failed the pmp exam

Being failed the PMP exam is a painful experience. You may become nervous, and fret that you will never pass the PMP exam and your all dreams will be shattered.

I regularly receive emails from aspirants who have failed the PMP exam. Their frustration is evident. Sometimes, these aspirants have failed the exam for a second or third time.

If this has happened to you, you may have the same unsettling feelings. However, I ask you not to fret because you can pass the PMP exam on your next attempt.

Please note, if you failed the PMP exam on your first attempt, you would have two more attempts within your one-year eligibility. If you do not, you will not be able to fill out the application again for a year. Even if you don’t attempt the exam or you failed in the remaining two attempts, you cannot take the test for this restriction period.

However, if your eligibility is expiring soon, you should not apply for the PMP exam. Let the eligibility expire. Then you can apply again with a new one-year period and three attempts. If you don’t get this option, please contact PMI customer care, and they will help you out. Therefore, don’t rush to schedule your exam quickly if you failed and your expiry is near.

The above issue was experienced by an exam taker who failed the PMP, his eligibility had expired and he was able to apply for the PMP exam without waiting for a mandatory one-year suspension period.

A few more aspirants have confirmed and supported this strategy.

A Things to Know if You Failed the PMP Exam

Before we discuss strategies for your next attempt, let’s look at some facts.

The exam fee for the second and third attempts is discounted and will be different for PMI members and non-members.

The fees for the second or third re-examinations of the computer-based test are as follows:

  • PMI members: 275 USD
  • Non-members: 375 USD

The fees for the second or third re-examinations of the paper-based test are as follows:

  • PMI members: 150 USD
  • Non-members: 300 USD

What is the PMP Exam Failure Rate?

Since you have failed your test, you might be wondering what percentage of aspirants are in the same situation. 

The PMI does not publish any official data, so it is not possible to guess what percentage of aspirants fail the exam.

However, from my experience, I can say that the number is quite high, and that is why this certification is highly valued.

There is good news though; the passing percentage for the second attempt is considerably high. Although this is purely speculation, from my interactions with hundreds of second-time successful exam takers, it seems to be true.

Therefore, you have a better chance of passing the PMP exam on your second attempt than on your first.

Your First Step After a Failed PMP Exam Attempt—Self-Audit

If you fail the PMP exam, you should start with a self-audit. You have to find out the exact reason why you did not pass.

There can be many reasons for your failure. Some of them are:

  • You failed to prepare well
  • You relied only on free resources
  • You fell to exam pressure

You Failed To Prepare Well

This is the most common reason for PMP exam failure. 

I have seen many aspirants who attended the PMP exam directly after completing their PMP training and they failed. They were not aware of the difficulty and assumed that there would be some easy questions, like an in-house self-assessment and they would get them through easily.

Many other aspirants had considerable time to prepare but did not study well or with the proper resources.

Some PMP takers studied one reference book, manuals provided by training providers, and practiced some questions. Others studied the PMBOK Guide only and practiced maybe a few questions.

Please note that to prepare well for the PMP exam, you must study a quality PMP exam reference book, the PMBOK Guide, and practice sample questions. If you neglect any of these, you will face difficulties in passing the PMP exam in your next attempt.

In fact, I recommend that you study at least two PMP exam reference books instead of one. This will give you a different perspective. Some concepts will be tough, and you may find a better explanation in your other book.

I recommend you subscribe to any good PM Exam simulator to get enough practice questions.

My favorite is the PM Exam Simulator by Mr. Cornelius Fichtner.

Give yourself at least three months for preparation. This is enough time if you are able to study three hours per day.

Don’t schedule the exam immediately after failing. I have seen many aspirants who failed the exam in the first attempt immediately schedule again, then, after one or two weeks, they fail again.

Don’t do this. Take the time to prepare well and then apply for the exam.

Before you restart your PMP exam preparation, you must analyze the results of the failed test.

On your result report, you will find out which domains your performance was poor in. Make sure to note them down. You will need to study these domains extensively to improve.

It is also important to identify what kinds of questions you find difficult. 

In the PMP exam, you will see six types of questions:

  1. ITTO-based
  2. Definition-based
  3. Situation-based
  4. Formula-based
  5. Interpretational questions
  6. Professional and social responsibility-based

I have noticed that most professionals score lower on ITTO-based questions.

