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PMP® Passing Score: What To Aim for in PMP Exam Practice Tests

The Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is well-respected industry-wide as a credential proving project management expertise and experience. Its many benefits, including professional development and career advancement, make it a highly valued certification. However, the PMP certification is not easy to earn. The PMP exam is rigorous and challenging, which leaves many PMP exam applicants wondering: what is the PMP passing score?

What is the PMP exam passing score?

As you study for the intense PMP exam, you may wonder what score you should aim for in your PMP exam practice tests to get your certification. The short answer: no one knows.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) does not disclose much information about the PMP exam passing score. In 2005, they shared a passing score of 61%, but they have since stopped publishing any passing scores and changed the PMP exam format multiple times, with the newest update to the exam in 2021. You may see sources try to claim a score of 61% is still the confirmed number to pass the PMP exam, but attempts to define a specific pass rate are generally inaccurate.

While no one knows for sure what the actual PMP passing score is, we understand having more specific goals to focus on can help quell some anxieties and concentrate your studies. Your experts at Project Management Academy can help guide your PMP exam preparation with our PMI-approved courses that have a proven track record of helping applicants pass the test.

What is the PMP exam pass rate?

PMI does not release this information to the public. However, the PMP pass rate would most likely vary by region and education provider. At Project Management Academy, we derive our success statistics by tracking the number of our students who have taken advantage of our 100% money-back guarantee policy and comparing that number to our total enrollment figures. The statistics below are based on 100% of our PMP exam prep course customers in the respective periods listed from 2010 to 2019. Check back soon for our 2021 update including 2020 data. Also, according to our survey, 99% of our students would recommend our course to a friend or colleague.

Year Refund Rate
2010 0.6%
2011 0.2%
2012 0.7%
2013 0.9%
2014 0.1%
2015 0.1%
2016 0.1%
2017 0.1%
2018 0.1%
2019 0.1%*
2020 0.1%*

*Data as of 1/1/2021

Remember, PMI never discloses criteria related to the PMP exam pass rate or other related details like the passing score. We can only make informed guesses based on our past students’ performance and certification success rate. The best thing we can do to help you study for the 2021 exam is to break down what we know about the PMP exam: how it is graded, what will be tested, and more.

How is the PMP exam graded?

If PMI doesn’t reveal the PMP exam passing score or pass rate, what do they reveal? PMI won't discuss the pass rate. However, all they will say about the PMP passing score is the following: “The passing score for all PMI credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI uses subject matter experts – project professionals from around the world and many different disciplines – to determine how many questions you must answer correctly to pass the exam.”

Let’s break that down into two parts. First, what does PMI mean by “sound psychometric analysis”? A psychometric test evaluates your performance and potential. You can think of this certification test and its scoring process as benchmarking your skills, knowledge, and ability: how do you score compared to the rest of the project management field?

Secondly, what does PMI mean by determining how many questions you must answer correctly to pass the PMP exam? Your PMP exam will not contain the same questions as another candidate’s exam. Also, the difficulty level and content of each question doesn't affect its weight on your final score. Logically, this means you will get one of many different versions of the exam and no matter how hard or easy it seems, your score is evaluated based on how well you scored compared to your peers.

Instead of showing your actual or percentage score, the PMP Exam Report you receive at the end of the PMP exam will explain your results using performance rating categories.

PMP exam performance rating categories

While we don’t know the exact PMP exam passing score PMI requires, the performance rating categories can act as an indicator for measured success. PMI explains, “Each scored question in the exam is worth one point, and your final score is calculated by totaling the points you have earned on the exam. The number of questions you answer correctly places you within one of the performance rating categories you see in the report.” Your PMP Exam Score Report will contain the following:

  1. Your overall test result. The PMP exam is a pass/fail test, so your overall result can only be one of these two options: you either will or will not receive your certification.
  2. Your performance across domains.
    1. The performance rating categories are Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement.
    2. The domains are Process, People, and Business Environment.

What does this all mean? Essentially, you can score below, at, or above target across the three domains of Process, People, and Business Environment. The Process domain will make up 50% of the test questions, while People will make up 42% of the test, and Business Environment will make up only 8%.

Your exam results will then break down the domains into individual tasks and tell you how you performed on each one of those.

This is the core of what is set on the PMP exam. While you can have some weak spots, you should aim to be at or above target for most domains to earn your PMP certification successfully. If you can consistently score a 75% or higher across a minimum of 3 practice exams, you’re likely well-positioned to pass the PMP certification test. To help you prepare for this, let’s go into more detail about the PMP exam itself.

About the PMP exam

What does the exam look like?

