5 Reasons For Not Using Project Management Experience to Answer PMP Questions

Over Reliance on Project Management Experience is Bad for the PMP Exam


project management experience pmpConsider this. You have just completed a small PMP sample test. You were pretty sure that, you have done well in the test. Alas! When you looked at the answers & explanations, you found out that you have answered many questions incorrectly.

I have noticed that many PMP aspirants, especially during their early days of preparation, use their project management experience to answer the PMP questions. If you too are using your experience to answer the PMP questions, then you should change your strategy. You should avoid using it. This could be very detrimental for your exam. In fact, this is one of the top 15 reasons for failing the PMP Exam.

Don’t use your project management experience to answer the PMP questions.

This statement would seem preposterous to you. You would say that it goes against the general wisdom. You would ask why does PMI requires 4500 hours (bachelor’s degree) or 7500 hours (high school diploma) of experience, if it cannot be used.

Let me explain.

Project Management Experience and PMBOK Guide’s Concepts

As per the PMI requirement, you should have a certain minimum hours of project management experience before you can apply for the PMP Exam. This experience should be in leading & directing the projects and not any experience. This experience helps in understanding the PMBOK Guide’s concepts & terminologies.

You should definitely use your experience to understand the concepts. But, you should not use your experience to answer the PMP questions.

PMBOK Guide is considered as a difficult book to read. It contains very few examples (for a reason) and it does not clearly tell you “how to do project management?”. It is up to you to interpret it correctly. This is where your project management experience comes in handy. The Guide becomes easier to read, if you have the relevant experience. I would strongly advise you to use your practical experience to understand the PMBOK Guide’s concepts like Network Diagrams and Earned Value Management. However, you should not use your experience while answering the exam questions.

In fact, you should ignore your experience once you have understood the concepts – Reliance on experience is good but over-reliance on experience is a bad strategy for the exam.

Why you should not use your experience to answer the PMP exam questions?

Let us look at the following points to understand why over-reliance on practical experience is a bad strategy for the exam.

  1. Every organization has an approach (formal or informal) for doing their Projects. The approach may vary from organization to organization. So, answering a question based on your organization’s approach can lead to incorrect results.
  2. PMP questions are generic project management questions. They are not related to a particular industry, a domain, or an area of work. So, the answer should also be generic and not something that is considered as a norm in your industry or domain.
  3. It is possible that you have been using some methodology or process, which has consistently worked well in your projects. But it does not mean that the same methodology or process is the right answer to the question. It may not work in most of the situations, which is what PMI wants.
  4. It is possible that, as a project manager, you have not experienced the situation written in the question, but it does not mean that situation can never arise in some project. If such a questions comes, your experience will not be useful.
  5. It is possible that, in your organization, the role of a project manager is limited. Some critical tasks are done by the senior managers like a Sponsor. However, PMI has provided a good definition of the role and associated responsibilities of a project manager. While answering the questions, you have to understand the PMI’s role definition and ignore what you have been accustomed to.


Remember that PMI is looking for an answer that will work in most of the situations and most of the time. They are looking for the best choice among the 4 options provided. PMI is not looking for how you do your projects, which is different for different people.

Use your project management experience to understand PMBOK Guide’s concepts and terminologies. Ignore it while answering the questions.

All the best.

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[infobox color=”#d9eef0″ textcolor=”#000000″ icon=”info-circle”]Managing projects is more difficult that passing the exam.[/infobox]

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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.

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Dr_PDG Reply

Praveen and colleagues,
If this alone doesn’t tell you that the PMP is little more than a SCAM then nothing will……..

Everyone needs to answer the question: “GIVEN that PMI has been around for 45 years and GIVEN that the PMP has been around for 32 years doesn’t it seem reasonable that IF what PMI was advocating worked that by now we should be seeing MEASURABLE IMPROVEMENT in project “SUCCESS” rates?

Which is why PMI has totally revamped their PMBOK Guide 2016 to reflect a model which was developed by “big oil” back in the 1950’s and to attest to how well it works it is still in use today by all the major international and most national oil companies.

Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

    Praveen Malik, PMP Reply

    Dr PDG,

    Thanks for your comment. My knowledge of history of PM literature is limited and I would not like to comment on that. My article does not talk about PM history or PMBOK Guide concepts (good or bad). It just says that PMP exam (to a large extent) is based on PM concepts as written in the Guide.

    The concepts, as written in the Guide, are not pertinent to an industrial domain or methodology. My article clearly states that PMP exam tests the conceptual knowledge. So one should not use her/his experience while answering Q.

    To conclude, PMP exam does not test a particular methodology or knowledge on an industrial domain. To infer that PMP exam is scam based on my article is unfair.


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