During my interaction with Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification aspirants, often I see that they take the Point of Total Assumption as a confusing concept. I observed that there are lots of misunderstandings and confusions that need clarity. Though not a crucial question from the PMP® exam point of view, it still needs a detailed discussion. In this blog, I will address the puzzling PTA concept with simple to understand examples.

This concept is only related to fixed-price incentive fee contracts. It refers to the amount above which the seller bears all the losses of an additional cost overrun. The concept works when:

- Buyer and seller have agreed on criteria for fixing the price, and
- The buyer is willing to repay part of the cost overrun till it reaches a ceiling price.

Let’s look at a few terms before we get into the meaning of PTA.

**Target Cost:** This is the estimated budget, which the seller has planned for delivering the given project. It is like a project budget. This target cost is shared with the buyer, and the process of estimating the project budget is also transparent.

**Target Fee: **This is the fee which the seller wants to charge for the work he is doing. It is the planned fee, and the actual fee will depend upon how well the seller manages the project (cost overruns)

**Target Price: **It is the price the buyer is looking towards. And, it is a sum total of Target Cost + Target Fee, both seller and buyer use this as a benchmark. If the final project cost less than this price, the buyer and seller will share the profit as per the profit-sharing agreement. If the price goes beyond the target price, buyer and seller share the cost as per cost-sharing agreement (subject to the maximum ceiling of the selling price)

**Share ratio: **There are two types of ratio:

- One for sharing profit, when the project cost less than the target cost, and
- Another is the cost-sharing ratio when the project costs more than the target cost.

**Let’s look at the PTA formula:**

PTA = (Ceiling Price – Target Price) / Buyer’s Share Ratio + Target Cost

Let’s see how to calculate PTA, For PTA calculation I am taking the example from Rita Mulcahy’s PMP® Exam Prep Eighth Edition page no 480.

Target Cost | 150,000 |

Target Fee | 30,000 |

Target Price | 180,000 |

Sharing Ratio (Cost Overrun Sharing Ratio) | 60/40 |

Ceiling Price | 200,000 |

Let’s calculate PTA for this

PTA = (Ceiling Price – Target Price) / Buyer’s Share Ration + Target Cost

PTA = (200,000 – 180,000) /. 60 + 150,000

PTA = 183,333

**What does it mean?**

It means the cost of development should not touch the Point of Total Assumption (PTA) (183,333). And, it should be the target of the seller. If it touches PTA then all further cost overrun the seller has to pay. Looks theoretical? Let’s see what number speaks, here I have created seven scenarios of the actual cost. It is starting from target cost equal to actual cost. We are only discussing cost overrun case, we are not discussing profit-sharing here.

S.No | Actual Cost | Actual Price (Actual Cost + Target Fee) | Price Overrun (Actual Price – Target Price) | Buyer’s Share (60% of Price Overrun till PTA) | Buyer’s Payout (Target Cost + Buyer Cost Overrun Share, not more than Ceiling Price) | Seller’s Profit (Buyer Payout – Actual Cost) |

1 | 150,000 | 180,000 | 0 | 0 | 180,000 | 30,000 |

2 | 160,000 | 190,000 | 10,000 | 6,000 | 186,000 | 26,000 |

3 | 170,000 | 200,000 | 20,000 | 12,000 | 192,000 | 22,000 |

4 | 183,333 | 213,333 | 33,333 | 20,000 | 200,000 | 16,667 |

5 | 190,000 | 220,000 | 40,000 | 20,000 | 200,000 | 10,000 |

6 | 200,000 | 230,000 | 50,000 | 20,000 | 200,000 | (0) |

7 | 210,000 | 240,000 | 60,000 | 20,000 | 200,000 | (-10,000) |

**Here are some of the things which you might have observed**

- The seller makes a target profit only when he meets target price, the scenario no 1
- When the project costs more than the target price, seller profit starts reducing. Though the buyer also shares the cost of overrun as per agreement ratio scenario 2 and 3
- When the cost goes beyond Point of Total Assumption (PTA), buyer cost overrun sharing gets frozen. Any further increase in cost does not affect buyer payout. Since the total payout touches the ceiling price. The seller may still make profit scenario 4 and 5
- The seller will lose money when the cost goes beyond ceiling price, the scenario no 7

This graph shows how profit margin starts shrinking once the seller misses the target price. And margin shrinks further when they reach PTA point. Also, the seller starts making a loss when the actual cost goes more than the ceiling price.