Other than these, aspirants often find mathematical and situation-based questions tough as well.

If you are scared of ITTO-based questions, note that these days, you will rarely see ITTO based questions on your PMP exam as the PMI has removed all ITTOs from the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide.

Now we come to the mathematical questions. Some professionals ignore math-based questions, assuming they are too difficult to solve. They think it is a waste of time and they can compensate for these questions by scoring more in other areas.

This is a bad strategy and you should avoid it. If you understand the logic, mathematical questions are easy to solve and can help you get a high score on the exam. A little practice can help you solve this type of question quickly.

If you are having difficulties with math-based questions, you can try the PMP Formula Guide. This guide has everything you need to understand and solve math-based questions. Also, these days, exam takers are saying that they are getting very few mathematical questions in the exam.

Now we come to situation-based questions.

To solve situation-based questions, don’t think like you would when working in your organization. You are attempting the PMP exam; you have to think the way the PMI thinks. Assume that you are working in an ideal world and every process should follow the guidelines.

You have to be careful while solving situation-based questions.

For instance, let us say you are going to attend a meeting; you are a little late, and you come up to a red light. Nobody is there, and you do not see anyone on the road. What will you do?

The options are as follows:

  1. Since no one is there, you will ignore the signal.
  2. You will not ignore the signal.
  3. You will ignore the signal this time, but not again.
  4. Since you are going to an important meeting, you can ignore the signal.

In the question above, you may think that since you are going to an important meeting and nobody is there, you can ignore the signal. This is incorrect because you cannot break the law. There are no exceptions.

There will be many questions that require you to synchronize your thinking with the PMI guidelines.

I would also recommend you read any lessons learned written by successful exam takers. This way you can avoid mistakes made by these professionals.

Please read my blog post on how to become a PMP to learn how to prepare well for the exam.

You Relied on Free Resources

You will find many free resources to help you prepare for the PMP exam on the internet. You studied them exclusively during your preparation and failed. Therefore, I suggest you now stay away from these free resources and use a few high-quality, paid resources.

Free resources are not always updated, may contain errors, and do not provide you with a clear picture of the exam. There is also guaranteed support.

I have seen some sites that provide ten thousand or twenty thousand free PMP exam questions. But who can guarantee the quality? Besides, you do not have to practice several thousand questions to pass the PMP exam. This is a waste of time and effort.

I have seen many professionals complaining that they got more than 70% on one online test, 80% on another test, and so on; and still, they failed the exam. Please note, there is no guarantee that you will pass the real test by doing well on an online practice test.

While reviewing some of these free tests, I realized that most of them have very easy questions and lacked in-depth scenario based questions. 

So, you passed the online test with easy questions without attempting good quality situation based questions. These tests give you false confidence.

I suggest you stop practicing with these free tests.

You are applying for the PMP exam and have already failed the test once; it’s now time to get serious and subscribe to a few high-quality resources.

Try to study in as many different formats as you can. For example, you can use flashcards, true/false statements, etc.

One such tool is The PMP Exam Preparation Tool. I strongly recommend you sign up for this course to boost your PMP exam preparation. Learning the concepts using different methods will help you solidify the concepts.

You Fell to Exam Pressure

Some aspirants find it difficult to handle the pressure of the exam. They cannot concentrate and are not even able to read the questions properly. They choke during the test.

This problem can be solved with confidence. Study well so you can be confident about passing the PMP exam.

Also, try a few PMP mock tests. These will provide you with an exam environment and give you a fixed time. If you do this, you will have realistic practice for the exam and you will gain the required confidence.

Please understand that this is just an exam, and even if you fail, nothing bad will happen to you.

If you are still not able to cope with exam anxiety, I recommend you attend confidence-building sessions.


Passing the PMP exam is not like a race where only one candidate wins; more than half a million PMP certified professionals have passed the exam. There is no reason you cannot be one of them. Do not be frightened if you fail the exam on your first or second attempt; find your mistakes, identify knowledge gaps, make a plan to correct the mistakes, fill the gaps, and follow this plan. I hope you pass the exam.

I wish you good luck on your next attempt. If you need any help from me, you can use the comments section. I will be happy to help.

I have written an eBook for professionals who have failed the PMP exam on their first attempt and want to pass it on their second try. You can find it in the link below:

How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your Second Attempt