam preparation includes mock tests that helps candidates prepare and assess whether they are ready to take the exam. There are several reasons why the PMP Certification is considered hard to achieve.

    Complexity of Exam Structure  

    The PMP Exam is nearly four hours long or 230 minutes to be exact. In this timeframe you will be expected to answer 180 questions. If you are taking the exam from a Centre, you will not get a chance to take a break.  

    PMI also allows you to take the PMP Exam online. In the online format, you are allowed to take two breaks of ten minutes each. The total time without including the break time to finish the exam would be 230 minutes. 

    There is an optional tutorial before the exam starts and an optional survey once you complete the exam.  

    There are three broad categories under which the questions will be based on. People, process, and business environment.   

    PMP covers project management under three different approaches: Predictive (Waterfall), Agile, and Hybrid.  

    Difficulty of Questions 

    The difficulty of the PMP Exam will depend on the level of preparation you have done. Your project related experience and understanding of concepts will decide how difficult the exam will be for you. The actual difficulty of the exam can also vary a bit with the individual exam. You can expect a PMP Exam to comprehensively test your understanding of concepts, practices and tools used in project management. 

    The good news is that if you are well prepared and your exam is difficult you may still clear it because PMI decides the percentage required to pass an exam based on its difficulty level.  

    PMP Simulation Exams, mock tests, and PMP practice tests will help you get an idea of how to manage your time and make sure that you are ready for the actual exam.

    PMP Exam Format 

    PMP Exam format includes multiple choices, multiple responses, and a few fill-in-the-blank questions. There are two new formats of questions introduced matching, and hotspot.  

    PMI has also provided examples of the new formats.  

    Matching question: 

    How Hard Is the PMP Exam and How to Crack It?

    Source link: Presentation title (  

    Hot spot question:

    How Hard Is the PMP Exam and How to Crack It?

    Source: Presentation title (  

    Out of the three domains people, process, and business environment, 50% of the questions would be based on the process domain, 42% on the people domain and the remaining 8% on the business environment. You can find the detailed document on the PMP Exam content outline on the PMI page. There is also classification based on the approach. Half of the questions will be based on the predictive approach and the other half will focus on Agile or hybrid approaches.  

    What Is the PMP Pass-Failure Rate?

    The answer to this question is rather subjective as there isn’t a rate of success and failure in the PMP Exam. PMI does not publish data regarding how many candidates succeed or fail. Though, secondary sources estimate the rate of failure to be around 50%. The exam needs thorough preparation and taking mock tests would help in preparing yourself for the actual exam.

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    How Long Would It Take to Prepare PMP Exam? 

    To  comprehensively prepare for a PMP Exam you need consistent preparation for a few months. The syllabus is comprehensive and requires an extensive preparation. It would help if you made a schedule and stick to it to ensure that you spend enough time on every topic that is to be covered. Apart from the lack of preparation, lack of familiarity with the exam format may also lead to an unfavorable result. You should try to take a mock test and practice answering questions in the PMP exam format to make sure that you are ready for the exam.    

    How to Pass New PMP Exam 2021?  

    How hard is it to pass the pmp exam? PMI recommends a 5-step process to follow to make sure you get PMP certified in your first attempt.  

    • Create a schedule for preparation: Having dedicated time to prepare for your exam could be important in ensuring that you stay on course in terms of covering all the topics. Let others in your life know about it so that they do not disturb or distract you during this time. You can even see if you can take permission from your employer to prepare for the exam. 
    • Get used to the format: Take time to familiarize yourself with the format of the PMP exam. There are a few new question formats as well that could surprise you in the exam if you aren’t prepared for it. 
    • Rely on professionals: Connect with your local PMI chapter for guidance and help with preparing for the exam. You may also find a group that you could study and practice with. Make sure that you are trained by an Authorized Training Partner of PMI. Rely on the training partner and see if you can get support for practice tests. 
    • Other resources: Apart from the PMBOK Guide you would need to rely on other books to get a thorough understanding of project management concepts. You can refer to a variety of PMP PPTs provided by PMI, and a few popular textbooks that will help in your exam prep. 
    • Online resources: Apart from PMI Chapters you can also find groups where you could get help online. PMI LinkedIn Page and groups where you could clarify your doubts. PMI Blog discusses plenty of project management topics.  

    Clearing the PMP Exam and Beyond 

    The PMP Exam has a reputation of being difficult. That only means that it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Once you have ensured that the preparation is completed as per the schedule, and you have had enough practice with the format you could pass the exam in your first attempt. There is a large range of resources you have at your disposal to make sure that your preparation is complete. You can also rely on the experience and expertise of other project managers who have been certified.  

    Once you clear the exam and become PMP certified you can add on to your credentials by attempting to do a certification like PgMP®, PfMP®, PMI-ACP® etc. to maintain your credential and build on your current skillset. We hope this article answers your query about how hard is the pmp test and how you can pass the PMP exam. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

    1. Is it hard to pass the PMP exam?

    The PMP exam is designed to test your knowledge and ability in project management. The test will be hard if you do not have sufficient experience in project management and have not prepared enough for the PMP exam. 

    2. What is the pass rate for the PMP exam?

    There is no pass percentage for PMP exams. The pass percentage is decided based on how difficult the exam is. For a difficult exam the pass percentage is reduced and for an easier exam the pass percentage is increased.

    3. Is it easy to clear PMP exam? 

    It is not easy to clear the PMP exam, it is 230 minutes long and includes 180 questions. To clear the PMP exam you will need to prepare consistently for a few months. If you are experienced in project management and very familiar with all the major concepts in project management, you may find the exam to be easier than it is for the rest.  


    Kevin D.Davis

    Blog Author

    Kevin D. Davis is a seasoned and results-driven Program/Project Management Professional with a Master's Certificate in Advanced Project Management. With expertise in leading multi-million dollar projects, strategic planning, and sales operations, Kevin excels in maximizing solutions and building business cases. He possesses a deep understanding of methodologies such as PMBOK, Lean Six Sigma, and TQM to achieve business/technology alignment. With over 100 instructional training sessions and extensive experience as a PMP Exam Prep Instructor at KnowledgeHut, Kevin has a proven track record in project management training and consulting. His expertise has helped in driving successful project outcomes and fostering organizational growth.

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