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Reading the rules (PMP Certification)

Rules often say a lot more than they intend to. On one hand they describe what to do and what not to do, but they also reflect the motive or intent of their creators and also reflect what the problems that creator is facing. Because of their importance rule creators spend a fair amount of time on them and because of this one can interpret or in effect read the rule backward and understand the motivation of the creator.

For a simple example of this let's look at one of the changes that PMI is making to the PMP certification criteria. From a document that lays out the changes that are going to be effective as of September 30, 2005 we find that

"Candidates will have three opportunities to take and pass the PMP examination within their one-year eligibility period. If candidates do not succeed on the third attempt, candidates will have to wait one year from their third unsuccessful attempt before being permitted to test again."

To restate it simply. If you don't pass in three tries you face the penalty of waiting 1 year to try again for this "important" certification. Clear? This is a new penalty for those who have trouble passing. OK, Let's start deconstructing.

First, this was in a memo sent out to all of the PMIĀ® Registered Education Providers (REPs). One can presume that they are the ones most interested in this. My previous posts have shown that some of these providers make a business out of PMP Exam cram courses. These courses pay some lip service to broad project management education but are actually guaranteeing that you will pass the test on the first try. Different prep providers actually compete with each other based on how little time you need to actually spend studying project management. What do we learn from this? We learn that PMI endorses and supports this sort of activity.

Second, we can look at the time penalty. Why would you put this in place? What behavior does it drive? The most obvious result is that it creates a situation where it is important to get it right the first time because the penalties for failing are high.

Who does this benefit? Well, it does not particularly benefit the candidate. 3 times seems fairly arbitrary. The candidate is trying to get the certification for their own benefit so why try and limit them? It does not seem to benefit PMI much unless their testing sessions are so congested that "good" candidates are being prevented from taking the test by those who are taking it for the 4th and 5th times. I'm not aware that this is the case. It does benefit them in the short term by getting those who were on the fence about scheduling their exam to now jump to make sure they take it before the rules change in September. This may have a short term financial benefit to PMI, and cynically speaking, a long term one if they can keep changing rules from year to year.

It is obvious that the main group which it benefits is the exam prep providers who now find a larger pool of applicants - people who feel the pressure to pass the exam in a minimal amount of time. With the penalty of waiting a year, the "guaranteed" pass offered by a prep service becomes much more attractive.

So, from one rule (and the way it was communicated) shows that PMI has no qualms about people cramming for the test and instead drives them towards consultants who provide such services. I'm at a loss to understand how this benefits the discipline of Project Management. Knowledge of Project Management can be advanced by deep study and understanding of project management issues, ideas and techniques. Promoting a "cram and take the test before you forget" approach to learning project management is just wrong. The only motivation I can see is that PMI and the associated ecosystem of consultants and trainers are just in it for the money. This is sad to say the least. I believe this approach to certification is doing a disservice to the profession.

I welcome the comments of any PMI representative or registered education provider about this issue. Let's discuss it.


Comments (6)

I just passed the PMP exam today! I now have time to give a comment.
I think you need to be fair about your assessment about the PMP exam and the changes that are forthcoming. It is always easy to put down than to bring up.
The PMP Certification is a standard amongst the top tier consulting companies (e.g. Accenture, KPMG, PWC, etc.), as well as the Fortune 500 companies. These companies will not take the PMP Certification seriously if it does not have any basis or clout.

To say that the exam is merely a money making machine is shallow. I simply have to respectfully disagree.


>I just passed the PMP exam today! I now have time to give a comment.

Congratulations! It is good to achieve something you have set your mind to.

>I think you need to be fair about your assessment
>about the PMP exam

I think I am being quite fair. From my perspective a multiple guess test which assesses a person's knowledge about the PMBOK is NOT sufficient to determine if they are a Project Management Professional. I have two reasons for this.

First, I'm really good at taking tests and I've taken many of them. One of these tests has an annual pass rate of about 25%. People study for years to pass. I took it. I passed all the multiple guess sections over the three day exam. The questions were stupid and some were very poorly written. I finished the multiple guess sections in half the time alloted. Now, does this make me a super professional? No. I'm just good at taking tests. I could be crappy at my job and still pass it. The fact that most of the exam prep people are promoting their courses as "tips and tricks" and "no study" options prove to me that it is a sham.

The second reason is that you are not a professional, yet you have passed and earned your credential. I mean no disrespect to you personally, but is someone who has just started in the practice of project management as professional as someone who has been doing it for 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? I'd say no. I've seen a number of people with this credential and NO SKILL to back it up. That said, there are those who I highly respect who have the certification, but I don't respect them because of the certification, but rather because of what they have done.

>and the changes that are forthcoming.

If the changes make it noticably better then I will of course reconsider.

>It is always easy to put down than to bring up.

When things are floating off into space then I think it is a good idea to shoot darts at them. It is quite easy for me to write that PMP Certification is bringing professionalism to profession badly lacking in it. But I won't do that because it is not true. People are professional without this certification.

>The PMP Certification is a standard amongst the
>top tier consulting companies (e.g. Accenture,
>KPMG, PWC, etc.), as well as the Fortune 500

I work for a Fortune 100 company. My boss doesn't care if I have a PMP certificate or not. It is fairly meaningless. Indeed I find that those who have them are LESS focused on doing the right thing and are MORE focused on looking good.

>These companies will not take the PMP
>Certification seriously if it does not have any
>basis or clout.

You would be surprised at what goes on within big companies. Don't forget that consulting companies are to a certain degree sales organizations. If they think something will help them sell services then they will latch onto it.

>To say that the exam is merely a money making
>machine is shallow.

How are my observations built over the past ten years of being a PMI member and observing the birth and life of the PMP certification shallow? Are you saying that I didn't see what I have seen? Are you saying I need to watch things another 10 years before my opinion is valid? It is what it is. The evidence is there. Look at it.

>I simply have to respectfully disagree.

Certainly. You are welcome to comment here anytime. Please do not take my comments as anything but an animated discussion. I do not intend them to be against you in anyway.


Thanks for your response. I see your point and where you are coming from. I do agree that being a professional entails more than passing an exam.



I certainly agree that a certification is no substitute for knowing what you are doing, and using multiple choice questions to test knowledge, let alone skill, in a complex subject like Project Management is difficult if not impossible.

I believe, however, that this a less nefarious, if no less disturbing, reason behind the illogic of this new rule. The framers of the certification rules do not really understand the impact of the rule on the "system" they are managing. This is disturbing because systems concepts are critical to an understanding of Project Management. Perhaps a quick review of "Are Your Lights On?" by Donald Gause and Gerald Weinberg is in order.


plz did any one have any info to (how can i pass Project Management Knowledge Assessment)
i mean any old eaxms (hard copy ) has it to see the level and way of examnation

Manage your time like a true professional project manager and master your personalized selection of online project management training courses to help you achieve project management certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI) - PMPĀ® certification - or earn PMP PDUs.

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