How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your Second Attempt


In my five years of blogging, I have received many emails from my visitors asking for help to pass the PMP exam.

The majority of emails are from professionals who attempted the PMP exam for the first time and failed. They are very desperate and frustrated and do not know what went wrong with them.

They want to know the shortcomings of their preparation and how to prepare for the next attempt.

Though I always reply to their e-mails and subsequent queries, I thought I should write a detailed eBook on this topic and help those professionals in a much better way.

So here is this eBook on “How to Pass the PMP Exam on the Second Attempt”.

In this eBook you will find the steps and strategies needed to pass the PMP exam. I believe if you follow the directions given in this eBook, you will be in a much better position to pass the PMP exam in your next attempt.

I tried to provide you with answers to all your queries. However if you still have any kind of confusion, send me an email at [email protected] I will reply to you.

This eBook is totally free, you can use it as you like and you are also free to forward this eBook to your friends who might need it.

Thanks & regards,
M Fahad Usmani, PMP, PMI-RMP

Copyright © 2016 by PM Study Circle

All rights reserved. Content available in this eBook are copyrighted to PM Study Circle 2016. No part of this eBook may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission from the author.

[email protected]

PMP, PMBOK Guide, and PMI are registered trademarks of Project Management Institute (PMI), USA.

Published by M Fahad Usmani, PMP, PMI-RMP at Shakespir

Version: 1.0

How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your Second Attempt

You wanted to become a PMP.

You collected all the information, attended the training, and scheduled the exam.

You attempted the exam, completed it and submitted the answers, and got the message:

Sorry you failed the test!

You are shocked and clueless, and your all dreams are shattered.

If this has happened to you, don’t worry; there will be no earthquake and the sky will not fall. This is just an exam, and you have many more chances to pass it.

If you failed in your first attempt, you still have two attempts left to retake the test within one year of your eligibility period.

Failing to do so will ban you from filling out the PMP exam application form for one year. Even if you don’t attempt the exam or you failed in the remaining two attempts, you cannot take the test for the next year.

Before we go any further, make yourself aware of the following facts.

The fee for the second and third time will be less than the first time test fee. This fee is different for PMI members and non-members.

The second or third time re-examination fee for computer-based testing is as follows:

a) For a PMI Member: 275 USD
b) For a Non-Member: 375 USD

The second or third re-examination fee for paper-based testing is as follows:

a) For a PMI Member: 150 USD
b) For a Non-Member: 300 USD

In fact, there are many professionals who have failed the exam in their first attempt, learned from their failure, and applied for the exam again and passed it.

So you can also pass the exam in your next attempt if you analyze your mistakes, learn from them and act accordingly.

You should not take the exam for the sake of passing it: you should do it only to gain knowledge, to demonstrate your skills, and to learn and apply standardized practices.

If you apply for the exam just to get the certification, it will be difficult for you to invest effort in studying and understanding the project management processes.

Set your intention that you have to understand the project management processes and align yourself with the best international practices. Believe me, it will help you concentrate more on the preparation and you will enjoy your studying.

If you do so, preparing for and passing the PMP exam won’t be tough for you.

Okay, let’s start with the most common cause for the failure. Afterwards, I will help you analyze the cause of failure and identify the knowledge gap. Then finally we will work out a formula to prepare for the next attempt.

The Main Reasons for Failure

The only reason you failed in the exam is that you did not prepare well. There are many scenarios that can cause this. Some of them are as follows:

Case #1

You attended the training session and got some training manuals from your training provider. You relied only on the material received from the training provider, and attempted the exam and failed.

Case #2

After training, along with the training material you purchased one PMP exam reference book and you based your studies on this material only. You attempted the exam and failed.

Case #3

After training, along with the training material you purchased one PMP exam reference book and downloaded the PMBOK Guide.

You studied well but read the PMBOK Guide only once.

You attempted the exam and failed.

Case #4

After training, along with the training material you purchased one PMP exam reference book and downloaded the PMBOK Guide.

You studied well but read the PMBOK Guide only once.

You tried a few free sample sites to practice some questions.

You attempted the exam and failed.

Case #5

After training, along with the training material you purchased one PMP exam reference book and you based your studies on this material only.

You purchased one good premium quality paid simulator program and practiced a lot of questions and attempted some simulated tests.

You attempted the exam and failed.

