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  PMP Exam Passing Score - Not a Number Game anymore

PMP Exam Passing Score - what is the pass percentage?
PMP Passing Score (Part 1): Today I completed two years as a certified PMP. It was on Nov 27, 2007 that I passed my PMP exam. I'm getting a bit nostalgic thinking about the 3 months of gruesome preparation that culminated in the joy that rushed through my body on seeing the magic word "Congratulations" flash on my screen on this very day, two years ago. The exam score report, which I received, clearly indicated the domain-wise percentage score, even though the overall percentage score was not mentioned. Lot of important changes have happened to the exam and the passing score, since then.

This article is the first in the series of articles on PMP Exam Passing Score. In this article, I'll cover the important changes to the passing score in the past 4 years. It's important to give you some background so that you can understand the current situation clearly. So, let's begin in a chronological order.
  1. In 2004, PMBOK Guide, 3rd Edition was introduced. In July 2005, PMP exam was changed to align with PMBOK Guide, 3rd Edition. At the same time, PMI increased the passing percentage to a staggering 81% (yes, eighty one percent). With the increase in passing percentage, the percentage of candidates clearing the exam in the first attempt dropped dramatically. PMI was quick to react and dropped the passing percentage to a more reasonable 61% (sixty one percent) in Dec 2005.

  2. Until 2006, the PMP Handbook clearly specified 61% as the passing score, but thereafter, PMI stopped revealing the exact pass percentage, even though, they continued to provide the domain-wise percentage on the score reports.

  3. The next big change occurred at the end of 2007, when PMI changed how diagnostic results were presented in the score reports. Instead of domain-wise percentages, PMI started using global best practices in examination administration by using proficiency levels. So now they provide proficiency levels like Proficient, Moderately Proficient and Below Proficient by domain, instead of a numerical percentage scored in each domain.
It's been two years since PMI implemented the change. Unfortunately, even now many PMP trainers, websites and resources continue to promote 61% as a passing score, and many unsuspecting PMP aspirants continue to go into the exam thinking they need to score 61% to pass. The myth continues to thrive like an "urban legend".

In part 2, I'm going to take on the 5 most popular myths of PMP Exam Passing Score. So, stay tuned.

3-part series on PMP Exam Passing Score

  1. PMP Exam Passing Score - Not a Number Game anymore (you are here)
  2. 5 Popular Myths about PMP Exam Passing Score
  3. The Best Kept Secret of the PMP Certification Exam (Passing Score)

Image credit: Flickr / H. Michael Karshis


  1. Thanks Harwinder for the good article.
    I have a query, does one need to score at least average in each of the area. I mean, if suppose one score very good in all the process group suppose score very less or say zero in the questions related with (say) professional responsibility, then the person would not get pass?
    Any comments..

  2. Hello VJ,

    Great question. Believe it or not, I have already got this question covered for Part 2 of this series, where I'll take on the popular myths about PMP Passing Score. I would be posting it soon.

    The short answer to your question is "No". You can pass the exam even if you score "Below Proficient" in some domains.

    Check back again soon for a detailed answer in my next post.

    If you have other questions on this topic, I would be eager to hear from you.

    All the best.

  3. Hi BW and colleagues,
    To make a long story short, I have been conducting classes in project management for over 20 years now. As part of our experiential learning program, we conduct 3 benchmark exams over a 90 day period. (Our courses are graduate level)

    Using the 20 years of data collected from the scores on my Benchmark Exams, and the actual scores received by the participants on their PMP over that same period of time, I am able to accurately (+/- 3 points) convert the qualitative scores to quantitative scores, and based on this correlation, I do not have any reason to conclude that PMI has changed the 106/175 or 60.6% passing grade.

    I believe the reason PMI made this change was because potential employers were asking applicants what their SCORE was on the PMP exam and using that just like grade point averages from the University.

    To prevent employers from doing this, PMI switched BACK to a simple "pass/fail" system. (FWIW, circa 1985 - 1995, that is how PMI scored the exams originally- pass/fail)

    Bottom line here- IMPO, PMI has not done the practice of project management any favors in doing this. Keep in mind that the REAL value of the PMP can only be maintained if those who hold it consistently deliver projects on time, within budget, in substantial conformance to the specifications and substantially fulfilling the need for which it was undertaken in the first place.

    In the 20 or so years I have been doing this kind of training, I have yet to see any credible research supporting the fact that holding a PMP resulted in better project management or that NOT holding one resulted in poorer project management.

    Sorry folks, but you need to be realistic in exactly what the PMP stands for and represents.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  4. Hello Dr. PDG,

    Thanks for sharing your insight. You may be right about the passing score, but I look at this differently.

    I'll put my thoughts in the follow-up articles.


  5. when is your part 2 up for release?

  6. Hi,

    Part 2 was posted a while ago. I just updated the link in the post above.

    Actually I have planned four parts for this series. I'm still collecting some information for the last two.

    Thanks !

  7. Hi DFB and Colleagues,
    I have been getting so many requests for the Excel spreadsheet that converts the qualitative score PMI provides you with (whether you pass or not) into a numeric or quantitative score, I have uploaded it to our new web 2.0 site,

    Go to the download page and look for the "Weighted Exam Calculation Template" and download it.

    Also while you are there, you may want to download the recent preliminary research I published which compares the various credentials offered by other professional organizations.

    I think for many of you, it will be an eye opener when you see where the PMP falls vis a vis other less well known but highly regarded credentials.

    Enjoy, and my only request is, if you pass these files along, PLEASE give appropriate credit as to the source... I put most of my research on the internet under Creative Commons license and at least I would like to get credit for the work I am doing.


    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  8. Hello Dr. PDG,

    I could not download the spreadsheet. It says "You must be logged in to download this file". I didn't see any registration page (or at least it wasn't located in a easy to find spot).

    Kindly look into it.

    Also it would be nice to have a "Contact Us" form so that people can send the feedback directly from your website.


  9. Thanks for this innovative article. You ideas and suggestions will definitely help learners in choosing the rightpmp exam preparation. Can you please update the information based on the latest edition of PMBOK for the learners taking the exam in 2013?


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