Is there any passing score for PMP exam? (Updated for 2018)

Here is what the PMI says

“The passing score for all PMI credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI uses subject matter experts from across the globe to help establish a point at which each candidate should pass the examination(s) and the examination point of difficulty. Data that shows how candidates actually performed is cross referenced with the subject matter experts to ensure that the point of difficulty on each examination is healthy”

In brief, the answer is NO. There is no fixed score that can help you pass the PMP exam. It depends on the difficulty level of the questions you get. No two candidates will get the same set of questions. Hence, it makes sense that the passing score also varies. An exam with easy questions will have the passing score higher than the exam with relatively more difficult questions. Further, each question does not carry equal weightage. Hence, it becomes even more difficult to estimate how much you need to score in order to pass the exam. 

Before we bust some common myths about the exam, let us first understand the pattern of PMP.

PMP exam pattern 


There are a total of 200 multiple choice questions that you see on the PMP exam. Out of these 200 questions, only 175 are scored. The rest are called pre-test questions which do not add to your score. These questions are experimental in nature, which are tested to retain the validity in the future examinations. They are scattered all across the examination. Therefore, you cannot identify which questions are experimental and which are not. You will have to attempt all the questions with equal seriousness.

PMP is a closed book exam. It means you cannot refer to any material during the course of the exam. 

You will be given 4 hours to complete the exam. No scheduled breaks are allowed during these 4 hours. You can still take breaks but the time will be deducted from the 4 hours. The exam starts with a tutorial followed by a survey. You might take about 15 minutes to complete. However, this time is not counted towards the total 4 hours. 

These questions are set based on the PMBOK specification and PMP Code of Ethics. There are 5 domain areas in which you have to show your proficiency.

The table below shows the percentage of questions that will be asked from each of the domain areas



S. No.


Domain Area


Percentage of questions


Initiating the project



Planning the project



Executing the project



Monitoring and controlling the project



Closing the project



History of PMP exam scores 

Till 2005, PMI set the passing score at 68.5%, i.e. getting 137 questions out of 200 to be able to be a certified PMP professional. After that, it drastically increased the passing score to 80.6% (141/175). However, with 60 days it revised the passing score from 80.6% to 60.6% as it noticed the number of candidates passing at this score reduced considerably. So, at that point in time, you needed to get 106 questions right out of 175 questions in order to clear the exam. This was last published passing score. 

2007 onwards, PMI changed the criterion for passing the exam. It stopped announcing the results through percentages. Instead, the proficiency level for each of the domains is mentioned in the test results. Now, when you take the exam, you will not know the numerical percentage for each of the domains. The score will only show whether you are proficient, moderately proficient or below proficient in each of the domains.

Top myths about PMP exam 


Below are some top myths regarding the PMP passing score:

1. The passing score of PMP is 61%

No. we don’t know. As mentioned, the last time PMI published a passing score was way back in 2005. Since PMP is a psychometric test, the passing score depends on the kind of questions you get. If you get easier questions, then the passing score is likely to be higher. On the other hand, if you get more difficult questions, the score could be lower.

2. ‘Below proficient’ level in any domain means I failed in the test

Not true. PMP looks at your overall performance on the test rather than one single area. Also, the weightage of questions in each of the areas varies considerably. Hence, even if you get a below proficient level in one area, it doesn’t automatically mean you failed. But, let’s say that you do poorly in those sections which have a higher weightage in questions, there is a high chance you might not pass the exam.

3. The weightage is same for all the questions

It is not the same. As the passing score differs based on the kind of questions you get, the difficult questions will have more weightage than the easy questions. The best way to build your sense of understanding about what is difficult and what is easy is through practising a lot of sample questions.

4. Each proficiency level carries a certain percentage score

Some people say that in order to get a proficient level in each domain area, you need to get 80% or above questions right. For moderately proficient, it is 61% or above. Anything below 61% makes you below proficient. However, this is not supported by facts. PMI doesn’t mention this and there is no reason you should believe it either. 

5. One single passing score is set for everybody who writes the exam

It is similar to the myth of passing score being 61%. As such, this is also not true. As difficulty level of the questions vary and as different questions carry unequal weightage, a single passing score doesn’t apply to all the candidates. Some students may get 55% percentage and pass. Some others may score 65% and still not be able to make it. 

Sample PMP questions 

Take a look at sample project management professional questions, as given on the PMI website.