Likewise, there will be many other situations that caused you to fail the exam.

There is absolutely no need to panic if you failed the test. Take a rest for one or two days, develop your strategy and restart your preparation.

I have seen many professionals complaining that they got more than 70% on one online test, 80% on another test and so on, but they failed the exam. Please note that there is no guarantee that passing any simulation test with a good score means that you will pass the real test as well.

While reviewing some of these tests I have noticed that they lack the ITTO based and mathematical questions, which make up a major portion of questions in the real exam. Even if they have some ITTO based and mathematical questions, the quality of these questions are not up to the mark.

So if you pass these tests, this means you passed the test without attempting many ITTO based and mathematical questions, which can give you false confidence.

Anyway, let’s get to the point.

Once you get your test result report, the first step is to analyze the results.

On your test result report, you can see in which process group your performance was poor. You only need to find the weak areas in those process groups and fill the knowledge gap.

Here you need to find two things.

The first thing is to find in which process groups you performed poorly and the second is to discover what types of questions you are finding difficult to solve.

To find the specific process, note down your performance in each process group and open the PMBOK Guide fifth edition, page 61.

Here you can find all processes under each process group.

Find the processes where you feel you are lagging and work on them to fill the knowledge gap.

Now we come to the second issue. Here you have to find out what kinds of questions are difficult for you.

In the PMP exam you are going to see about six types of questions:

1) ITTO based questions
2) Definition based questions
3) Situation based question
4) Formula based questions
5) Interpretational questions
6) Questions on Professional and Social Responsibility

ITTO Based Questions

ITTO stands for “Input, Tool & Technique and Output.” In the exam you will see many questions based on ITTO. In this type of question, you may be asked to select the correct Input, Tool & Technique, or Output for a given process.


__]What is an output of the develop project charter process?
(a) Risk register
(b) Stakeholder register
© Project charter
(d) Issue log

Clearly, in this case the output is the project charter.

Definition Based Questions

These are the simplest questions that you will see on your PMP certification exam; for example, the definition of risk, secondary risk, residual risk, etc.


__]A risk that is a result of a response to any risk is known as a:
(a) Primary risk
(b) Secondary risk
© Residual risk
(d) Unknown risk

Here the answer is “b”, because a secondary risk is a risk which is the result of a response to any primary risk.

Situation Based Questions

In this type of question, you will be given a situation and asked to find the best answer for that situation. These questions are very tricky and difficult because all options will seem to be acceptable. However, you have to choose the best option.


__]Your client asks you for a minor change in your project which you believe will not affect the cost or schedule baseline. What will your next step be?
(a) You will implement his request because it will not affect the project
(b) You will not implement the request
© You will review the request with team members
(d) You will inform management

You will neither deny nor accept any request from the client promptly until you review it and the client is aware and agrees to its impact on the project. For any change request, first you will review it with your team members, and then you will decide on your next step.

Formula Based Questions

Here you have to solve questions by using mathematical formulas. These questions may come from the critical path method, PERT, earned value management, etc.


__] You have a project that is worth 100,000 USD. To date you have spent 30,000 USD and 25% of the work is completed. What is the Cost Performance Index (CPI)?
(a) 5000
(b) 0.833 (c) -5000
(d) 1.2

Cost Performance Index = (Earned Value)/(Actual Cost)


According to the question:

Earned Value = 25% of 100,000 = 25,000 USD

Actual Cost = 30,000 USD


CPI = 25,000/30,000
= 0.833

Hence, the answer is “b”.

Interpretational Questions

Here you will be given some data and you have to analyze the information to find the correct answer.


__] You have a project that is worth 100,000 USD. To date you have spent 30,000 USD and 25% of the work is completed.

For the above project, which statement is correct?
(a) The project is under budget
(b) The project is over budget
© The project is ahead of schedule
(d) The project is behind schedule

Since the CPI is less than one for this project, the project is over budget.

Questions on Professional and Social Responsibility

Since are you going to be a PMI certified PMP, PMI expects you to follow a certain code of ethics and professional conduct in your behavior.

As per the PMI, “As practitioners of project management, we are committed to doing what is right and honorable. We set high standards for ourselves and we aspire to meet these standards in all aspects of our lives — at work, at home, and in service to our profession.”


