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How The PMP Exam is Changing in 2016

PMP Exam Changes 2016

This article is sponsored by Pocket Prep.

It’s widely known that the PMP® exam is changing next year, but I’ve found it hard to uncover exactly what is going to be different. PMI have produced a webinar about the upcoming changes and that helped a lot. If you don’t have the time to watch it here I summarise below everything you need to know about the changes.

Whoa, the exam is changing? I didn’t know. How did that happen?

OK, so maybe it’s not that widely known.

Every so often PMI carry out a Role Delineation Study (RDS). In other words, they look at what a project manager actually does day-to-day and link this back to the qualification. If they didn’t, you’d find that the PMP exam was still based on the ways of working we had back when the credential was first introduced.

This latest RDS has shown that the project manager’s role has changed slightly, so they’ve updated the exam to reflect that.

When is the PMP® exam changing?

It was going to change in November but now the date is 11 January 2016. That’s to give all the training and e-learning providers like Pocket Prep time to prepare for the change, plus notice for candidates who would rather take the exam under the current arrangements.

11 January 2016 is the last day to take the test under the current version so if you are currently studying and you don’t want to have to think about these changes, crack on and book your exam before then.

What is changing?

In total, 8 new tasks have been added to the exam content outline. They are split between the 5 knowledge domains as follows.

Initiating the Project: 3 tasks have been added

The new tasks are:

  • Identify key deliverables based on the business requirements in order to manage customer expectations and direct the achievement of project goals.
  • Conduct benefit analysis with relevant stakeholders to validate project alignment with organisational strategy and expected business value.
  • Inform stakeholders of the approved project charter to ensure common understanding of the key deliverables, milestones and their roles and responsibilities.

You can see from this that there’s an increased focus on a new area: business benefits, strategy and benefits realisation. The RDS showed that project managers are getting involved earlier in projects at the point where benefits analysis is being carried out so the exam is being updated to reflect that.

The part about the involvement of the project manager in the project charter is also different. The RDS showed that it’s not solely the project manager’s responsibility to produce the project charter (thankfully). The role we play is more to do with contributing to the charter and then managing the relationship with the stakeholders once it has been approved to ensure they know what it means for them.

Planning the Project: 1 task has been added

The new task is:

  • Develop the stakeholder management plan by analysing needs, interests and potential impact in order to effectively manage stakeholders’ expectations and engage them in project decisions.

Stakeholder management (or engagement, if you want to use a more up-to-date term) has long been an interest of mine and I’m glad to see that this is now better reflected in the material in the test.

Executing the Project: 2 tasks have been added

The new tasks are:

  • Manage the flow of information by following the communications plan in order to keep stakeholders engaged and informed.
  • Maintain stakeholder relationships by following the stakeholder management plan in order to receive continued support and manage expectations.

Again, there’s a thread here about working with stakeholders. The changes acknowledge that a stakeholder relationship is not just one way: project managers don’t simply push out communication to their stakeholders. Instead, they have to build successful working relationships, which is a bit different from sending out a monthly report.

Monitoring and Controlling the Project: 2 tasks have been added

The new tasks are:

  • Capture, analyse and manage lessons learned using lessons learned management techniques in order to enable continuous improvement.
  • Monitor procurement activities according to the procurement plan in order to verify compliance with project objectives.

Whoop, a new focus on lessons learned! I like it. I especially like that it isn’t part of the Closing domain as I’m a firm believer in the fact that you should capture lessons throughout the project.

There’s nothing new in the Closing domain.

OK. Anything else changing?


Some of the terminology and language of the other tasks has changed, although the principles behind the task stay the same. I can’t find a current exam outline on the PMI website so I couldn’t do a line by line comparison, so my judgement on this is that it isn’t a big deal.

A few tasks have been dropped so you won’t see questions on the exam paper about those areas any longer.

Finally, there is a shift in the weighting of the questions that you’ll get in the exam. The picture below shows you how the domains are split up in terms of percentage of the exam questions.

