[Updated March-2021] Changes You Must Know About New PMP® Exam on 2 Jan, 2021

Learn about ALL the changes to the new PMP exam from 2 Jan 2021 in this article.

Update: Changes to PMP® exam by PMI has been pushed to 2 Jan 2021. Bookmark this page for all the latest updates.

PMI announced changes to PMP® exam for 2019 – 2020 sometime ago, and followed it up with an announcement for syllabus change in December 2019. In this post we shall what exactly has changed (hint: it’s nothing like we’ve seen in a decade), what does this mean to a PMP® aspirant, and what the next steps should be.

Bookmark this page to come back to understand more details about the exam. I keep this page updated to give you more clarity and better expectations from the new exam.

What’s covered?

Years ago when I was preparing for my PMP® exam, I got to know that the syllabus was changing. And I was thinking..

Why Changes to PMP® exam syllabus?

Project management practices evolve based on the needs and demands of the industry, stakeholders, dynamics of economy, and human ingenuity.

A project manager needs to follow the best practices in order to manage her projects effectively and efficiently.

Learn about ALL the changes to the new PMP exam from 2 Jan 2021 in this article.I mean, isn’t that one of the reasons why we take up certification exams?

To know the best way of handling projects, based on what working out there.

PMI ensures that PMP® syllabus reflects the best practices from the industry and stays relevant to every project manager looking to learn the best practices and approaches.

PMI follows a unique process to keep it relevant to industry practices.

Important date: 31 December 2020
Last day to take current version of PMP® Exam.

It does this by studying in detail how projects are managed across industries across the world, and incorporating those best practices into what is known as ‘Examination Content Outline’ (ECO) document.

This ECO is the real PMP® exam syllabus (did you think it was PMBOK?).

Thus, when you pass the exam, you would have been tested in a way that your result reflects your readiness to manage projects in the real world.

Make sure you read the Summary section below to understand what’s changing and its impact for you, at a glance.

In other words, both

(a) content of the PMP® exam, and

(b) the way the exam evaluates a candidate for the application of these concepts to real life project scenarios,

are made to reflect the project management practices in the industry.

Consider this a way to train yourself to manage projects based on the best practices across industries around the world.

This way when you pass your PMP® exam, companies know that you are prepared to manage projects effectively.

This increases your value in the job market.

PMI does this market research exercise every 3-5 years and brings in its findings into PMP syllabus – the ECO document.

PMBOK guide – used as one of the reference books for PMP exam preparation – is based on this Examination Content Outline document, but is not the sole and only reference resource to prepare for the exam.

So, what did PMI find this time?

This year PMI conducted Global Practice Analysis market research study and discovered number of new trends.

Changes to PMP exam is done based on the outcome of Job Task Analysis – which sets the tone for PMP syllabus.

Examination Content Outline defines 3 things –

  1. Domains
  2. Tasks under each of the domains, that define specific job expectations from the project manager
  3. Enablers

Each task has title, and with the latest update to Examination Content Outline document, instead of definition it has something called ‘Enablers’.

Enablers give some ideas of how to handle the job expectation under each task, but they do not represent an exhaustive list.

Here’s an example –

Currently we have,

  • Domain – Initiating
  • Percentage questions – 13%
  • Task – Task 1
  • Definition – Perform project assessment based upon available information, lessons learned from previous projects, and meetings with relevant stakeholders in order to support the evaluation of the feasibility of new products or services within the given assumptions and/or constraints.

The new changes will bring in something like this –

  • Domain – People
  • Percentage questions – 42%
  • Task – Task 1
  • Title – Manage Conflict
  • Enabler –
    • Interpret the source and stage of the conflict
    • Analyze the context for the conflict
    • Evaluate/recommend/reconcile the appropriate conflict resolution solution

Alright, what are the other changes to PMP exam?

First, the domain names have changed.

You probably noticed that in the example above.

PMI has attempted to map the domains to PMI Talent Triangle with it’s 3 sides – Leadership, Technical Project Management, and Strategic & Business Management – mapping to People, Process, and Business Environment respectively.

