How are PMP exam questions weighted?

After passing numerous prep exams, including Rita's, I failed my first real PMP exam.  I called PMI, and while they would not use the term, apparently some questions wieighted, are given more credit than others.  It used to be a straight 61%, but no more.  Here is a quote from an email they sent me:

"Scaled Scoring is not a percentage-based scoring system, that is, the assessment passing point is assigned to a point of difficulty instead of a number or percent of correct responses."

The problem is no one will say anything about what is more or less weighted.  I suspect that, for example, not being able to do EV, or Crit Path, or float, will cost you more than not knowing what a fixed fee contract implies. 

 Does anyone know how PMI actually determines how one has passed or failed?

admin's picture

I was not aware of this, Thanks for posting. My perception was it is % wise , maybe someone else here can enlighten us.

 Admin

This is really surprising... Can you tell us how much did you score. So that we can analyse the situation better, You are just saying you failed. Can we have some statistics of the Knowledge Area Rankings.

The PMP exam report does not give % at all.  There are three ratings for each of 5 process groups plus professional and social resp.  Results are not broken down for KNOWLEDGE AREA).  Proficient is highest, Moderately Proficient, and Below Perficient.  I got the lowest in three. I have no way of knowing what I missed or their weighted value, in fact I am sure PMI does not want that made public.  It is possible, and this is a rough guess, to score 74% right for the whole test, but miss several high weighted questions, or score below 61% in one area, and still fail. 

 On the last 10 or so practice exams I was never below 70%, and consistently above 75.  I think the real issue here is not how PMI does things, they are trying to judge if someone is truly knowledgeable, and they are using sophisticated testing methods to do so.  I have no problem with that.  But I think we need realize that preparation exams like Rita Mulcahy's FASTrack (US$299!!!) use a much less sophisticated method...they only consider a straight percentage, which is NOT the way the real exam works. 

 

 I suggest no one call himself prepared with less than 80% right on practice exams. 

 

Smile
We all would like to hear how the exams are evaluated, wouldn't we? But I
guess from the way the exam and the grading is setup, PMI is trying to
ensure that there is no way to dis-assemble or reverse-engineer the
exam process. Why?

First a look at what we know: The exam would result in a "pass" or "fail" and does not annouce the percentage or grade scored. We know that of the 200 questions 175 are actually used for evaluating the candidate and one must have answered atleast 106 out of 175 correctly in order to pass. (A combination of "Modified Angoff Technique" and psychometric method adopted by PMI since Sept 2005.)
That's 61% of the questions.

Now the exam transcript, after you finish the exam, actually breaks the exam into Process Groups and your profeciency in it. And according to PMI the spread of questions is thus: 

Initiating - 23 Questions

Planning - 46

Executing - 53

M&C - 42

Closing - 18

Professional & Social Responsibility - 18

The transcript does not merely say, pass/fail for each of the knowledge areas. It rates it as Proficient, Moderately proficient and Below Proficient. And you need to have Moderately Proficient and above in 4 of the 6 knowledge areas to pass. (correct me here, if i'm wrong). One could try to reverse engineer this and say that a 61% pass on each of the knowledge area (14 in Initiating, 28 in Planning, 32 in Executing, 26 in M&C, 11 in Closing, 11 in Professional Conduct. Moderately Proficient on all, sums up to 122) could fetch us passing results, but it needs to be confirmed if it is just that or more. In reverse-engineering, we need to ensure that the number of correct answers sums up to 106 or more and then we could look at the areas that the correct answers come from and rate it on proficiency.

 

There is another point to the way the exam is structured and evaluated. Well, like all the big kahunas of PMP training and preperation have been saying, no one person can get all of the answers right in the exam. That's because of the nature of the exam and each person's take on the subject. But end of the day, the reason some of us are PMPs is because of a common understanding of the practices of Project Management.

 

Hope that helps answer the question or add to the general confusion, if not.

Retire (http://levigate.blogspot.com)

 

This analysis is the best I have seen.  It is hard to do since much of the conventional wisdom may be faulty.  Too many variables. 

How confident are you of the 4 out of 6 number for moderately proficient and above?  The new 122 number correct is 69%, which is fairly significant.  (And if true, means I missed only one knowledge area to pass, which gives me confidence in my second attempt.)

To be clear, I am not questioning PMI's objective in keeping secrets; the whole point of earning the certification is NOT to prove that you passed a test using smart test taking techniques, but that you are a good PM. 

My obsession with this subject originated in using Rita's book to prepare.  I was hitting way over 61% on the sample exams, so thought I was ready to go.  I called PMI after to discuss the 61% thing, and that's when I learned of the more sophisticated measurements they use.  I bought Rita FASTrack software, assuming the ads claim of near identical simulation of the real thing meant the same evaluation, and was disappointed to find out it didn't.  That and the fact that each exam draws on the same database of questions, regardless of whether they have already been used, makes that product less than robust.  I'm taking that up with RMC, but doubt will go anywhere. 

 Anyway, appreciate your inputs.

 

 

You will notice that my statement is not completely accurate: moderately proficient in 4 of 6 KAs will result in a MAX score of 100, which is 6 less than the requisite 106. Hence the reason i said that the scores have to be Moderately proficient or higher. See the beauty of it? Which means the scores have to be a either Moderately Profient in all the areas or a combination of Moderately proficient and Proficient in 4 of 6 Knowledge Areas.

