How Hard is the PMP Exam?

How hard is the PMP®? Get helpful answers to common questions about PMP® exam difficulty and what to expect when taking the test.

How hard is the PMP exam?

Most people find the PMP exam to be very challenging. Not to mention, changes to the test added in 2021 have only added to the difficulty. This may be why many people, including serious test takers, find they have to take the test more than once to succeed. Those who want to safeguard their success often consider investing in a test prep course to increase their odds of passing.


You can find our PMP Exam Prep courses, here.

What is the PMP pass rate?

PMI does not disclose that information. Many PMP exam prep coaches think a passing score on the PMP is between 65% and 70%, but no one knows for sure. Regardless of what the passing score is, what we do know is that the exam is very difficult and should be prepared accordingly. Generally, students who consistently score above 80% on practice tests have a good shot at passing the real thing.

What does the PMP Exam cover?

Drawing from at least ten different references, the exam covers the typical tasks of a project manager, as outlined in the PMP Exam Content Outline, or “ECO.” These tasks are based on a recurring study commissioned by PMI about the roles and responsibilities of project managers across the world.

The exam content outline is currently divided into three domains that cover the following percentage of exam questions:


People – 42%

Process – 50%

Business Environment – 8%


The “People” domain includes tasks like leading a team, managing conflict, and collaborating with stakeholders.

“Process” includes the specific steps that you follow in order to plan and execute a project, including a working knowledge of both traditional and agile approaches to project management.

“Business environment” deals with how well you understand the business context in which projects are done, covering topics like governance, compliance, managing the external impacts on your project, and how to deliver project benefits as planned.

What are PMP exam questions like?

The majority of questions are multiple choice with one right answer. There are also multiple choice, multiple answer questions, which means that there are multiple choices to pick from and the test will tell you that there are two or three correct answers. There are also matching questions. For example, with matching questions, they may give you different scenarios and ask you to match them with the conflict management type that is reflected in the scenario. The test also includes what they call “hot area” questions, where you will see a graph or a visual and be asked to click on a particular part of the graph that reflects what they’re asking about.

How long is the PMP exam?

It is 180 questions. You will have 230 minutes to complete the exam.

Can I take breaks during the PMP exam?

Computer-based tests (online and in test centers) give you two ten-minute breaks: Your first break will occur after you’ve confirmed your answers for the first 60 questions. Your second 10-minute break will happen after you’ve confirmed your answers for questions 61-120. Once you start your break, you will be unable to go back and correct your answers from the previous session.

Can I use scratch paper for the exam?

For the online version of the exam you are not allowed to use scratch paper, however PMI provides a digital whiteboard that you can use to take notes.  For the in-person exam, testing centers will provide you either with scratch paper or a white board.

Can I use a calculator on the exam?

Yes, but you must use PMI’s online calculator.

Can I skip a PMP exam question, or mark it for later review?

You may skip questions; however, we recommend that you answer all questions and simply mark the ones you are unsure about for later review. That way, if you run out of time, you’ve at least marked an answer for every question. Before taking a break, the exam will prompt you to review any questions that you skipped or marked for review.


Can I end the test early?

Yes, you can! However, if you find yourself with extra time, a best practice would be to review your answers at least once.

How often is the PMP exam changed or updated?

The exam content outline is updated roughly every three years. However, most of the time, the exam changes are minor. The exception is the significant change that was made to the exam in 2021.

If I fail the exam, can I take it again?

Yes! There is a retake fee of $275 for members and $375 for non members. You may take the exam up to three times during the 1-year period following your application acceptance. If you are not able to pass the exam in three attempts, there will be a 1-year waiting period before you can re-apply for the certification and retake the exam.

What happens if my eligibility expires and I have not taken the exam?

Your application is valid for one (1) year from the date of approval. If you allow your eligibility to lapse, you must re-apply.

After the exam, will I be shown my exam score?

No, you will not be shown a percentage score. Instead, PMI will give you a rating for each domain of the exam (e.g., People, Process, and Business Environment.) The ratings are as follows: Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement.

PMI describes these categories as follows

Above Target: Your performance exceeds the minimum requirements for this exam.

Target: Your performance meets the minimum requirements for this exam.

Below Target: Your performance is slightly below target and fails to meet the minimum requirements for this exam. Additional preparation is recommended before re-examination.

Needs Improvement: Your performance is far below target and fails to meet the minimum requirements for this exam. Additional preparation is strongly recommended before re-examination.

PMI provides a sample exam result report, which you can view here.


Can I call myself PMP Certified as soon as I pass the exam?

Yes! However, your presence on PMI’s online registry may take 48 hours. In addition, you will not receive a physical certificate for about six weeks. That said, if you passed the exam, feel free to update your LinkedIn profile or resume with your credential.


Pass Your PMP® Exam In 3 Weeks With Our PMP® Exam Prep Course.