This means the questions appear under a different set of domains and with a different percentage.

When you pass PMP on or before 30 June 2020 – your result will show your level of expertise under 5 domains – Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing.

Yes, same names as Process Groups.

And the percentage of questions covered under each domain is as below –

  1. Initiating – 13% (26 questions)
  2. Planning – 24% (48 questions)
  3. Executing – 31% (62 questions)
  4. Monitoring & Controlling – 25% (50 questions)
  5. Closing – 7% (14 questions)

Come Dec 16, 2019 – and the results most likely (‘most likely’ because I am yet to see official word from PMI on this) will show under 3 domains –

  1. People – emphasizing the skills and activities associated with effectively leading a project team
  2. Process – reinforcing the technical aspects of managing a project
  3. Business Environment – highlighting the connection between projects and organization strategy

And the questions will appear in the following distribution –

  • People –  42% (84 questions) – covers 14 tasks
  • Process – 50% (100 questions) – covers 17 tasks
  • Business Environment – 8% (16 questions) – covers 4 tasks

Can you see what is challenging?

The current (or say ‘old’) 5 domains mapped to the stages that a project will progress – initiate the project, plan it, execute and monitor, and close – in other words they mapped to Process Groups.

It made it intuitive for the student.

People, Processes, & Business environment as domains do not form a logical sequence, and while studying it might become a bit harder to understand and remember in terms of domains.

And, with % questions from current 5 domains no more being valid (that’s the current understanding in the absence of any concrete word from PMI on this, and going only by the ECO document), there is no way to know what to expect from each of the Process Groups.

Do you see the point?

Tasks in PMI's patented Talent Triangle

Areas covered in PMI’s patented Talent Triangle.

Image courtesy: PMI’s talent triangle

There’s more to the changes.

PMI found that more and more projects are moving towards Agile, and many are taking the middle-ground – Hybrid approach.

Thus, about 50% of questions on the exam will test your knowledge as applicable to Predictive project environment, and rest as applicable to Agile and Hybrid.

So you could expect half the questions from People domain to be based on Predictive environment context, and the half (that is 21% of overall questions, or 42 questions) to be based on Agile and Hybrid environment.

Also read: My recommended list of PMP and CAPM exam resources

PMI provides more details intermittently –

The biggest change (and the latest update), let me put it out here first, is that –

..instead of 200 questions PMI will give 180 questions and instead of 240 minutes, you will have 230 minutes.

180 questions & 230 minutes!

Now this begs the question – what would happen to the 25 pre-test questions that PMP exam had earlier?

I am yet to find an official word on this, but unofficially I hear that 175 questions are real questions, and 5 are pre-test questions.

If this is true, then from the perspective scoring questions there should be NO change in the new exam.

However, as we will see in a bit, the weightage of individual questions may change.

Before we get any further, here’s the news – PMI is celebrating 50th birthday! As part of this we have a new logo now, and changes to the website as well.

What do you think about this new logo? Let me know in Comments below.

Yes your certification too will look different now!

Sierra Hampton-Simmons, who serves as the Portfolio Leader/Head of Certification Products at Project Management Institute, shared more details not just about how PMP® exam is going to change but in general how PMI looks at certifications going forward.

Few important points from her talk about PMP® exam are covered in this section.

A. Distribution of questions sliced and diced

First, we now have more clarity on exactly how many questions will appear across each of the 3 new domains and across project management methodologies (Predictive, Agile, and Hybrid).

A bit like how processes are sliced and diced across process groups and knowledge areas in the process table, eh? 🙂

All you want to know about PMP exam changes in Jan 2021, check out this table now! Click to Tweet

*Question distribution %
Predictive (50% = 90 Q)
Agile (23% = 41 Q)
Hybrid (27% = 49 Q)
People
(42% = 76 Q)
21% = 38 questions10% = 18 questions11% = 20 questions
Process
(50% = 90 Q)
25% = 45 questions11% = 20 questions14% = 25 questions
Business Environment
(8% = 14 Q)
4% = 7-8 questions2% = 3-4 questions2% = 3-4 questions

* All percentages and question numbers are out of 180 questions (approximated %wise) you encounter on the exam.