__]During a bidding conference you notice that a bidder is your friend. What will your next step be?
(a) You will help your friend
(b) You will not tell anyone
© You will disclose it
(d) You will not attend the conference

There can be a conflict of interest, and in this case your first step is to disclose your friendship to management. Hence the correct answer is “c”.

The exam consists of easy and tough questions in each category, however I see that many professionals are scared of ITTO and mathematical questions.

Some of them also reported that they performed poorly in situation based questions.

In your case, you have to review what types of questions you find difficult to solve.

There are different strategies to understand each type of question.

If you find yourself weak in ITTO based questions and performed poorly here, you probably did not study the PMBOK Guide as you should.

Before I lay down a strategy to solve ITTO based questions, let me ask you a few questions:

a) Is it really possible for you to memorize all ITTOs?
b) Does the PMI really want you to memorize these ITTOs to pass the PMP exam?
c) Why does the PMI ask questions based on ITTOs in the PMP exam?

The fifth edition of the PMBOK Guide has 10 knowledge areas. These knowledge areas have 47 processes, and these processes have hundreds of inputs, tools & techniques and outputs. I seriously doubt that you have the capability to memorize all these ITTOs.

Also, I don’t think the purpose of the PMP exam is to test your memorization power. PMI never designed ITTOs to be memorized, and if you are doing this to pass your exam then you are exploiting the whole certification process, and most importantly you’re ignoring the logic behind these ITTOs.

In fact, the real intention behind ITTO based questions is to check your understanding about:

How do the processes flow?
a) How are the processes interrelated with one another?
b) How do the processes depend on one another?
c) How do the processes affect one another?

Therefore, you must take some time to think about it, study the processes in the PMBOK Guide as many times as you can, and visualize the relationships among the processes.

To understand the ITTO based questions you must understand the PMBOK Guide and its processes. Try to visualize the process flow.

Never ever try to memorize ITTOs; it is very difficult to memorize them and doing so will diminish their purpose. PMI wants you to understand the process flow and ITTOs, not memorize them. If you do so, you will be in a much better position to solve ITTO based questions.

Now we come to the mathematical questions. Many professionals find these questions very difficult and they don’t study them. They think it is a waste of time for them and they can compensate for these questions by scoring more in other areas.

If this was your approach, you need to rethink that. This is the wrong approach and you must avoid it. If you understand the concepts, mathematical questions are very easy to solve and can help you score in the exam. Try to practice mathematical questions and understand each formula used in the calculations.

Believe me; with little practice you can get a good command over the mathematical questions.

To understand and solve mathematical questions, I recommend you use my PMP Formula Guide.

Regarding situation based questions, while solving these questions you may think the way you do in the real world.

Remember that you are attempting the PMP exam, and during this exam you have to think the way a PMI thinks. You have to assume that you’re working in an ideal world and everything should go as per the PMBOK Guide.

You have to be very careful while solving the situation based questions.

For example, let’s say that you are going to attend a meeting, you are a little late and you see a red light signal. Nobody is there and you don’t see anyone on the road. What will you do now?

The options are as follows:

(a) Since no one is there, you run the red light
(b) You will not run the red light
© You will run the red light this time only, but not again
(d) Since you are going for an important meeting you can run the red light

In the above question, you may think that since you are going for an important meeting and nobody is there, you can run the red light. However, this is wrong. You cannot break the law in any case.

Questions on definitions and ethics are easy to solve and I never received any emails asking for help in understanding these types of questions.

To solve definition based questions, read the definitions in the PMBOK Guide and reference books and understand them well.

For ethical questions, never break the law, and do not indulge in cheating or copyright violation, disclose any conflicts of interest, respect cultures, etc.

Likewise there will be many questions in the exam, and to answer those questions you have to sync your thinking with the PMI.

Study Materials for the PMP Exam

To prepare well for the exam you should have the right combination of study materials. The most important and most ignored material for the PMP exam is the PMBOK Guide.

Please note that the PMP exam is based on the PMBOK Guide and you must study this guide. There is no substitute for the PMBOK Guide.

If you did not study the PMBOK Guide in your first attempt or took it lightly. This is the time to take it seriously.

If you are a PMI member, you can download the PMBOK Guide for free from the PMI site. Download this guide and read it as many times as you can. Read it at least three times.

Now we come to other study materials.

I have noticed that most of the time, professionals who have failed the exam used only one PMP exam reference book.

