Top 15 Reasons Why People Failed PMP Exam & How To Avoid Them?

failed pmp exam

I have written this post to describe the top reasons why people failed PMP exam. This post is useful for you if you are thinking “what if i fail pmp exam”. But who are thinking “i failed the pmp exam now what” will also find it useful.

It is sad but PMP exam failure rate is very high.

Some aspirants do not get through in their first attempt. You might have heard about people who failed in their second and third try also. In fact, I have heard about people who did not even pass in their 4th try.

You should not despair if you have already failed the PMP Exam. It is not the end of the world. You might not have cleared the certification test but it does not mean that you will not get through next time.

A large percentage of aspirants do not succeed. You must get up and study for the certification exam again. This post will provide you with right ingredients for passing the exam.

Why Aspirants Failed PMP Exam & How Can You Avoid It?

PMP Failure Rate

Do you know how many people flunk the PMP credential test? What is the failure rate?

No one really knows what percentage of people fail except for folks at PMI. But that should not concern you. You should be worried only about your studies and exam prep with the ultimate objective of cracking the test.

You should avoid the mistakes that people have done in the past.

I have compiled a list of must do’s for the success in PMP exam. Here goes.

Formula For PMP Success

1. Must Study The PMBOK Guide

The exam is not entirely based on the PMBOK Guide, but the Guide is an important resource for passing the exam. Some people don’t read the Guide or just study it superficially. You should read the PMBOK Guide at least once to increase the chances of your success.

There are many good reference books for the PMP exam prep. You can determine which one is the best for you. But no other book or study material shoud replace the PMBOK Guide. If you decide to study from a reference book, then you can study it along with the Guide. You can also study the Guide after completing your chosen reference book.

You should, under no circumstance, skip the PMBOK Guide. It is important to understand PMI’s terminology, concepts and language to successfully crack the exam.

2. Must Attend A Formal 35 Hours Training Program

You must attend a formal PMP training. It can greatly enhance your chances of passing.

Some people avoid the training because of the high cost. They think that they already have the requisite hours through college credits or through previous training.

Some others attend a cheap training program for the sake of getting 35 contact hours.

By doing these things, you can certainly save some money. But the cost of not attending a good training program could prove to be very high.

I would recommend you to attend a formal boot camp the exam prep. A boot camp program has many benefits over other type of courses. But, if you feel that the fee for a good boot camp is prohibitively high, then you should attend an online self-learning program.

3. Must Have A Focused & Disciplined Study Approach

You should have a proper study plan and schedule.

I have noticed that many people study without a plan – they do not prepare a time schedule, they study from any study material that they can get hold of, they go off studies for for many days etc.

If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail.

To successfully pass, you should start by preparing a proper time-table and choose your study sources carefully. You should not have gaps in-between your studies unless there is a strong genuine reason. Every time there is a gap, you would need to put in extra effort to re-ignite your motivation.

4. Uee Free Web-resources Judiciously

You should study only from reliable free resources.

I am not against free web-resources. This blog is also free. However, not all free resources are equal – some free resources are good but many others have questionable information. Do not just google something and start studying from it. There are many resources on the Internet, which are not entirely correct.

You should study only from trustworthy sources. While studying, you can follow 2-3 independent blogs and do some free questions from reputed training companies.

5. Must Do Enough Practice Exams

You should solve many questions from reliable sources before you take the exam. As per my experience, you should practice at least 2000 questions before appearing for the PMP exam.

You should do a combination of free and paid tests before appearing the exam.

6. Understand PMBOK Guide’s Concepts And ITTO

You should thoroughly understand the concepts written in the PMBOK Guide including Inputs, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs (ITTO).

Most of the exam questions are situational questions. A pure memorization of definitions, processes and ITTO will surely lead to failure.

Many people are fearful of ITTO. But, you don;t have to worry. I have written series of ITTO articles and developed comprehensive learning strategies to help you. You can start by downloading free ITTO process chart.

7. Do Not Skip Or Skim Any Part Of The Question

I would suggest that you should read my article on how to answer the PMP questions to get a complete explanation for items #7-10.

8. Do Not Assume Anything Outside The Question

9. Read All The Options To Find The Right Answer

10. Ignore Irrelevant Or Extraneous Information In The Question

11. Must Do At Least One Full length 200 Question Simulated

You should do a few full length practice tests using a simulated software. This you will improve your concentration level, sitting capacity, speed, and accuracy for a 4 hours test.

I would recommend that you to look at my article on review and comparison of top PMP exam simulators before investing in a paid test.

12. Understand Mathematical Concepts & Practice Formula Based Questions

You should have a complete understanding of the mathematical concepts and you must practice formula based questions. You might get about 30-40 such questions in the exam.

You can start your preparation by downloading free PMP formulas cheat sheet.

13. Do Not Over-rely On Personal Experience

You should not use your own personal project management experience while answering the PMP questions.

The PMBOK Guide is written in a certain way. You can use your project management experience to study and understand the Guide’s concepts. But, do not use the same experience while answering the questions. You should deviate from the concepts written in the Guide.

You can read my post on Should I use my experience to answer the PMP questions for more details.

14. Use English Language Study Material For The Exam Prep

All PMI examinations are conducted in English. You will have some disadvantage if English is not your native language.