Add to this the fact that the questions are rated using the Modified Angoff method, where volunteers for PMI adjudge the difficulty level of the questions. The tougher a question, lower are the points gained from getting the answer right, and easier the question, higher the points.One would therefore notice that the way the exam goes, we'll see a whole bunch of easy questions appearing together followed by a series of really tough ones.

There is no sure fire way of determining how the results would appear. But to be on the safer side, ensure that you are proficient on all the individual Knowledge Areas while taking mock exams. And by Proficient I'm presuming 80% and above. Then go for the complete exams.

 

On a side note, I really don't understand how RMC's products got so much of a hype. They are good, but really not that great! Especially when you consider what they charge for it. Money mouth There are free products out there that should be making a killing for the kind of quality they deliver (case in point Oliver Lehmann's 75 and 125 questions).

Retire (http://levigate.blogspot.com)

 

My results were as follows:

Initiating the Project - Moderately Proficient
Planning the Project - Below Proficient
Executing the Project - Moderately Proficient
Monitoring and Controlling the Project - Moderately Proficient
Closing the Project - Moderately Proficient
Professional and Social Responsibility - Moderately Proficient

 

5/6 Moderately Proficient and failed.

Not happy!

Sorry to hear the news, mshollenberger. But this reaffirms our theory that due to the use of the Modified Agnoff technique, none of the Knowledge areas will have preset scores. Due to the combination of easy and tough questions, you are likely to have scored very few marks on the tough questions (and here I'm presuming that you had a lot of them in more than two knowledge areas) and very high with the easy questions.

While this almost debunks my earlier theory of a "pass with Moderately Proficient or higher in 4 of 6 KAs", my later posting corrected this observation to say that it has to be a combination of Moderately Proficient and Proficient in 4 or more KAs.

 

I'd like to hear from others who either passed of did not pass the exam on their proficiency scores.

Retire (http://levigate.blogspot.com)

 

I passed this morning with the following results: 

Initiating the Project - Moderately Proficient
Planning the Project - Below Proficient
Executing the Project - Moderately Proficient
Monitoring and Controlling the Project - Moderately Proficient
Closing the Project - Moderately Proficient
Professional and Social Responsibility - Moderately Proficient

You don't know how much I wish to say those words ;-)

 

-Lauri

Lauri!

 

You will!  I am glad it is over and it was not easy that is for sure!  Keep studying and will come!

 Kristin

It's weird how you managed to pass with the same scores as mshollenberger, but she failed. That's scary!Surprised

I know!  That is why I posted it.  I must have been high enough in the others to compensate for the below proficient in the one process group.  Just glad that it is over!

Well Congrats!!! What practice exams did you use? Was the test what you expected? How long did you prepare?

Thanks!

M. 

 

I just posted my review as a separate topic.  Hope it helps!

I too ended up with the exact grading: 5 - Moderately Proficient; Planning- Below Proficient.  .  I was initially disappointed as I expected at least Moderately Proficient in all areas but who cares - At the end of the day I am a PMP.  Thank God I don't have to redo it to retain my PMP!  I am not sure where I end up if I have to take it again!. The weighting factor must be doing the trick - not the ranking

 

Chandra

That's intersting! I pray to God, I pass the first time around!!!

I went back and checked the Result Certification issued by Prometric Testing Center after the exam.  Here is the wording verbatim:

**************************************************************

Understanding Your Exam Results:

Your exam results are reported in two ways:

1.  An overall pass/fail result score is generated based on the number of questions you answered correctly.

2.  The second level of results is the assignment of one of three proficeincy levels to each domain.

     Each domain is assigned one of three levels of proficiency- Proficient, Moderately Proficent and Below Proficient - based on the number of questions answered correctly within the domain.

      This provides direction about where your strengths and weaknesses fall.

********************************************************

Now the puzzle is solved.  PMI is bracketing us in a range to determine proficiency level and those who fall in the lower side of the range are vulnerable to be declared fail.  It again boils down to the  Thumb rule of scoring 61% or higher.  Those who score 60% may fall into the same proficiency level as those scoring 61% but that scoring extra 1% decides pass/fail.

So, Focus on scoring correctly as many as possible.

 

Chandra

 

I passed, but I am not really proud of my results:


Initiating the Project - Moderately Proficient
Planning the Project - Moderately Proficient
Executing the Project - Below Proficient
Monitoring and Controlling the Project - Moderately Proficient
Closing the Project - Below Proficient
Professional and Social Responsibility - Moderately Proficient


"below" in 2 areas (including in Ececuting) and all others just moderately proficient.  Ouch!


My time management of going through the questions was totally off.  Never had that problem during any of  the practice exams, before. In the beginning I was too slow, I had to rush at the end and I barely finished with all the questions and had NO time to review.  I had used the book from Andy Crowe plus the correspondig website from velociteach and scored never under 80% on the simulation exams. Also on the simulation, I did have plenty of time to review.  I think that my scores and times on the simulation was better, because I had become comfortable with the content and format of that book/approach. I suggest to use at least one other book or take a simulation exam from another source than the one you are primarily using, so that you are well prepared that every single question on the exam will be completely new to you.


 

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