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Passing the Test of All Tests (PMI Audit)

He who pulls the sword from the stone shall be a PMP

PMI Audit Page 1

PMI Audit Page 2

PMI Audit Page 3

So, you just completed all of the paperwork, detailing all of your applicable education and work experience.  PMI has given you the green light to schedule a date to take your PMP® exam.  But what if you are audited?  Wouldn’t that just suck!?

Well, you met the requirements.  PMI didn’t say anything so you must be in the clear.  Time to sign up to actually take the exam.  Through a link on the PMI website, you pick a testing center in your area and find a time that will work.  You enter your credit card number and click submit.  Surprise!  Instead of getting a confirmation page, saying thank you for paying for the exam, you get a “you’ve been audited” screen.  What the hell!?

So, as soon as they have your money, you go into audit limbo.  The audit process has started and there are only two ways out.  [1] You withdrawal your application to take the exam.  You will get “most” of your money back. [2] You complete your audit, submit your paperwork, and PMI allows you to take the exam.

With all of the figurative threats PMI publishes about not embellishing your experience, you better not have done it!  I would compare this to going to a job interview.  Your potential employer says they like what they see.  You can continue on in the interview process, as long as you take your resume back to each of the employers you’ve listed and get them to sign a document agreeing you actually did the work.

What if your application is audited?

PMI answers a group of questions about this. First things first, stay calm. If you didn’t lie on your application, you have little to worry about.  You should have honestly detailed all of your work experience during the application process. For every project you submitted, you’re going to be sent an audit report in PDF format. (see the 3 graphics to the left)

Page 1:  What you entered during the application process.
Page 2:  Stakeholder information and a line for them to sign, agreeing you did the work that you say you did.
Page 3:  PMI Address information.

The pain of original signatures

For every one of these packets, you’re going to need 2 original signatures.  You can have a colleague, peer, client or sponsor who has intimate knowledge of the project sign the audit.  You will then put the signed audit into an envelope (addressed to PMI), seal it, and have the same person sign the sealed envelope seam.  Once you get all of your packets signed, sealed, and signed, you mail all of the envelopes to PMI.

The actual audit by PMI will only take about a week.
You will receive an email notifying you if you pass or fail.

What is my advise?

Go into the application process with the expectation of being audited.  Identify the people you want signatures from while doing your application.  Identify a backup (signature) for each project.  I spent more time tracking people down and getting signatures then I did completing the original application.  I had 20 signatures I had to get.  When budgeting the cost of the PMP exam, don’t forget the cost of dinners and drinks for people who you need to track down to sign your audits.  I had to manage my audit process like I would a mini-project.

Is it all worth it?

From my personal and professional experience? Yes. Though I do believe the ever-increasing number of PMPs in the market may commoditize the certification, it’s still in high demand. Regardless if you’re a good PM, if you have a PMP® or CAPM®, there is an assumption you’re a good Project Manager.  Because I was audited, I feel everyone should suffer the same scrutiny.  Perhaps there will be fewer paper PMPs, if they knew up front they would be audited.

Thank you to Joseph Gruber for verifying the current audit process.  He also suffered through a PMI audit.  I remember the PMI audit process being a little different, when I went though it back in 2006.  His personal experience was very helpful.

Did I miss anything specific you wanted to know?  Just leave a comment.

(Yes, that’s a picture of me pulling the sword from the stone)

About Derek Huether

I'm a Transformation Consultant at LeadingAgile. I have a goal to take the hand waving out of Agile, Kanban, & Scrum. I’m a strange combination of a little OCD, a little ADHD, a lot of grit, and a lot of drive. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

45 Responses to “Passing the Test of All Tests (PMI Audit)”

  1. Damion
    April 7, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    After passing that whole PMI exprience the auditors should have taken you out to dinner, and lunch, and dinner, and then got you somethnig for XMAS, and your birthday.

    • Derek Huether
      April 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm

      Damion, though the audit process is painful, I see the value. I do believe there should be more policing from PMI. One thing I rely on, when hiring someone claiming to be a PMP, is the PMI online registry. Without it, how would you know for certain if someone has the credential? If they are not PMPs, they dilute the credential by claiming to be. The same goes for people who claim to have years of experience in project management. It should be part of PMI’s job, to ensure these people have the experience they claim to have. I think the credential means more to me because I took the hard road to get it. I passed an audit, I studied hard, I did not go to a PMP boot camp, and I passed the exam.

  2. Newgirl
    May 11, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Hi ,

    Was wondering what if I apply for PMP certification and for some reason they reject my application as they feel i don’t meet the criteria. Would they refund my money then ?
    If yes, would they also refund my Membership fee if I ask for ?