But this should not become your excuse for failing the PMP Exam. You should spend more time for the exam prep to overcome this handicap.

PMI does provide language aids (at no additional cost) to non-English speaking aspirants. You can request for your preferred language aid before the exam. These language aids translate English questions to your preferred language.

Although language aids are available and you don’t have to pay anything extra, I would suggest that you should not use these aids. During the exam you are pressed for time and you do not want to waste precious moments for translating an English question to your native language.

You may request language aid before the exam but try to avoid using them. It is better to be prepared upfront for the English exam.

15. Don’t Take The Exam Before You Are Ready

This is a tricky one. No one knows if she/he is ready for an exam. Any exam.

But you are in luck. You should read my article best way to determine PMP Exam passing score to check your readiness for the exam. If you are not ready, then it is better to postpone your exam date (even if it means losing some money).

Final Thoughts

Even though the title of the post is a bit negative, I have not written this post to discourage you. I have written this post so that you can avoid failing in the PMP Exam.

As per my experience, if you study well and follow the above points, no one can stop you from passing the PMP Exam in the first attempt.

The key to success PMP Exam is 50% perspiration and 50% preparation.

You will have to perspire and you will have to prepare. No one else can do that for you.

The PMP Exam is considered to be a difficult exam and it is. There is no easy way out. So, you need to study hard. But, at the same time, you must perspire & prepare in the right direction.

If you need help for the exam preparation and studies, you can join my personal one-to-one PMP coaching sessions.

Over To You

Did this article help you in your exam prep? Would you change your prep process after reading this article? Which point do you think was most relevant? Please leave a comment.

Good luck to all the PMP aspirants.

Praveen Malik, PMP

​Praveen Malik ​is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with a rich 23+ years of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor, Coach and ​Advisor. He ​has successfully trained thousands of aspirants for the PM certification exams.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Kristin Anderson Reply

I am impressed this blog for sharing this very important information. I hope some people will read this article.

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply


Honey Young Reply

Thank you very much for sharing this very important information. This is totally helpful for those are planning to take PMP examination.

Sahil Reply

Thank you sir.

Daniel Reply

Really interesting what you posted here.More informative and very useful content.keep sharing

Syed Reply

going to write PMP exam next week.
As my application will expire on 01-Jun-16.

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    Syed, All the best.

Sahana Reply

thanks Sir, this article is helpful!

Majid Reply

Sir what is your opinion about the new changes to the exam…any advice will be highly appreciated.

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    There is a slight change in in the PMP pattern – the percentages for different domains have changed and Project Manager’s role is as per the new Role Delineation Study (RDS).

    You should look at following articles to understand the complete details.
    1. What are PMP Exam Changes for January 2016? (
    2. Frequently Asked Question on Change in PMP Exam (

    The pattern change happened in January 2016. But it should not bother an aspirant now. You just need to study the new study material and ignore the old material.

    However, even if you have old study material then also you should not worry. The changes are small. You can study the old material along with the new RDS. Other option is to attend a formal training again – 6 Reasons To Do A PMP Training Again (

    All the best

Latrice Reply

I failed twice. I stumbled on your post. Well written. I followed your points. I passed third time. Many thanks.

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    Hi Latrice, Thanks for the appreciation. Good luck.

gaurav Reply

Sir ! In my last attempt, i lost it due to situation based (or scenario based) questions where more than one option seems to be correct. These questions are pretty subjective in nature. How to prepare for them ?


    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    Hi Gaurav,

    That is sad. But you will have better luck next time.

    Scenario based Q form the bulk of the exam. Did you read – how to answer the PMP questions? related to point VII-X above?

    Secondly, did you read – 7 strategies to answer ITTO questions related to point VI above? Scenario based Q cannot be answered without understanding the relationships between processes.

    Lastly, you should practice lot of Q. Don’t go for the exam unless you are ready for it. You should read Best way to determine PMP Exam passing score related to point XV above.

    Good luck.

Fleming Reply

Amazing content. Now this is what I call a full-on review. Thank you so much.
– From Tokyo

Marie-Claude Reply

I have followed 80% of what you have outlined.
And still failed the exam 3 times by a margin.

I have over 10 years experience in Project Management and still wonder what went wrong with my exam. I actually thought the questions were straight forward.

I’m not sure now. I’m really skeptical about all this.

My motivation for the PMP license is diminishing rapidly.

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    Hi Marie, That’s sad. PMI want answers aligned to the PMBOK Guide. PMI does not want what you might have done in your projects. So you have to be very careful.

    You have change your prep strategy and study material if something is not working.

    Which 20% you did not follow? Were you able to identify RC of the failure? What did you do to improve the shortcomings in subsequent attempts?


Nidhi Reply


It’s a detailed blog with loads of info for anyone to grab & prepare. May I know if you have documented anything around the recent changes to PMP examination pattern? If yes do we need to change in the above strategies?


ammawilliam Reply

I think my confidence is boosted manifolds after reading this. I feel. I feel you can add PMP dumps to the list.

Praveen Lokesh Reply

Thanks for your valuable sharing,I hope this would be the best practices to pass PMP exam in first attempt.
Now, I am feeling positive.

Best regards,
Praveen Lokesh

Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

Good luck. Do share your experience when you pass the exam. BR, Praveen.

Leave a Reply: