The PMP Exam Change 2021

One feature that contributes to an organization’s success is the ability of their project managers to have good knowledge of project management. And one way to analyze their credibility and expertise is through project management certifications.

Organizations often prefer to hire certified professionals who possess the expertise, knowledge, and skillset to manage complex scenarios in project management.

One way to get certified is through a governing certification body. The Project Management Professional Institute (PMI) has been the leading certification body of all project management certifications. PMI offers the Project Management Professional credential or PMP.

What Is A PMP Certification? 

PMP has often been labeled the “gold standard” in project management worldwide. It is a certification issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to professionals who meet the education criteria, experience standards, and successfully pass the exam.

The certification, in recent times, includes agile, predictive (waterfall), and hybrid approaches in project management. The only thing that confirms the accreditation of a professional is their success in a comprehensive and lengthy exam.

How Did The old PMP Exam Work?

As with most exams, the PMP exam may require weeks or months of studying. With 200 multiple choice questions covering various topics such as conflict resolution and code of ethics issues, the exam consists of five process groups: initiation, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing.

PMI conducts research every 3-5 years; this research influences the Examination Content Outline, known as the ECO. The study aims at figuring out the progress,  emerging trends, and changes in project managers’ responsibilities. 

The last research was held in 2015 and is the reason for the recent ECO update on June 30, 2019, which led to a change in the PMP exam on January 2, 2021.

With the new ECO came an updated version of the PMP as the old version ended in December 2020.

What Changes Are In The 2021 PMP Exam?

The recent ECO defines the syllable and changes in the new exam that helps project managers looking to take the PMP exam focus on the right areas. 

As mentioned earlier, the old exam covered five sections, also known as the Process Groups. However, the new exam is derived from three performance domains:

  • People (42%): this domain emphasizes the soft skills a project manager needs to manage a project team effectively, considering the many environmental changes. 
  • Process (50%): This domain focuses on the technical sides to managing projects successfully 
  • Business Environment (8%): this domain highlights the connection between organizational strategy and projects. 

Among the many things this change can be translated into, here are the most peculiar ones:

  • The current ECO deviates valuably and significantly from the last one.
  • Each of the domains enlists the responsibilities of project managers in the form of tasks and the actions taken to complete those tasks–enablers.
  • The ECO also mentions that “About half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches.”

Other features of the new PMP Exam:

  • An exam completion time of 230 minutes, down from 240 on the previous exam.
  • There is an additional 10-minute break for the computer-based tests (time stops during this break) and none for the paper-based test (time does not stop during the break).
  • A total of 180 questions, contrary to the former 200 questions.
  • The questions consist of multiple-choice, limited fill-in-the-blank, multiple responses, matching, and hot-spot questions compared to only multiple-choice on the previous exam.

Nonetheless, the new changes in the PMP outline and exam do not include a change to the PMBOK.

As with most changes, the change in content outline comes with a few consequences, and aspirants must stay abreast with them to be better prepared.

  • The Minimum education is still 35 Contact Hours

According to PMI, you need to “Verify at least 35 contact hours of specific instruction that addressed learning objectives in project management.” This can come from any educational setting, and these hours never expire. 

  • You Must Know Agile

Good knowledge of the Agile and hybrid approaches is a must, as about half of the PMP exam questions are based on them. You must also have experience and know what it is like to work in those environments.

  • The New Exam Will Be Harder

Considering the many methods and topics added to the exam, it’s a no-brainer that the exam may seem harder to pass.

Taking the PMP exam for a project management certification isn’t an easy task. For this reason, you’d need to:

  • Read the new Exam Content Outline carefully.
  • Use the PMBOK guide in studying for exams.
  • Study the agile approaches the PMI way carefully by utilizing PMI’s Agile Practice Guide.
  • Contact your trainer to know if they have an Agile background and have worked in your industry. 
  • Meet the requirements to take your exam virtually at home or in a private setting.


The PMP Certification exam is the leading certification exam for project managers and tests your skillset, experience, knowledge, and credibility in managing projects effectively.

It recently published a new Exam Content Outline in 2019, which led to a change in the PMP exam, beginning January 2021. The exam covers three domains – people, processes, and business environment.

These domains include tasks and enablers used by project managers in effectively managing a project.

Equally important, the new exam will be based on three project management approaches-Agile, hybrid and predictive. They will be found throughout 5 question types, four unique to the latest exam- multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, hot-spot, multiple responses, and matching. 

Good luck, and be sure to study appropriately with PMI-approved materials


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