What Is the PMP Exam Like?

The Project Management Professional exam is a computer-based exam composed of 200 multiple-choice questions. Each question has four answers, and the exam-taker is required to choose the best answer to the question. A total of 4 hours is allowed for the exam.

The intent of the questions is to test a thorough understanding of project management. To this end, many questions are creatively designed to check both key understanding (knowledge) and the ability to practically apply concepts at the same time. A part of this creative exam design is to utilize many different types of questions. To better prepare you for the PMP exam experience, let's review the key question types and formats you are likely to encounter:

  • Situational questions These questions require you to rely on your knowledge, real-world experience and judgment in order to answer them correctly.

  • Conceptual understanding For these questions, you must apply concepts to a new situation by using more than simple memorization. Often, PMI will intentionally use different terminology for the same concepts. This is done to test your "understanding" of the topic rather than your ability to simply recall a term.

  • Memorization questions The PMP exam will have some questions that are short and direct and can be answered in less than 20 seconds. For example, you may well encounter some fill-in-the-blank questions and factual-type questions.

  • Double-reverse logic questions A popular technique of wily test designers, these types of questions ask about a topic using reverse or double-reverse logic. Generally, you need to select the exception from the four possible options.

  • Story problem questions The long, drawn-out "story problem" questions can take several minutes (2 to 5 minutes) to process. The key to these question types is deciphering what information presented is essential and needed to answer the question.

  • "Use the pencil" questions These questions require you to perform simple calculations and/or draw simple diagrams to select the correct answer. Frequently, questions regarding earned value, financial accounting, project network diagrams, and project schedules will require the use of the pencil to get the right answer.

  • Non-PMBOK questions Estimates vary, but most people feel around 60% of the exam questions come directly from the PMBOK. The other questions originate from other reference materials, subjects related to project management, and real-world situations. In addition, past exam-takers have noted out-of-the-blue questions that test specific knowledge points. Project Management is a broad field of study, so you can never be too prepared.

  • "I need to change careers" questions A few questions are placed in every PMP exam to "rattle" the exam-taker. These questions will be difficult, if not impossible, to answer with confidence. Just expect these, and see our exam-taking strategies on how best to deal with them. This may be PMI's way of testing how you respond under pressure and when things do not go as expected.


A common feedback point from many exam-takers is that several questions seemed to have more than one correct answer. Often, most, if not all, of the answers are reasonable responses to the question at hand. However, there is always one "best" response, as determined by PMI.

PMP Exam Cram 2. Project Management Professional
PMP Exam Cram 2. Project Management Professional
Year: 2003
Pages: 169

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