Advice for Those who has Failed the PMP Exam

Relax, it is not the end of the world. Follow the actionable advices here to pursue your PMP dream again!

What to Do After First/Twice/Thrice Failing the PMP?

Though it is every Aspirants’ wish to pass the PMP Exam in 1st Try (I particular like the exam prep book with the same title authored by Andy Crowe), the passing rate of the exam is estimated to be around 60% – 70% only — meaning that 2 out of 5 Aspirants would fail the exam in their first exam attempt.

I totally understand the kind of frustration Aspirants would have after failing the exam, especially when you have spent weeks (and even months) studying training courses and doing mock exam questions, as I have failed exams before… In the unfortunate event that a PMP Aspirant fail the Exam, this is NOT the end of the world. Failing the exam this time means that you are a step closer to passing the PMP Exam!

It needs to be stressed again that “it is not the end of the world after failing the exam at the 1st attempt“!

Every PMP Aspirant has another 2 tries to crack the exam within the 1-year validity period. As a matter of fact, even if one fails the PMP Exam 3 tries (which is extremely unlikely but it is always good to know you have another chance), they will be able to re-apply for the exam after 1 year to get another 3 trials of exam — the chance to pass the PMP Exam is unlimited (though Aspirants will have to pay the exam / re-exam fee each time).

What if I Failed the PMP Exam Once?

You have tried your best and devoted your precious time and money into exam preparation. You have done what other successful exam takers have recommended — taking the best online / classroom training, the best Exam simulators, the best exam prep books, the best reference materials whatsoever — yet you failed the exam in first try.

DON’T BLAME YOURSELF. You have tried your best already. The reasons for failing the exam were likely linked to circumstances that were beyond your control. The following are my recommendations from my experience of failing a professional exam that helped me to pass the exam eventually, hope these would help you:

  1. Allow you time to mourn
    • Don’t force yourself to begin preparation for the exam again asap. Mourning is natural in the case of failing an exam that you have invested so much. Mourning will help you to release your stress and prepare you psychological for the success that is ahead! Do nothing and think nothing about PMP Exam during this period of time. Just relax and do whatever you want.
    • It is important to release any psychological stress that has been built up after learning that you have not made it the first try.
    • Give you sometime (maybe several days or weeks) to just do nothing or things you love that are not related to exam study.
    • Talk with your study group or friends over your frustrations and anger of not passing the exam the first try.
    • After you have released your stress, you will be much better prepared for beginning another round of exam study.
  2. Set a time to stop mourning
    • But mourning will get you nowhere if you just mourn. Set a definite time (e.g. a week or 3 days) and stop mourning afterwards. Don’t think about the failing again, not even once.
  3. Think positive
    • Count the opportunities ahead:
      • You still have 2 more chances of attempting the exam.
      • You have a report on your proficiency of various domains from your previous attempt of exam that will help you understand your strengths and knowledge gaps — by filling up the gaps, you will be much better positioned to pass the exam the next try.
    • The passing rate of PMP Exam is indeed quite low among most professional exams — that makes passing the exam extremely valuable.
    • It is great to know that many Aspirants who have failed the exam the first try succeed with the second attempt.
    • Keep in mind that as you have tried the exam before, you have a cutting edge in passing it this time.
  4. Plan your Exam Preparation again
    • This time, you should focus more on the knowledge gaps as found out from your exam report.
    • Greater emphasis should be placed on attempting mock exams and acquiring the necessary exam taking techniques.
    • Don’t pressure yourself too much. The duration of study should be long enough.
    • Evaluate your mock exam results against the “ordinary passing scores” of other Aspirants and evaluate whether you have studied enough to pass the exam the next time.
  5. Review your PMP Exam results
    • There are three proficiency levels for the 5 project management process groups:
      • Proficient (P) — meaning your knowledge in that domain is better than the average
      • Moderately Proficient (MP) — your knowledge in that domain is average
      • Below Proficient (BP) — your knowledge in that domain is worse than the average
    • If you believe that you should have passed the exam (e.g. with all Proficient and Moderately Proficient without Below Proficient), you may submit your appeal to PMI directly to have the staff there overlooking your exam results.
    • If not, just go to the next step.
  6. Understand the results of the first try
    • Begins with the domains that are Below Proficient in your results by going through the related chapters of the PMBOK® Guide as well as the exam prep books.
    • If you just rely on the PMBOK® Guide in your first attempt, you are highly encouraged to purchase an additional Exam Prep Study Guide / Reference Book  as the PMBOK® Guide does not cover the whole Exam syllabus.
  7. Try more PMP mock exam questions
    • It makes sense to get exposed to different mock exams provided by different vendors / instructors. Here is a list of recommended and free mock exams every PMP Aspirant should attempt.
    • Finish each mock exam in 4 hours and go over each and every answer explanations (not just those you have got wrong).
    • Jolt down your own study notes that can be used as last minute study notes.
    • Get at least around 75% or above in at least 3 mock exams in a row (those mock exams must be taken the first time only).
  8. Be psychologically prepared
    • Psychological preparation is extremely important for such a long and difficult exam, having or lack of it often means pass or fail.
    • As you have already tried the exam, you should be much better psychologically prepared for it than the average PMP Exam takers — bear in mind that the exam results are compared with other exam takers to see if you are better (i.e. pass) than the performance of others.
    • Be confident that you will pass the exam and get ready for the 2nd try!

