5 Common Mistakes That Will Stop You From Getting Your PMP


1 in 4 people are expected to fail the Project Management Professional (PMP) ® exam the first time they take it. A number of years ago, PMI had released that statistic and indicated that they had designed the PMP® exam so that roughly 3 in 4 people or 75% of exam takers would pass the exam on the first attempt. While these numbers may have changed - PMI doesn't release the statistic anymore - let's assume that this number continues to be true.

I have been teaching PMP® exam preparation workshops for the last 13 years and I have worked with hundreds of PMP® exam takers. If you want to avoid being one of the 25% who fail, here are the five mistakes that you can avoid that will dramatically improve your chances of passing the exam and becoming a PMP®.


Mistake #1 - You Don't Apply

First, while not necessarily a reason for failing the exam, by far the biggest mistake you can make is that you never actually apply to write the exam.  If you don't apply for the exam, you will never pass it. It's that simple. Wayne Gretzky said it best.  "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." By applying to write the exam, your chances of getting your PMP® go up dramatically.

Mistake #2 - You Don't Know the Material

Now if you do actually apply, the second mistake that people make is they do not adequately prepare to write the exam. You may feel that your years of practical experience as a project manager will translate into a successful exam mark. The reality is that the PMP® exam is all about the theory of project management and not so much the reality of your real life projects. If you don't understand the PMBOK® Guide and review all of the additional exam content areas such as ethics, motivational theories, etc. you will fail. I know you are a great project manager, but don’t make a mistake and rely solely on that.


Mistake #3 - Life’s Unfortunate Events

At the time of writing the exam, things may not be well in your immediate personal life. You may experience the death of a family member, a divorce or the loss of a job. All of these will have a significant impact on the mental focus you need to write the exam. You may have planned to write the exam on a certain date but unfortunate events happen. If you experience a significant loss or change in your life, you should take some time to deal with that. This is the third mistake that people make. They think they are in a good mindset to write and pass this difficult, stressful exam when they really are not and, in the end, they fail.  More often than not, they fail. By delaying the exam, it does not mean that you are putting off the exam for years, but it may simply be a matter of weeks or months until your life stabilizes. You may think you can write and pass it, but trust me, take the extra time.

Mistake #4 - You Panic!

Forth, people panic. Most of us can look back at a time when we were under pressure and froze. Maybe it was when you gave a speech to a group of peers or during a performance on stage in front of an audience. Been there, done that – unfortunately. However, for some, you may panic when you are writing the PMP® exam. And when you panic, all the information you retained in your hours and weeks of studying flees to the recesses of your mind and you feel is lost to you. The mistake is in letting that fear overtake you. However, with specific test taking strategies that allow you to anchor yourself in what you know, you will be able to quickly rebuild your confidence, and overcome the panic allow you to not only finish, but pass the exam!


Mistake #5 – You Don’t Take a Prep Course

Finally, for some of you, you choose not to take a PMP® exam preparation course. This is a mistake. Everyone has a different learning style but there are many benefits in taking an exam preparation course. You typically cover all of the material you are required to pass the exam and are can engage with and learn from others in the course on how they are approaching the exam and project management in general. You have the benefit of asking your questions right in the room and having them answered and explained by an instructor right there.


Now as you look for a course, make sure you look for three things. First, will the instructor take the time to assist you in applying for the exam? Again, if you don't apply, you will never write. Second, are they invested in your success? Do they base their success as an instructor on your success as a student?


Finally, if things don't go well and you fail the exam, what will the course provider do to support you going forward? Will they work with you directly until you do pass?

These are a few mistakes that people make in approaching the exam. Don’t be a member of PMI’s 25% PMP® club.


For more information on the PMP®, visit our website at www.flipchartinc.com.