Global Project Management League

PMP Exam Changes in 2021

Project management evolves. And to comply with the continuous modernization of the industry, the PMP Exam changes every three to five years based on the studies conducted by PMI leadership and experts around the globe.

July 1, 2020 was the original date for the PMP Exam changes to take effect. But PMI released a new decision on March 18th that the exam will be delayed for six more months due to COVID-19. To ensure the safety of the exam candidates, PMI moved the new PMP Exam to January 2, 2021.

Why did PMP make changes to the exam schedules?

Exam schedules and exam updates were announced in 2019, and were supposed to take effect on July 1, 2020. But due to the global pandemic, PMI decided to extend it for another six months. 

PMI is taking additional steps to make it safer for the exam candidates by postponing the launch date of the new exam until next year.

"PMI is committed to the safety and well-being of our global community, which is why we have a designated Crisis Task Force that is continuously monitoring the situation arising from coronavirus (COVID-19) daily. We are taking additional steps to make this time easier for our community. As a result, we have decided to extend access to the current PMP exam until 31 December 2020, and postpone the launch of the new exam until 2 January 2021.This postponement will provide candidates with additional time and access to training resources to help them prepare and sit for the exam confidently.”

- PMI

With this extension, candidates also get additional time to help them prepare for the PMP Exam.

Access to the current PMP Exam

PMI announced that exam candidates can still access the current PMP Exam version until December 31, 2020, as stated in their official announcement below:

PMI announced that exam candidates can still access the current PMP Exam version until December 31, 2020, as stated in their official announcement below:

“For all PMP candidates, we are extending access to the current PMP exam until 31 December 2020 and postponing the launch of the new PMP exam until 2 January 2021.”

- PMI

Important Dates to Remember

  • December 31, 2020 – The last day to take the current PMP Exam
  • January 2, 2021 – The first day to take the new version of the PMP Exam

These are the dates PMI recently announced. It’s best if you set your plans based on these dates if you wish to get your certification before the exam content changes.This gives you ample time to submit your application and prepare for the exam before the exam changes take effect.

Changes to the PMP Exam

The PMP Exam content has some changes and it can massively impact the preparedness of candidates planning to take the exam next year. Here’s the breakdown of the changes.

The Current PMP Exam Content

The last role delineation study (RDS) was conducted in 2015, resulting in approximately 25% of the exam content changes. Since then, the PMP Exam content is based on the five domains:

Initiating

13%

Planning

24%

Executing

31%

Monitoring and Controlling

25%

Closing

7%

The current PMP Exam content focuses on the stages of a project lifecycle and there are several tasks under each domain. This is to utilize the candidate’s knowledge, competence, and the ability to determine the level of salience and critical thinking required to perform the role of a project manager.

The New PMP Exam Content

Last March 18th, PMI announced the release of the new Exam Content Outline (ECO) for the PMP Certification. It is the most extensive change to the PMP Exam in over 20 years.

While the current PMP Exam content focuses on the five domains as the stages of a project lifecycle, the new PMP Exam content focuses on only three domains:

People

42%

Process

50%

Business Environment

8%

All these three domain areas are focused on predictive, agile and hybrid approaches.

The new PMP Exam content will still have tasks under each domain, just like the current one. However, there’s a new term, “enablers,” in the new PMP Exam content. Here are the changes that are coming to the new PMP Exam.

  • Domains

    It’s a high-level area of knowledge that is important for project management. In the current PMP Exam, there are five domains. But the new version only consists of three domains: people, process and business environment.

  • Tasks

    These are the underlying responsibilities of a project manager. The PMP Exam assesses each candidate’s knowledge and experience based on the tasks under each domain.

  • Enablers

    These are the illustrative examples of the work related to each task. These are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but to offer a few examples for demonstrating what the tasks encompasses.

PMI updated the PMBOK Guide

The exam uses PMBOK Guide Sixth Edition as one of the references for the PMP Exam. But just this January 2020, PMI released a draft of the PMBOK Guide Seventh Edition and is expected to release and take effect in the fourth quarter of 2020.

This means that along with the changes in the PMP Exam content, there will also be a huge adjustment to the new PMBOK Guide.

So, if you’re planning to take the PMP Exam before or after December 31, 2020, the PMBOK Guide Seventh Edition might already be taking effect. Training providers will adjust their study materials to match with the changes to the new PMBOK Guide. See if your training provider already made these changes to make sure your study materials are up to date.

The New PMP Exam Content Crossover Map

Along with the new exam content, PMI also implements a new PMP Exam content crossover map that can help the candidates identify areas of content that will change in the new PMP Exam.

This is the current mapping the PMI Certification team is using to determine what existing content can be reused in the new exam. 

PMI will use the new content crossover map along with the exam content outline as one of their resources to help PMP training providers to update their coursework for their students. This will greatly benefit them for their preparation for the new PMP Exam.

These changes will have a huge impact on the candidates who plan to take the new version of the exam this upcoming January 2, 2021.

What is Exam Content Outline?

To understand the impact better, you have to understand first what an ECO really is.

Exam Content Outline (ECO) is the blueprint for your certification examination. Every question is associated with one of the knowledge and skills statements that are included in the exam content outline.

ECO is used to determine what tasks should be tested to understand the proficiency in a specific career field like project management. It is based on a role delineation study (RDS) of project managers performed by PMI every four years. You can find it in the PMP Handbook on PMI’s website.

Through this study, PMI gathers and analyzes data describing the role of project managers in the workplace. From then, PMI creates the Exam Content Outline (ECO), providing the basis for the certification exam.

This includes questions by domain, tasks of the project manager under each domain, and the knowledge and skills related to the responsibilities of a project manager.

What is a Role Delineation Study?

PMI conducts a role delineation study (RDS) of current project managers every three to five years. They use RDS to ensure that the standard is aligned with the day-to-day practices. PMI uses a global practice analysis to ensure the focus on the roles of each project manager. 

RDS tells us what a project manager does, while the ECO tells us the exact things that need to be tested to determine a candidate’s ability in project management.

Based on this research, PMI made changes to the ECO and implemented them in June 2019.

Summary of the PMP Exam Changes

Here is the summary of the PMP Exam changes that will take effect on January 2, 2021.

1. The exam schedule that was supposed to be on July 2020 is moved to January 2, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. ECO states that half of the questions represent predictive project management approaches while the other half will represent hybrid approaches.

3. Domain and related tasks were changed. 2015 ECO organizes questions by five domains, while 2019 ECO organizes questions by three.

4. The number of tasks in the current PMP Exam is 42, while the new PMP Exam has 35.

5. While the current PMP Exam focuses on project life cycles as domains, the new PMP Exam focuses on people, process and business environment.

6. The bible of the PMP Exam, PMBOK, will change as PMI announces its seventh edition. It is expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2020.

You shouldn’t worry with all these changes at all. After all, the exam changes for a reason: to better reflect the current experience of project managers in the field. Do not get caught up in the panic before the exam changes. Focus on passing the first time you sit in the exam. GPML updates your PMP review materials based on all these changes. Plan better and study smarter with GPML’s PMP Exam training course!