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I just want to share a communication between a person who recently failed the PMP Exam and me. He asked for advice and I provided him this mentoring.

XYZ Email about PMP Failure

Dear Suhail Greetings ,

Firstly, I admire you on the extraordinary resume you gained it by commitment & appraising the knowledge. Secondly, I attempt the exam for PMP on 17/08/2017 & I failed the exam .

I am depressed actually, I couldn't find a better advise from a mentor, my study plan was from the beginning of January 2017 , 2-3 hours per day. My main focus was on PM book 5th edition, I have studied the book 2 times, process groups then by knowledge area. My results was below proficient in each process group I was too slow in answering I submitted the exam by solving 136 questions , I need your advise to what I should do next currently depressed. I don't know what to do I started 8 months ago the outcome wasn't pleasant .

Your recommendation would be really appreciated .

Best Regards,



Dear XYZ,

First things first! You have no reason to be depressed about. Whatever happened was good as you are now going to learn what did go wrong, and obviously, it will not be repeated.

The reasons I can see are:

You did not have sufficient practice of full length exam and you did not have any idea how to handle time.
You need to practice several times if you can attempt 200 questions in an hour.
Each time you practice, do not ignore the mistakes you have committed but note them down, read about them and correct your concepts, never to repeat the same mistake ever again.
When you practice or take actual exam, read quickly and assimilate instantaneously, if you are prepared well, you will be able to pin-point the right answer within a few seconds, if you can’t, do not waste anymore time on this question, leave it and move ahead. Mind it, do not spend time re-reading the same question.
Keep skipping the questions you cannot attempt in first go, and you will have time enough to come back and attempt them.
If you are well prepared, you will be able to attempt more than 70% questions in first read and first go and it will take between 2-3 hours of exam time. So you will still have 1-2 hours to re-attempt remaining 30% questions.
In the second round, do not touch the questions you have already attempted and do not change any responses you have already made, until and unless you are damn sure you did something wrong and want to correct that specifically.
Only attempt undone questions this time and now read them a bit more carefully, if you cannot make any sense and cannot find the right answer, g through the process of elimination, eliminate the worst choice, then second worst and then third, you will be left with only one option which you must select.
Even if a couple of questions cannot be attempted in this second round, you can leave them for later, but they should not be more than 2-3 questions which are extremely difficult.
For your last attempt you will still have 10-15 minutes left, so try those very difficult questions and apply elimination process once again, I am sure you will be able to hit the jackpot.
This way you will easily be able to do all 200 questions and you will surely pass.
2. Second important reason can be your preparation.

Are you sure you have read through the whole PMBOK 5th Edition, cover to cover? Read it at least three times. First time it should be a leisure read without making any notes. Second time you must jot down important concepts and points to be elaborated later. Third time you must be 100% clear on each and every concept given in PMBOK.
After studying PMBOK in this manner, read other study material, I will suggest you read one or two books on project management by some renowned authors and try to find the answers to your queries on PMBK concepts. Read the study guides like Rita at the end and focus should be again to built up your concepts.
While you are reading through a study guide, keep attempting the questions given at the end of each chapter and do not move to the next chapter until and unless you have attempted all questions right. If you attempt a question wrong, find the reason of your mistake and jot it down in your notebook, never to repeat that mistake again.
Once you have read through the whole book and attempted all chapter questions, you can start attempting the full length simulation exams of 4 hours each. You can take 3-5 such exams and again keep correcting your mistakes and noting them down. Whenever you find a mistake, go back to the book and read the correct concept very carefully.
Once you are able to score up to 85% in a full length exam (taken for the first time, not attempted before) then you are ready to sit in the exam.
3. Third reason is that some people cannot develop the habit of thorough reading and assimilating. So then you need to attend a training where the trainer will make it easy for you to understand things. You can also go through my FREE PMP video sessions on YouTube. There are at least three separate and complete courses provided there, try out the latest one.

My Online PMP Exam Prep Videos on YouTube are as follows:

JUNE 2017




I am sure if you follow these guidelines, you will be sure to pass. I will always be there to guide you anytime. Just drop me a line at and I will be answering your query promptly.

Hope it helps.

Suhail Iqbal
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I received a response from Mr. XYZ on receiving my advice and he further elaborates on his failure and weak areas. See my point by point response to him.

XYZ Further Email about PMP Failure

Dear Suhail ,

Inshallah it will help ,Yes I got through the pm-book guide three times except the glossary and the definitions declaration & resolved some Rita end of chapter + simulation with 186 question score 48 % in June.

The thing is I am not shy when it about education or gaining information because its continuous process, if its OK with you I will be in touch.

Kindly find some of the questions that is not clear to me:

1. QA vs QC?

2. Closing the Project steps relationship with procurement & quality verification & validate scope

3. when to use the management reserve?

