How Hard Is To Pass PMP Certification Exam In 2023?

how hard is the PMP certification exam

You would know that it is very hard to pass the PMP certification exam but you might be thinking if it is the most difficult certification to crack.

Well! CBT nuggets ranks the PMP examination (Project Management Professional) as the second among the 10 most difficult certifications.

However, ranking a certification on toughness is an academic exercise. It doesn’t matter if the rank is #1 or #10 as PMP is the gold standard for project management credentials. Even though it is tough, it should be pursued by every project manager.

Some experts place the failure rate of PMP as high as 40-50% but there are no reliable statistics to confirm that. PMI does not publish any statistics relate to PMP exam pass rate.

On the other hand, it is known fact that only about 80,000 professionals take the exam every year. This is a paltry figure considering 22 millions new project-oriented jobs are likely to created through 2027.

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Let’s understand how hard is the PMP exam and what makes this PMI (Project Management Institute) credential so difficult. Let’s also understand how you can make it easy by doing a focused PMP exam prep.

Note: Even though the exam is excruciatingly hard, you can easily crack it by following a focused plan for attaining the PMP certification.

Why is PMP Exam Hard and Difficult?

1. No Fixed PMP Passing Score

PMI uses a psychometric analysis to find out if a PMP candidate has passed or failed the PMP examination. The criteria for psychometric analysis are kept secret – no one knows if there is a fixed PMP passing score.

So, in order to become PMP certified, you have to prepare extra. It is generally believed that you should score  75% in practice test to successfully pass the actual exam. 75%, by any standard, is not an easy ask.

You can refer to our article on passing score for the PMP exam for more details.

2. Vastness of Syllabus

Many people believe that the PMP exam is based upon the PMBOK Guide (A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge). However, the PMP credential exam is not based upon any particular book but is aligned to three PMI publications viz. PMBOK Guide, Process Groups Practice Guide, and Agile Practice Guide. You can use these books as primary reference material for your studies.

The current PMP exam format is based upon the PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO). ECO is akin to the syllabus for the PMP exam – it is revised every 4-5 years. The new PMP exam follows the last revision that happened in January 2021.

ECO contains a list of domains and tasks that are tested during the exam. The current ECO has three domains viz. People, Process, and Business Environment. Each of these domains have multiple tasks. Below is a table showing the percentage of questions that come from each domain.


Percentage of Items on Test

I. People


II. Process


II. Business Environment




There are a total of 35 tasks in these three domains. These tasks are quite cumbersome and confusing to read. It sometimes becomes difficult to comprehend the vastness and depth of these tasks.

3. Exam is Long and Challenging

PMP is a very long and tiring exam. It is, in fact, one of the longest duration professional exams.

You have to complete 180 multiple choice questions in 230 minutes to finish the exam. In fact, if you count scheduled breaks, you will need to spend more than 4 hours to finish the exam. You get approximately 76 seconds to answer a question

The total time given is comfortable for 180 questions but it becomes difficult for a working professional to concentrate for such a long time while constantly staring at a computer screen.

4. Long List of Reference Books

PMI suggests you to read ten different books on project management to prepare for the exam. These books include three PMI publications – PMBOK Guide, Process Groups Practice Guide, and Agile Practice Guide. Reading 10 books to prepare for one exam is an almost impossible task for a working professional.

5. Exam Questions Change Regularly

Out of the total 180 questions that appear in the exam, 175 questions are scored while the remaining 5 are not scored. These 5 questions are called pre-test questions. These questions are randomly placed inside the exam so you cannot tell if a particular question is scored or not scored. You have to answer all the questions to the best of your ability.

The pre-test questions help PMI to constantly frame new questions and gauge their difficulty level by posing them to test-takers. PMI keeps on changing its question bank by using the qualified pre-test questions.

Due to the constant flow of new questions in the actual exam, you can never prepare enough for the exam. You cannot do your PMP exam preparation using old or historical question banks.

6. Various Type of Questions

The PMP certification exam has 7 different type of questions, which increase the difficulty of the exam. These questions come in five different formats:

  1. Multiple choices: One correct answer from the given four options.
  2. Multiple answers: More than one correct answers among the given options.
  3. Matching: Match choices among the two columns.
  4. Hotspot: Choose a section of a diagram to mark the correct answer.
  5. Fill in the blanks: You have to insert the correct answer in the blank.

7. Questions are Difficult and Confusing

The PMP certification exam questions are really tough and challenging. A typical PMP exam question is long and confusing. You just can’t pass the exam by mugging up the formulas and terms. You need to have a deeper understanding of the underlying project management concepts.

PMP exam questions are very demanding because they require you to apply project management knowledge and skills to real-world practical problems. The questions have realistic scenarios for which you have to find the best solution from the choices offered.

There may be multiple correct answers in a question, so the “best” answer may not be the only answer. Finding the best answer may not be enough, You would need to find the “most correct” and “most logical” answers.

How to Pass the PMP Exam?

The PMP certificate is one of the most respected credential in the world. You can take the exam only if you have a good experience of leading and directing the projects.

It is true that the PMP is a costly exam and there is a lot of uncertainty around it but that should not deter you to take a stab at the exam.

As a PMP aspirant you should not delay taking the exam as PMP certification is worth every penny that you might spend in PMP exam preparation. Every day of delay in getting certified is leading to delay in potential salary increment.

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The easiest way to pass the exam is by enrolling in a quality PMP certification training followed by practicing a lot of sample questions from a PMP exam simulator. A good training program will provide sound foundation to study for the exam and a simulator will check your readiness for the exam.

As per the PMP certification requirements, you should enroll in a project management education/training program that issues a 35 contact hours certificate. The certificate is mandatory for applying to the exam.

Our PMP training program comes with 100% pass guarantee. It includes 500+ chapter questions and 1500+ final PMP style practice questions. It comes bundled with all the required study material that you will need for passing the exam on your first attempt. If you fail the exam, we will refund 100% of your training fee.

You can watch the free demo of our training program to understand its benefits and value.

You can invest in our training program at a very affordable price. The price of our training program starts at USD 149 in USA.

Over to You

In your opinion, what makes the PMP exam difficult? What is the difficulty level of on a scale of 1 to 5?

What has been your own preparation experience? Has any of your friends passed the exam easily?

We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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  1. I passed the PMP yesterday with above target on all three domains. It is exhausting! At the final question I only had 33 seconds left. I did my very best to analyze each question to ensure I knew the PM approach of the scenario, to what process group the scenario was referring, what was the real problem, and what is the best answer. The best answer is tricky because most questions had at least two legitimate answers. I believe PMI wants you to look at the root of the problem and provide the answer that would get to the root of the problem rather than the answer that might provide a quick win or a “band-aid” fix to the problem at hand. For difficulty level, I’d say PMP and CISSP are very similar in terms of difficulty. Both require a breadth of knowledge and experience in the respective industries.

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