1. An accepted deadline for a project approaches. However, the project manager realizes only 75% percent of the work has been completed. The project manager then issues a change request. What should the change request authorize? 

A. Additional resources using the contingency fund 

B. Escalation approval to use contingency funding 

C. Team overtime to meet schedule 

D. Corrective action based on causes 

2. The project manager develops a process improvement plan to encourage continuous process improvement during the life of the project. Which of the following is a valid tool or technique to assist the project manager to assure the success of the process improvement plan? 

A. Change control system 

B. Process analysis 

C. Benchmarking 

D. Configuration management system 

3. The project manager meets with the project team to review lessons learned from previous projects. In what activity is the team involved? 

A. Performance management 

B. Scope identification 

C. Risk identification 

D. Project team status meeting

Frequently asked questions about PMP exam


1. How long does it take to prepare for the exam?

It varies from one person to another. Some students prepare for years and don’t make it and some study for 3-4 months and succeed in their first attempt. Safe to say that it depends on various factors: your dedication to the exam, the amount of time you spend preparing, your focus and concentration and the kind of help you are getting. But on an average, about 4-5 months should be sufficient to crack it.

2. What are the eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria depend on your educational qualification. Please refer to the following prerequisites mentioned by PMI:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)

  • 7,500 hours leading and directing projects

  • 35 hours of project management education


  • Four-year degree

  • 4,500 hours leading and directing projects

  • 35 hours of project management education

3. How do I apply for the PMP exam?

Please refer to the link below to apply for the PMP certification exam.

4. Can you know the percentage score on the exam?

No, the PMP has stopped giving the percentage score. You can only know whether you are proficient, moderately proficient or below proficient in each of the domain areas. Even if you write to the PMI requesting the data, they will not provide it to you.

5. How difficult is the PMP exam?

PMP is considered by many as the most difficult exam. There is no confirmed data on the success rate of the students who write the exam. But, it is well accepted that candidates struggle to crack it in their first attempt. But with proper strategy and good sources, it is not very difficult to pass it. 

6. How to pass PMP exam in the first attempt?

So, most candidates have this question to ask: how do I pass the PMP test in the first try? While it is not easy, it is definitely doable. With a correct strategy and resources, one can easily conquer this exam. More than that, it requires dedication and persistence from your end to come out with flying colours.

Below are some tips that can help you pass PMP in the first attempt:

1. Be completely thorough with the PMBOK guide

Throughout your preparation for the exam, PMBOK guide has to be your best friend who you constantly hang out with. Understand each of the concepts, terms, and processes that are given the guide well. Also remember, PMP focusses on the application of the principles and ideas rather than the memory of the terms. 

Also, you will need to reread the guide twice or even three times. With each revision of the guide, your understanding expands. What didn’t make sense in your first reading seems easier in your second. Further, keep track of the changes in the new edition of the PMBOK guide and include them in your study.  

2. Refer to another good PMP prep guide

Let’s accept it! PMP exam is tough. It contains some difficult questions based on hypothetical scenarios. You need to learn the concepts well and apply them in these scenarios. Though PMBOK gives you the foundation for the exam, it does not help you answer all the questions in the exam. Therefore, it is essential you refer to some other reference material. 

There are many books which have great reviews. Choose one based on your style of studying. 

3. Write online simulated exams

Are you serious about passing the PMP exam in your first try? Then, write the practice tests. How does it help? One, if you want to apply concepts you learned, you need to answer questions. Secondly, since the exam is for the duration of 4 hours you need to build the stamina to focus for that long. Finally, simulated tests give you an idea of how the preparation is going and in which areas you need to improve.

4. Join the best PMP prep course 

You need to have 35 contact hours to apply for the exam. Instead of just using these hours to fulfill a certain criterion, try to make the most of them. Online courses are cheaper and more convenient than the regular classes. Before you choose any prep course, do research on their credibility through the testimonials of the candidates and the quality of the trainers. 


Most people assume that scoring 61% will ensure that you pass the PMP exam. However, PMI has stopped publishing the passing score more than a decade back. The passing score depends on the difficulty level of the questions asked and hence it varies from one candidate to another. However, if the applicants can strive for an accuracy rate of 80% and above in each of the domains, you will be in a safe zone. Instead of focussing on a particular score, concentrate on building a strong foundation and practising difficult questions to be able to handle any kind of question that you will be asked.

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Madhavi Bodepudi