B. Test center expansion globally

PMI recently moved from Prometric to PearsonVUE as test proctor partner.

PearsonVUE currently has about 700 test centers where PMP exam is administered, which now will increase to 1500 test centers globally. For PMI-ACP and CAPM exams there will be close to 5600 exam centers!

These include testing centers at US military locations and federal offices.

There will be pop-up testing centers in remote places which come up on a temporary basis.

C. New question types! (multi-media – video, drag & drop)

This is super interesting.

Multiple responses –

The question may show 6 options and you are asked to choose 2 or even 3 right answers (check boxes).

Such questions obvious take more thinking (or more work) to figure out, thus may carry more weightage compared to regular questions of 4 options having 1 correct answer (radio button).

‘Match the left part with right part’ question type –

This type of question is already introduced to CAPM® exam in August 2019. Now it will be introduced in PMP exam as well.

Consider a question such as this –

Left pane will contain 4 processes, and right pane will contain 4 process groups. You need to drag the left side process one by one to the middle pane against the process group that it is part of!

PMI PMP new exam question type - match the left and right sides

Image courtesy: pmi.org

Interactive graphs –

Consider a question where a graph show project progress across various stages is given. And you need to interact with the graph and use it to answer the question. Expect questions like this on the exam.

Fill in the blank –

Yes, the good old school days are back with fill-in-the-blank and match-the-left-with-right options! 🙂

Hot spot –

Click a hot spot out of several given on (potentially) a graph or table based on the question asked.

new pmp exam hotspot question

Image courtesy: pmi.org

D. TWO breaks in the exam!

PMI introduced an optional break of 10 minutes in 2019. The 10 minutes would NOT be part of 4 hours that you would get on the exam.

This wasn’t a great thing, and possibly did not serve the purpose of the break, because as a candidate you did not have any control about when you will opt for the break.

You could not take a break if you are hungry or thirsty.

You could not take a break if you wanted to go to rest room.

You could not take the break if the questions were getting tedious and you had to clear your head.

The break was offered by the exam interface at the end of 89th question (per PearsonVUE any time between question #85 and #100).

Now the new exam will have a second 10 minute break.

Overall, two 10-minute breaks.

PMI has the following information about the introduction of breaks in the new exam, which is very important to make a note of –

For the PMP exam, there are now two 10-minute breaks in the exam. The first will appear after you complete questions 1 – 60 and review all of your answers. The second break will appear after you have completed question 120 and confirmed that you have reviewed all of your answers.

Please note, once you have reviewed your responses and start your break you will not be able to return to the questions from the previous section of the exam.

Once your 10-minute break is over, you will be able to resume your exam to continue with the next section. Please remember that once you re-enter the webcam view you, are expected to remain in view and all personal items must be placed out of arm’s reach.

If you do not return to the room at the conclusion of your 10-minute break, your exam timer will resume counting down until you return. You will not be permitted to take any additional breaks during the exam for any reason and leaving your desk will invalidate your score.

E. Peek at the future

Going forward PMI certification framework will cover up to 5 levels – based on experience level of the candidate.

Levels
Approximate # of years of experience
Entry level0-1
Associate2-3
Professional4-5
Master5-7
Executive8+

 

The question however would be (I’m sure PMI will come up with more details soon) – how often one has to upgrade the relevance of their certificate, and what would be the method of doing so – PDUs or another exam at the next appropriate level (from the table)?

Oh yes, there will be specializations built on top of professional level certification. They would be stackable micro-credentials offered by PMI as well as third parties, delivered in PM ecosystem itself.

That’s just about to get a sense of what’s coming up. I understand there are, and will be questions as we dig deep, but let’s not bother about it right now. PMI will share more information as things get concrete.

Does PMBOK version or content change?

