The Project Management Professional (PMP) exam is comprised of 175 scored questions and another 25 unscored questions that need to be attempted in a maximum time of 240 minutes. It is a common misconception that the PMP exam questions are based directly on the content of PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, Fifth Edition (PMBoK v6). In reality, the PMP exam questions are based on the PMP Exam Content Outline, and not on the PMBoK v6. Although there is a strong overlap, the mapping between the questions/ PMP Exam Content Outline and the PMBoK v6 is not 100%.
PMI itself states in its PMP Certification handbook that the PMP exam questions "are referenced to current project management titles, which include but are not limited to PMI’s global standards”.
The PMP exam content outline is developed by the Professional Examination Service (ProExam), a not-for-profit organization supporting professional licensing and certifications. The exam (and content outline) development process aligns with the certification industry best practices and is ISO 17024 standard accredited.
The key element of developing the PMP exam content outline is a Role Delineation Study that defines on-the-job responsibilities of a credential holder. This is done through a series of panels of practicing project team members, and additional survey feedback from a large sample of project managers distributed by geography, industry sector, and job role.
This exercise forms the basis of the following distribution of questions across specific domains in project management.
Initiating - 13% items (questions)
Planning - 24% items
Executing - 31% items
Monitoring and Controlling - 25% items
Closing - 7% items
The individual domains some with a defined set of tasks, and the PMP Exam Content Outline additionally includes a set of Cross-cutting Knowledge and Skill areas. Although the specific domain names are similar to the Process Groups discussed in the PMBoK v6, there are additional items that are not covered in the PMBoK v6. Exam applicants should therefore also refer to other current titles as outlined in the PMI member resources eReads and Reference section. This is a strong benefit of becoming a PMI member prior to attempting the PMP exam.
The actual PMP exam questions in any PMP exam delivery are monitored through psychometric analysis, and subject matter experts distributed globally are used to identify each exams point of difficulty and the passing score.