How To Get Certified Without Knowing The PMP Exam Passing Score?

pmp exam passing scoreDo you want to know PMP Exam Passing Score?

Of course you would want to know. To become certified, you would want to know the minimum target score. Alas! No one knows what the minimum target score is or if there is a definite score to pass the exam. But you don’t have to worry. I have devised a strategy to succeed in the PMP exam without really knowing the passing marks. In this article, I have shared my proprietary strategy so that you can crack the PMP exam in first attempt.

In part I of this article PMP Passing Score, we discussed 3 facts and some popular opinions about the PMP exam passing score. You would know that PMI has not provided any definite passing criteria. They have just said that the score report will provide a grade on 5 different domains but there is no explanation on how the grading is done.

Now, this is a grave problem. The credential test is difficult and an unknown target score makes it even more difficult. How can you prepare for a test, if you do not know the passing criteria? How would you know if you have prepared well and are ready for the exam? A simple answer would be “do lot of PMP practice tests and get a high rating in these tests”.

Now, the obvious questions would be which are the good PMP practice tests and what is a good score in them? A good score could mean 50% or 70% or even 90%. Different people may have different opinions. But you need to be 100% sure to pass the exam. Let’s try to find answer to these questions.


Practice Tests And PMP Exam Passing Score

Let me share a small incident with you.

A few months ago, I was conducting a 4 day classroom training. On the last day, I invited an old colleague. I requested him to share his PMP  experience with the class. He shared many useful tips with the students. During his discourse, he touched upon the topic of PMP certification passing score. He categorically said that the students should target at least 80% in the PMP practice tests before taking the exam. Naturally, the students got curious about the 80% figure. We ended up having a lively & animated discussion on this topic.

While I do not entirely disagree with 80% figure (it is a good guiding figure), but more than anything else it was just a gut feel. You will find people suggesting similar figures in different Internet forums. PMP is a serious affair, so we should not rely on our gut. We should derive a scientific figure using sound logical reasoning.

Let us determine our own PMP Exam passing score.


Our Own PMP Exam Passing Score

Method I

Refer to the part I of this article 3 Facts About PMP Passing Score. The last published PMP certification passing score was 61% and before that it was 68.5%. These figures were published more than 10 years ago. Although we cannot use either of these figures as our target score, but we can certainly use them as a starting point for our analysis. Let us look at both of them.

1.    Last published score of 61% – This score was excluding the 25 pilot questions. If this were true today then, you would need to mark 106 out of 175 questions correctly to pass the exam. Assuming the worst case scenario, wherein all the pilot questions are correct, you would need a score of 106+25 (131) to pass the exam. This means that you would need a bare minimum score of 65.5% (131 out of 200 questions) to pass the exam.

2.    Older score of 68.5% – This score was including the 25 pilot questions. If this were true today then, you need to mark 137 out of 200 questions correctly to pass the exam. Or you would need a bare minimum score of 68.5% to pass the exam.

While determining our own PMP exam passing score, we cannot leave anything to chance. Since PMP certification is an expensive & difficult, we should be more careful. Let us take higher of the above two figures (68.5%) as the starting point to determine our own PMP exam passing score.

The exam has changed many times and competition has increased drastically in last few years. So, to be on the safe side, let us increase our target score by 5%. It is possible that the actual exam is more difficult than the PMP practice tests so to let us add another 5% to our target score.

After taking a gloom & doom scenario, we have arrived at our own PMP certification passing score. You need to score 78.5% in PMP practice tests before considering yourself ready for the exam. But before we go ahead, let me add little bit more spice to the previous statement.

You need to score 78.5% or more in all 5 domains in a 200 questions practice test, before you consider yourself ready for the exam.

Even though we have deduced 78.5% logically (after taking some safe & reasonable assumptions), it is still not a scientific figure. 78.5% should be used as a thumb rule and not as a definitive guideline.

Let me elaborate it a bit. All PMP practice tests are not created equal – some are more difficult while others are very easy. You may not be able to score 78.5% or more in difficult practice tests. Let me give you an example.

