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Tips on Applying for and Passing the PMP® or CAPM® Exam – Part V – Overview of Exam Questions (#5 in the series Tips on Applying for and Passing the PMP® or CAPM® Exam)
By Vicki Wrona, PMP – Global Knowledge Instructor

Overview of Exam Questions

The format of the test is multiple-choice, with four (4) answer choices per question. The questions come from the following Process Groups plus Professional Responsibility:

Project Initiation 23 11.6% 14 9.3%
Project Planning 45 22.7% 33 22.0%
Project Execution 55 27.5% 40 26.7%
Project Monitoring 42 21.0% 32 21.3%
Project Closing 17 8.6% 14 9.3%
Professional and Social Responsibility 17 8.6% 17 11.3%
Total 200 100% 150 100%
Passing 106 of 175 60.5% 86 of 150 57%
Time Limit 4 Hours 3 Hours

The PMP exam is psychometric in that it applies knowledge, application, and analysis, including situational questions.

The questions are randomly generated from a database, so no two exams are alike. The exam is reviewed and revised periodically. All potential test questions go through rigorous scrutiny by a team of PMPs prior to being offered in the exam to ensure consistency, accuracy, and fairness.

While a score of 61% for the PMP and 57% for the CAPM may seem fairly low, don’t think that the test is easy to pass. Within the professional certification industry, the goal is to have a pass rate of between 65% and 75%. Consequently, PMI’s scores are set so that around 75% of people will pass. To do this, the questions are reviewed by a panel of experts to ensure that they truly test your knowledge. Memorizing the PMBOK® Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) or lots of lists is not enough to ensure a passing score on the exam. Nor is experience alone. One of the more often-cited reasons for candidates not to pass the exam on the first try is due to their reliance on experience alone. Often, experience is not enough to get you through the exam unless you also understand PMI’s terminology, processes, and way of thinking. This is where formal education or study guides come in handy.

On the other hand, if you score anything above the passing rate, be happy. Don’t expect to score in the 90s just because you always have in the past. This is not your typical college test. Another way to think about it is that anything over 61% is gold-plating! Once you pass the exam, your score is irrelevant.

Vicki Wrona, PMP, has been managing projects and mentoring project managers for the past 18 years in both the private and public sectors, in manufacturing, service, and IT. Over the past 7 years, she has personally trained over 3,100 people through Global Knowledge. She is the President of Forward Momentum, LLC, an 8(a) company.

This article was originally published in Global Knowledge’s Business Brief e-newsletter. Global Knowledge delivers comprehensive hands-on project management, business process, and professional skills training. Visit our online Knowledge Center at for free white papers, webinars, and more.

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