The PMP Exam Question NOBODY Gets Right (You'll Be Surprised Why)

PMP Exam questions can be quite tricky. It’s important to understand what the examiners are looking for. Sometimes, the correct answer to a question may be counter-intuitive.

PMP Exam questions can be quite tricky. It’s important to understand what the examiners are looking for. Sometimes, the correct answer to a question may be counter-intuitive.

As a project management trainer/facilitator I get to try people on sample questions to determine their degree of understanding of the subject.

There are a few questions that extremely few people get wrong (mostly because the correct answers are often counter-intuitive) but there is indeed one that NOBODY has gotten right - at least in my presence.

I’ll put it out so we can look into it together and analyse why the question (like most PMP exam questions) is so confusing, and what the examiners are looking for.

The Question

John is managing a project. He conducted a risk assessment workshop with project stakeholders and  identified several risks. He is concerned about the amount of time it will take for quantitative and  qualitative risk analysis and to develop a risk response plan. What should John do?

A) As the risks were identified by project stakeholders, John needs to ensure that each risk follows the risk management processes.

B) John should use his expert judgement to decide which  risks warrant more complete risk analysis and response.

C) John should create a Probability and Impact matrix that determines risk thresholds for quantitative and qualitative risk assessments. He should apply this to his Risk Register and use that to determine which  risks need analysis and risk responses.

D) John should refer this decision to the project stakeholders who  can determine which risks merit response.

If you’re like most people, you’ll pick any other option APART FROM option (A).

Why? Mostly because the question already told us that John “is concerned about the amount of time it will take for quantitative and qualitative risk analysis and to develop a risk response plan”. Our natural responses therefore would be to search for the options that would save John some time by choosing the risks he should analyse and plan for and those he should ignore.

Don’t take that bait. The PMP examination questions are full of baits that can trick one into taking a “common sense approach” but don’t take the bait.

The correct answer to that question is the option that NOBODY picks.

A) As the risks were identified by project stakeholders, John needs to ensure that each risk follows the risk management processes.

Each risk should follow the risk management process, not “which risk should follow…”. John is not allowed to pick and choose what risks to evaluate and respond to simply because he is concerned about his time. The need for comprehensive risk analysis and response on all the risks supersedes his concerns about time, and if he’s too worried about time to be bothered with completely evaluating and planning for the risks, perhaps he shouldn't be project manager on that project just yet.

The truth is, if John leaves out analyzing and preparing for some of the risks to save time, and these risks happened to break out into serious issues on the projects, consequences might be much for dire on the projects. The project might end up costing twice as much, take twice as much time or be even scrapped simply because a few risks were left out of a comprehensive analysis and response plan, simply because John felt he didn’t have all the time for all those processes.