4. The right term to express the assigned resources with their duties & availability (resource calendar or project staff assignment or RBS "TYPE, CATEGORY").

5- Weakness in the situational questions.

Finally , do you recommend me to read Risk management & scheduling PMI books to increase the knowledge , I have a concern does the 6th edition means that I will start the process from the beginning .

Thanks a lot for your valuable time & your dedication for sharing the knowledge.

NOTE: if you are busy just inform me .

Best Regards ,



Dear XYZ,

Thanks for getting back to be so quickly, and also for believing in what I advised.

That is good news that you already have gone through PMBOK Guide three times but the bad news is you could not develop your concepts to the level of understanding which was required for the exam. It may also point to the fact that you may not have sufficient practical experience to relate to. In that case, you may have to work even harder.

If, after all this effort and preparation, you were still scoring 48% on Rita, you should NOT have written the PMP Exam at all. Until and unless you are able to score 85% or more, you are not ready to sit in the PMP Exam. The exam will be even tougher in coming weeks till the exam changes due to change to 6th edition. The percentile will go high and you will not be able to pass even with 85%. I am not making it impossible for you, just warning you that you must sit in the PMP exam before Dec 2017 if you want to stand any chance to pass. And before you take the actual exam, you must score at least 85% on Rita Exam. I would also like to remind you yet again, all mistakes you do in practice exams must all be corrected and understood never to be repeated ever again.

It is nice to learn that you are enthusiastic and welcoming towards learning new things. I hope you increase your retention and understanding in the way.

Now coming over to your queries: ( I may not be very bookish but will try to answer in layman’s language)

1- QA vs QC?

QA is about processes and QC is about the product or deliverable. When you established scope, you had requirements outlined, specifications established and that was the time your product or deliverable was defined.

Quality Control will ensure that all those specs are met within the given acceptable tolerance levels as per the scope. QC will only be done through INSPECTIONS and that is during Monitoring and Control. That is when you physically check each and every output, deliverable, product or part-product when it comes out of EXECUTION.

The role of Quality Assurance is during execution. It is because when you established the product scope during planning, then you decided how to make this product and that is when Project Scope or Scope of Work came into being. QA is all about the relevant work necessary to be done during execution. QA will only be done through AUDITS and that is during execution, when the work is actually being done. This is the only process which interacts with the work when it is being done, all other processes do the post-mortem of how well that work has been done. QA is also responsible for checking if the ongoing work process is optimally performing, and if not, is responsible to do the process improvement. Remember QA has nothing at all, to do with the product.

2- Closing the Project steps relationship with procurement & quality verification & validate scope

Project Closure ensures, all the work has been done and all the products have been delivered and accepted, lessons recorded, procurements closed and there is nothing outstanding regarding the project. Imagine Close Project to be the main process, which has a subordinate process responsible to close all procurements. While the main project is being audited for closure, procurements are ensured to also have amicably completed and closed.

Quality Verification and Scope Validation are both the processes of Monitoring and Control and are not directly related with CLOSE. What you call Quality Verification is actually the QC which we have already discussed. If a product is found fit in QC, it is called the Verified Deliverable and is sent to Validate Scope process to ensure through another inspection that the deliverable is exactly according to the PRODUCT SCOPE. If yes, the deliverable is validated and considered Accepted Deliverable, which is not ready to be handed over to Close Project process for further handing over to the Customer, naturally after due Closing Audit of the project.

3- When to use the management reserve?

Management Reserve is beyond your cost estimates and reserves. It is the prerogative of the management to keep this reserve for management emergencies. Though it is included in the project budget but it is over and above the budgeted value of all the work and respective reserves at activity, work package or other levels. It is only to be used when you have exhausted all your reserves and then you can request the management to release this management reserve, naturally through a proper change request.

4- The right term to express the assigned resources with their duties & availability (resource calendar or project staff assignment or RBS "TYPE, CATEGORY").

I do not clearly understand tis question as it may refer to a lot many things. Resource Calendar shows the resource availability, Resource Breakdown Structure shows the resource type and their location, Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) shows the roles and responsibilities of the various resources over various jobs. Schedule will show exact date and time when certain resources are to be made available. What I can make out of your question is that you must be looking for RAM.

5- Weakness in the situational questions.

If you are weak in situational questions, firstly you lack practical experience, and secondly, you may not be very good at critical and logical thinking. PMP is all about scenarios and if you are expecting simple bookish questions, you won’t many of those in PMP exam. Actual test is of your wits by putting you in a actual scenario and let you decide what would you do in that specific situation. Best way to answer such questions is to prepare well and strictly follow the teachings of PMBOK Guide as guiding principles, apply those to the said scenario and then look back at your experience and try to relate it with practice. I am sure you will always land up to the correct answer.

Though there is no need to study Risk Management and Scheduling standards to prepare for PMP exam, but they are good reads anyways. For you, I think you should not confuse yourself any further, and just focus on PMP material. You will have ample time to read all other standards when you have qualified as a PMP.