What if I Failed the Exam Twice?

If you have failed exam the second time, you still have another opportunity to try the exam! You are another step closer to getting PMP certified this time. Plus you have an edge over other Aspirants — you have 1st person experience of the actual exam. Just “Rinse and Repeat” the steps outlined in the section “What if I Failed the Exam Once?”.

Have faith in yourself. Your knowledge and experience in project management will get you there!

What if I Failed the Exam Thrice?

Don’t worry, you still have ANOTHER CHANCE within your exam validity period. And assure yourself that you will have unlimited try until you are titled PMP as every aspirant will have 3 trials during each year of exam validity period and there is no limit for the total number of times of trying exams!

Plus, even if you have given up PMP Exam eventually, you are still a great Project Manager. Having the PMP title or not will not determine your project management proficiency — it is just a test of your understanding of the project management knowledge according to the PMI (i.e. PMBOK® Guide) ONLY.

Conclusion: Have Faith in Yourself and Try Again!

Yes the PMP Exam is quite difficult. The passing rate is only 60% – 70% for first-time Aspirants. 2 out of every 5 will fail the  Exam. Yet with diligence and proper preparation, every one will be able to get certified!


Wish you PMP success!

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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6 Responses

  1. Sat says:

    I failed exam (PimBok 6) and result as below., Could not complete all question in time (12-14 could not attend).
    I have observed 4 hrs mock test I am finding difficult to complete in time, How to improve on completing the exam in time.

    I feel test was easy and I have mostly answers correct answers. How to interpret below report.

    Initiating Slightly below target
    Planning -needs improvement
    Executing -needs improvement
    Monitoring & controlling -Slightly below target
    Closing – above target

    How can I get PMI to re verify the results.


    • Edward Chung says:

      Sorry to hear that you did not make it this time. Your results show that it is better for you to try more quality mock exams until you get to around 75% in the first attempt before attempting the PMP Exam again.

      Should you need to verify your exam results, you will need to contact PMI Customer Care.

      Wish you PMP success!

  2. Poojitha says:

    Hi Edward,
    Is that advisable to take a third attempt before the eligibility I’d expires for the same application if failed in 2 attempt as well or need to wait for sometime ?
    Could you advise on this

    • Edward Chung says:

      As a general advice, one may try to take the exam if they can achieve over 70% or more in mock exams (at least 2 in a row). If you can get to this range, just go ahead with another try, you stand a high chance to pass the exam.

      Wish you PMP success!

  3. Tamara says:

    There are other certification programs that are more focused on one’s knowledge and experience rather than exam language tricks..
    I am preparing for the (proficient project manager – PPM) certification.

    It offers U.S certificate accredited by CPD, UK..

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Tamara,

      I do agree that there are other project management certifications out there. But PMP is one of the most prestige and recognized PM certification and will be there to stay. I do find the PMP exam prep and certificate very useful to me.

      Wish you PM Certification success!