What to Expect in the PMP Exam

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Maybe you are an expert in the Project Management field.  Maybe you are just starting out.  Either way, the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification is an excellent way into the project management world.  More and more companies are requiring, or at the very least looking for, this certification. 

This exam is also universally accredited by the International Organization for Standardization.  Because of the universal nature and also the high demand for the PMP, this test is a good option for many to consider.  The PMP exam combines both knowledge of project management and the application of that knowledge to manage specific scenarios. 

What Are the Benefits of the PMP Exam?

The benefits one gets from taking (and passing) the PMP exam are extensive and extremely worth the studying and hard work; but what exactly are these benefits?

First and foremost, as I mentioned, the PMP certification is universal and in high demand.  That fact alone makes it worth your time.  Unlike most certifications, this one is accepted and recognized globally throughout the entire project management industry. 

Furthermore, the PMP exam puts more value on you as an employee.  These examples show a few different real-life examples of how the PMP certification positively affects your resume and your significance within the industry and even within your own company. 

Finally, and more practically, the PMP helps you learn valuable skills.  As you study, prepare for, and even when you take the test, you are learning extremely valuable and practical life and career skills.  These many benefits of the PMP exam far outweigh the challenging nature, the cost, and the time. 

Check out this infographic we created a while back that outlines the Top 10 Reasons to Get PMP Certified!

How Should I Study for the PMP Exam?

The PMP exam has changed many times since its creation in 1984.  The latest of these changes came in January of 2021.  These changes are significant and worth noting. The number of questions has decreased along with the time allowed, and there is a slight change to the break policy. 

Sections of the PMP

There are currently three broad topics covered by the PMP exam and each topic has different tasks.  Let’s break down these sections. 


This section (also called a domain) has fourteen different tasks and is worth forty-two percent of the test.  These tasks are defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as “the underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain area”.  The first task is titled “Manage conflict”.  This section of the domain requires the test taker to interpret, analyze, and evaluate the conflict and also recommend a potential solution.  Tasks six through eight provide insight, instructions, and different bullet points regarding the team.  These include leading, building, motivating, encouraging, and removing barriers for the team.  Tasks nine through fourteen revolve around communication with the stakeholders, supporting virtual teams, overcoming different setbacks, challenges, and misunderstandings.  As the title of this domain suggests, the emphasis is very heavy on people and stakeholders.


This domain has the most amount of tasks with seventeen.  This domain covers the entire process of the project and accounts for 50%of the exam.  The first task addresses executing the project with the proper urgency required to deliver value for the business.  


Many of these tasks are about the planning process of the project.  In fact, six of these tasks are purely plan -based tasks.  Planning and managing scope, schedules, budgets, quality of products/deliverables, and transitions are just a few of the different areas of planning.  The planning tasks are extremely important as they help you set up your entire project.  Everything needs a good plan and strong foundation. 


The next type of tasks in this domain are about the managing aspect of the project.  These tasks are crucial.  After all, management is in the title of Project Manager, so there is extreme emphasis on this.  Many of the planning tasks include managing.  In these tasks, the test taker must plan and manage certain aspects of the project. 

The process domain is the longest, most challenging, but also the most practical section of the PMP exam.  It covers the planning and managing aspects of being a project manager and includes many tools, techniques, and artifacts used by project teams

Business Environment

The last domain of the PMP exam is the business environment.  This domain is worth eight percent and is much shorter than the other two sections.  There are only four tasks, but even though there are not many tasks and it does not count for much of the exam, this section is still challenging.  The first task requires the test takers to plan and manage compliance.  In this first task, the project manager is required to determine legal risk as well, which is a significant and weighty assignment.  The second task involves evaluating, investigating, and documenting certain benefits and values that the project should deliver.  The project manager (PM) is also required to appraise the stakeholders of the value gain progress.  The third task instructs the PM to evaluate and address the external business environment changes for the impact on scope.  This means the PM must survey changes in the market, technology, etc. and assess the impact on the scope of the project in regards to this.  The fourth and final task is the shortest of the tasks.  This fourth task asks for support of organizational change.  The test taker must understand and assess the culture of the organization and then evaluate the change of this project on the culture and determine required actions based off of this change. 

Is the PMP Difficult?

This is one of the main questions people will ask us about the PMP exam.  How hard is this test? What are my chances of passing? The answer to this question might not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth.  This exam is one of the most challenging exams in the world.  This exam takes approximately four hours.  Currently, approximately forty to fifty percent of first-time test takers fail this exam. (But, not our students!)  One of the hardest things about this exam is the fact that it is so broad.  It covers a multitude of topics over the entire project management industry globally.  The good news is that there are many resources that can help you pass this exam including self-paced, online courses and instructor-led boot camps.  PMP certification training is a must if you wish to pass this exam; especially if you are trying to pass on your first try!

How Can I Take the PMP Exam?

The process for signing up for and taking the PMP exam is quite extensive, but recent changes to the application has certainly eased some of the biggest pain points.  The first step is to register and become a member of the PMI (Project Management Institute).  This saves you money in the long run (more on that later). Next, you’ll want to fill out an application to sit for the exam. The bar is high and there are many requirements you must meet. We cover a ton of this information in detail on our video here!

You must have either a high school diploma/ associate’s degree/ global equivalent, sixty months of professional project management experience and thirty-five hours of formal project management training OR a bachelor’s degree/ global equivalent and thirty-six months of professional project management experience with thirty-five hours of formal project management education. 

The cost of becoming a member is *$139 dollars, but if you become a member you will save money when you have to register for the PMP exam.  If you are a PMI member, the fee for registering is *$405, but if you are not a member then the fee is *$555.  After you have been approved to take the exam, then you have a year to pass the exam.  You are able to take the exam up to three times during this period.  Even if you fail this exam, you are able to take it again.  With every attempt, you become more proficient and understand the overall process even better.  So, the final step: take and pass this one hundred eighty question exam.  Just calm down, take a deep breath, and don’t sweat it.  You’ll do great!


In summary, the PMP exam is extremely helpful and beneficial for those in the project management career field. (Need more proof? Watch this cool video on The Value of the PMP Certification.)  It is a complicated and difficult exam that takes many hours of studying and practice.  But with the proper training and resources, this certification will make an extremely positive addition to your resume, and may even lead to promotions or allow you to keep your job during times when the company is downsizing.  I hope this article has helped better prepare you on what to expect in the PMP exam, what the sections look like, how to study, and what the process looks like. 

Ready to take the next step? Explore your study options here:


Value of the PMP Certification – A video produced by Velociteach

PMP Certification Requirements: Do You Meet Them? [Complete Guide] (crushthepmexam.com)

Six Reasons Why PMP Certification Is Worth It (greycampus.com)

Microsoft Word – PMP Examination Content Outline – June 2019 (pmi.org)

*Subject to change. These are the fees as of the date of this post.