If this is the case with you, I recommend you buy other good PMP exam reference book.

If you haven’t bought the Head First PMP book, buy it and read it from cover to cover. If needed, read it again.

This is a good book will help you understand tough PMP concepts easily.

After reading this book you can use your other book.

Please note that if you already have the Head First PMP book, I suggest you buy either Kim Heldmen’s or Rita’s PMP exam preparation book.

If you have already studied two books, I still recommend you buy a new PMP exam reference book because you have already studied your old books and revising them will be quick and won’t motivate you.

Reading a new book will give you a sense of freshness and energy.

Anyway, it is your decision.

My choices of books are as follows:

1) Head First PMP
2) Kim Heldman
3) Rita’s Book

Many people may suggest you not refer to more than one or two books. They may advise you that referring to so many books may confuse you and you may not be able to grasp the concepts.

I don’t agree with that.

Keep in mind that if you understand the concept, reading about it from another perspective will give you an advantage and you will be more confident. If you think it is confusing you, this simply means you still don’t understand the concept.

You have failed the exam on your first attempt, which means you have many concepts to go through thoroughly, so you must study them from different perspectives.

Now we come to practicing sample questions.

Many professionals who failed the exam relied mainly on free resources to practice PMP exam sample questions.

It is very difficult to explain why professionals are always looking for free PMP exam sample questions and they don’t want to spend money on good question banks or simulators.

It is not a good idea and I do not suggest you rely only on free PMP exam sample questions. To be honest, I recommend you avoid using these kinds of free resources.

There are many reasons for me to give you this advice, such as:

1) Most of the time, the quality of these questions is low
2) They have many errors which are not corrected even after reporting
3) They offer no support
4) Usually they are not updated with the current content/guidelines

So if you use only free resources, it may not help you pass the exam; on the contrary it may push you to the other side.

Please note that I’m not saying that all free resources are useless and of low quality, but most of them have one or more of the characteristics listed by me.

Moreover, you are a professional and aspiring to become a PMP, so you should be ready to spend a couple hundred dollars on your career growth as well.

If you buy a PMP exam simulator, it will provide you with more than thousand questions and a few mock tests. You won’t need to visit dozens of places to attempt such a large amount of questions.

You have failed in your first attempt, so I hope that you have already used many free resources during your exam preparation.

Now, get serious and buy a good quality PMP exam simulator and practice it.

If you already bought a simulator during your first attempt and still have access to it, I believe you did not follow it properly. Therefore, this time go through it meticulously. Try all the questions given in the simulator and attempt the mock tests.

Note down the answers and logic you used while solving them. If your answer does not match with the right answer, compare your logic with the correct logic and try to understand your mistake. Doing so will help you understand the concept as well.

Ideally you should get over 75% in these mock tests to consider yourself ready for the exam.

Schedule the Exam

If you are preparing for the first time, three months’ time is enough. However, for the second attempt, I wouldn’t suggest you take one and a half to two months.

Don’t schedule your exam the week after failing the test. I have seen many professionals fail the test, retake the test one week later and fail again.

Don’t be frightened after your failed attempt. Take enough time to rest, make a strategy and then schedule the exam.

One and half to two months’ time is more than enough to prepare for the exam. I also do not suggest you book the exam within one month of your failed attempt.

Attempt the Exam

Try to visit the Prometric center before the test in case the location has changed. Reach the Prometric center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time to complete all formalities.

It takes around 5 to 10 minutes to complete all exam procedures. Afterwards, you will be allowed to enter the test room and your test will start.

As your test starts you will be made aware of the display on the computer screen and navigation, e.g. how to select an answer, how to mark a question for review, etc. It will take 15 minutes to complete this awareness session.

You can also finish this session in less than 15 minutes; however, once you end the session, your exam will start immediately and you will not be able to use the time that you saved.

Therefore I suggest you become comfortable with the navigation quickly and utilize the remaining time to note down some formulas or any confusing concepts on the paper provided by the Prometric center.

As you are aware, the PMP exam consists of 200 questions and you have to answer these questions in four hours; i.e. 1.2 minutes per question. From my experience, I can say that if you are well prepared for the exam, this time is more than enough for 200 questions.

Many aspirants who have passed the PMP certification exam and became a PMP took on average two and a half to three hours to complete the exam.

