PMP Examination introduction

What is the PMP

The PMP or Project Management Professional Certification is the premiere PM credential in the world today. All PMP holders are distinguished from their peers by a rigorous certification screening process that requires detailed experiential data pertaining to Project Management as well as a 200 question certification examination.


The PMP’s competencies are closely linked with the PMBOK, which is an ANSI certified standard for Project Management, compiled by PMI and stands alone as a principal reference for the practice of Project Management.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) was first published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a white paper in 1987 in an attempt to document and standardize generally accepted project management information and practices. The first edition was published in 1996 followed by the second edition in 2000. In 2004, the PMBOK Guide — Third Edition was published with major changes from the first edition. The English-language PMBOK Guide — Fourth Edition was released on December 31, 2008.


The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a non-profit professional organization for the project management profession with the purpose of advancing project management. Launched in 1984, PMI’s first certification was the PMP. Around 390,000 people now hold the PMP certification. In 2007, it earned the ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Credential holders do not have to be members of PMI in order to hold the PMP designation.

Overview of PMI Membership

Membership is not a prerequisite to certification, but the cost of the exam is reduced for PMI members by more than the annual membership fee of $119. So at least joining for one year makes financial sense. Members may also join one or more local chapters, which usually cost $35 per chapter per annum. Then there are special interest groups (SIGS) that one may join as well, focusing on particular industries.

Certification Prerequisites

The experience requirements are confusing, and you should download and read the PMI Certification Handbook from the PMI website for more complete information.

There are different experience prerequisites, depending on whether the applicant has a Bachelor’s degree, as set forth below. It is the understanding of this PMP that the experience does not have to be as a project manager, but can be in any project role(s) so long as they consist of the five processes defined by the PMBOK Guide. Moreover, it is understood that PMI is lenient in its interpretation of the experience.

Whatever their education level, all applicants must have 35 hours explicit training in the project management knowledge areas set forth in the PMBOK Guide.

Category 1:

–        Educational requirements: Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
–        Experiential Requirements: The candidate must have 36 months non-overlapping applicable experience within the last five years, including 4,500 hours in the five process groups defined by the PMBOK Guide.

Category 2:

–        Educational requirements: Minimum of High School Education.
–        Experiential Requirements: The candidate must have 60 months non-overlapping applicable experience within the last eight years, including 7,500 hours in the five process groups defined by the PMBOK Guide.

The Application

PMI members must pay $405 to take the exam, and non-members must pay $555. There is another set of fees for reexamination. Our advice: Don’t take the exam until you are confident you will pass it.

When you are ready, complete your application on line at the PMI web site. You will complete a form spelling out your education and experience. If that information is already organized, the entire process will take an hour or so.

Within a few days, assuming you have satisfied PMI as to the prerequisites, you will receive a PMI eligibility letter, via e-mail if you applied on line, good for six months. The letter will provide instructions for contacting Prometrics to schedule the exam. Prometrics administers numerous exams for numerous companies, and they can be a month behind, depending on which office you call. Sometimes there are two offices at the same location; if you see that on their list, call them both for the best schedule.

The Examination

The PMP exam is based on the PMP Examination Specification which describes tasks out of six performance domains:

  1. Initiating the project (13%)
  2. Planning the project (24%)
  3. Executing the project (30%)
  4. Monitoring and controlling the project (25%)
  5. Closing the project (8%)

The exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions. 25 are pre-release items, which are not included in exam scoring. The score is calculated based on the other 175 items. Each item has a key (the correct answer) and three distractors (incorrect answer choices).You are allowed go back to a question once you have answered it. You will have four hours to complete the exam, allowing you 1.2 minutes each.

The examination is computer-based, and you will know your score as soon as you finish. The passing score is 137 questions answered correctly, and there is no other grade. Either you become a PMP, or you don’t.

You will have to book the exam online through Prometric testing services. The examination venue is at a Prometric Academic Center and you will have to make travel arrangements to attend the exam.

Continuing Education Requirements

Once you obtain the PMP certification, you will not have to re-take the examination ever again, unless you fail to recertify. To maintain your certification, you must earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) each three years.

PDU activities include a variety of tasks such as attending free eLearning sessions conducted by PMI and eligible to all PMI members in good standing.