There are a total of 180 questions in the PMP exam. You will have 230 minutes to complete the test. If you are taking the computer-based test, you will have two 10-minute breaks. There are no scheduled breaks for paper-based tests, but you can take breaks on your own time, which will be deducted from your 230 minutes of exam time.

The 180 PMP exam questions will be distributed amongst question types such as multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank. The questions will cover knowledge from the PMBOK® Guide and PMI-approved project management standards.

The computer-based exam begins with a tutorial and ends with a survey, which may take about 15 minutes to complete. This time is not included in your total 230 minutes of test-taking time. You will know your exam results after you complete the computer-based exam. For the paper-based exam, you will be able to access your exam report 6-8 weeks after the exam date.

What will you be tested on?

As we mentioned before, with the most recent update to the PMP exam, your test will focus on the three new domains of People, Process, and Business Environment. These domains correlate with the PMI Talent Triangle:

  • Process correlates with technical PM skills
  • People correlates with project management leadership skills
  • Business Environment correlates with strategic and business management

Within those three domains, you will be tested on concepts including the project management tasks and enablers. Enablers, “illustrative examples of the work associated with the tasks”, are high-level skills PMs need to possess to show certification-level competency across the three domains. You will be tested on 17 process tasks, 14 people tasks, and 4 business environment tasks, each with a series of enablers to help describe the task.

As you can probably guess from the name, enablers enable project managers to successfully perform all necessary project management processes. Enablers align with the numerous processes, tools and techniques, and outputs outlined in the PMBOK® Guide and several other references published by PMI. While the Process domain makes up the majority of the test, the predictive project management processes from the PMBOK® Guide are represented in all three domains.

Talent Triangle

Beginning in January 2021, PMI asks you to also demonstrate knowledge in agile and hybrid methodologies. The PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO) states “…today’s project management practitioners work in a variety of project environments and utilize different project approaches. Accordingly, the PMP certification will be reflective of this and will incorporate approaches across the value delivery spectrum. About half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches.”

The best way to study the different project approaches and various tasks within the three PMP exam domains is to take a PMI-approved course taught by Authorized Training Partners such as Project Management Academy. We offer online PMP training and live PMP training courses covering all of this material and providing additional resources to help you prepare and apply for the PMP certification test.

So… what does this mean for a Passing PMP score?

To reiterate, PMI has not declared an official PMP passing score or pass rate for the exam. Any claims of a definite passing score are inaccurate or outdated. PMI does not release official information about this subject and likely never will. Instead of a numerical pass percentage, they provide individual test-takers with a summary of their proficiency levels below, at, or above target.

Here are some myths and facts about the PMP exam pass rate to help summarize this information:

Myth: The PMP exam pass rate is confirmed at 61%.

Fact: There is no confirmed or official PMP exam passing score. Although PMI published a PMP exam pass rate of 61% in 2005, they have not released any updated information since then, while the exam and its scoring system have been updated multiple times. Any sources claiming to know the PMP passing score are inaccurate. While it might provide some level of comfort to know the PMP Exam Pass Rate, this knowledge is simply not necessary.

Myth: The PMP exam pass rate is the same for every applicant

Fact: There is no clear answer regarding this, but we can make educated guesses and draw logical conclusions based on what we know about the test. The PMP exam is psychometric and evaluates your performance compared to the rest of the project management field. The questions you receive may vary in content from other test takers’ questions.

Myth: All PMP exam questions are not equally weighted.

Fact: The PMP exam scores questions equally by assigning one point per question. More challenging questions will not have more weight than easier ones, so the number of questions you need to answer correctly will not vary depending on their weightage compared to the test as a whole. PMI uses subject matter experts worldwide to determine how many questions you need to answer to pass the PMP exam.

Myth: The PMP exam is only focused on the predictive knowledge contained in the PMBOK® Guide.

Fact: PMI has always sourced exam questions using more than just the PMBOK® Guide as a reference, but they now provide a list of references exam takers should make themselves familiar with as they prepare. You should also use the PMP Exam Content Outline as a guide for directing the areas you focus your studies. You should also be prepared to answer questions about agile and hybrid approaches – 50% of the exam is now dedicated to testing your competencies of these practices.

Myth: Scoring below target (“Below Proficient”) in any domain means an automatic fail.

Fact: PMI will look at your overall PMP exam performance across all domains to determine your results. Getting below target in one domain does not automatically mean you failed, but scoring poorly on a large number of questions reduces your chances of passing.

Are you looking for the best way to pass the PMP exam on your first try? Let your PMA experts help. Learn more about our online PMP training course and live PMP training course options, as well as the PMP exam prep materials and other resources we offer in our PMP Exam Prep Training – The PMA Way.

Feel free to contact us at any time with questions!

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