How to Select the "Best" Question on the PMP Exam

I remember the day I took the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. It was a hot Friday afternoon in San Antonio, Texas, when I walked into the Prometric testing center. My study plan was 30 days, and I hit the books every day leading up to the exam. Even though I committed more than 200 hours to prepare, I still felt there were many gaps that could be exposed on the exam. I was right!

Studying Too Much is a Problem

As a PMP® test prep trainer, I inform my students that 60-to-80 hours is more than sufficient to get ready for the exam. My take is that people who spend more than 100 hours are wasting their time. The point here is that if one uses the right material to prepare, and learns test-taking skills, they can do well with a condensed study schedule.

I also made the huge mistake of taking 200 sample questions on the morning of the exam. I thought this was going to be a smart move because I could review questions and concepts that might arise on the exam. The problem with this approach is that I was wiped out by the time my 12:30 p.m. exam started. It felt like taking two major exams in one day. Today, I recommend that students avoid taking any practice exams 24 hours prior to their test. Instead, this time should be used to ensure one knows the major concepts, such as the 5 process groups, 10 knowledge areas, and 47 processes.

The Exam

The key to doing well on the PMP requires that you have excellent test-taking skills. You are asked to pick the right answer, and not the best answer. There’s a notable difference between the two.

Here’s an example:

The following is responsible for collecting lessons learned:

(a) Project manager

(b) Stakeholder

(c) Vendor

(d) Team member

Here are the right answers: (a) Project manager, (c) Vendor, and (d) Team member. However, the best answer is (b) Stakeholders. Why? Stakeholders includes the rest of the roles noted here. To get this question right, you must know the concepts and terminology in the PMBOK® Guide. The more you are familiar with how PMI words questions, the easier time you will have selecting the correct answer.

Think Before Answering

There are many test-takers who fall in love with an answer before thinking through the remaining options. It’s imperative that you read all the possible answers to determine which ones can be eliminated. The exam writers purposely include at least one item known as the distractor. This is the option that is absolutely wrong, but it might look good. The art of eliminating an option can make a huge difference on your overall score. From my experience, there are generally two answers that you can discard. Make sure to take your team before making the final selection.


The people who pass the PMP exam know that preparation is mandatory. You cannot walk off the street and do well on this test. I know some people who say the following: “I’ve managed projects for 30 years, so this exam will not be a problem for me.” By engaging in this lackadaisical and overconfident attitude, these folks will fail. The PMP® is a standardized exam, which means that we must take a methodological and procedural approach to every question. The technique is easy to learn, but it requires significant practice.