What to Do If You’ve Failed the PMP® Exam

Determine Why You Failed

The first step is to determine why you failed. The 3 most common causes of failing the PMP Exam are:

  • Poor Language Skills
  • Lack of Experience
  • Lack of Preparation

Poor Language Skills

If English is your second language, you’re at a disadvantage.

You can (and should) request the “language aid” for your native language on the PMP Exam. If you didn’t, then you probably should on your next attempt.

Although recommended for those who don’t speak English as their first language, it can still slow you down a bit on the exam to have both languages on the screen.

Most of all, many excellent resources are available only in English. This limits the resources you have available to you to prepare for the exam.

Some people report that it’s easier for them to learn the new PMI terminology in English than in their native language. This further complicates your test-taking as you’ll be reading the English for the terms, and your native language for the situational context of the questions.

Or it may just be that your reading comprehension skills are not as fast as they need to be. It is a long test after all, and you have to keep up a rapid pace.

If language skills are the main reason you failed, then that’s where you need to focus your efforts.

Spend more time learning the PMI terminology in both English and your native language. Don’t rely on just one language or the other.

Practice reading more quickly (in both languages if you’re bilingual), and develop quicker reading comprehension. Don’t limit yourself to practice questions. Read all sorts of things in both languages: online articles, newspapers, technical manuals, novels, and so on. Force yourself to pick up the pace. Practice, practice, practice.

Lack of Experience

Maybe you’re just don’t have the experience yet. 3 years and 4,500 hours is the minimum. Many people will require more experience than that. You need to have learned and experienced a lot as a project manager in order to choose the best answer on difficult situational questions.

To close the gap in your experience, you need not only more time, you also need to learn more about project management.

Spend the next 9 months reading all you can about project management. Find the best books based on your current level of skill and experience, and read them. Make sure you cover all 3 areas of the PMI Talent Triangle®:

  • Technical Project Management
  • Leadership
  • Strategic and Business Management

Apply what you learn from your studies to your daily project management. Learn what works. You’ll be a better project manager. And you’ll be more prepared for the exam.

Then, when you’ve only got a few months left before your one-year window to re-take the exam expires, decide whether you think you’re ready to try it again. If so, go for it. If not, keep building your experience and re-apply when you feel you have the experience you need.

If you’re not ready for the PMP yet, don’t bother with with the CAPM®. It’s rarely worth it. If you think it might be worth it in your case, please read Don’t Get Your CAPM®! before you make a decision.

Lack of Preparation

If your language skills are good, and you have the project management experience, then the most likely reason you failed the exam is simply that you weren’t prepared enough.

Perhaps you rushed it. Eager to get your PMP as soon as possible, you may have underestimated just how much time and effort it takes to be ready for such a rigorous exam.

Or you may have made the mistake of trying to get by with free and very-low-cost training and resources. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You were just trying to be prudent with your money. But now you’ve learned.

Rather than trying to piece together a training program from multiple sources, go for a high-quality training program that offers everything you need to be ready for the exam. It should cover all of the material on the exam – which is far more than is in the PMBOK® Guide.

A complete training program will also include a high-quality Exam Simulator so you can get the practice you need.

Should you choose classroom training or an online, self-paced course? How can you tell which courses are of high quality? How should you choose the course that will provide you what you need to pass the next time? To answer these questions, read 10 Steps to Choosing Your PMP® Exam Prep Course.

Click here to learn about my course, built for IT Professionals.