PMP Scoring Scale is Changed. Has The Scoring Process Changed?


PMI has introduced a change to PMP scoring scale. This is significant in view of the upcoming PMBOK-6 based exam.

Let us see what exactly has changed.

You know that the following 5 Process Groups from PMBOK guide become Domains as far as exam is concerned. You are scored individually under each of these Domains.

PMI announced the date of PMBOK-6 based exam..

The question distribution across the 5 domains is as below –

There is a passing threshold for each of these Domains.

What was PMP scoring scale used so far?

There were just 3 scoring levels against which each PMP candidate is scored in each of the 5 Domains –

  • Proficient – indicates performance is above the average level of knowledge in this domain.
  • Moderately Proficient – indicates performance that is at the average level of knowledge in this domain.
  • Below Proficient – indicates performance is below the average level of knowledge in this domain.

Here’s an example –

pmbok PMP old rating scale example

Not anymore.

How does the new PMP scoring scale look like?

Instead of the 3-point rating scale now PMI uses 4-point rating scale.

PMI calls each of these points as ‘Performance Rating Category’.

They are as below –

  • Above Target – Your performance exceeds the minimum requirements for this exam.
  • Target – Your performance meets the minimum requirements for this exam.
  • Below Target – Your performance is slightly below target and fails to meet the minimum requirements of this exam. Additional preparation is recommended before re-examination.
  • Needs Improvement – Your performance is far below target and fails to meet the minimum requirements for this exam. Additional preparation is strongly recommended before re-examination.

These are exact words of PMI from the scoring sheet. Including the bold parts.

Here’s an example. I’m using the PMP score sheet of Manoj (thank you Manoj, for permitting us to share your scorecard), who scored a perfect ‘Above Target’ score in EACH of the 5 domains.

Manoj Ponnuswamy reveals the exact process he used to score perfect Above Target score in this article.

Manoj Ponnuswamy PMP Exam Report

Notice that for some reason PMI does not lists the domains in the logical order.

It lists in the order of Closing, Executing, Initiating, Monitoring & Controlling and then Planning!

Is there an impact on how your PMP exam is scored?

Right now that is a hard question to answer.

I went over PMI’s documentation and website, but couldn’t find any official word on the how exactly PMP questions are scored.

Here is some food for thought though.

PMI scores a PMP candidate on each of the 5 domains. Which means that while one can get great score on some of these domains and possibly one bad score in another, there are chances that they will not pass the exam.

Also Read: Exactly what you need after reading PMBOK to ace your PMP exam!

Well, PMI only says that the ‘questions are monitored using psychometric analysis’. But some people like Cornelius Fichtner have analyzed PMI’s scoring pattern. Cornelius in one of his Facebook posts mention,

“Passing the PMP Exam is no longer determined by the percentage of questions you answer correctly. It is calculated using a sound psychometric analysis. In essence this means that the harder questions are worth more than the easier questions.

But look closely at what is printed on the score card and you get another perspective.

Go back and take a look at the score sheet above – the ‘How is your score determined’ section.

It says that project professionals from different discplines around the world determine HOW MANY questions must be answered correctly to pass the exam.

Wow! The scoring is purely based on NUMBER OF QUESTIONS?

Further, PMI states that “each scored question on the exam is worth one point, and your final score is calculated by totaling the points you have earned on the exam. The number of questions you answer correctly places you within one of the performing rating categories.”

Also Read: A beginner’s guide to becoming PMP

Questions unanswered..

PMI does not state whether the number-of-questions threshold to pass is applicable to each of the Domains as well, or just for the final rating. However, it may be safe to assume that the approach is same for both – domain level scoring and overall scoring.

Look at the image at the top of scoring. There is a clear demarcation of ‘Passing’ and ‘Failing’.

If one scores ‘Target’ and ‘Above Target’ rating, they pass the PMP exam. If one scores ‘Below Target’ or ‘Needs Improvement’ rating, they fail the PMP exam.

Also, the rating scale description also state the following to both ‘Below Target’ and ‘Needs Improvement’ levels – ‘Additional preparation is recommended before re-examination’.

But it is certain that this logic is applicable to overall rating.

But is it the same for domain level scoring as well?

In other words, if one get ‘Below Target’ or ‘Needs Improvement’ in just ONE of the 5 domains, will they fail the PMP exam?

Going by how it was determined earlier (deriving by observing scorecards of PMP candidates) this does not seem to be the situation. It is possible that one can get such a rating in one or two domains and still pass the exam.

Have you studied the recent changes to PMP scoring scale? What do you think? Share in the comments below. I’m curious to learn more.

Maybe the truth is out there, still.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Nakita December 24, 2020, 10:32 am

    Passed the exam with AT/T/T/BT/BT

  • andy c December 3, 2020, 2:58 am

    i passed recently with two above targets, two below targets ,and one needs improvement. my overall score was well into the target section.

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