Now I guess it should be easier to understand that if actual cost touches PTA, the seller pays all further cost overruns.

**Check out the important PMP® Certification FAQs on Point of Total Assumption (PTA):**

**What all forms the buyer’s pay-out? Will the seller always get cost and fee from the buyer?**

**Answer: **The buyer pay-out is driven by target price and overrun. Now when we calculated the target price, we used target cost and target fee in driving it. As the seller breach the target price, seller profit (fee) starts reducing, it’s not a cost-reimbursable contract where you get all your cost + fixed fee. It’s a fixed-price incentive fee contract, so your profit goes down as you breach the target price.

**Does this mean – After PTA the cost overrun sharing ratio changes to 0:100 (Buyer: Seller)?**

**Answer:** This sometimes looks confusing since we calculate the cost overrun based on the target price. It’s better to understand that after PTA the cost of the buyer reaches the ceiling price, so he does not pay share cost of additional overrun. He is still paying the ceiling price (not target price). If I plot a bar chart of the scenarios discussed in this blog it shows that after PTA point, a scenario no 4 buyers share, for cost overrun is frizzed to 20,000, the seller has to pay all extra money.

**To get the maximum profit, what a seller should do in this type of contract?**

**Answer: **Manage the project in less than the target price. Once a seller breaches the target price his profit starts shrinking.

**Once the process crosses the target cost, does the seller still get the target fee (profit)?**

**Answer: **No, the profit will be less than the target fee when project costs, raise beyond the target price. Until the buyer is sharing is 100% of the cost overrun.

**How many questions do we get on PTA during PMP® exam?**

**Answer**: We do not see PTA questions coming in PMP® exam very frequently. I hope now you will not just memorize the formula of point of total assumption with lots of assumptions. Drop us a comment or feedback on the blog. You may also share your further queries on the same topic. We would be glad to answer them.

You may also join the discussion on the same in our Discussion Forum

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## 18 comments

Hi Arun,

Greetings!!

Thanks for your kind words!! Keep exploring.

Regards,

Seema

Great explanation by Saket. It is certainly helpful.thank you

Hi Aneesi,

Greetings!!

For your query:“Came across this practice question and I am not sure I understand.

You are running a project for a customer based on a cost-reimbursable contract with the following terms:

Target costs: $ 1,000,000

Fixed fee: $ 100,000

Benefit/cost sharing: 80% / 20%

Price ceiling: $ 1,200,000

Which is the PTA (= point of total assumption, break point) of the project?

$1,300,000$1,500,000

$80,000

$1,125,000 – correct answer

If I calculate this with (Ceiling Price – Target Price) / Buyer’s Share Ration + Target Cost I get:(1.200.000-1.000.000)/0.8 + 100.000 = 350.000

Anybody knows how to get to the correct answer?”Here is the complete calculation:

PTA = (Ceiling Price – Target Price) / Buyer’s Share Ration + Target Cost

Ceiling Price: 1,200,000

Target Price = 1,1,00,000 –> Target price = Target Cost + Fixed Fee i.e. 1,000,000 + 1,00,000

(Ceiling Price – Target Price) = 1,00,000

Buyer’s Share Ratio is .80

Target Cost is 1,000,000

So PTA = 1,00,000/(.80+1,000,000) = 125000 +1,000,000 = 1125000

Regards,

Seema

Hi Shaher,

Greetings!!