PMP Exam Areas

Most notably, Executing has increased to 31% and Closing now only makes up 7% of the questions. Overall it means that 25% of your exam will focus on the new topic areas that were previously not tested – this is the 8 new tasks we saw above.

What do I need to do?

First, don’t panic. It sounds very different but your reference materials are still the same. The PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition has never been the only book you need to get through the exam and that stays the same. If you are clear about the concepts described in there, you have covered a lot of the material.

Second, get yourself a copy of the exam outline. This is the document that outlines exactly what is going to be in the exam. If you are comfortable with the topics in here, then you’ll be fine with the questions.

Finally, make sure you are using exam preparation materials that reflect the new exam structure. All the training providers should be updating their products and apps with exam simulators like Pocket Prep’s PMP Exam Prep app will show you test questions that reflect the new tasks and the change in domain weighting.

My main discovery is that although there is a new exam content outline and even new tasks to be tested, if you know your course material and are experienced as a project manager (which you will be, as the eligibility criteria are not changing), then you should have nothing to worry about. You still need to study, obviously, but the changes are natural and for the most part, intuitive. Take some practice exams to build your confidence and then go for it! Good luck!

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. Elias says

    Hello Elizabeth

    the link to pmp examination content outline on PMI website is down.
    can you provide an alternative link please?

    THank you

  2. Oluwakemi says

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Can you suggest a good exam simulator that reflects the changes in the pump exam?
    I heard with constant practice of these questions, more confidence is gained

    • Elizabeth Harrin says

      Hello Mohammed. As described in the article above, the main changes relate to the content outline and some of the terminology, and the weighting. If you feel you need more information, check the PMI content outline in detail.

  3. Praveen Malik says

    HI Elizabeth,

    Many readers get confused about RDS and PMBOK Guide. One of the comments above suggested the same thing. PMBOK Guide is a major reference book for PMP Exam but the exam is based on RDS. So a student should study other reference material also. Here are FAQ on exam change for your readers.


    • Elizabeth Harrin says

      You need to collect PDUs and record them in order to maintain your credential. You can get quite a lot for free (Google ‘Free PDUs’ for ideas) but if you are up for paying for a tool that gives you continuous training over a year and the right amount of PDUs, then I recommend the PDU Podcast. It’s a webinar/podcast series and I am one of the experts delivering the PDU material. (That’s an affiliate link, by the way.) I think that kind of system is easiest because then you don’t have to worry about it or risk forgetting until the very last moment and need to do expensive training to make up your PDUs! So take a look at that and the free options. My biggest tip is to plan early so you don’t have to rush towards your recertification dates.

  4. Matt says

    Hi, Elizabeth, will PMI be releasing a new version of PMBOK? If yes then when? I completely understand that PMBOK is bitter the only material people refer to write exam, however it is a very important one right?

  5. Sigmond says

    Hi Elizabeth, can you please expound on this statement “The PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition has never been the only book you need to get through the exam and that stays the same. Your article has helped with my panic the most and also a feeling unpreparedness. I you could give some titles or point me in the right direction, that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Sig.

    • Elizabeth Harrin says

      Hello Sig. The main ‘other’ document you’ll need is the PMI Code of Ethics as you’ll find ethics/professional conduct questions might crop up. The new exam content outline mentions ‘meeting management techniques’ which you won’t find covered in the PMBOK Guide. If you’ve got enough experience to qualify to sit the PMP exam then managing to answer a question about what’s ethical behaviour or how to chair a meeting probably isn’t going to phase you, even if you’ve not studied those particular topics. However, that’s why people take prep courses, so they can be confident that they’ve covered everything.
      Hope that helps!

  6. Brittany says

    This is a very helpful article!! Thank you for posting all the necessary guides for success. Do you know if this exam is a managed the same world wide or different from country to country. I ask only because I am in the United States and would love to be able to use your guide as a reference when the time comes for me to study for the exam soon. Thanks again!

    • Elizabeth Harrin says

      Brittany, glad you thought so! It’s the same exam the world over, so you can pop back here and use the guide even though you’re in the US and I’m not. Good luck with your studies!


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