Format Of PMP Certification Exam & Type Of Questions 
If you are a PMP aspirant and you are beginning the PMP exam prep, you would want to know about the following two things:
- What is the structure and format of the PMP certification exam?
- What type of questions appear in the PMP exam?
As per the PMP exam changes introduced by Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2021, the PMP exam has 180 objective type questions that have to be completed in an allotted time duration of 230 minutes.
PMI tests PMP candidates with seven different type of questions. Even thought there are seven types of questions, majority of the 180 questions are situational questions. Apart from situational questions, the other kind of questions are direct, ITTO-based, formulas based, and professional responsibility questions.
Let us look at the PMP exam format in detail and understand the type of questions that are tested in the exam.
Structure/Format of PMP Certification Exam
The PMP examination consists of of 180 questions. Out of these, 175 questions are scored and rest 5 are not scored. The 5 questions are called pre-test questions. All questions are randomly placed in the exam and you you don’t get to know which questions are scored and which are not.
There is a popular belief that the PMP credential exam is based on the PMBOK Guide (A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge) but it is not true. The exam is based on the tasks defined in the on PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO).
Although PMBOK Guide is main reference for the PMP exam and most of the PMP exam questions are based on the project management concepts defined in the Guide but the exam is not entirely based on the Guide.
As per the ECO, the exam comes from three different performance domains:
- 42% questions come from People domain
- 50% from Process domain
- 8% from Business Environment domain
Out of 180 questions, about 50% of the questions are based on predictive project management methodologies and rest 50% come from agile and hybrid methodologies. These questions come in following form:
- Multiple choice: You have choose the best option from the given four choices.
- Multiple responses: There could be more than one correct answers among the choices provided.
- Matching: You have to match choices presented in two columns.
- Hotspot: You have to select a portion of the given diagram to mark the correct answer.
- Limited fill in the blank: You have to fill the blank with the correct answer
You can refer this pdf for examples of different forms of questions.
Type of Questions in PMP Exam
Apart from the 5 different forms of questions that are mentioned in the previous section, the exam tests you on 7 different kind of questions. These are:
Situational-based questions test your expertise to apply theoretical aspects to real-life situations. These questions’ main motive is to check your relevance for the task. The questions are based on the concepts of the PMBOK Guide.
Situational questions test your ability to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life project management situations. It is seen that questions under this head tend to be lengthy. Hence, the situational type of questions is actually like a real-life problem.
The options provided with these types of questions may seem to be confusing and they may give you the feeling of more than one correct option.
Sample Question: Ralph is a quality control manager for all projects at a large clothing manufacturer. He has reviewed Sally’s project and feels that the cost accuracy and duration estimates need to be improved and that the project’s projected end date is too far into the year. What should Sally do first?
- Re-interview the subject matter experts (SMEs) and ask for better estimates.
- Reexamine the WBS to see if it can be further decomposed, to allow for better estimation of cost and duration.
- Tell Ralph the estimates are sufficient. He is a quality control guy and has no real understanding of her project.
- Both A & B
Correct Answer: D
2. ITTO Based
The PMBOK Guide 6th edition has 49 processes that are distributed across 5 Process Groups and 10 Knowledge Areas. Each of the 49 processes have several ITTO. ITTO stands for Input, Tools & Techniques, and Output.
You will see a few PMP exam questions that are based on the ITTO. In these types of questions, you are asked to select the correct Input or Tools & techniques or output for a given process. The question can come from any Process Group or Knowledge Area.
Sample Question: Which of the following is not an Input to the Monitor Risks?
- Project Management Plan
- Work performance data
- Work performance reports
Correct Answer: B
3. Definition Based
These questions are based on definitions given in the PMBOK Guide. These are the simplest questions.
The term is given and the definition is asked or maybe the definition is given and the term is asked. These are simple to answer just go through the PMBOK Guide definitions for project management.
Sample Question: A risk trigger is:
- An event that delays the project
- An event that shortens the duration of the project
- Same as a risk symptom
- A warning sign
Correct Answer: D
4. Formulas Based
You should understand the mathematical formulas explained in the PMBOK Guide to solve these questions.
When you understand these formulas, it provides a critical decision-making process that helps to figure out which figure or information included in the PMP question can be used in the calculation.
A good understanding of the formula may also help you to eliminate the choices easily. Which helps you to solve the questions quickly with fewer choices.
Sample Question: Calculate the EAC from the data given below assuming that the variances were atypical.
EV = $25,000
PV = $20,000
AC = $27,000
BAC = $50,000
- EAC = $57,000
- EAC = $50,000
- EAC = $54,000
- EAC = $52,000
Correct Answer: D
EAC = AC + (BAC-EV)
EAC = 27000 + (50000 – 25000)
= 27000 + 25000
5. Diagram Based
These types of questions are based on diagrams or flow charts. A diagram is given and a question is asked you have to answer the question based on the diagram given.
Sample Question: What’s the critical path for the network diagram shown above?
Correct Answer: C
In such cases, you will be provided with some data and you need to analyze the data to find the correct answer.
PMP Exam Question: Out of the following 4 Project options, which is the best?
- Project A with Opportunity Cost of $ 200,000
- Project B with Benefit-Cost Ratio of 0.70
- Project C with IRR of -3%
- Project D with NPV of $ 200,000
Correct Answer: D. NPV>1 signifies the project is likely to be profitable. Projects B and C are loss-making projects. Opportunity cost does not tell anything about the profitability of a project. So Project D is the best option to choose.
7. Questions on Professional Responsibility
PMI expects you to follow a code of conduct since you are a certified professional. So you will get questions based on the PMI code of ethics & professional conduct.
Although no one knows how many question of each kind come in the PMP exam, but it is safe to say that the bulk of the questions are situational. You can assume that 90% of questions in the exam are situational questions.
Having said that, you should do all kinds of questions to prepare for the exam. You should start your preparation by doing some direct and ITTO questions before moving to the other kind of questions.
PMP Exam Sample Question: Ralph is a PMP certified project manager. He is managing a large clothing project for Acme Clothing, whose objective is to make cloth thinner but more strudy. This is a technically challenginf project and requires usage of latest technology. Before Acme Clothing, Ralph was working with Pinnacle Textiles and acquired new skills and knowledge while working there. He also got to know about the patents held by Pinnacle Textiles. Can Ralph use his knowledge and experience from his previous employment for the current project?
- No. This will violate patent regulation and hence PMP code of conduct does not allow it.
- PMP code of conduct does not apply to clothing technology. Ralph will not be violating the code of conduct.
- Knowledge can not be patented. He can use knowledge and experience without violating any standards or regulations.
- This is illegal, so PMI code of conduct will be binding on him in this case.
Correct Answer: C
How to Pass the PMP Exam?
PMP is a prestigious certificate. It is valued all across the globe. Every project manager yearns for this certificate but only professionals with good work experience in project management are eligible to take the certification exam.
PMP certification extremely valuable in the real world. It can potentially give you a 16% increment in your earnings.
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