Take your time to complete the exam and review the answers in the remaining time and then submit it. After submission there will be a short survey, and after the survey you will be able to see your result. If you have passed the exam, the PMI will congratulate you; otherwise they will offer their condolences.

I hope that this time you will pass the test.

If you pass the exam, within one week you will receive the congratulatory email and your name will be updated in the PMI certification registry. You will receive your certificate within four to six weeks, although officially PMI says that it will deliver your certificate package within eight weeks.

Please note that in the PMP certification exam, there is no negative marking. Therefore, you must attempt all questions and give answers for them. Even if you don’t know the answers for a few questions, choose the best guess. Never leave any answers blank on your exam


I see many aspirants who failed the exam become nervous, frightened and demoralized. They feel that they cannot pass the exam again. However, this is not true. If you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, it is likely that you will pass the exam in your next attempt.

Passing the PMP exam is not like winning a race where only one candidate wins. There are more than half a million PMP certified professionals who have passed the exam; therefore, there is no reason that you cannot pass the exam as well.

Don’t despair if you are not able to pass the exam on your first attempt. Find your mistakes and knowledge gaps, and make a plan to correct the mistakes. I hope you pass the exam in your second attempt.

I wish you good luck on your next attempt. If you need any help from me, you can send me an email at [email protected], and I will be happy to help.



Other eBooks by Me

I have authored four other eBooks for professionals preparing for the PMP and PMI-RMP exam.

These eBooks are: PMP Question Bank, PMP Formula Guide, Earned Value Management for the PMP Exam, and PMI-RMP Question Bank.

The first three eBooks are for PMP aspirants and the last one is for PMI-RMP aspirants.

PMP Question Bank will help you test your preparedness before the exam.

PMP Formula Guide will help you solve mathematical questions in the PMP exam.

Earned Value Management for the PMP Certification exam is for professionals who want more in-depth knowledge on Earned Value Management.

PMI-RMP Question Bank will give you a glimpse of a real exam.

PMP Question Bank

This is my first eBook for PMP aspirants. In this eBook you will find 400 PMP exam sample questions based on the fifth edition of the PMBOK Guide, and aligned with the exam format after January 11th, 2016.

All questions are unique, have detailed answers and are supported with references to the PMBOK Guide, whenever applicable.

You can use this question bank before your exam to check your preparedness. It gives you an opportunity to test yourself twice.

Click here for more details

++]PMP Formula Guide

PMP Formula Guide is for professionals who are having difficulty solving mathematical questions for the PMP exam.

This guide explains all of the mathematical formulas mentioned in the 5th edition of the PMBOK Guide with simple examples so you can understand the formulas and apply the concepts in the exam.

All formula-based questions are explained in every possible detail, and practice questions are given to test your understanding.

Once you finish reading this guide, you will not have any problem solving mathematical questions in the PMP exam.

Click here for more details

++]EVM for the PMP Certification Exam

This is my third eBook for PMP aspirants.

If you want more in-depth knowledge on Earned Value Management, this eBook is for you.

Based on the fifth edition of the PMBOK Guide, this eBook has more than 75 examples and questions with detailed solutions, which help you understand the formulas, analyze the logical interpretations, and elevate your confidence in solving earned value management questions.

[+ Click here for more details+]

++]PMI-RMP Question Bank

This PMI-RMP Question Bank is for professionals preparing for the PMI-RMP certification exam.

This eBook has 170 PMI-RMP sample exam questions covering all exam areas, and is based on the 5th edition of the PMBOK Guide.

In this eBook I have explained all questions in detail and given cross-references to the PMBOK Guide, whenever applicable.

Although the exam syllabus is short and in the real exam you are going to see many similar types of questions, in this eBook I have tried to avoid duplicating questions. So every question will be a new opportunity for you learn a new concept.

Click here for more detail



How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your Second Attempt

This is the first eBook which has been written for professionals who have failed the PMP exam on their first attempt and want to pass the exam the second time. This eBook helps you identify and analyze the causes of the failure.Once you complete the analysis, it explains how you can learn from your mistakes and prepare well for your next attempt. This eBook motivates and prepares you for your next attempt, and will help you pass the exam. This is a must-have eBook for you if you want to pass the exam on your second attempt.

  • Author: M Fahad Usmani
  • Published: 2016-07-28 12:20:06
  • Words: 4768
How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your Second Attempt How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your Second Attempt