  3. Derek Huether
    May 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

    In order to apply to sit for the exam, you need to go though a series of online forms, identifying your experiences. Once you have enough hours, the PMI website will enable the feature to apply to take the exam. Until then, it’s all free. You won’t know if you will be audited until you enter your credit card information. At that point, you will only get a partial refund if you fail the audit or if you withdrawal. I also don’t see PMI giving you a refund on your membership fee dues. You don’t need to be a PMP to be a member of PMI or the the other way around. PMI will charge you more to take the PMP if you are not a current PMI member. Therefore, there is no reason for them to give you any kind of refund on the membership. It’s frustrating, I know. You just have to document your experiences and education very thoroughly and not look back. Best of luck!

  4. Ravi
    June 30, 2010 at 7:20 pm


    I am planning to apply for my PMP exams.

    I have a couple of questions on the audit process.

    1) My experience as a Project Manager has been primarily in the US working for a US employer and a US client. After my visa expiry, I had to return to India.
    In case my application is selected for audit, is it ok to get a signature of my present manager certifying my past work experience?

    2) I have education certificates and PMP training ( 35 points) certificate ready.

    Given that my previous employer is located elsewhere geographically, are there any other work -arounds to submit my work experience verification from the managers?

    Please let me know.

    Thanks much,

    • Ravi
      July 1, 2010 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks for the answers Derek. Yeah, this might probably go down as a high impact risk in my risk registry. I will start tracking down all my former colleagues now.
      Thanks again!

  5. Derek Huether
    July 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Ravi, this is an excellent question! Here are the responses to your questions.

    [1] No, unless your present manager worked WITH you on the project(s) you want to take credit for, he or she can not certify your past work experience.
    [2] I would suggest you try to locate those team members now. When I got audited, this process is what took me the longest. I had to track people down and then be persistent to get them to mail back the (originally signed) audit letter(s). Just a simple signature will not due. They must sign both the audit letter AND the back of the sealed envelope. If you work globally, this can be a very difficult and time consuming requirement.

    Remember, you won’t know you’ve been audited until you actually pay for exam registration. Managed the risk now before it becomes an issue.

    Thanks for the question!


  6. Ga
    March 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Hi I am a consultant, and i have all most all projects overllapping, how do I submit this I am very confused.. as one of my project starts at 2 years back still not ended so its all over lapped..
    could you suggest the methodology , is it ok to put the actual start and end when i was in the project?

    • derekhuether
      April 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Let the certification application do the work for you. Enter your project data. If there are overlaps, PMI will automatically filter them out. Always use the actual starts and ends. Remember, if you get audited, PMI will ask for proof of your projects. Be prepared to contact people.

  7. Neel
    June 29, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Hi Derek. In online application, they ask for contact person for verifying the role & experience of project. Suppose, I am entering the contact detail of my manager for that project. Then, in the event of audit, is it possible to take the signature of my colleague who has worked with me in case my manager is out of country/ could not reach him? Thanks in anticipation!

    • derekhuether
      June 29, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Neel, save yourself the pain.  Just list your colleague.  The audit is completely random.  PMI is not going to target you just because the title doesn’t say Manager.  Go into this with the expectation you’re going to be audited and your manager will be gone.  Keep me posted!

  8. July 10, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Hi Derek, Regarding the audit i read the FAQ from PMI and it says that i can send a soft copy to my previous manager through email. What about the responses that i receive from them, can they scan and send it to me by email or should they send it to me by postal mail. As we are in different countries i’m concerned that by postal mail it will take time for me to receive the docs.

    Kindly clarify

    • derekhuether
      July 10, 2012 at 5:47 am

      I just checked with PMI. The Experience Verification Form and Experience PDF attachment can be e-mailed to any verifying manager or supervisor; however because the original audit forms need to be submitted in the sealed and signed envelopes, PMI will not accept faxed copies. PMI prefers that the candidate mail all documents in one parcel.
      Getting those signatures can be hard!  Do everything you can to make it easy on those signing your Verification Form.  I had 20 signatures I had to get.  That meant a lot of time and money going to lunches and FedEx.

  9. Million
    September 3, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Hello Derek,

    I know I’m not supposed to but I entered some information wrongly on my application and I’ve been selected for an audit. Now I’m scared and I want to withdraw my application and start all over again. What do you advise?

    • derekhuether
      September 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

      Correct me if I misread your comment. Did you intentionally lie on your application? After paying (you don’t get notified that you’ve been audited until after you’ve paid), I believe you can withdrawal your application but won’t get all of your money back. I believe you pay a penalty.

