Key Changes to PMP Exam 2021: Everything You Need to Know

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

– John F. Kennedy

Project Management Institute (PMI), world’s leading professional association for project management, announced changes in the PMP certification exam which will come into effect from January 2, 2021.

Change is everywhere and project management is no exception. The changing trends, roles and responsibilities of project managers necessities that upcoming professionals are in line with these emerging trends. PMI is aware of the need to update their PMP examinations and it makes changes to the exam outline.

The PMI conducts a Role Delineation Study (RDS) of current project managers, every 3 to 5 years, to understand how the project management profession has advanced. The process used by PMI is a global practice analysis. Under this analysis, PMI tries to gauge the impact of the emerging trends in the industry but examining the roles of new project managers, experienced project managers, skilled practitioners, and business analysts. Based on the outcome of the research, PMI renews the content of the PMP exam. The current PMP exam is based on the previous RDS conducted by PMI was in 2015. The latest update by RCS was made to the PMI at the end of June 2019. From January 2, 2021, the new course outline will become the basis for the PMP exam.

Importance of the PMP certification

The PMP exam is very important if you want to advance in your career in project management. The certification can give a considerable boost in salary. According to a global survey conducted by PMI,

“PMP Certified Project Managers earn 22% higher on average than their non-PMP counterparts.”

There is going to be a considerable change in the exam pattern and there is a significant difference between the current course outline and the new course outline. In this blog, we will be going over the different changes that will be happenings in the new exam. You can subscribe to our blog to get more insights and updates that will be occurring in the field of project management.

How is the Exam Changing?

Several changes that are taking place in the exam. These changes include:

  1. Half of the questions will exemplify the predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches.
  2. The domain and related questions will change. The ECO in 2015 grouped the questions into 5 domains, while the new ECO will group them into 3 domains. Candidates giving the new PMP exam will have to be knowledgeable in three domains: people, process and business environment. This change is illustrated below.
CURRENT PMP EXAMNEW PMP EXAM
DOMAIN• Initiating – 13%
• Planning – 24%
• Executing – 31%
• Monitoring & Controlling – 25%
• Closing – 7%
• People – 42%
• Process – 50%
• Business Environment – 8%
APPROACHES• Mainly Predictive• 50% Predictive
• 50% Agile or Hybrid
MAJOR CHANGES IN THE EXAM CONTENTGreater emphasis on the linkages between project and
business environment.

Exam content will include:
• Tasks (What managers do)
• Enablers (actions needed to complete the task)

  1. The exam content will include tasks and enablers within the three domains. The tasks outline what the project managers do, while the enablers will include the actions that are needed to complete the tasks.
  2. The new PMP exam is a ‘radical’ change from the previous exam outlines.

Consequences of the New Outline

  • The New PMP exam will be longer than the current exam. Analysis of the changes indicates that 70% of the current exam material will be contained in the domain Process. The other two domains- people and business environment will contain new content.
  • Candidates will need to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the Agile approach as half the exam will be a combination of the Agile and hybrid approach.
  • A minimum of 35 contact hours will be a must to be able to sit the exam.

As stated by the PMI, “Verify at least 35 contact hours of specific instruction that addressed learning objectives in project management”. However, the minimum contact hour will be manageable as more preparation is needed for the new exam, since the course outline is more in-depth.

Where do I take the Exam?

Many of the testing facilities have temporarily closed down due to the impact of the current pandemic. To facilitate the examination, PMI is offering the PMP exam online. An online platform is available for the administration of the exam and it will be similar to the in-person exam.

What Resources are helpful to Prepare for the Exam?

If you are giving the exam before the new changes come into effect, you will need to study from the current PMP exam content outline (June 2015) version. However, if you will be undertaking the new exam after 2nd January 2021, you need to prepare from the new PMP exam content outline (June 2019) version.

Both documents can be downloaded here.

Download the new PMP Exam Content Outline (June 2019)
Download the Current PMP Exam Content Outline (June 2015)

Cost Implication of the Changes in PMP

PMP aspirants need to consider 2 costs when applying for the PMP examination. These costs include:

  • PMP exam fee – $555 for non-PMI members and $405 for PMI members
  • PMP training cost – (dependent on the mode of study chosen)

However, due to the changes in the PMP exam, the cost of preparing and taking the exam will go up considerably. The PMI has introduced the “Authorized Training Partner” program to standardize and improve the delivery of the training for the PMP exam. Institutes have to be ‘ATP’ authorized to be able to provide training facilities. This is beneficial for PMP aspirants around the world as the training they will receive will be at par with the top training providers. However, it comes with a cost. ‘Authorized Training Providers’ have to pay PMI, an annual fee up to $6,999 depending on their region to be able to provide the training. Furthermore, they need to train the trainers providing the service, which is an added cost. They even have to pay a certain amount per learner to PMI. This exponentially increases the cost of providing PMI training, which will ultimately translate to the increased cost of preparing for the exam for the PMI aspirant. The candidates will have to pay a lot more to train for the exam. The cost for an ‘ATP’ authorized center in India, Middle East and Africa to provide the PMI training is US$2,699 for the basic plan and US$ 3.799 for the Premier Plan. These fees will be translated to the students as part of their training cost, substantially raising the cost of training.

Food for Thought

PMI is taking a step in the right direction by incorporating a greater percentage of agile methodology in its PMP exam. Traditionally, PMP has been favored by conventional manufacturing and business enterprises whereas PMI-ACP has been opted by the Software and IT industries. However, with the changing trends in businesses today, a project manager who is competent in one domain and tries to fit all projects to that approach will not succeed. In today’s dynamic environment, project methodologies and approaches need to be integrated to fit a given situation. The emergence of startups, growth in IT, software development, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 has reiterated the need for agile methodologies in the business fraternity. With the changes to the PMP exam resulting in it being 50% agile focused, we tend to wonder whether PMI-ACP is still relevant. Which of the two certifications is more beneficial, now that the difference between the two is less pronounced? Besides, PMI offers another specialized certification, Disciplined Agile Lean Scrummaster. As a professional, which certification should one opt for – PMP, PMI-ACP or Disciplined Agile. What is the difference and how is the value generated?

Future of PMP

Despite the increased cost of taking the PMP exam, the benefits of the certification outweigh the costs. During these uncertain pandemic times, organizations are on the lookout for experienced professionals, knowledgeable in project management to tide them through these hard times. A certificate in PMP will prove beneficial in these times as it will prove your competency to hiring organizations. Though the changes in the exam can cause stress and worry, it will be beneficial to take the new PMP exam. By passing this exam, you will be knowledgeable about the current trends in the field of project management. Your expertise in the updated management practices will go a long way in paving the way for a successful future.

The changes in the PMP exam, though beneficial in the long run do come at a cost. However, despite the added cost of the PMP certification, the increased benefit of significant career progression does warrant an attempt. So what do you think of the changes with PMP? Will it be more difficult now to get certified? Please share your thoughts.



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