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What Is The PMP Certification Test Like?
By Keith MathisPM Expert Live

Your PMP® certification test will cost $405.00 if you are a PMI® member and $525.00 if you are not. You will actually save $25.00 by joining PMI® and then signing up for the test. All fees for the PMP® certification will be paid to PMI® and they will notify you of your approval and give you a link of approved testing sites in your area.

The PMP® certification test consists of 200 multiple-choice questions in a timed atmosphere of four hours. The electronic system will grade only 175 questions and will discard 25 pre-selected questions. The test focuses on PMBOK® as its foundational information for about 80% of its content. The other 20% is based upon areas such as quality, process improvement, and general management of people and teams.

The certification test is taken at a testing site in your local community. This type of test can be very intimidating if you have not taken a test in this environment. Many individuals are nervous due to the atmosphere and to the amount of pressure to pass this test the first time. Most sites will have numerous security cameras focused on you to prevent any chance of cheating. Each individual is given a pencil, two pieces of paper, and a calculator. Most participants are asked to empty their pockets and lock all items up in a locker until the end of the four-hour test. The test itself is computerized, and you are expected to have a no-talking environment. You also normally have 15 minutes to become comfortable with the system and this time does not count again you.

Test questions may be short or as long as half a page. Most tests have scenario questions in which you are asked to make a decision as if you are a project manager. The challenge in a scenario question is that you have a limited amount of information and, in most cases, are asked to draw a conclusion based on what you would do. Almost every scenario question has two good answers, and you must analyze which is the best answer for this question based upon the PMBOK® philosophy.

The system is set up to only score 175 of the 200 questions—the other 25 questions are test questions being considered for future test banks or just junk questions. You must score at least 61% in order to pass the certification. Do not let this low percentage give you a false impression on this test. Many project managers with years of experience have failed the test taking the low percentage for granted. You must know more than project management; you must know the PMBOK® way of life.

The following chart is a general rule of thumb on the number of questions which will come out of each section. However, remember that PMI® changes things periodically and these figures are only used to give you an idea of the number of questions.

Process Group Potential Number of Questions
Initiating 19 questions
Planning 40 questions
Executing 47 questions
Monitoring and Controlling 37 questions
Closing 16 questions
Professional and Social Responsibility 16 questions

Make sure the materials you are using to prepare for the certification are current and in line with the PMP® exam. Be very careful with free tests downloaded from the internet. Some sites are still using testing material which is over 6 years old. Because the exam and PMBOK® are updated every few years, it is imperative that the material you are using is updated as well. We have seen participants come in with the wrong edition of PMBOK®, which actually confuses them and increases their chances of failing the test due to wrong preparation. The current PMP® Exam is over PMBOK 4th Edition as of July 1, 2009.

Lastly, you will find out whether or not you pass the exam before leaving the testing site. This allows you the excitement of knowing that the work is behind you or the opportunity to come up with a plan for when you will retake the test. You can only take the test three times unsuccessfully, and then you are required to wait 12 months before retaking the test.

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, 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.

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