Many people do not want to hear that they might fail a certification such as this, but it happens every day. The reasons below will give you an idea of what must be overcome in order to pass the PMP® certification.
- Participants did not take the test seriously
The PMP® certification is extremely hard and difficult. Most participants consider it to be one of the hardest tests they have ever taken. Even though this is emphasized in boot camps, there are always those individuals who think that this must be an overstatement of the test. Make sure you do adequate preparation before taking the PMP® certification test.
Organizations do not use PMI® processes in real life
Using PMBOK® and PMI® processes at your organization gives you an advantage in understanding how the process is integrated and how projects should run effectively. When organizations follow PMBOK® processes, you already have 20 to 30% of the knowledge needed to answer many of the questions which will be on the test. This does not mean that a person cannot learn those processes if their organization is not using them daily. We have individuals in training every day who are exposed to PMI® processes for the first time, and they have successfully completed and passed their certification on the first attempt. What this does mean is that an individual must take the necessary time and effort to understand and become an expert in the PMI® processes and the PMBOK® guide.
Participants who have been extremely fortunate in academic circles will struggle with the PMP® certification. Many will attempt to take the test the first time with the assumption that they will be able to distinguish the correct answer since it is a multiple-choice test. What they fail to understand is that this multiple-choice test normally has two possible answers. PMI® desires for their certified project managers to know the difference in those answers and pick the better of the two. Do not expect to find questions and answers that you can distinguish the proper response, unless you have conducted deep preparation and analysis of the PMI® processes and the PMBOK® guide.
Not reading the question in detail or understanding what is being asked
Taking a multiple-choice test is somewhat different than other testing methods. This test will give you a scenario and ask for a response. This means that each participant must fully understand exactly what is being asked of them prior to responding. One of the best ways to handle this is to read the question three times prior to answering it. Each time ask yourself, “What do they want to know?” Do not make assumptions or speed through the questions.
This is extremely important and difficult due to some questions being quite long. As you begin reading these large scenario questions, it is important for you to not get sidetracked with all the information and data that has been thrown in. One of the best suggestions for scenario questions is to read the question first. When you read the question prior to the scenario, you will look for the most important data that is going to fulfill the answer in a shorter period of time. With a little practice, this will become extremely easy for you prior to test day.
Not being prepared for the testing environment
The testing environment surrounding the certification can be very intimidating to those who have not attempted other certifications. The testing site will have 15 to 20 people taking a test at the same time. You will sign in and show identification. While you take the test, video cameras are watching your every move. If you are not prepared for this it can be extremely daunting. Some participants have even said they felt so much pressure due to the environment that they got nervous and missed several questions.
Participants fail to be in the test taking mindset
Being prepared for the test and knowing the material is extremely important. In addition, each participant needs to be primed and ready for an intense experience during the certification test. This means that you will have already studied the needed material. You have used flashcards, practice tests and conducted all reading. You must walk in with a positive mindset that you can pass this test and are planning on giving 110% toward that goal. Unless a participant walks in thinking that they can pass the test and they have done proper preparation, this will be a wasted effort.
Participants must be prepared to change from topic to topic in a short period of time, as well as moving from definitions to applying the material to a certain situation. The test will not ask straightforward questions, but it desires you to apply the PMI® processes and the PMBOK® in various situations.
Participants did not create a progressive study plan
To prepare for the PMP® certification, it requires making sure you not only study but that you study the correct material. Most individuals have indicated that a study plan connected to various topics and definitions is helpful. In addition, the study plan should include practice tests that are similar to the PMP® certification exam. Unless you are willing to include tests in association with the studying, it is unlikely you will be fully prepared on test day.
When taking practice tests, some individuals verbalize that they are shooting for the 61% need to pass the PMP® test. Let me remind you that the conditions during your study time and the conditions for the test at the testing site will be vastly different. You will be more nervous and have more anxiety on test day. You should be scoring in the range of 85% or higher on practice tests. If you are scoring 60 to 70% on the practice tests, you are not ready to take the PMP® certification. When an individual scores 85% or higher on all practice tests,assuming those tests have the correct processes, information, and data that aligns with the current PMBOK®, he or she will not be too surprised with anything that comes out on the certification test.
A progressive study plan will allow you to learn the five process groups and be able to recall each of them, which is imperative for this level of a test. Participants must be able to recall all of this information, as well as all knowledge areas, to have any chance of passing the PMP® certification.
Participants study the wrong material
There is a great deal of material floating around about how to pass the PMP® certification. Some websites will give you 200 questions for free and numerous handouts to assist you in your study preparation. The only problem is that some of that material is absolutely wrong. Some questions, which are still on the websites, are from older versions of PMBOK®. In addition, some of the so-called advice is contrary to what PMI® tells you about the certification itself.
Waiting too long between the boot camp and taking the test
One of the best things you can do is to be ready to take the exam as soon as possible after completing a boot camp. This increases your possibility of passing. However, there are many boot camps which encourage you to take 30 days to study. This makes no sense. If a boot camp is created to prepare people for the PMP® certification, then they need to be ready to take the test soon afterwards.
Allowing anxiety and nervousness to control and dominate during the test
It is understandable for you to be nervous when taking an international certification test. This is common to everyone; however, it is important not to allow your nerves and anxiety to become uncontrollable during the test. While taking the test, some will be nervous at their stomach throughout the four hour endeavor. You must be able to control yourself and your nerves or you will not be able to think correctly and answer the questions accordingly.
Becoming extremely depressed and frustrated due to questions you do not know may cause you to immediately change your answer. Our suggestion is to mark those questions for review and return to them later after the frustration has passed.
Dr. Keith Mathis, founder and CEO of The Mathis Group, specializes in Project Management, Management Leadership, and Marketing training for private businesses and government agencies of all kinds. He offers 33 Project Management courses, is a Project Management Professional, is certified by the Project Management Institute and will customize every training session to your individual company’s needs. The Mathis Group also sponsors www.pmexpertlive.com, which is a powerful project management resource with free reports, podcasts, videos, and a monthly newsletter. He also offers customized management training and coaching on any subject with prolific communication and professionalism.