Why did my student fail in PMP? (Must read for people who have failed)

I am a PMP training instructor, taught over 500 students.


This is a true story (NO rumor) - Around Mid Feb 2012, a group of 8 people from management background enrolled me for PMP workshop. They were close friends and they planned to study in a group for 2-3 months. I gave them same instructions, tips and PMP session. Yesterday, finally all appeared for the PMP exam, 5 passed and 3 failed. Yes, 3 failed!


Not a surprise for me. Let’s do post mortem, why this happened.

1.       PMP workshop, tips and guidance – I gave them the same, so it cannot be the cause

2.       PMP books referred – All referred PMBOK, Rita and Andy, same book cannot be the cause again

3.       PMP mock exam tried – PMStudy, Oliver, Fast Track and Pmpforsure, again the same set of exams and questions, this cannot be the cause again.

4.       Study time devoted – These group studied together and discussed while studying as a group, in short they were on the same page.


For any intelligent (so called) person who guides PMP aspirants, they will always talk about the above 4 factors, right? If it is right, then why 3 failed? Either PMP guides are wrong (who just talk about books and material) or this story is fake. I know this story is true, I would blame people who guide. Let’s understand this with another true story.


Apollo 11, who does not know, Neil Armstrong was the first person to land on the Moon. A history that CANNOT be changed as long us this life remains on this earth. You may not know that Edwin Aldrin was second person to land on moon who was part of the same crew. You also may not know, that as per the Apollo 11 project plan, Edwin Aldrin was actually suppose to land on the moon first and then it was Neil Armstrong. There are lots of conspiracy why Edwin Aldrin did not land on moon first. Some say, he was afraid to come out of space shuttle. Some say the direction space shuttle landed, did not allow Edwin Aldrin to come out easily. While some say, Edwin Aldrin fainted because of nervousness and fear. Etc


From this story, whom do you blame for the failure of Edwin Aldrin not to become the first man to land on the moon. Do you blame space shuttle? Do you blame project planning? Do you blame Edwin Aldrin knowledge? Do you blame staff and space shuttle crew? Think about where was the fault!


Lets come back to the PMP now - I have already said earlier, PMI institute, defines a term called psychometric analysis in their release notes. When you research things closely, you will come to know that to pass PMP, these are the factors that MUST favor you.

A.       Average project management practice experiences (I just said average…please note)

B.       Basic to moderate PMBOK knowledge (I did not say, good knowledge…please note)

C.      Common sense (This one is MOST neglected, but has huge impact)

D.      Ability to overcome fear and nervousness (Very important one, basic cause of majority failure)

E.       Luck or good day for you


Almost, all PMP instructor and tips you get will ONLY talk about Point A and B. See the real story of Apollo 11, Edwin Aldrin failed because of points C,D,E. See the story I said for 8 students, 3 students failed because of points C,D,E. In short, success and failure is not always because of experience and knowledge. Morel of this story - Learn to accept both Success and Failure, even if you are expert and well prepared.


Finally, question comes, how to prepare then. Instructor can help you in point A and B, but see my example, 3 students failed and failure was actually because of C,D,E. Do not run to gather more and more knowledge as if you have to win award of purity and become perfectionist. You should work in other side equally and these NO ONE can teach you. If you are SMART or become SMART, you will find your own ways. Almost 30% of PMP questions can be solved by just using common sense. And hence, I keep saying….FIND OUT YOUR OWN WAYS, MAKE YOUR OWN PLAN. PMP exam is for average people having an AVERAGE knowledge. Don’t keep running for knowledge, apply common sense and try to become SMART.


Next time if you fail, before you blame any book, author, guide or mock exam, make sure you think about these real stories before blaming. And if you pass PMP, think about various factors why you passed!


All the best for the PMP Exam.

admin's picture

There is a simple formula to overcome C, D, and E points, which is Practice, Practice , Practice.

Common sense and ability to apply the knowledge learnt will come as a result of practice. The more you practice and prepare the better you can overcome the fear and be confident.  Finally if you have prepared well, you will not depend on lady luck for a good day.

In my opinion almost all the people who fail fall in one of these categories

  1. They have less or NO PM experience and only try to only learn from Books / tests. However they do pass in 2nd or third attempt.

  2. They have some PM experience but find it difficult to unlearn practices they do at their work and hence are not able to apply common sense to questions.  Neither they have taken practice tests from reputed sources

  3. Studied from couple of books and taken some free practice tests giving them false illusion of being prepared . Many people sell huge number of questions (1000+) etc. Not only they could be of low quality it may give false impression that Real exam questions are easy.

  4. They do not take the PMBOK theory seriously , hence cannot answer questions.

Following are mostly NOT the reasons for failure

  1. Not Memorizing ITTO  ( Its optional and good to memorize )

  2. Unable to solve Math questions  ( Very few Math questions in exam., cannot lead to failure )

Having said that knowing ITTO and Math will give you enough cushion to clear the exam successfully

The only reason why PMP candidates dont pass the exam is that - THEY DONT FOLLOW INSTRUCTION. This is always what i emphasize upon my students. Following instruction in any exam is the key to passing. WHY? In most cases, the instruction is - "SELECT THE CORRECT ANSWER" yet the examinees select the WRONG. ha ha ha!  Joke joke joke!!

Additional to what you say guys, "reading comprehension" is one factor to pass/fail in the exam.