How Hard is the PMP Exam? Project Management Professional Exam

How hard is the pmp exam

If you aspire to become a Project Management Professional (PMP), you know you need to get a PMP certification. Are you wondering – is the PMP exam challenging? Don't worry; you have come to the right place. We will help you with analysing how hard PMP is and how you should go about your preparation.   

LinkedIn ranks the PMP certification exam as the second most challenging certification exam among all the IT certifications. Though the  PMP exam prep is difficult, you should know that it's not appropriate to compare one subject with another, especially with the difficulty level. To become a PMP-certified  Project Manager, you must pass this exam, as this certification is a gold standard in the industry.

You have an excellent opportunity to crack the PMP exam, irrespective of the competition. The Project Management Institute (PMI) says that about 80,000 professionals take the PMP exam annually. It also estimates that 22 million PMP jobs will be created by 2027, indicating endless opportunities for the once-qualifying PMP exam certification.   

Table of Contents

1) About - PMP Certification 

2) How Hard is the PMP Exam 

3) Why is PMP Certification Exam Difficult 

   a) No definite scoring mechanism 

   b) Vast syllabus 

   c) Extensive length of study materials 

   d) Lengthy duration 

   e) The difficulty level of questions 

   f) Complex exam structure 

   g) Changing questions 

4) Conclusion 

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About - PMP Certification 

PMI first introduced the PMP certification in 1984; since then, this certification has been the standard employers follow to hire Project Managers. Globally, the PMP holders earn 16% more salary than those Project Managers who do not have the certification.   

This certification is tailored to match the responsibilities of a Project manager in any industry. The PMP certification will help you showcase your skills, experience and qualifications in project management to potential employers. PMI ensures that the PMP exam is frequently revised and updated to reflect current project management trends. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, released by PMI, is the leading guide that assists in getting the PMP certification. Forbes describes this certification as "a critical tool for prospective Project Managers to test and showcase their ability to perform their duties." When trying to land your dream job, PMP certification will set you apart from your competitors for the same job role. 

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How Hard is the PMP Exam 

Many experts predict that the failure percentage in the PMP exam is about 40-50 per cent for first-timers. Every question in the exam is evaluated based on the difficulty level. So, even if you answer all the easy questions, you might still fail the exam. Because the easy and tough questions are mixed randomly, making it difficult for the candidate to understand which is easy and which is tricky.   

In addition, the is no definite number of questions that you need to answer correctly to pass the exam, making it more confusing to the PMP aspirant. You are required to answer 180 multiple-choice questions in four hours. The questions are framed to test your understanding of the subjects and your ability to problem-solve in real life. Some questions are theoretical, while others are situational and require calculations or graph drawing.  

Though the PMP exam is considered very difficult, for the ones who have the proper guidance and prepare with dedication, it's as tricky as it seems. More than one million people have overcome this fear of PMP exam difficulty and have added the PMP certification to their portfolio.   

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Why is PMP Certification Exam difficult 

Let's now go through the different aspects of the exams that make it difficult and confusing to score well.  

No Definite Scoring Mechanism 

The internet is full of estimations given by the PMP preparation course providers for the pass percentage of the PMP certification exam. The PMI describes no definite pass percentage. The difficulty of the exam determines the pass percentage. The pass percentage for a difficult exam is lower, while the same for an easier exam is higher. The key to passing this exam is not to concentrate on the pass percentage but to put in the study hours with complete dedication and hard work.   

PMI conducts a psychometric analysis to determine whether a candidate passed or failed the exam. The psychometric analysis criteria have not been revealed so far. Prepare in a way that ensures you can correctly answer the majority of the questions. It is widely assumed that to pass the exam, you must correctly answer 75% of the questions. 

Preparing for the Job? Check out our blog on top PMP Interview Questions in 2023!

Vast Syllabus 

PMP has an Exam Content Outline (ECO) that mainly follows the PMBOK guide and Agile Practice Guide as significant reference material for the syllabus. The ECO is revised every 4-5 years. The revised ECO and the latest (7th edition) PMBOK guide were released in January 2021. ECO describes a list of domains and skills tested in the PMP exam.   

PMP exam questions are broadly divided into three domains – People (42%), Process (50%), and Business environment (8%). It would help if you were well-versed with the 35 tasks related to these domains that PMP tests to pass the exam. In addition to the above domains and tasks, the exam assesses your understanding of Predictive, Agile, and Hybrid models. 

Check out our blog on top PMP tools to use in 2022!

Extensive Length of Study Materials 

PMI has also provided a long list of PMP study materials to prepare for the PMP Exam, making it more difficult for the PMP aspirants. You need to cover the PMBOK Guide published by the PMI thoroughly. It is better to be prepared with the latest version 7th edition of the PMBOK, along with the edition to ensure that you pass the exam. You should be able to slice the required information from the PMBOK and other materials. In addition to the guide, you will need to rely on Project Management resources such as project management books, articles, blogs, case studies, and so on to ensure you’re thoroughly prepared to answer at least 75% of the questions correctly.

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Lengthy Duration 

The PMP exam is one of the most challenging certification exams because you must answer 180 questions in 230 minutes. This is a difficult task, as you get only 76 seconds to answer each question correctly. If you’re counting the breaks, you will need to spend more than 4 hours to complete the exam. Adding to this trouble is staring at the computer for four continuous hours.   

The Difficulty Level of Questions 

Along with the other PMP certification requirements, questions in the PMP exam are framed to test your problem-solving skills. It tests your understanding and practical knowledge through situational-based questionsYou will not be able to answer these questions without a sense of project management concepts and methodologies. The questions are tricky, and reading and answering the PMP questions will take some practice. Ultimately, it all depends on the level of preparation you have done and what you have learnt through your experience in project management. PMP simulation exams and practice tests will help you understand the nature of the questions and will assist you in how to manage time during the exam.   

Complex Exam Structure 

In the centre-based exam, you will not be given an option to take a break, while PMI also provides an opportunity to take an online exam. In the online exam, you can take two breaks of 10 minutes each. After completing the exam, you will be provided with an optional pre-exam tutorial and survey. PMP questions cover the three-project management approaches you need to be well prepared with – Predictive (waterfall), Agile and Hybrid.

Want to learn more? Check out our blog on PMP Certification benefits!

Changing Questions 

The questions are very tricky, and all the options seem authentic. PMI also poses a few pretest questions among the 180 questions. These pretest questions are not scored and are placed anywhere between them. Because these questions are distributed at random throughout the exam, it is impossible to tell whether a particular question is achieved or not. You must respond to all questions to the best of your ability. By posing pretest questions to test-takers, PMI can constantly frame new questions and gauge their difficulty level. PMI's question bank is continually being updated by using qualified pretest questions. 

The PMP exam includes five types of questions: 

1) Multiple-choice questions  

2) Fill-in-the-blanks  

3) Questions which have multiple answers for each option 

4) Hotspot, in which you select a section of a diagram to mark your answer 

5) Match-up questions where you have to match choices from two columns


It was never a hidden fact that the PMP exam is challenging among professional certification exams. But we have given you enough information on where you may get confused, and we hope all your doubts are cleared up. If you have any further confusion or doubts, write to us in the comments below.  

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