  10. November 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    You wrote a very nice post.

    I see you responded to someone as recent as two months ago so I will
    give this a shot. A lot of my PM experience is aged and I am not getting full credit for the hours of experience. With the economy the way it was/is I got awayfrom formal project management. For a few years I was ill and had to take care of my parents who were not doing well. This was from September 2008 to April 2010. Then from July 2010 to February 2012 I held two positions and I would like to get your opinion on if that
    experience qualifies or not.

    Employer A deployed a computer network which I was brought in to help with and maintain the network going forward. Not only did I do IT there I was in finance where I did everything from AP/AR to preparing non-profit grants and
    expenditure reports for 32 funding sources. I can see Employer A and the computer work being project manager related but maybe not the finance portion even though managing budgets is. I enjoyed being at Employer A but they would not know a PMBOK if it was in front of them.

    Employer B was at a woman’s shelter where I managed 18 cases of upwardsof 50 clients. I was responsible for expanding economic opportunities principally for homeless clients of low and moderate income with emotional, mental or physical disabilities. I worked effectively in a team environment to aid participants in finding services through the local Continuum of Care (CoC) interagency referrals by direct clients to social services such as job training, life skills training, and alcohol and drug abuse programs. I interviewed clients, created life plans, monitored progress towards goals, etc. Employer
    B was like 18 mini projects (cases). But again might not be viewed as “project management”. Employer B would have a better understanding of project management than Employer A but still both would never define the work I did as such.

    What are your thoughts on both scenarios? Thank you in advance for your time.

    • derekhuether
      November 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Sounds like this is certainly something you can work with. For example, managing those cases certainly is like managing 18 projects. You had stakeholders, you had deliverables… The challenge you have is you need to think outside the box a little. How do the activities you did and the deliverables you provided map back to the Knowledge Areas and Process Groups of the PMBOK Guide? Once you do that, you’re good to go. If being audited, PMI is going to ask you about dates and deliverables within those projects. Focus on dates and deliverables first, then focus on mapping to knowledge areas and process groups. You can do it!

  11. Rajat
    February 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I work in a small start up and do software projects end to end. However, we do not follow all the processes prescribed in PMBOK. I am trying to get PMP certified. I am thinking that if I get audited, I will list colleagues and sponsors. They will sign. But I am wondering how PMP verifies the authenticity of documents submitted.

    • derekhuether
      February 18, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      PMI retains the right to ask you to submit the deliverables you list as proof. I’ve never heard them actually do it. Don’t worry. Be honest and you’ll do fine. The audit is completely random.

  12. Colt McIssac
    July 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I haven’t been audited but may as I haven’t paid. Question I have, after submitting the document I decided then to start contacting the listed individuals. Problem, my manager for one of the items is no longer with the company. I have been trying to track her down but didn’t want to go over board till I know I am audited. Am I able to utilize someone else from the same company or does it have to be that person signature since I listed her?

    • derekhuether
      July 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      Colt, the audit selection doesn’t happen until after you submit your credit card info. It’s immediate. Either you schedule your exam or you start the audit process.

      Yes, you’ll just need someone who can vouch for you at the project. Pen in a new name and contact info if you have to.

  13. aJ
    November 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    I’m a PM with 8 years of experience. I just got audited and
    decided not to go through the process. 1. My mistake for not reading carefully
    but I thought everyone is being audited and the way it work is that they (PMI)
    checks on your job history just like HR department will if hired for work, so I
    was fine with that process. 2. I realized that anyone can get PMP, and some
    people with no PM experience, don’t get audit and take test. 3. I decided not
    to go through process because I believe it is unethical and unprofessional to
    contact your manager or coworker from years ago and ask them to sign audit
    form. It is PMI responsibility to do
    that, you pay them and yet you the one who should chase your management? It’s
    like hiring a pilot and asking him to sign his own past experience form,
    because anyone can sign audit form and sent it back, PMI doesn’t check or
    verifies that. PMI become just money making machine.

    • derekhuether
      November 17, 2013 at 8:54 am

      aJ, I won’t argue about the “ethics” that come into play. PMI simply doesn’t have the people to even do a valid review of the people who are audited. I have seen people who had no experience make it through the process. It was very disheartening

  14. Jend
    August 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I have been a PM for 8 years and am just now going for my PMP. I have been with my current employer for the past 5 years and have all of my project hours accounted for. However, in order to qualify for the required 7500 hours, I need to include some of the project from my past employer. I no longer have any contacts there and I do not have specific information on durations and dates in order to provide on the PMP Application. I don’t want to guess either. Can anyone recommend how I should go about this? For example, I can think of about 3 major accounts I worked on in the 3 years I was there that probably account for 2500 hours but I don’t remember the dates and durations. PLEASE HELP!

