How to Decide Where to Take the PMP® Exam

Ready to take your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam? PMP certification is the global gold standard for project professionals, helping you work smarter, earn more, and capitalize on a wider range of job opportunities. But before you dive into the PMP exam, you have a decision to make: take it online, or go to a test center? In this post, Lenka Pincot helps you weigh the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for you.

Written by Lenka Pincot • 3 October 2023


Online or in-person? Add that to the list of decisions you now need to make before taking the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam.

During the COVID crisis, of course, you didn’t have much choice. With most test centers closed, online testing was the only option. Now that test centers have re-opened, however, exam takers must decide which location will make for the best test-taking experience.

Each option has its pros and cons. Online testing allows you to take the exam from your home. However, many certified project professionals recommend in-person test centers because they offer a reliable setup, a distraction-free environment, and face-to-face support.

Here are three questions to ask yourself when deciding where to take your exam:

  • How comfortable will I be in setting up for the exam, especially from a technology standpoint?
  • If I decide on online testing, will I be comfortable with the rigorous security requirements, including heightened levels of monitoring and proctoring?
  • What is my ideal testing experience and how accessible are in-person testing centers?

Let’s explore each of these questions in greater depth.

Setting Up for the Exam

When it comes to exam setup, in-person testing offers distinct advantages. You simply need to show up at the designated test center – everything is taken care of for you. You don't have to worry about technology requirements or whether your computer and internet connection will cooperate. You can relax, get comfortable with the testing environment, and focus on taking the exam.

The primary advantage of online testing is that you don’t have to get yourself to a test center, and you can take the exam in familiar surroundings. But what many test-takers don’t realize ahead of time is that online testing requires significantly more advance preparation. You must make sure your computer equipment and internet connection comply with certain technical requirements. You'll also be required to verify that you have a quiet and controlled place to take the test without interruption. This might be challenging if you have family members, coworkers or pets who might accidentally disrupt your focus.

Beyond the increased technical requirements, you’ll be responsible for providing clear photographic evidence that you’ve stowed away all unauthorized items like phones, books, and bags.

All these potential issues – from computer setup and providing photographic evidence, to ensuring a quiet, distraction-free testing environment – can add unnecessary stress to an already high-stakes exam. It’s also important to note that unforeseen interruptions can have serious consequences and may result in the termination of your exam.

Exam Security

There are also distinct differences in the security protocols surrounding online and in-person exams. In-person test centers are designed for test-taking and have very intuitive and standard testing security protocols. Proctors can allow some freedom in movement and behavior, provide scratch paper, and are readily accessible to address concerns or issues.

Online testing comes with stricter security protocols, including online monitoring. Video and screen sharing track not just your answers, but also your behavior – such as hand placement and eye movement. This can be stressful if it interferes with your natural test-taking habits. Accidentally violating security rules may also result in the termination of your exam.

The Ideal Exam Experience

In the end, the decision to take the test online or in-person comes down to a decision about your ideal exam experience. The in-person testing experience offers clear advantages in terms of reliable exam setup and security protocols, as well as face-to-face proctors to meet your testing needs with a greater degree of flexibility. It’s not surprising that many PMP candidates prefer this option and that hundreds of thousands of project professionals around the world have traveled down this path.

For others, however, traveling to an in-person testing center may not be feasible. And you may be more comfortable taking the exam in familiar surroundings. For those unable to access a PMP test center, online testing can be an excellent option.

Where do I personally stand on the question of online vs. in-person?

By nature, I am a continuous learner, so I see the value in both online and in-person test taking. However, I always consider the caliber of the exam when deciding where to test. For shorter exams, for example, my personal preference is to test online. But for high-stakes exams, like the PMP, I believe an in-person testing center is the best route to take. Currently I have three PMI certifications – the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification, the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® certification, and of course, the PMP. For all three exams, I sat in a test center as these exams are not just quick online tests. They require focus and time management, and I needed to remove all distractions when testing so I would feel comfortable and confident in my performance. I also appreciated the presence of people around me and knowing that if I needed something or had a question, they would be able to assist me.

Ultimately, the decision of where to take your PMP exam comes down to your personal preferences and availability/location. At the end of the day, what’s most important is choosing the testing method that best aligns with your needs and gives you the best chance of success on your PMP certification exam.

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Lenka Pincot headshot

Lenka Pincot
Chief of Staff to the CEO | PMI

As PMI's Chief of Staff to the CEO, Lenka Pincot supports the CEO and Executive Leadership Team in enterprise initiative planning and execution. She heads the Executive Communications, Culture & Change, and Content & Thought Leadership teams. She also leads the Enterprise Project Management Office and Brightline Initiative.

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