Top 6 Reasons for Failing in the PMP Exam

Do you know the failure rate in the PMP Exam?

Some people say the rate could be as high as 50%.

But the truth is nobody knows what the failure rate is. Maybe some folks at PMI know. But the exact number should not concern you.

You should only understand that PMP is a tough exam and thousands of aspirants fail every year. PMI has deliberately made it a difficult test to maintain its value and sanctity. PMP certificate gets a good recognition in the job market.

But this poses a challenge for you. How will you attain the PMP certification if it is such a hard nut to crack? How can you be sure that you will not fail in the exam?

Well! The answer is easy. There is a golden rule of life - learn from the mistakes.

Now, you would say – should I fail once in the PMP exam in order to pass the next time?

No, absolutely not! Wisdom suggests that one should learn from others’ mistakes. Good project management practice decrees that one should look at the lessons learned before starting a new endeavor.

So, let us look at the top reasons why aspirants fail in the PMP exam and what can we learn from it.

The Background

I have been conducting PMP training courses for the last several years. I have trained thousands of aspirants. And I am proud to say that most of my students have passed the exam. But once in a while, I hear the dreaded bad news that someone did not pass.

I do not want to alarm you. I want you to be successful. I want you to pass the exam with flying colors.

My only reason for writing this post is to tell why aspirants fail. If you understand the reasons for failure, you can create a sound strategy to pass the exam in the first attempt.

Let us discuss why aspirants fail in the PMP exam.

Why do Aspirants Fail in the PMP Exam?

1. They do not attend formal PMP Facilitation Training

You need 35 contacts hours of formal project management education to apply for the PMP exam. It is one of the basic requirements. PMI says that this requirement can be completed by attending any project management workshop. They even accept the project management education that you might have received during your college studies.

Many aspirants, who already have 35 contact hours, do not go for a formal PMP facilitation training. While this saves them the initial cost, it is deleterious for passing the exam. A good number of such people end up paying extra for the re-examination. 

PMP exam is one of the toughest professional exams. It needs serious preparation. A formal PMP training gives you that preparation.

The exam itself is an expensive proposition, so it is advisable to invest the little bit extra for the exam prep.

PMP training is costly but it is well worth the investment. You can invest in a PMP training from GreyCampus. They offer very good quality PMP training at a very reasonable price.

You should not save money on training lest you want to risk spending your money for the re-examination.

2. They do not study the PMBOK Guide

Some aspirants sparingly use the PMBOK Guide or just skip it altogether while studying for the exam. They find the Guide to be boring, dry, and soporific.

It is true that the Guide is not written in the most lucid manner. But it is also true that the PMP exam is based on the Guide.

There are numerous reference books in the market. But there is only one PMBOK Guide. It is a standard for project management. It includes project management processes, best practices, and guidelines. It is published by PMI, which is also the test-taking body. The language of PMP exam questions is very similar to the Guide's language.

To succeed in the exam, you should not ignore the PMBOK Guide.

3. They use personal experience to answer the Exam Questions

Many aspirants are experienced project managers. They are supremely confident about their ability to successfully execute the projects. They tend to use their own experiences to answer the PMP exam questions. They believe what has worked in their projects is a good project management practice.

These project managers don’t realize that the exam is based on the PMBOK Guide.

Project Management is a very practical subject. The PMBOK Guide captures the essence of project management. It describes the practices and guidelines that successfully work in most of the project situations.

The PMP exam is not based on your project situations. It is based on the processes and guidelines described in the PMBOK Guide. It tests your knowledge of the theory and concepts detailed in the Guide. 

You can use your project management experience to understand the concepts of the PMBOK Guide. But you should never use it for answering the PMP questions. You should use Guide’s concepts to answer the questions.

4. They study only from the free material available on the web

This point is related to the #1 above. Many aspirants do not foresee the traps of free content.

I am not saying that all free content is bad. But most of the free content on the web is not reliable. You would find old content based on previous editions of the PMBOK Guide, mock questions that have no explanations, and incomplete & below-par material. This can reduce your chances of passing the exam.

Generally, the aspirants are not able to distinguish between substandard and good quality content. It is better to use free study material provided by big training companies. You can look at OpenCampus for some reliable free study material.

You should create a proper exam prep strategy and use a mix of reliable free content and good quality paid content.

5. They believe that memorizing PMP ITTO is the Holy Grail

Many aspirants just mug up the PMP ITTO and feel that their preparation is finished. The ITTO is just the tip of an iceberg and memorizing them does not really help in the exam.

The real preparation comes from understanding the PMBOK Guide's concepts and PMI-isms. Most of the exam questions are situational. There are very few PMP ITTO questions.

You should not fall into the trap of memorizing the ITTOs.

6. They do not take up enough mock tests

Many aspirants do not practice enough questions before sitting in the exam. They feel confident after studying the books.

PMP is a not a normal exam where you can just pass by studying the books. It needs a lot of practice. The exam preparation can be validated only by doing a lot of mock tests.

You should choose a training course that provides a number of practice tests. And you must consistently score about 80% in these tests. This will greatly enhance your chances of success.


I have highlighted top reasons why many aspirants fail in the PMP exam. I have written this article so that you learn from the mistakes of others and do not repeat them.

What are your thoughts? Are you feeling confident about passing the exam? Which study material are you using?

Please leave a comment below.

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Praveen Malik