PMBOK Guide 6th Edition is releasing on 6 Sep but it will not be applicable to PMP exam till Mar 2018. So anyone can appear in PMP Exam based on 5th Edition till that date. As so many people will be rushing to take the exam in last three months that you will either not get a booking or even if you do, the competition will be very high, thus making the pass percentile to be raised as high as 95%. So, no matter how well you are prepared, you stand chances to fail. I will suggest you appear by the start of December 2017 the latest.

Do not worry about the 6th edition, you will again have ample time to read it when you have already qualified PMP exam, no matter if it is on 5th Edition.

If you think, you cannot take the exam by Dec 2017, then forget about this attempt and then you should try on new edition after Mar 2018. I would suggest Jun 2018 will be a good time to appear on 6th edition.

Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me anytime.

Suhail Iqbal
I just want to share another communication I had with a candidate for PMP Exam. His query and my answer is published here for the benefit of all.

ABC Email about PMP Exam

Dear Sir,

Hope you are doing well!

Actually, I need your expert opinion about my PMP exam attempt. Currently i am going through my preparation and expecting to appear by end of Oct, 2017. Do you think is it right time to appear in exam since version is going to be change in Q1, 2018..?

Thanks in advance for your advice




Dear ABC,

If you have an intention to appear before Oct 2017, then you have no problem. You must continue preparing on current version and must get certified during this time. You will have no impact of the th edition and will not have to worry about that. The 6th edition is releasing on 6 Sep 2017 but exam will continue to be based on 5th Edition till Mar 2018. I do not recommend you to relax because it will become even more difficult to pass after Dec 2017, as so many people will be rushing to exam centers and the percentile will likely go very high. Your target of Oct 2017 is a very safe bet but even if you have to relax a while, you can drag it to Dec 2017, but remember, more you delay the exam date, more is the possibility that you will fail, despite your best efforts.

Hope this helps.


Suhail Iqbal
A good roadmap would be Rita's book, also Andry Crowe's book, cross-referencing with the PMBOK, many simulated exams but not repeating them more than 2-3 times, and getting to an average score of 80% as the simulation exams are usually a bit easier than the real exam. Also read the exam outline because it mentions the tasks for each process group and these can also be on the exam.
Hi Suhail, you gave detailed and apt responses to the person. Like Sante says, the best measure for anyone to attempt and have higher percent of passing the actual test is to get 80% or higher score in simulated tests.
A candidate should go through as many practice tests, after studying PMBOK and Rita's books. Practice tests not only help in finding the improvement area in the PM content, but also the exam structure and handling the time pressure.
Yes. I agree. I scored in the high 90's with Rita's simulated test before I sat for my test which I passed the first time. I found Andy Crowe's simulation testing and book very very helpful during my final stretch as he is very concise and direct to the point. This is very important so you can organize the brain dump. These test simulations helped me in managing my time and "educating" me on the intent of the exam.
I like the idea of sharing the mentoring. It allows so many others to benefit from your advice.
I enjoyed Andy Crowe's Conversations on the PMP 6 disk audio series. I had foundational knowledge and work experience. But listening to a panel of experts put things into perspective was key for me. For example, he referred to Work performance Information as Uncooked Chicken and Work Performance Reports as Chicken Cordon Bleu. That along with Rita's materials and a good understanding of the PMBOK and you're on your way!
God, these explanations are way too long.... As a mentor, i advise people to read the objectives of the exam before attempting to study or practice simulation tests. The glossary is an important part and everyone should read it.

You have to be able to relate what you read in the PMBoK with your daily activities as a PM or if you are on a project team. If you cannot, you are in trouble. You can read all that you want, you will still have a hard time passing. It is a 4-hour exam with 225 questions, you shouldn't spend more than 95s on each question, the ones with calculations are the exception.

Please advise your mentee that he is spending too much time on questions, read and if you know the answer check, if it is an option. If you don't know, there will probably be a question ahead that would help you remember. Anyone who studies that hard, should pass the exam.

The intent is not a perfect score but score as much as you can pass. When i took my exam 7 years ago, my weakness was in closing which is something that was out of my normal duties. The organization i worked for administratively had someone close our projects, anyone can see why it was my weakness. I wasn't engaged in doing that aspect. I wouldn't worry about the exam objectives changing. rather than being depressed, i would check out how to better relate the PMBok with my pm activities. It helps a lot when it comes to testing!
1 reply by Suhail Iqbal
Aug 23, 2017 12:53 PM
Suhail Iqbal
225 Questions?How and since when?
Great advice already. Practice exam questions, fill your gaps and make sure you are getting at least 90% of the questions in one sitting. Scoring 90% doesn't assure you will pass the exam but indicates that you are in good shape to pass the exam. Once you arrive at this then book the slot.
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