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What's the Difference Between the CAPM and PMP Examinations

~ By Dr. Joseline Edward Lucas

Multiple-choice exam sheet and pencil

Founded in 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) is best-known as the publisher of, "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)." PMBOK is considered one of the most important tools in the project management profession today. The PMI offers two levels of project management certification, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and Project Management Professional (PMP).

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

PMI certifies project team members as Certified Associate in Project Management or CAPMs. The certification process requires a candidate to document their work experience and pass an on-line exam. Here is the full requirement for the CAPM:

  • Number of scored questions: 135
  • Number of pretest (unscored) questions: 15
  • Question type: Multiple-choice
  • Time allowed: 3 hours
  • Educational background: Secondary diploma (high school diploma, or global equivalent)
  • Required project management experience: 1500 hours of work on a project team, or 23 hours of formal project management education
  • Project management education: not needed
  • Exam Fee for CBT: €185 for PMI members and €250 for non-members
  • Maintenance Requirement: Re-exam after 5 years for recertification

The CAPM exam is split into areas with a candidate expected to answer questions in each area:

  • Fifth Edition Chapter 3: Project Management Processes 15%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 4: Project Integration Management 12%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 5: Project Scope Management 11%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 6: Project Time Management 12%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 7: Project Cost Management 7%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 8: Project Quality Management 6%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 9: Project Human Resources Management 8%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 10: Project Communications Management 6%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 11: Project Risk Management 9%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 12: Project Procurement Management 7%
  • Fifth Edition Chapter 13: Project Stakeholder Management 7%

The full detailed requirement can be found in the PMI's Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Handbook (PDF)

Project Management Professional (PMP)

PMI certifies project managers who lead and direct project teams as professionals, or PMPs. The certification process requires a candidate to document their work experience and pass an on-line exam. Here is the full requirement for the PMP:

  • Number of scored questions: 175
  • Number of pretest (unscored) questions: 25
  • Question type: Multiple-choice
  • Time allowed: 4 hours
  • Educational background: Category 1: Secondary degree (high school diploma, or global equivalent) or Category 2: Four year degree (bachelor's degree or global equivalent)
  • Required project management experience: Category 1: Minimum 60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 7,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project or Category 2: Minimum 36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing the project
  • Project management education: 35 hours formal education
  • Exam Fee for CBT: €340 for PMI members and €465 for non-members
  • Maintenance Requirement: Collect 60 PDUs within 3-year cycle

The PMP exam is split into areas with a candidate expected to answer questions in each area:

  • Initiation 13%
  • Planning 24%
  • Executing 30%
  • Monitoring and Controlling 25%
  • Closing 8%

The full detailed requirement can be found in the PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP) Handbook (PDF)

The main difference between the two exams is the focus. Most of the CAPM questions are from the surface of the subject and about the processes. You can expect a lot of direct questions related to process input, tools and outputs. In the PMP exam, questions are more difficult and delve deep into the subject. You can expect several situation-based questions, where PMI wants to see whether a candidate can apply PMBOK guidelines when deciding on a course of action.


Find more information about CAPM and PMP on the PMI website


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