Don’t take your Project Management Professional (PMP) exam online!


online PMP exam

In April 2020, PMI announced the PMP exam would be available online, instead of having to travel to a testing center. The online exam is scheduled and taken with Pearson VUE, but using their online proctoring capability.


What follows below is a list of reasons why I consider the online PMP exam to be less favorable than the in-person option. Some of the items are significant – others are more trivial.

Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and I’m not saying everyone should take their exam in-person regardless of circumstances. Some people have valid health concerns about going to an in-person testing center, and/or they might not have easy access to a physical testing center. (I have spoken to people who have successfully navigated the online PMP exam and passed no problem.) This article is aimed at those people who have a choice about where to take their exam, and are considering the pros and cons.

  1. Pearson VUE has a system test app that you can, and should, run if considering the online option. It will test whether your system is capable of handling the exam, but more importantly, which “illegal” programs/apps you might have running. Obviously they don’t want you having access to “illegal” information during the test, but the list of “illegal” applications is long and can include less obvious things like pop-up blockers. So it can be troublesome/inconvenient to get your computer into a state where you can actually run the exam.
  2. There is now a 10-minute break built into the exam. This is true whether you take the exam online or in-person. However, when taking the exam in-person you may take additional breaks at any time (the clock will keep running.) Other than the built-in break, if you leave the computer at any point during the online exam, you will be failed.
  3. If anyone enters your room while you are taking the exam online, you will be failed.
  4. If you have internet issues during your online exam you will likely have to schedule a retake. This will not necessarily cost you money, but it will cost you time.
  5. You will be on camera the whole time. This is true for both online and in-person exams, but it seems more intrusive online.
  6. There have been issues with both exam-takers and proctors getting confused about time-zones for the online exam.
  7. You cannot have any papers (or pens) around when taking the exam online. You will also have to scan your room with your phone/camera so the proctor can see you don’t have notes posted anywhere.
  8. You can only have water in a clear container during the online exam. (No food or drink is allowed at your computer during an in-person exam, but you can leave your computer to access these things elsewhere.)
  9. You cannot use any “scratch paper” during the online exam. You will have to use the online whiteboard if you want to make notes. This is a significant difference from the in-person exam where you will have paper or a laminated sheet to make notes.
  10. During the exam, you may not access the following types of personal items: mobile phones, headphones/headsets, handheld devices, pagers, watches, wallets, purses, hats (or other head coverings), bags, coats, books, notes, or any other materials not specifically approved. (This is mostly true for in-person as well, except that noise protection is allowed in-person e.g. ear plugs.)
  11. Eating, smoking, and chewing gum are not allowed online. (Chewing gum would likely be allowed in-person.)
  12. Talking (even to yourself) is not allowed during the online exam (except to the proctor.)
  13. Putting your hands/fingers on your face is not allowed during the online exam.

If your experience has been different, or you’ve something to add, please comment below and I can update the information.

Key Consulting provides live online and in-person Project Management Professional (PMP) certificationproject management best practice, and Microsoft Project training courses, using Project Management Institute (PMI) best practices and standards.  If you need help with anything related to project management feel free to contact us.


About Kevin Archbold

Kevin Archbold, PMP, PMI-SP, has over 30 years of project management experience with large and small organizations in a variety of industries, including automotive, nuclear, telecommunications, trucking, IT, recruiting, mining, construction, and government. Kevin has presented at local and national levels within the Project Management Institute (PMI), is the winner of a local chapter PMI Project of the Year Award, and is the current president of a PMI Chapter.

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