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PMP Exam Changes for January 2, 2021 Update

As the CEO of PM-ProLearn, and a Project Management Professional (PMP®) Trainer who’s been teaching people how to pass the PMP Exam since 2012, I am answering a lot of questions recently about what is new on the updated PMP Exam that goes live on January 2, 2021. So, I thought I would write down everything I know about the updated exam and how it is different from the current exam for everyone who wants to know what I know.

1. This PMP exam change is not really “new”, which is why I call it “updated” throughout this article. The exam was actually changed by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) in 2019 and originally set to go-live in December of 2019. But a lot of training companies told PMI the change was too fast and they couldn’t turn around their training programs fast enough to get people ready for the change. So, it was pushed out until July 2020. And, of course, when the COVID-19 Pandemic came roaring onto the scene in March 2020, PMI again pushed the go-live date out to January 2, 2021, which now seems to be a hard date.

2. The updated PMP Exam is based on 10 different references. The current exam is based largely on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), 6th ed., but the updated exam is pulling from some new sources, most particularly on Agile concepts. Here is the list of references you will be tested on in the updated exam, and yes, it does include the PMBOK 6th Ed.:

3. The updated PMP exam will test you on Three Domains rather than Five, as the current exam does. This does not mean it is testing you on less knowledge, the contrary is true, it just means different. The current exam tests you on the Domains of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. While PMPs still need to know how to do those things on a project, the PMP Exam now breaks up the knowledge according to the table below:

Anecdotally, these three new Domains look suspiciously like the three legs of the PMI Talent Triangle® where People aligns to Leadership, Process aligns to Technical Project Management, and Business Environment aligns to Strategic and Business Management:

4. The updated PMP Exam will feature 50% of the questions based on an Agile or Hybrid project lifecycle. So, get ready for questions on things like the “Minimally Viable Product”, “Retrospectives”, “User Stories”, “Product Backlog”, “T-Shirt Sizing” and tons more new agile terminology and concepts

5. There are some new question types on the updated PMP Exam. There are still 200 questions in a time limit of 4 hours, which breaks down to an average of 72 seconds per question. But, according to our PMI Authorized Training Partner (ATP) account manager, you will now see the following types of questions:

a. Standard single-answer multiple choice (the majority of the exam)

b. Multiple-answer multiple choice

c. Matching

d. Placing things in the appropriate phase (which I interpret as sequencing questions)

6. The updated PMP Exam will test you on quite a few new Deliverables, Tools, and Additional Terms & Information. Here is a list of all that we have been able to identify:

7. The updated PMP Exam will test you more on concepts and good practice rather than the 49 PMBOK Processes and their Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs

There you have everything I currently know about the updated PMP Exam. Based on this knowledge, and the 8-plus years of experience I have training several thousand PMP students, here is some advice I can offer.

1. The PMBOK items you may have already been studying are still super important to pass the updated PMP Exam, they are just not enough. The updated exam still assumes you know the fundamentals of project management, it just tests you on additional items never before taught in any PMP prep course that I know of

2. You will have a much more difficult time attempting self-study for this updated PMP Exam. The amount of knowledge is just vast. By the way, for ATP companies, like PM-ProLearn, we are not allowed to offer self-paced training to the public, under our contract with PMI. Only PMI and non-ATP companies, can offer self-paced training directly to students. Given the assumption that most people will not want to take their training from a non-ATP company, PMI is really offering the only viable self-paced training option available. However, I still would not recommend self-paced training for 99% of people that are going to prep for this updated PMP Exam

3. PM-ProLearn held a Pilot course in November 2020 teaching the updated PMP Exam content to 11 of our students who had already completed one of our prior courses using the old content. Every single one of them said they felt there was no way they would be prepared for the updated PMP Exam without sitting through the updated five-day PMI Authorized PMP Exam Prep Course with us

I look forward to your questions and any way that PM-ProLearn can be of service in your quest for PMP certification.

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