I'm a huge fan of the popular science television series, MythBusters, and today I'm going to play the MythBuster and take on 5 popular myths about PMP exam passing score. This is part 2 of the series on PMP exam passing score. I suggest you read part 1 - PMP Exam Passing Score - Not a Number Game anymore, before proceeding further.
Disclaimer: PMP exam scoring criteria is a black box. While I've made all effort to provide the most accurate and complete information, I provide no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of furnished data. Please use this information at your own discretion.
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Myth 1: PMP exam pass percentage is 61%
As I mentioned in Part 1, this is history and not true anymore. The passing percentage used to be 61% until 2006. Back then, the percentage was clearly specified in the PMP Handbook. But now, you would not find any official PMI document that specifies a passing percentage. You can also confirm this with PMI Customer Care.
Myth 2: A fixed passing score is applicable to all candidates
This is what the PMP Handbook says on this subject:
Establishing the Passing Score
The passing score for all PMI credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI uses subject matter experts from across the globe to help establish a point at which each candidate should pass the examination(s) and the examination point of difficulty. Data that show how candidates actually performed is cross referenced with the subject matter experts to ensure that the point of difficulty on each examination is healthy.
In sound psychometric analysis system, there is no documented set mark or percentage you must achieve to pass the exam. The minimum mark or pass percentage varies for each exam, and is based on the exam’s difficulty and on all the student's scores achieved globally. It also means that if you get lots of easy questions on the exam, your pass percentage may be higher compared to the pass percentage if you get tougher questions correct. So one candidate may pass the exam scoring just 55%, and the other may fail despite scoring 65%.
Myth 3: Every question carries equal weightage
This is essentially the same as the previous point. If you get the tough questions correct, you may pass with a lower overall score. So the point is that tougher questions carry higher weightage.
Myth 4: There's a percentage score associated with each Proficiency level
The myth floating around goes on to specify the exact minimum percentage for each proficiency level. For example, Proficient = 80% (or above), Moderately Proficient = 61% (or above), and Below Proficient = Below 61%.
Interesting, isn't it? I call this The Kidney Heist of PMP certification. It is pure speculation. If it's not mentioned in the PMP Handbook, I don't trust it, no matter what anyone says or writes.
Myth 5: You need to score at least "Moderately Proficient" in all 6 domains in order to pass the exam
In other words, it means that a single "Below Proficient" grade in any domain will shut the doors on you. This isn't true either. In part 4 of this series, I'll show you real data (score results) gathered from successful candidates, that proves this wrong. People have scored "Below Proficient" in one or more domains and still passed the exam.
Now that we have separated facts from fiction, you might ask, what percentage should I really "aim for" while preparing for the PMP exam? I can understand your dilemma and fully empathize with you. The target was clear when PMI used to publish a fixed passing percentage for the exam. But now the situation is a bit murky. You do not know what is a good score on mock exams, what is the right strategy, and when you are ready for the exam.
I'll address these concerns in part 3 of this series. I would also like to hear your stories, things you might have heard or experienced on this subject. Feel free to add your comments and complement this information.
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