Top 7 Reasons Why Aspirants Fail In The PMP Exam

PMP exam is a difficult exam. Every year many people fail the exam. No one knows how many people apply for the exam or what the failure rate is. PMI does not provide any statistics. Some experts estimate that failure rate could be as high as 40-50%. In my opinion failure rate is that high. A discussion on the failure rate is not important; more important is passing the exam.

My intention is not to scare you away from the exam. Rather, I want you to successfully crack the exam. I want you to understand the reasons behind the failure so that you can develop an approach for attaining PMP certification.

In last few years I have conducted many PMP workshops and have imparted 35 hours education to thousands of students. Most of my students, who take the exam, become PMP certified. However, a minuscule percentage of candidates do not get through. This has given me an opportunity to analyze the reasons that lead to failure. Let us discuss the top reasons.

Top 7 Reasons for Failing the PMP Exam

1) PMBOK Guide

Many aspirants dread reading the PMBOK Guide. They either read it casually or skip it altogether. You would find numerous study guides in the market but PMBOK Guide is the most important source of study. It is PMI’s publication and there is no substitute for it. The format of the questions depends entirely on the language written in the Guide.

2) 35 Hours Training

35 hours of formal education is mandatory to apply for the exam. Although there are many other ways to attain these hours, the best way is to go for a PMP workshop. Many aspirants forgo a formal workshop as they think it is avoidable cost. I think you should think of it as an investment and not as cost.

3) Free Study Material

There is a lot of free study material available on the web. Many aspirants use this as a primary source of study. While some free material is good, but a lot of it is old and sub-standard also. Secondly free study material does not give you an upper hand as almost every other aspirant studies from it. You should complement the free material with some reliable paid material.

4) Mock Tests

How does one know that she/he is ready for the exam? By steadily scoring well in the mock tests.

PMP is a tough exam and it requires deep study. The study should include book study as well as solving sufficient number of mock tests. Unfortunately many aspirants just read the book and do not do enough tests. Before taking the exam, you should do mock questions from 3-4 different sources.


Many people believe that learning PMBOK Guide’s ITTO is the most important part of the exam prep. They think that they will definitely pass the exam by cramming the ITTOs. The bulk of PMP exam has situational questions with an odd ITTO question thrown into the mix. You cannot pass the exam unless you conceptually understand the underlying project management concepts.

6) Personal Experience

The PMP exam is based on the PMBOK Guide. It is a test of project management concepts and theory as described in the Guide. Many experienced project managers fail to appreciate the concepts explained in the Guide. They think that their experience has taught them everything. They think that what worked in their real life would work in the exam as well. This doesn’t always work in the exam.

7) English Language

The PMP exam is administered in the English language. It is a handicap for many non-native English speakers. But who said that everything in life is fair? If you want to crack the PMP then you have to overcome this handicap. To do this, you can spend more time on studying books and do extra mock tests.

I think you can learn a few things from others’ mistakes ‚Äì you should stay away from them. This will improve your chances of cracking the exam. Good luck.

Before your go, please share your comments on the PMP exam preparation.

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Praveen Malik

Praveen Malik is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with a rich 21+ year of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor and Consultant. He shares his Project Management thoughts on his personal blog PM by PM.