An Introduction to the PMP: Exam Details and Process [updated 2021]

Ravi Das
July 27, 2021 by
Ravi Das

The Project Management Professional (PMP) and the PMI Talent Triangle are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is renowned as the global gold standard in the field. The PMP certification, an industry-recognized credential for project managers by the Project Management Institute (PMI), helps validate your skills, qualify for future career opportunities or help advance in your organization. 

Earn your PMP, guaranteed!

Earn your PMP, guaranteed!

Enroll in a PMP Boot Camp and earn one of the industry’s most respected certifications — guaranteed.

Domain areas of the PMP

As of January 2021, the exam was updated to reflect three domains:

  • People: focuses on the soft skills that project management professionals need to effectively manage a team (42%).
  • Process: focuses on the technical aspects of project management (50%).
  • Business environment: focuses on how projects and organizational strategy are connected (8%).

Prep for the PMP certification by reviewing the Exam Content Outline.

The scope and nature of the PMP exam

Candidates who have met certain education and professional experience requirements in the online PMI application can sit for the PMP exam. The member price is $405, and the non-member price is $555; scheduling a test date requires a unique PMI eligibility ID.

As of April 2020, PMI and Pearson VUE offer an online testing option (via OnVUE). When ready, log in to and navigate to "Review Application Status" under myPMI. Click "Schedule Exam." You will be directed to schedule your online proctored exam through Pearson VUE.

The test contains 180 questions, with five randomly placed throughout the exam and used for research purposes (results are not used in calculating the final score); testers have 230 minutes. Questions are a combination of multiple-choice, multiple responses, hotspot, drag and drop and limited fill-in-the-blank.

Unlike some other IT certs, the PMP is closed-book, and no other kinds or types of materials are allowed into the testing center. Also, interestingly, the PMI does not reveal any official passing score. The computer notifies the candidate if they have passed or failed the exam and displays their proficiency level in each domain area. Proficiency can be at one of four levels:

  • Above target (this indicates a high level of domain proficiency)
  • Target (this indicates an average level of domain proficiency)
  • Below target (this indicates a below-average level of domain proficiency)
  • Need improvement (this means that none of the above proficiency levels have been met, and the candidate is advised that much further review or training is needed in those respective domains.

The PMP process

The following diagram reviews the entire PMP examination process:

Important points to consider:

  • Submitting the application online is the preferred method (it will take a maximum of five calendar days for full processing).
  • Application payment can be made via online payment, wire transfer, traditional check or money order.
  • When you submit your application to the PMI, it means that you agree to abide by the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and the Certification Application/Renewal Agreement. But keep in mind that a small percentage of applications are subjected to an audit. This means that further information is required to confirm your work and educational history.

PMP examination requirements

Not just anybody can appear for the PMP exam. There are strict and exhaustive PMI guidelines that have been set forth and are as follows:

For those candidates with a high school diploma or associate degree:

  • Five years of direct project management experience
  • 7,500 hours of direct leading of an actual project(s)
  • 35 hours of formal project management education

For those candidates with a degree or advanced degree:

  • Three years of direct project management experience
  • 4,500 hours of direct leading of an actual project(s)
  • 35 hours of formal project management education

Also, the following are the typical characteristics of candidates who appear for the PMP Exam:

  • The individual performs their duties with minimal supervision and is 100% responsible for all project management life cycle phases.
  • Have direct oversight and management of the various cross-functional teams to deliver and execute the project deliverables to the client's satisfaction within tight timeframes, budgets and limited resources.
  • Possess in-depth knowledge of at least one traditional project management methodology and apply those skills efficiently and effectively to any type or kind of project with clearly established requirements and project deliverable deadlines. Examples of these models which most PMPs have a solid grasp of include the following:
    • Agile
    • Scrum
    • Kanban
    • Scrumban
    • Lean
    • XP (Extreme Programming)
    • Waterfall
    • Prince 2

Study materials for the PMP

In general, there are three ways to prepare for the PMP:

  1. Via a PMI-developed training. PMI offers a host of online training courses (e.g., PMI Authorized On-demand PMP® Exam Prep).
  2. Via an instructor-led course. There are plenty of courses among PMI's accredited Authorized Training Partners to choose from that might suit your needs.
  3. Via self-study books: PMI's handbook is for you if you're a beginner and don't know anything so far about the PMP exam. This comprehensive guide includes all essential information regarding the policies and procedures for obtaining and maintaining the PMP credential. There are also plenty of PMP books that are available online. No one book can be deemed the best; it all depends upon your preferences. Most come with training CDs, access to online content and mock quizzes and exams and so forth.

Earn your PMP, guaranteed!

Earn your PMP, guaranteed!

Enroll in a PMP Boot Camp and earn one of the industry’s most respected certifications — guaranteed.

Final thoughts — the benefits of receiving the PMP certification

Because of the very rigorous nature of the PMP requirements and the difficulty in actually passing the exam, there are many key benefits derived from it. These include:

Quick growth and advancement in career

The PMP is a long-established, internationally-recognized certification that is highly regarded by the entire business community, both IT and non-IT. By obtaining the PMP, you will gain access to a very unique and specialized group of professionals that are already PMP certified. Thus, there will be tremendous networking opportunities and meeting other contacts who can land you a higher-paying job with more project management responsibilities.

Enhancement of skill set

Getting ready for the PMP credential, you'll gain the specific knowledge, skills and abilities required to function as a project manager and successfully manage complex projects efficiently. You will show any future employer that you have a robust skill set and are ready to lead a team by passing the exam.

Enhancement of marketability

By passing the PMP, you demonstrate you can work across a broad spectrum of activities, whether it is related to IT or not. And since many industries so highly value the PMP certification, there is the potential that you could be in high demand all over the world.

High earning potential

According to the Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey, PMP-certified project managers earn 22% higher on average than their peers.

As per PayScale, the median salary for a certified PMP is $108,000. Of course, the income can vary depending on the role in question; for example, project manager (unspecified type/general) has an average wage of $88,000; project manager, information technology (IT) makes an average of $98,000; and senior project managers earns an average of $117,000.

Seriousness of work

Possessing the PMP certification shows an employer that you have total dedication to your chosen field, and thus, are highly disciplined in effective project management skills. Most importantly, it also shows that you can deliver a project to the satisfaction of a client, which could mean more repeat business for the organization you work for. This will bring you that much more prestige.

Pursuing the PMP certification

Will you be added to this list of over 1,151,458 professionals that, according to the May 2021 PMI Fact File Stats, are PMP certified? As a PMP certification holder, you will surely increase the chances of being hired and have advantages in the job market, if not gain a higher salary too.



Ravi Das
Ravi Das

Ravi is a Business Development Specialist for BiometricNews.Net, Inc., a technical communications and content marketing firm based out of Chicago, IL. The business was started in 2009, and has clients all over the world. Ravi’s primary area of expertise is Biometrics. In this regard, he has written and published two books through CRC Press. He is also a regular columnist for the Journal of Documents and Identity, a leading security publication based out of Amsterdam.

You can visit the company’s website at (or; and contact Ravi at