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Jen, don’t worry! You just have to do the best that you can. Be as honest as you can. Go into the application process as if you were guaranteed to be audited. Have people ready to corroborate your claims of experience. If you get audited and if you can get someone to back you up, PMI will not force the issue. There are just too many people wanting the PMP and PMI does not have enough people to verify if the data is correct or not. As long as your paperwork is in order and there are no glaring omissions, PMI is going move you along in the process and happily process your payment.

  15. Sam
    November 16, 2014 at 12:15 am

    I’m a big box retail manger with over 9 years in retail management, my job role to oversee the overall 40million dollar store operation and customer service. We offer home imporement services to our customers daily. My question to you is. As a general store manger who manages 30 million dollar operation. How do I file my PMP experience.

    • November 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

      PMI is looking for “project” management experience. They don’t care if it’s a 30 thousand dollar budget or 30 million. Out of your 9 years, did you have projects that you managed? Did your projects meet the PMI definition of project? If so, then think about what were the deliverables of your projects. You’re going to have to map your hours for each project to knowledge areas and process groups, defined by PMI. You want tangible deliverables. Start with WBS’s, schedules, budgets, status reports… Maybe your deliverables included a store redesign or maybe you’re dealing with seasonal inventory. Everything has to be mapped to the PMI knowledge areas and process groups.

  16. John
    March 11, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Derek,

    I just recently completed a PMP exam prep course and am ready to take the exam. At this point, I am in the process of documenting all of my experience on an excel file before I complete the online application. I graduated grad school with an MBA in June 2013 and have been working full time since. Since I haven’t been working full time for 3 years yet, you can imagine I have had to get creative with documenting my 4,500 hours .

    I discussed a few things with my PMP exam prep professor, but just wanted a second opinion on a few questions:

    1.) What if my projects overlap? From my understanding, the 4,500 hours can overlap, but the 36 months can’t. Is that correct? At my job, I have been managing several projects at a time. I work at a small not-for-profit Healthcare IT collaborative, It’s not nearly as clean-cut as the methodologies described in PMBOK.

    2.) What if some of the projects that I am currently working on at work haven’t ended? Would I just put the end date as the date that I am submitting the application?

    3.)For My grad school project experience: I have not been in contact with some of my professors, and one of them may be out of the country. Although, I am in close contact with the director of the Healthcare MBA program, who was also the teacher for 2 of the projects that I completed. Would it be okay to list his name for all of the projects? I am certain he would be filling to fill out the audit forms for the projects whereby he was not my actual professor, but rather the director of the entire program.

    4.) I am planning to record project management experience for taking lead on planning my brother’s wedding that was held in the backyard of a private home a few years back. Would it be okay to list him as the contact since he was ultimately the project sponsor?

    • March 11, 2015 at 9:59 pm

      John, congrats on getting your MBA. Let’s get you set up for taking that PMP exam.

      1.) The online application is smart enough to figure out the overlap. I recommend you first map out reality in Excel. You can run projects in parallel. PMI is smart enough to know you can’t run multiple projects in parallel at 100% each. It will knock your time down. Nothing in the world is a clean-cut as what is described in the PMBOK. Be warned that the exam won’t be clean-cut either.

      2.) Just put the end date as the date that you submit the application.

      3.) Yes, it would be okay to list the director. To that, get contact information NOW for people who will sign the audit forms for all of the projects you’re going to claim. In the outside chance you get nailed by the random audit, it will save you a lot of time. You don’t need the boss or head of the project. You need someone who will vouch for you that you delivered what you are claiming you delivered.

      4.) Yes, list your brother as the sponsor.

      If you get audited, don’t sweat it. Be as honest as you can and you’ll breeze right through. Just go in prepared to be audited. Get the contacts. Throw as much data into the PMI app as early as you can. It will count you down as you get closer to hitting the requirement. Go in with the big projects first. Only put in enough data to qualify. Don’t gold plate this thing! Meet the requirements and get that test scheduled.

      Good luck!

  17. Julian R
    May 22, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Hi Derek,
    I wish I had come across your valuable blog before-hand, but that’s life.
    To make a long story short, I have been audited and I am close to giving up because of many of the challenges mentioned by other entries in your blog; my question is:
    When I submitted my application I -as you say “I gold platted” it- by including projects that amount for further more than the required 4500 hours;if I submit the required documentation (and signed forms) for 5000 hours (but NOT all the initial projects), you think PMI would accept it or instead they will considered that my application is not complete?
    Thank you!

