Project Management Professional (PMP)®

Types of PMP® Exam Questions You Can Expect on the Real Test

Anyone who has sat for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam knows that studying A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and having 35 contact hours is just not enough. When you talk to them about the PMP® exam, they will tell you it covers a lot of ground and the questions are not as straightforward as one would hope. Of the ones that have passed the exam, an overwhelming percentage of them will tell you that they used more than just one PMP study method.

Just as a golfer must learn to “drive” and “put” before they ever step onto an 18 hole golf course, the PMP aspirant must also learn the mechanics of taking the exam and what to expect when they arrive on game day. Employing multiple study methods, as well as having a PMP Exam Simulator to help, gives you a triangulated understanding of the material as well as illuminates what you do know and what you don’t know.

Being able to answer different types of PMP exam questions is crucial to your exam success. Simple? In concept; yes. However, there are a number of styles; each has its purpose and caveats, which makes knowing how to approach each type more important than ever.

What Type of PMP Exam Questions You Need to Know

1. Situational PMP exam questions

The vast majority of the PMP exam questions are situational. Situational questions test your ability to apply theoretical know-how to real-life project management situations. You might see some that are short and vague; others are long-winded and ambiguous. The idea behind this is that in real life you will be handed both relevant and irrelevant information.

Your task is to identify what’s relevant, ignore what doesn’t matter, and then act upon the real issues. Be sure to read and accurately identify what is actually being asked of you, so that you can eliminate the useless information.

Often, situational questions will offer two (or more) choices which are both reasonably correct, so it’s vital that you identify if the you are being asked to identify the BEST course of action, or the NEXT step the project manager should take, or the EXCEPTION, or the ONLY answer.

Read the text thoroughly and look at what answer is expected. You may have to put various process steps in the right order via a drag and drop feature. Perhaps you have to select two (or three) correct answers. Be sure you know how you are supposed to respond so you choose the right amount of answers. The test may not let you progress to the next question unless you have selected the correct number of responses.

2. Formula based PMP exam questions

Knowledge-based test questions require you to apply your understanding of principles from the PMBOK® Guide or the Agile Practice Guide. A knowledge-based question may, for example, ask you to identify a chart or graph, such as recognizing a RACI matrix or Pareto chart.

These questions are very straightforward and therefore more common on the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) exam. PMP students should expect to be more challenged: not only will you have to have the knowledge, you’ll also have to be able to demonstrate you can apply it in practice!

3. Knowledge based PMP exam questions

Interpretational questions test your ability to deduce a situation or condition from the description of a status or problem.

For example: “If your project has an SPI and a CPI both greater than 1, how well is your project performing?” To solve this, you will need to know how SPI and CPI relate to the project’s performance and make a decision about what would be the best course of action for the project manager in this situation.

Selecting your PMP simulator carefully is important to make sure you get a good mix of question types including these ones, even though you are only likely to see a handful of them on the test. Students consistently report that most of the questions are situational, and while interpretational questions are a little like that, they generally take a slightly different approach.

However, your approach for answering them is the same: read the text thoroughly, understand what kind of response is required (select one answer, select more than one answer, put items in order or something else) and then make your choice.

4. Interpretational questions

These days, students report not seeing very many formula questions on the exam. Most do not require complicated formulas, and often you are selecting a numerical response from the answer choices. However, it would be wrong to leave these questions out of your revision plan because they represent a way to score easy points.

Formula questions have one correct answer, and if you are struggling to interpret situational questions (which are often vague and tricky to deal with, with several options that might be correct) then a straightforward calculation can come as a relief on exam day!

Formula-based questions are more than just ‘solving for the median’ or calculating earned value. While there are only a few calculation questions on the exam and most do not require complicated calculations, there are around 50 various PMP formulas that you will need to know backwards and forwards. Understanding them thoroughly down to the importance of each element will give you the decision-making criteria to include or exclude the values and get the answer right for an easy tick!

5. Specific Technique questions

Specific technique questions will provide a snapshot of a situation, like a network diagram, and ask you to provide or comment on an element that’s inherent in that diagram such as forward pass or backward pass.

These questions may have a graphic to interpret. The answer choice may be made by clicking on the correct zone of the image. If you don’t understand what the image is showing you, your response ends up being little more than a guess. You don’t have to use the techniques in real life to be able to tackle them effectively if you have studied properly, as all the relevant information will have been covered in your PMP exam prep course.

In conclusion...

You need to answer dozens of samples from each question type before you will feel ready to tackle the exam. But how and where do you find good PMP mock exams?

There are many free PMP exam questions available just one short Google search away. However, you want to be very careful, because with free mock tests, more times than not, the old adage, “You get what you pay for” applies.

The best way to practice sample questions is by signing up for an online PMP exam simulator. You can access the questions over the internet from anywhere and on your schedule. Be sure the questions were created based on the most recent version of the PMP® Examination Content Outline.

So, there you have it. If you want to pass the PMP exam, you need to learn about the different types of questions that appear on the exam and practice them using the best PMP Exam simulator you can find online.

Once you know how to identify the real question being asked from each of these question types, you’ll greatly increase the odds of arriving at the correct answer. I know this sounds simplistic, but it is no small task because you’ll need to be able to recall and apply all the theoretical knowledge required, combine it with your own project management experience, and relate this to the question at hand.

Watch this video for more tips:

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

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