The PMP certification is widely recognized in project management and most professionals have or wish to earn it.
Attaining the PMP certification is not an easy process. You have to accomplish many other tasks before you can take a computer-based test.
Once you pass this test, you can start using the “PMP” title with your name and signature.
This blog post we will discuss, in detail, the PMP exam passing score, including the history of it, some myths around it, and then the current situation.
What is the passing score for the PMP exam?
Since you are going to attempt the PMP exam, you must be thinking about the passing score.
In fact, this is one of the most frequently asked questions by PMP aspirants on blogs and forums. Everybody has his or her own idea of what a passing score is. However, if you are asking me, my answer is: nobody knows except the PMI.
At one time, the PMP passing score was open knowledge but now it is a closely guarded secret.
Before we proceed further, please note that the exam consists of 200 questions, 25 of which are pretest questions whose results are not added to your final score. These questions are included to validate the exam pattern for future tests.
A Brief History of PMP Passing Score Changes
The PMP passing score was 61% until November 30, 2005, meaning 106 correct answers out of 175 scorable questions got you certification.
The PMI changed the passing score to 81% in July 2005. Consequently, the number of professionals succeeding dropped drastically. After a few days, the PMI reverted the passing percentage to 61% and showed scores for each domain in the exam result reports.
However, after 2005, the PMI stopped publishing the passing percentage, so no one knows what the new number is. That has not stopped many forums and sites from posting 61% as if it is still the confirmed number.
The PMI changed the format of the exam results again in 2007. The percentage was removed, and replaced with proficiency levels for each domain: proficient, moderately proficient, or below proficient.
Again, in August 2017, the report card format was changed. It now shows the target level for each domain: Above Target, Target, Below Target and Needs Improvement.
However, they still do not reveal the passing score for the PMP exam.
As you can see, there were many changes to the PMP exam report format, and it is clear that no one knows the current passing score.
Passing Score for the PMP Exam
Now, what should you aim for on your PMP exam?
If you want to pass the exam, I suggest you to aim for more than 70% or140 questions out of 200. Additionally, in March 2018, the PMI migrated the exam to the PMBOK Guide, sixth edition, and candidates came out of the test complaining that it was too hard. It seems to me that either the passing score or the difficulty level might have gone up.
Also, don’t be distracted by the pretest questions. You should try to answer more than 140 questions correctly, because you do not know which questions are pre-test and which are not. Therefore, assume all 200 questions are scorable.
A Few Rumors About the PMP Exam Passing Score
Since the PMP certification is highly in-demand for project professionals and the passing score is secret, naturally, there will be many rumors about the passing score.
Let’s clear up some of those rumors here.
Rumor #1: The PMP Passing Score is Fixed
Many professional think that the passing score for the PMP exam is fixed for everyone.
This is not true. The passing score for the PMP exam is different for every professional who takes the test, and it is determined by a psychometric analysis.
According to the PMI:
“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.”
From the above paragraph, it is evident that the passing score depends on the set of questions received.
Rumor #2: Every Question Carries the Same Weight
Harder questions are worth more than easier questions. Therefore, if a candidate receives a more difficult set of questions; their passing score may be lower than the candidate who receives an easier set.
Each question is weighted on its level of toughness.
Rumor #3: Getting the Below Target Level in any Domain Means you Will Fail Overall
This is another misconception. I have seen many tests result reports with even two Below Target and the exam takers passed.
Please read the next section for more details on this.
Target Level Required to Pass the PMP Exam
Current test result reports show four performance levels: Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement.
There is no clear answer on what combination of performance levels results in an overall pass. However, these are my observations based on my review of several reports.
- If you get Above Target in five domains, there is no doubt you have passed.
- If you get Target in all domains, you have passed.
- If you get any combination of Above Target and Target, you have passed.
- If you get Needs Improvement or Below Target in all domains, you have failed.
- If you get any combination of Below Target and Needs Improvement, you have most likely failed.
- If you have two Above Target, two Target and one Below Target or Needs Improvement, you will most likely pass the exam.
I do not have enough data to make any further conclusions. However, if you have more than two Needs Improvement and one Below Target or two Below Target and one Needs Improvement, there is a low chance that you will pass the exam.
The above observations are based on my interactions with a few PMP exam takers and do not represent all cases. If you know of any exceptions, please let me know so I can update this information.
The PMP passing score is a mystery and only the PMI knows it. Therefore, you should not worry too much about the exact percentage. A passing score depends on the questions received during the exam. Although there is no way to know the passing percentage for the PMP exam, I advise you aim for more than 70%. I believe, if you can cross this threshold, you are most likely to see a congratulatory message.
Prepare well before you attempt the exam.
Have you attempted the PMP exam? What was your score and what do you feel your passing score might have been? Please share in the comments section.
I have given you my observations based on my knowledge. I do not take responsibility for the correctness and reliability of the data and information provided in this blog post. Do your due diligence before reaching any conclusion.