How Long is the PMP Exam: All Your Questions Answered

One of the questions we get asked a lot is, “How long is the PMP exam?” We’re not surprised you want to know, because the exam duration helps you mentally prepare for the rigor of what you are going to face on test day.

If the test was only 20 minutes long, you’d probably feel OK about going into the examination because 20 minutes feels like a manageable amount of time to put yourself out there.

Unfortunately, the PMP assessment is not 20 minutes long.

Is the PMP test timed? Yes, it is. The short answer is that the PMP exam is 230 minutes long. That’s nearly 4 hours… but that isn’t the whole story.

Read on to find out how much time you really need to carve out of your diary on test day and how to prepare for what that feels like by taking full-length sample exams. We’ll also answer another time question: How much time do you need to prepare for the PMP certification exam?

Before we start, we want to reassure you. Even if you haven’t taken exams since you were at school, even if you’ve never taken a professional test before, you can pass the PMP certification test.

And it is worth it. The median salary for Project Management Professional certification holders is 16% higher globally than for those without certification, according to Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey - Twelfth Edition. It might seem like a big deal and a lot of work, but the implications for your career are clear.

PMP certification benefits include not only a boost to your salary, but also enhanced credibility and professional recognition. In addition, adequately preparing to pass the first time means you avoid having to pay the PMP certification cost again to retake the examination.

OK. Ready? You can do this!

PMP Exam Time: The Whole Story

We’ve already told you that the PMP test time is 230 minutes. But you also need to account for some other aspects of the day that add more time. The test is broken down into three sections, with a 10-minute break between each.

The first section covers questions 1-60. Once you’ve answered question 60, you have the option of a 10-minute break. The second section takes you to question 120. Again, once you’ve answered that, you have another 10-minute break.

You don’t have to take the breaks or take a full 10 minutes. If you simply want to grab a quick drink and carry on, that’s fine. If you do take the full 20 minute rest time, that takes the exam duration to 250 minutes.

That sounds like a really long time, but remember, there are 180 questions on the paper (not literally paper: you’ll see the questions on the screen). If you do the math, that’s about 76.6 seconds per question, so you really have to be ready with the answers and prepared to work at pace (we’ve got a suggestion for how to make sure you can go that fast in a minute… scroll down!).

Pre-exam prep time

A PMP exam prep guide will help you get organized before the testing day. There’s lots to consider, not least how to plan your time. For example, you should also factor in how early you need to be at your desk or test center before the exam actually starts.

If you are taking the examination in a test center, PMI advises that you arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time. That gives you enough time to check in, meet the proctor, and get settled into the room ready for the test.

Plus, remember to factor in travel time to and from the test center.

The alternative option is to take your test from home, using the online Pearson VUE process. If you are taking the exam from home, you can check in up to 30 minutes before your scheduled time. They also allow you to check in up to 15 minutes after your scheduled time, so if you are running late that’s OK: just remember that it pushes out the time you’ll be finishing by the same amount.

With an at-home online test, allow for the check-in process to take about 15 minutes if you have previously completed a system test. We recommend that you do your system test in advance (so factor that into your schedule for the day too).

Tip! Read our complete guide to taking the exam at home, covering everything from how to do your checks to what you can have on your desk.

Preparing for the test

So far, all we’ve talked about is exam day prep: how to manage your calendar and allow enough time to get to where you need to be, check-in, and take the test.

Most students put in a lot of work beforehand to make sure they are exam-ready, including working through a lot of PMP exam prep questions. PMP online training timed tests should definitely be part of your study plan. Let’s talk about what that commitment looks like for your calendar.

The amount of time it will take you to feel ready for the test, and to be scoring above 80% in the exam simulator, will depend on how much time you are able to dedicate to study. To a certain extent, it also depends on your professional background. For example, we find that students who have never worked in an agile environment tend to benefit from taking their time reviewing the agile concepts in the exam content outline. Students who work in an agile team tend to find it easier to grasp those aspects of the syllabus so they get through them more quickly.

In general, the majority of students tend to study for between 1 and 3 months, but some manage to prepare for their project manager certification more quickly, and some take longer.

We can’t link the duration of your study period to success. There is no specific correlation that says if you study for 6 months you are more likely to pass. The one thing that we do hear often is that being test-ready significantly improves your chances of passing.

