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Episode 268: Six Reasons Why You May Have Failed The PMP Exam Three Times (Free)

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Episode 268: Six Reasons Why You May Have Failed The PMP Exam Three Times (Free)Today’s topic is not an easy one. Kevin Reilly, PMP, PMI-ACP ( and I are going to talk about failure. Failure on the PMP exam to be precise. But of course, just talking about failure is not interesting.

So our approach is that we want to talk about the reasons why someone may have failed the PMP exam once, twice or maybe even three times, and then most importantly what actions one can take to recover, regroup and and begin moving forward to passing instead of failing the exam.

And of course, this is the moment, when I self-servingly have to say that If you are a PM who wants to become PMP or PMI-ACP certified then the easiest way to do so is with our sister Podcasts The PM PrepCast or The Agile PrepCast and study for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from We cannot guarantee that you don’t fail, but we know that our training is effective and gets you there.

Please click here to learn more about our very own program for PMP Exam Coaching.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 268. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Good to have you back.

Today's topic is not an easy one. Kevin Reilly and I are going to talk about failure, failure on the PMP® Exam to be precise. Of course, just talking about failure is not interesting. So our approach is that we want to talk about the reasons why someone may have failed the PMP® Exam once, twice or may be even three times. And then more importantly, what actions can be taken to recover, regroup and begin moving forward to passing instead of failing the exam.

And of course, this is the moment when I self-servingly have to say that if you are a project manager who wants to become PMP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister Podcast, The PM PrepCast™ and study for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep training from Of course, we cannot guarantee that you won't fail but we know that our training is effective and that it gets you there.

And now, let us guide you towards success. Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Kevin Reilly, PMP, Senior Project Management Training Consultant for KRPM training Solutions.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Kevin and welcome back to the Podcast!

Kevin Reilly: Hello, Cornelius! How are you doing today?

Cornelius Fichtner: I am doing very well today. Thank you. The sun is shining in California.

Kevin Reilly: Yes, it is.

Cornelius Fichtner: As it should be.

Kevin Reilly: Yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: So the topic that we have today is not the easiest one. We want to delve into failing the PMP® Exam or rather what to do when you fail the PMP® Exam multiple times and how to recover from such failures.

Now first question to you: We're both PMP trainers. This is what we do pretty much full time. In your view, has the PMP® Exam become more difficult with the release of the latest PMBOK® Guide edition?

Kevin Reilly: Well actually, I have to say yes for a couple of reasons. You have to remember that PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge is the current set of project manager in principles and best practices that PMI suggests that project managers use "on most projects most of the time" in order to ensure their project's successful completion.

So if we look back, we're currently on the PMBOK 5th Edition. If we look back to the original edition of the PMBOK® Guide, the first edition which I believe was created in 1984 if I'm not mistaken; and it was less than a hundred pages I believe. So each edition since then contains a lot more information. So really by default the actual body of knowledge for project management is becoming greater and therefore the exam will also become more difficult with each new addition, plus the fact that the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition represented a major change in the body of knowledge with the addition of two more processes for a total of 47 and a new knowledge area for a total of 10 knowledge areas. So I think just by nature of the voluminous amount of information that's in the PMBOK that it has actually made it a bit more difficult for students to get their heads around.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. Let me probe a little bit more here on this. Is it really more difficult or is there simply more you have to know?

Kevin Reilly: That's a good a question. It's probably more that you have to know for the actual exam. Well I don’t know the specific percentages but it is a standardized exam so there are easy questions. There are medium difficulty questions and there are difficult questions like all standardized exams. So I don’t know if the exam questions themselves have actually become more difficult but I think that there's more information to learn so the study habits of the student have to be more diligent because there's a lot more information to pack into that 4-hour exam.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. I could subscribe to that. I agree with that fully. Do we know how many people actually fail the exam?

Kevin Reilly: Nope. Only PMI knows that and as you know very well, Cornelius, they keep that a closely-guarded secret just like everything else in terms of passing percentage, et cetera. So the only way that instructors like you and I to know how many of our students pass and fail especially three times is honestly if they tell us

As human beings unfortunately, it's not easy for us to admit failure to others or ourselves so we don’t always get that information as instructors. So I think an important aspect of learning from failure is to review what you did in the past and determine where your plan failed so you can try something else to help you succeed.

Remember the old adage, someone once said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing that caused you to fail over and over and expecting to achieve a different result. And I have to agree that just doesn’t happen. But in terms of how many people actually fail the exam, we don’t actually know. We just have to look at the students that we have and talk to them and determine percentages and how we can help them to pass.

Cornelius Fichtner: And how is it for you: Do you see more of your people coming back to you telling you that they are failing? Is it the same number as before?

Kevin Reilly: I think generally it's not really higher except for the fact that the PMBOK 5th Edition when the exam changed on July 31st 2013, I saw a lot of my students trying to cram in the information before the exam change because of course you and I know and we told our students and potential students that there's going to be more information that they have to study.

So in my particular case for the actual students that I have, I think certain of them went into a panic mode and had a very detailed and doable project plan in terms of their study but they doubled their efforts and try to do twice the work and half the time and unfortunately it backfired.

My highest failure rates in terms of percentage of my students happened right after the exam change, those people trying to take the 4th Edition and then of course they had to relearn or learn the extra material in the PMBOK® Guide for the 5th Edition which made it even more difficult.

So other than that really, I really haven’t seen the number of failures statistically speaking in the last few class that I have taken from the 5th Edition over the 4th Edition but I just think before that actual change, because there were so many major changes on the July 31st 2013 PMBOK 5th Edition exam that people got in to panic mode and literally lost their focus.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, in our case, it's very similar. We only do online training so we probably have anywhere from 5 to 10 people everyday who take the PMP® exam who have gone through our training. And just like you, they do not have to tell us whether they pass or whether they fail. So we don’t really know how many people fail.

What I do know is that we receive emails sometimes from people who say: "Unfortunately I failed" because we give them 90 extra days in our Simulator. So based on that, I know that since 2013 to today, we received an average of 2.83 emails every month with people telling us "I have failed. Give me the extension or give me some help" or do something like that.

What I didn’t notice however is recently that I received more emails from people who have failed multiple times and who were seeking assistance. I'm not saying there are more people who fail multiple times. I'm just saying more people who fail multiple times have written to me than previously, right. So no correlation. No indication. I still think the exam is as difficult as it has ever been and it's just people who realized 'I need help' and they reach out to me. And this is one of the reasons why we have this conversation here. So let's get in to this discussion here. When people fail, who do they blame from your perspective?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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