The Top 7 Reasons Why People Fail the PMP® Exam

The Top 7 Reasons Why People Fail the PMP® Exam

PMP Certification  |  PMP Exam Prep

The biggest Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification problem is potential failure. Taking and preparing for the PMP exam is a major investment in terms of time, effort, and money. To ensure you receive a positive return on that investment, you want to complete the process having earned your PMP certification. 

Before you take the exam, download this guide containing secrets to help you pass.

In this article, we’ll explore seven of the most common reasons people fail the PMP exam. When you have a better understanding of why people fail, you’ll know how to avoid some of the same PMP certification problems.

1. Not Enough Preparation

When it comes to passing the PMP certification exam, preparation is everything. Without enough preparation, passing the exam is unlikely. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re dedicating enough time to adequately prepare for the exam:


    • Set time aside to study. When you don’t dedicate enough time to studying, you won’t have a comprehensive knowledge of the material. Cramming at the last minute won’t cut it when it comes to the PMP certification exam.
    • Allot enough time between the prep course and the exam. Taking a PMP exam prep course is a great way to prepare for the exam, but you also need to do some additional studying to pass the exam. After you take your prep course, you should spend a little additional time studying to ensure you’ve mastered all the key concepts.
    • Take practice exams. Practice exams help you know what to expect on the actual test day. Not taking any exams mean a good chance of failure.

2. Took the PMP Exam at the Wrong Time

If preparation is everything, timing is a pretty close second. You need to think carefully before you commit to an exam date. If it’s not the right timing, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Here are some decisions those taking the PMP exam may make that could lead to failure:

  • Taking the exam before learning all PMBOK® Guide concepts. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is the best source of PM-related knowledge, and it’s the text you must understand before taking the exam. If you take the exam before you understand these concepts, you’re not likely to pass.
  • Taking the exam before scoring 80% or higher consistently on practice exams. If you can’t easily and consistently pass the practice exams, you should consider postponing your actual exam until you’re ready. 
  • Waiting too long after taking a training course. If you wait too long and the concepts aren’t fresh, you may struggle to pass the exam. At Project Management Academy, we usually recommend taking the exam within 30 days of completing our training course. 

3. Did Not Take a PMP Exam Prep Course

Some people try to cut corners and study on their own instead of taking a PMP certification course. This is usually a bad idea. Exam prep courses explain how the PMBOK® Guide is a framework and collection of best practices, not a methodology. This means you can’t use the PMBOK® Guide as your sole method of preparation. Also, a PMP exam prep course will help you prepare for each specific section of the exam, breaking down major concepts to ensure you have an in-depth understanding.

New call-to-action

4. Overconfidence

Many project managers believe that their professional experience is more than enough to help them pass the exam. These project managers don’t study and don’t participate in courses because they’re over-confident that know everything they need to know about project management. 


While it’s important to have real-world experience, some project managers become too focused on their own processes and terminology, ignoring the PMBOK ® Guide terms and practices. Since these topics make up the entirety of the test, you have to have a comprehensive understanding to pass. Experience is definitely beneficial, but remember to focus on the source material, too. 

5. Focused on the Wrong Concepts

The PMP exam covers a lot of material and a wide range of concepts. It can be easy to focus on the wrong areas. When you’re too focused on running through practice exams instead of focusing on a combination of completing practice exams and studying concepts, you may end up failing. For example, you could make a mistake like fixating on math and formulas at the expense of concepts. It’s important to balance the types of materials you’re covering so you have a well-rounded understanding of everything the test will cover.

6. Test Anxiety

Are you one of those people who simply hate tests? Many people struggle to focus and relax when taking tests, especially in testing centers. There are two strategies you can use to mitigate your test anxiety – preparation and relaxation techniques. 


Test preparation is one of the best ways to reduce test anxiety. When you’ve mastered the material, you’ll feel more confident walking into the testing center. Choosing a training provider that offers supplemental study materials like study plans, practice questions, tutoring, and more will help you adequately prepare for the exam. 


You can also use relaxation techniques to help you reduce test anxiety. Breathing exercises are particularly effective in test environments. You can also relax your muscles or encourage yourself with positive self-talk.

7. Only Using Free Resources

Free tools are great and can often be helpful, but only using free tools can lead to failing the exam. Using resources you found online isn’t always wise, as online materials may be outdated or inaccurate. 


You want to ensure you’re only using resources that help you truly understand concepts, instead of simply answering questions. If you want materials to enable solo study, stick to the ones offered by your PMP certification training provider.


To ensure you pass the PMP exam, you need the perfect combination of preparation – training, the right materials, and in-depth knowledge of the PMBOK® Guide. This exam is too important to your career to cut corners. When you devote time and effort to preparing for the exam, you’re sure to pass.


Do you want to start the PMP exam preparation process? Explore The Complete PMP Certification Guide now to learn more.

New call-to-action