  18. Manasa
    July 9, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Derek, my PMP application got selected for audit. I had mentioned my ex-colleague’s maiden name as supervisor. Now when she signed the audit documents, she has signed with her new name (Her first name stayed the same,last name has changed). Are there chances of my application getting rejected?

    • July 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      No, you’re not going to get rejected over that. They are more concerned about the deliverables you noted for each project.

  19. Suzan
    July 28, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Derek,
    I have ben selected for audit, and i have collected all the forms and letters required.
    My question is, one of my previous supervisor’s title is “xx engineer”. i have selected him as manager while filling the form, since he was my supervisor in the project. Is that a problem? What should i do?

    • July 28, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Suzan, you’ll be fine. Titles are not important. You can have your previous supervisor sign the audit documentation, seal the envelope, and then sign the back of the envelope. Don’t worry.

  20. Dan
    August 17, 2015 at 4:42 am

    Hi Derek,
    I want to apply for PMP this year. But these conditions worry me a little bit, and I am afraid of audit.
    I have a bachelor degree, but I got it after 3 years of college – that is the rule on my University in my country. After that I finished the 4th year, but in the same time I worked on one big project- because formally I had a degree.
    Will PMI accept my experience on this Project?- which I started with 3 year degree, during my 4th year old college.
    I want to apply according to condition: bachelor degree+4500 hours+35 hours of education.

    Please let me know.

    Thanks much,

    • August 17, 2015 at 7:03 am

      You’ll be fine.
      When you claim the bachelor degree, PMI strips away the condition for the extra required hours. You only get into an issue of shared hours when you have projects in parallel. In the event of the audit, take a picture of your bachelor degree.

      Good luck on the exam!
      Don’t worry about the audit.


  21. LP
    November 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I have been selected for PMI audit for pmp exam. I have couple of questions on the audit.
    1. In the application, i have given my previous project manager details. But i am not able to contact one of them. What can i do in this case.
    2. PMI says that my manager should sign the verification form as well as sealed envelope. One of my manager will be sending the form to me through mail. Should he sign in the mailing envelope outside cover(where my home address will be written) or a separate envelope inside the mailing envelope(Addressing PMI)? Please clarify

    • November 15, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      Here are my recommendations.
      1. Line out the specific information related to that project manager. Add information for someone on that project who can vouch for you.
      2. Have the manager sign the form. Put the signed form into an envelope. Have the manager sign across
      the seal of the envelope. PMI wants to ensure there is no tampering. Have the manager mail the sealed envelope back to you.

      When I did this, I took each person to lunch, had them sign the document and envelope in front of me, and then I put each envelop into a FedEx envelope. I then FedEx’d the signed/sealed envelopes.

      • LP
        November 15, 2015 at 5:19 pm

        Thank you so much. One of my co-worker is ready to sign the form for me since i could not contact my manager. But is it okay if the contact information in my application (My manager) and verification form (Co-worker) differs?

        • November 15, 2015 at 6:28 pm

          In the end, PMI wants someone who will confirm that you did what you did. This kind of thing happens all the time. I recommend others assume they will be audited and make sure someone agrees to sign the documentation. It is ok if the information does not match the original form. If PMI has any questions, they will reach out to you and you can easily explain the situation.

      • LP
        November 21, 2015 at 1:40 am

        Hi Derek
        I have one more question on our previous discussion, you said i can get verification signature in the experience forms from a different person (Not mentioned in the application) who know about my experience in the project . What reason do PMI accept in this case? Because one of my manager is in a different country and another manager is not easily available to contact. Shall i give the same reason to PMI? Do they accept or Will there be any problem?

        • November 21, 2015 at 8:52 am

          I would say your situation is more common than not. We work on projects, our managers either disappear or are not available. That is reality. Just give the truth. They will accept the truth. I’ve never known anyone to be rejected.

  22. LP
    November 15, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Derek, Thank you for the detailed explanation. It was really helpful at the right time.

  23. LP
    November 28, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Derek, Can you please advise some good pmp exam simulators (Free and paid as well). What percentage i should get in simulator to pass the pmp exam?

    • November 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Back in the day, I used RMC Project Management (now RMC Learning Solutions) exam simulation software. It had the exact same look and feel at the exam and the questions were similar to the PMP exam. I don’t know what percentage you need to get. If anything, use it to prepare yourself to take a 3 hour exam. It’s physically hard to just sit there and focus for that long.

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