What you said pretty much sums it up: If you don't take/pass the exam within 1 year then you start all over again. Including having to pay the fees.
Here are a few quotes from the PMP Credentials handbook:
The examination eligibility period (the period of time during which you are able to test) is one year. The eligibility period starts on the day your application was approved. You may take the examination up to three times within this one-year eligibility period should you not pass on the first attempt
You are allowed amaximum of one year from the date your application is approved, to apply for reexamination.
If you do not pass the credential examination on your first attempt, you have two more opportunities to retest within your one-year eligibility period.
If you fail the examination three times within their one-year eligibility period, you must wait one year from the date of the last examination you took to reapply for the credential. However, after failing a credential examination three times, candidates may opt to apply for any other PMI credential (e.g., a candidate who failed the PMP examination three times in their one-year eligibility period must wait one year to reapply for the PMP, but can apply at any time for the CAPM).
Reexamination fees apply to the second and third attempts to pass the examination. If your eligibility period expires without you passing the examination, you must reapply for the credential.
However, you say that you have until February, so here is a new year's resolution for you: Sign up for your exam date today and then study every day for at least 2 hours. Put the PrepCast onto your portable player and then go through the episodes at any possible time during your day - when you drive to work, when you eat lunch, when you drive back home, when you brush your teeth, you can even take it to bed with you and watch an episode before you go to sleep. That way you can maximize your studies and use every second of the day.
I believe that passing the PMP is an important step for you. So make this your number one priority project and manage it so that your schedule is your primary constraint. Squeeze everything into the time available. Set your mind to it and I promise you that you can do it!
Until Next Time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM
President, OSP International LLC
Moderators: Yolanda Mabutas, Ahmed Amin, Scott Gillard, Mary Kathrine Padua, ERIC BARTLETT, Gail Freedman, Kevin Nason, Steven Mudrinich, PMP, Mark Wuenscher, PMP, John Wolverton, Tracy Shagnea, PMP, Jada Garrett
This interview with Simona Fallavollita (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the magnificient Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. We discuss the how, what, why and when of the changes that are coming to the PMP exam.