Thanks for getting back to us for clarifying following doubt:

“CAN YOU CHECK AGAIN THE calculation for point 5 when the actual cost is 190,000 bcs final fee will be 14,000and for pint 6 when the AC 200000 the final fee should be 10,000

and if AC 210,000 the final fee should be 6000

in 225,000 AC THE Final fee will be zero

please advicesince I am doing this by excel sheet calculation”

Let’s take one by one:

For scenario 5: Actual cost is 1,90,000, When I add 30,000 (Target Fee) in it, it becomes actual price i.e. 2,20,000. Since target Price is 1,80,000 (1,50,000 + 30,000), the cost overrun is 40,000. Here as actual cost (1,90,000) is going beyond PTA, buyer will pay only ceiling price which is 200,000 hence seller profit is 10,000 (200,000 – 1,90,000)

For scenario 6:

Cost is 200,000, and as the cost is going beyond PTA, the buyer will pay only ceiling price which is again the same 200,000, so seller profit is zero.

For Scenario 7:

If AC is 210,000 again cost is going beyond PTA, the buyer will pay only 200,000, and now the seller is in loss of 10,000

In case AC is 2,25,000 and due to PTA seller will get only 200,000 then the seller is in loss of 25,000

I hope this help.

Regards,

Seema

CAN YOU CHECK AGAIN THE calculation for point 5 when the actual cost is 190,000 bcs final fee will be 14,000

and for pint 6 when the AC 200000 the final fee should be 10,000

and if AC 210,000 the final fee should be 6000

in 225,000 AC THE Final fee will be zero

please advice

since I am doing this by excel sheet calculation

You have taken wrong target price

What happens in above scenario if actual cost comes in below target cost? For example if it comes in at $140K. Is there a 60/40 cost sharing in this case or does seller always get $30K regardless of cost if it comes in below?

You must define all the parameters first then ask yourself what do I know or need to know to find the PTA. After a brief analysis of what is given, you will notice that a fixed fee is known, but the target price is unknown, However, we can derive the target price as follows and obtain the following result:

Target Price (TP) = Target Fee (TF) + Target Cost (TC); then TP = $100,000 + $1,000,000 = $1,100,000. This is target price which is needed to calculate your PTA.

We can now proceed to calculate the PTA = ((Ceiling Price – Target Price) / BSR)) + Target Cost

So, the PTA = (($1,200,000 + $1,100,000) / 0.8 + $1,000,000 = $1,125,000.

Came across this practice question and I am not sure I understand.

You are running a project for a customer based on a cost-reimbursable contract with the following terms:

Target costs: $ 1,000,000

Fixed fee: $ 100,000

Benefit/cost sharing: 80% / 20%

Price ceiling: $ 1,200,000

Which is the PTA (= point of total assumption, break point) of the project?

$1,300,000

$1,500,000

$80,000

$1,125,000 – correct answer

If I calculate this with (Ceiling Price – Target Price) / Buyer’s Share Ration + Target Cost I get:

(1.200.000-1.000.000)/0.8 + 100.000 = 350.000

Anybody knows how to get to the correct answer?

This was extremely helpful for me to understand the concept. I particularly liked the multiple scenarios. That really drove it home. Thanks again!

Thank you

Hi Mandar,

You can be asked to calculate the value of PTA basis the other values. So just apply the below formula and calculate it

PTA = (Ceiling Price – Target Price) / Buyer’s Share Ration + Target Cost

Do we get questions on this topic in PMP exam? If yes, then please provide example to solve.

Thank you for your kind words and we are happy to know that our content is adding value in your PMP preparation.

In general we do not recommend clients memorizing the ITTO, we expect them to get into the good understanding of Process and Its objective and this is more than enough for PMP exam, you can see lesson learned of recent PMP test takers here : http://forum.izenbridge.com/viewforum.php?f=28

Saket can you tell best way to learn ITTO.

Just awesome explanation. One day while searching some video on PMP on youtube, i saw videos from Saket and since then i have been regular to his videos. Way he explains is simply brilliant and awesome.

Thanks Saket!