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I Prepared Well Still I Failed in PMP® Exam

  • PMP®
Created on :
May 1, 2017
Saket Bansal
Updated on :
October 7, 2022

Before I share the view on how to avoid failing in PMP® exam, I would like to acknowledge people who are brave enough to take on the PMP® exam.

I have seen participants keep delaying the PMP® exam in fear of failing. In my view failing in PMP® exam is far better than delaying or never giving the exam at all.

In recent time I had many video conversations around what went wrong in PMP® exam preparation. In this blog, I am addressing findings where professionals prepared well for PMP® exam but could not pass in the first attempt.

Like any other Exam, PMP® exam also needs preparation and the right technique to ensure success. When one does not prepare well and fail, he knows the reason.

But when one prepares well and still fail it confuses more. You need to think of PMP® Certification preparation as a project and end goal is to get PMP® certification. Here, I am sharing my observations on failing the PMP® exam and how to avoid it.

Every individual is unique and they have unique reasons why they could not clear PMP® Exam. But when I talk to a large group of people a common pattern would emerge. Based on my discussion with people like you I have prepared a list of seven common mistakes which can lead to failure in the PMP® exam. I have also compiled how to avoid the impact of these mistakes and rise success in the PMP® exam.

This blog is important for you if you failed to clear PMP® Exam in the first attempt, this is equally important for you if you are taking on the PMP® exam and want to avoid some common mistakes.

So read on…

Reading PMBOK® Guide as exam preparation book

The Internet is full of PMP® exam preparation advices. I have seen people recommending reading of PMBOK® Guide n number of times to clear PMP® Exam. It is evident that PMBOK® Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is a standard to prepare the exam. It gives a structure to explore project management knowledge.


It does not provide the detailed context of the situation to apply this knowledge in projects.

Say PMBOK® Guide tells what project charter is and what involves in preparing it. But it does not elaborate on how the content of Project Charter varies with the type of procurement contract between vendor and customer. In an in-house project, we may have a very lightweight and informal project charter. But in the external fix price project, we may have a very formal project charter. The PMP® exam is going to ask how project charter solves project management problem in different contexts. And if you limit your knowledge and exploration to PMBOK® Guide, you may miss the context.

Notice how PMBOK® Guide learnings apply in real life Project Management situations. Here, your focus should be on exploring Project Management and see how you can apply it in your projects. Our Online exam prep program gives you context for each element of PMBOK® Guide.

Focus on covering Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs

PMBOK® Guide is a collection of processes, and each process has Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs. Many PMP® Certification aspirants refer to this as ITTO. And, most of the PMP® Certification aspirants try to memorize the ITTO of all PMBOK® Guide processes and take it like a way to pass the exam.

A couple of problems come with this memorization:

  • First remembering ITTO is difficult, and second,
  • You do not get direct questions based on memorization of the ITTO.

The ITTO in PMBOK® Guide are important to understand how various area of project management work. And, when you work in one area, it helps in knowing:

  • What all information you may need to complete that work, and
  • What all tools and techniques can generate some results (outputs) in this field.

The PMP® exam validates if you can refine and improve your capacity to handle project management situations by knowing ITTO.

Study the PMBOK® Guide processes to build a capability to handle project management issues. Alone, it is not a core exam preparation tool unless coupled with real project contexts.

Taking Practice Tests as way to predict real PMP® exam

I have seen many test takers start giving too much importance to PMP® exam simulator. Test takers start hoping some of the questions from PMP® exam simulator will appear in the real exam. And in this way, scoring well in simulator becomes their focus area. So they end up taking the given simulation exams many time and starts scoring well in it. Sometimes, this process ends up failing in the real exam.

Take simulators as a way to uncover your weak areas in Project Management. Once you find these areas, you need to work on the same. The real PMP® exam is going to be different from the simulators. Uncovering gaps are critical for PMP® exam preparation, so use them as an opportunity to find and recollect weak areas.

Spending time in reading and practicing areas which are not asked in PMP® Exam

When you prepare for PMP® exam, one has to ensure to focus their study on the areas asked in PMP® exam rather than what is available on the internet.

The Internet is full of PMP® certification material, and many of these materials are not updated for more than a decade. PMI’s role definition study keeps happening every 3-4 years. And, based on changes in the environment PMI reflects changes in PMBOK® Guide and PMP® exam. Also, PMBOK® Guide is not a superset of all knowledge needed for managing projects. Well, it is a subset, but at the same time, you need to limit your study to the areas which are referend in this subset.

One may argue that PMP® exam may contain areas which are not covered in PMBOK® Guide, I agree it may, but that will be in very few questions. If you try to cover the areas which are relevant for Project Management but not referred in PMBOK® Guide – you may end up preparing too many things for your PMP® exam.

Find the quality source for your PMP® exam preparation. Find the provider whom you can reach to and clarify things. To get PMP® certified your first job should be to identify what is the minimum material you should master. Remember doing less could be a smart move.

Not developing endurance to sit for 4 hours in one stretch and poor time management

When you take the PMP® exam, you need to give the complete 200 questions long exam in four hours. I keep finding professionals who suffered because of not able to focus after the first 2 hours. They started feeling tired and irritated and wanted to get out of the room. It makes their performance goes down and resulting in not getting certified. The second associated problem is-  you also suffer managing time due to lack of  full-length practice exam.

Many professionals end up rushing through exam during the end. And due to bad time management, I have seen people unable to attempt on average 50 questions from 200.