What do we mean by test ready? We mean knowing what you are facing on assessment day and being used to working at pace to get through the exam questions. The more questions you can fit in and answer, the higher your chances of hitting the PMP exam pass mark.

Part of your PMP study plan should be doing timed tests as these help improve your test-taking speed and accuracy.

What is the Timed Exam Mode of the PM Exam Simulator?

The best way to get comfortable with the pace of the exam is to take timed tests. They cover all the different types of PMP questions.

The timed mode in the PMP exam simulator is a way of testing yourself against the clock. You can only see the answers and explanations after you complete the quiz. It’s very simple to use. Here are the steps to follow.

  1. From the main menu of the Exam Simulator, click on the Timed & Learning Quizzes link.
  2. Next, select the Timed option where it asks you to select the quiz mode.
  3. Choose how many questions you want to answer. Given that you have just over a minute per question in the real test, think about how much time you have available now, or how many questions you want to answer. Start with 10 or 20 and build up to more.
  4. Next, use the Select criteria option to pick the topics you want to test yourself on. This is helpful if you are using PMP exam prep books and want to test yourself on each chapter as you go.
  5. Now, select whether you want to include questions that you have already seen before. The default option is to exclude these, but if you did badly the last time or you want to confirm that you fully understand the concepts, you may want to include all questions and give them another go.
  6. You’ll see an option to Include Exam Questions but we recommend for a timed test that you keep this option set to the default, which is No. The questions that make up the PM Exam Simulator are organized into two separate databases (pools): the Exam pool and Quiz pool. Exams 1, 2, 3, 4 use the Exam pool, and the quizzes draw their questions from the Quiz pool. Choosing only Quiz pool questions will mean you won’t see any of the Exam questions, and when you move on to full exams you won't see any of the questions you saw when you took the quizzes.
  7. Click Start.

That’s all there is to it! Once you meet the PMP certification requirements, you can book your test slot and start your prep in earnest. Use your study plan to factor in time to take quizzes on a regular basis and you’ll soon build your confidence enough to take full exams.

Taking full exams

Once you are comfortable with taking shorter timed tests, move on to take full exams. There are 4 in the PM Exam Simulator, and if you opted to only use the Quiz pool questions, that means a lot more questions for you to have a go at!

Here’s how it works. First, log into the PMP Exam Simulator. Choose one of the four full exams and click it. The test opens and you can make a start. You’ll see that you have 252 minutes to complete a full examination, which is the 230 minutes plus two 10-minute breaks, and a little rounding difference gets you to 252 minutes in the Exam Simulator.

Now, simply work through the questions selecting the right answer. When you have answered a question, click on Next. The countdown timer will show you how much time is available, and you’ll be able to see what question you are on. If you want to mark a question for review, go ahead and do that, then you can come back to it via the Show Grid option which lets you quickly navigate through the exam. If you want to end the test early, simply click on the End Exam button.

That’s how the tech works. The benefit of doing full exams for timed practice is that you get a sense of what it means to sit in your chair for around 4 hours answering questions. The level of concentration required can feel intense and draining, but the more you practice, the faster you will get at understanding and interpreting the questions and choosing the right answer.

Tips for improving test scores

Here are some tips for improving your test scores when taking a timed quiz or a full exam from past students and our expert community.

Ahmed Amin recommends reviewing the questions you answered wrong, reading the explanation well and assessing your knowledge in the area the question is testing. Jump to your material for review if you are not confident.

He goes on to suggest that it’s useful to mark the questions where you guessed at the answers to make it easy to go back and read the explanation. Then review the references and your study notes if necessary.

Markus Kopko suggests analyzing your results thoroughly and figuring out where your weak spots are. Look at why you are answering incorrectly, and also what you are answering correctly. Then focus on those knowledge areas where you identified weaknesses, repeat and deepen your understanding of that area.

Another student highlights the value of using filters in the simulator to hone in on the topics you want to focus on. Use the quiz filters to revisit the concepts where you are less confident, or to ensure you have covered all the concepts. Read the explanations of all the choices in the multiple choice questions - not just the correct response and the response you gave - to reinforce your understanding.

Practice for exam success

We know that successful students are the ones that practice taking mock papers and working through questions. Those are the students who know what to expect on assessment day and are used to the pace of the test. That could be you too: use timed exam mode in the exam simulator will help you assess your knowledge and hone your test-taking skills.

Could the PMP Exam Simulator help you? We’re sure it could, and you can try it out for yourself with a free trial.

Training for Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®

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