Usually changes to PMP exam is accompanied by changes to PMBOK.

But this time, No.

At least as of now there is no official word from PMI, although it mentions that the research team wasn’t restricted by PMBOK in any way, and that there are differences between the findings and PMBOK.

So, in that context it is a bit surprising that PMBOK doesn’t change.

But again, as of now, PMBOK-6 does not change. Possibly not until 2022!

What about CAPM®?

Yes, there are changes. Please refer to this article to know more.

In a nutshell,

Come Jan 2, 2021 you can expect the following in the PMP exam (remember, the total number of questions are reduced from 200 to 180) –

Domain% QuestionsApprox. questions testing Predictive knowledgeApprox. questions testing Agile & Hybrid knowledge
People (14 tasks)42%36-3836-38
Process (17 tasks)50%4545
Business Environment (4 tasks)8%7-87-8

Well, I still have few questions.

For instance, how does the percentage distribution maps to knowledge areas or process groups?

Or, if the result says someone failed in Process domain, which PGs or KAs or processes would the candidate deemed weak in?

I shall update this section once I find out more. If you have any questions, please send them to me at shiv(at)pmexamsmartnotes(dot)com – and I’ll find answers for you.

Summary

This is the snapshot of changes and the impact for a PMP® aspirant –

  • PMP® syllabus is the Examination Content Outline document, not PMBOK® guide
  • Domains are changing
  • Percent questions that appear from domains are changing (no more from earlier 5 domains – Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, Closing)
  • Tasks and their definitions are changing
  • More of Agile and Hybrid project context (about 50% actually!) – across each of the 3 domains
  • In other words, expect DRASTIC changes in the exam kicking in on 16 December, 2019

VERDICT

Have you begun PMP exam preparation?

Are you looking to spend as less time as possible on PMP® prep?

Would you rather avoid a complete revamp of PMP prep and dealing with uncertainty?

Take PMP® Certification Exam Now Before Changes to PMP exam takes effect!

Watch this page for updates (sign up for browser updates/notifications by clicking the bell icon on bottom right side of this page so you don’t miss any updates about the exam changes).

What are next steps?

First,

Unless you seek risk, it would be better to plan for PMP exam in its current format.

While you have 5 and a half months from now till the next exam kicks in, start now with a 6-12 week plan. Don’t push this till the wire.

If you haven’t yet applied on PMI site, follow this step-by-step guide. It also shares a spreadsheet for you to collect your experience information in a way that PMI expects.

Next,

Schedule your exam slot as soon as you can.

As the new exam date approaches there is going to be mad rush at exam centers and it becomes hard to get exam slots.

You can find your closest test center location using this link. On this page is a link to locate on-site test centers for military community as well.

Considering average prep period is about 4-6 weeks, decide on your exam date based on any professional and personal commitment you have in next 6-8 weeks.

As Oliver Lehmann says, before October-2020 it is important, after that it becomes URGENT.

Urgent beats important – your risk increases and effectiveness decreases.

Lastly,

Get study resources that you really enjoy studying from.

I recommend PMBOK and this. (you can of course get soft-copy of PMBOK for free by becoming a PMI member & it reduces exam fee too).

But if you want to use study brain-friendly techniques that cut down efforts by half and double the effectiveness (and confidence!), I recommend joining an elite club of exam toppers that used PMP® Last Mile Prep Pro course.

If you want to check out our premium end-to-end PMP® Prep program, click here and expand the Curriculum section, and take a look at the content.

Also, watch free video lessons in there to decide if you enjoy the unique mind-mapping way.

Lastly, share this article in your network so PMP® students can know the exact changes to PMP exam this year and plan their exam accordingly.

Cheers and all the best!

Shiv Shenoy, PMP

 

 

 

 

PS – Write to me at Shiv(at)PMExamSmartNotes(dot)com about the biggest blocker you have on the path to your PMP goal and I’ll help you get past it.

PMI, PMP, PMBOK are all the registered trademarks of Project Management Institute.

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