I try to stay in touch with my students even after I have trained them. Many of them reciprocate and share their prep strategy with me. They tell me which practice tests they have done and how much they have scored in those tests. I do not have any hard statistical data, but generally my students score 85% or more in Head First free 200 question test. On the other hand, most of them barely score 70% in Oliver Lehman’s tests. Now, this is a huge contrast.

Caution: You should use 78.5% as a thumb rule and not as a definitive guideline. Don’t become overconfident if you score more than 78.5%. At the same time do not feel down, if you score less than 78.5%. It all depends on the difficulty level of the test you are doing.

On this note let us take a look at a more scientific method.


Method II

Even though 78.5% is not a definitive figure, it is not a bad target. It is a good guiding figure. I will discuss its utility in the next section. Meanwhile let us use statistics to arrive at a scientific figure.

The best source for statistics would have been PMI. Alas! PMI does not provide any statistics. So, we have to rely on other sources. The next best sources are the companies offering paid PMP practice tests. Every year thousands of aspirants buy their practice tests. The databases of these companies would contain authentic, reliable, and useful data. This data can tell us how much people are scoring across different Knowledge Areas (KA) and Process Groups (PG). Now, these companies would not share the actual data and statistics with you or me. But if you buy their paid tests, you would get useful insights on your exam prep level.

pmp practice tests

Refer to the above figure. It is a snapshot of a live report taken from PMP Simulator by Christopher Scorodo. It shows average KA scores of the community. You would get access to many such reports, if you invest in to a good online simulator. You would be able to gauge your strengths & weaknesses by looking at these reports.

I would highly recommend that you invest in a good PMP practice tests. You can read my article titled 13 Reasons to Invest In A Paid Practice Exam to understand the benefits of paid tests. If you decide to buy PMP practice tests, then you must subscribe to

  • an online testing service. An online testing service will help you in gauging your performance against the global population.
  • a popular service that is used by a large number of people. A popular service will have statistically significant data.
  • a service that provides both KA and PG performance reports. It will help you in determining your strengths and weaknesses.

While keeping the above parameters in mind, I wrote an article to review & compare 6 popular PMP Exam Simulators. You should read it to find the best PMP practice test.


Recommended PMP Exam Prep Strategy

We have looked at two methods to determine our own PMP certification passing score. Let us combine these methods and develop a PMP exam prep strategy. I believe, you should follow a two-step approach while preparing for the exam. You should start with the free tests and then go to the paid tests.


Step I

You should start doing free tests as soon as you start studying. You should do about 500-1000 questions (depending upon your comfort level) from free sources. You can look at my article free PMP Sample Questions to get access to about 3500 questions.

A good score in free tests would validate your study. Towards the end of your study, you should get 78.5% in the free tests. Even if you score a few percentage less in difficult tests (like Oliver Lehman), don’t get disheartened. But if you are scoring less than 78.5% in every test, then you should go back to your study table. You should revise your study material and then do a few more free tests. Once you start feeling confident on the free tests, you should jump to the paid tests.


Step II

If you have done your studies well and you are getting a good score in the free tests then you are almost ready for the exam. At this juncture, to feel completely confident & to get the final confirmation, you should invest in paid tests. As suggested earlier, you should invest in a good, popular, online testing service. You will be able to gauge your strengths & weaknesses when you practice from the paid tests. Once you start scoring well in the paid tests, you would be ready for the exam.

Click here to find the Best PMP Exam Simulator.

Did you find the analysis to determine our own PMP Exam passing score useful? Please leave a comment & share your opinion.

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Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links – it means that, if you buy from any of these links, then I will receive a small commission that would help me in maintaining this blog for free. However, for you, there is no extra cost. I recommend only those products that I believe will definitely help the certification aspirants.

Praveen Malik, PMP is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with a rich 20+ years of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor and Consultant. He regularly conducts Project Management workshops in India & abroad.

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