Before appearing for the PMP® exam, develop endurance of sitting for 4 hours. Learn time management by doing at least four full-length tests. When you take full-length practice tests, target to finish the test in 3 hours. So you keep the buffer for long questions in real exam. Learn to pick the right answer in a limited time.

Poor reading comprehension

I find many test takers who could not make the exam in the first attempt are suffering from poor reading comprehension.
Many test takers end up reading the question and options many times before they can make sense of it. Poor reading comprehension results in bad time management. English reading speed and reading comprehension may take time to improve. But I have seen people get a significant improvement when they have familiarity with Project Management lexicons.

Make good use of PMBOK® Guide Glossary, ensure you can relate the glossary definition with a term and vice versa. Doing this will improve your reading speed and comprehension during the PMP® exam.

Get stressed during the exam

You need to keep calm during the PMP® exam since it’s a long duration exam. And exam focuses on situations which make your mind tired. As you get tired, you start picking the wrong choices. Calmness and presence of mind during the exam can help you in passing the PMP® exam.

Do proper rest before the exam. Do take the necessary food and water, so you remain focused during the session. Take the PMP® exam as a way to explore project management rather than making it as self-evaluation.

If I summarized the 7 Steps to ensure success in the PMP® exam is:

  1. Do not take PMBOK® Guide literally, read it in a context of project management and add context to it.
  2. Do not focus on memorizing ITTO. Instead, apply its meaning and use ITTO to understand the way project management gets done.
  3. Take practice tests to validate your readiness. And fix the issues which you uncover while attempting them.
  4. Limit your preparation to the areas which are relevant for PMP® exam, do not go beyond the scope of PMBOK® Guide.
  5. Develop endurance of 4 hours long exam with better time management.
  6. Improve reading speed by mastering PMBOK® Guide Glossary.
  7. Stay calm during the PMP® exam preparation and exam. Here I include the playlist of video calls which I did in recent time with PMP® Certification aspirants. Each call was unique, and we have lots of learning to take away. Do let me know if you wish to have the similar call with me; we will try our best to schedule it for you.

Here I include the playlist of video calls which I did in recent time with PMP® Certification aspirants. Each call was unique, and we have lots of learning to take away. Do let me know if you wish to have the similar call with me; we will try our best to schedule it for you.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a passing score or pass rate on the PMP® exam questions?

Answer: PMI does not disclose the passing score for the PMP® exam. PMI uses an algorithm to determine your result. This algorithm analyses answers to your questions and gives a grade based on their difficulty level. It means PMI sets a difficulty level to all questions and check your comfort level for these levels.
Checking readiness for the exam is the only way to ensure success. If you are scoring 75% in quality questions updated as per the current trend, you will pass the exam.

How many questions do I have to get right on the PMP® exam?

Answer: PMI does not disclose the number of questions to get right to pass the exam. But, yes from a total of 200 questions, you get the score for 175 questions. The remaining 25 questions are experimental in nature to test the validity of future examinations. PMI also does not disclose which specific questions are experimental in your exam.

How many times can you take the PMP®?

Answer: You can take up to three attempts within one year period of your PMP® exam application approval. If you still failed three times in this one year, you have to wait for a year from the date of the last exam taken.

What happens if I fail the PMP® exam?

Answer: You can retake within one year of your exam application approval. First, understand what went wrong and get the strategy to recollect concepts to pass the exam.  Work with experts to understand how to study for the PMP® exam and pass it.
In case, you need any support from our experts, write to us on

How can I clear my PMP® exam?

Answer: The very nature of passing the PMP® exam in the first attempt is to have a goal based study plan.  Every PMP® exam preparation is unique based on your background, experience, and organization. For your specific needs, you can divide your preparation plan into phases. And, the following blog will help you to make a study plan which will work for you: 3 Steps Foolproof PMP® Certification Study Plan

Do I need to take the 35-contact hour training again if I failed in first attempt?

Answer: No, it is not needed. The validity of 35 contact hours do not expire neither with time nor with any failure attempt.

How soon can I retake the PMP® exam?

Answer: I recommend to re-register the retake exam ASAP.  Understand your problem areas and give a timebox to get success. You need a foolproof strategy to work on your problem areas. And, for that work with experts to analyze your exam analysis report. Analyze it to know project management processes where you are weak. And what all gaps you need to fill.  In case you need, we can schedule a Live session with you to get a plan of success, write to us on

Do you have special plan for participants who retake PMP® exam?

Answer:  We are fueled by a passion for serving project management community.  Write us on . We will analyze what your problem areas are and what all you need to get success.

PMP® exam difficult?

Answer: Well, it depends on your experience, exposure to different areas of project management, training and mentoring you receive. A right approach to prepare is always a key; it can significantly reduce your time to get the certificate. Many say it is difficult to earn, but I would say select the right study material, mentors, and mock questions. It would be a cakewalk compared to others who are not fortunate enough to get these vital components of the preparation.

If I have failed my PMP® exam, how do I prepare for my next attempt? Will joining Your online program benefit my preparation?

Answer:  For the next attempt, analyze problem areas to focus and get a strategy to fill those gap areas. Yes, our online program will help you to get success. 30% of our customers are those who tried other providers course, and 10% of them are those who did not pass in the first attempt. Our course has a complete association for success.

Enroll to our FREE PMP® Certification Introductory Program to learn more about PMP® certification