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How The PMP Exam is Changing in 2020

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Updated: March 2020

It’s widely known that the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam is changing in July 2020, but what exactly is going to be different?

Whoah, 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 an assessment of what a project manager does all day. In the past these have been Role Delineation Studies (RDS). This time, they are talking about a Job Task Analysis, but from what I can tell it’s basically the same thing.

In other words, PMI (or more specifically, the agency contracted to do this work) 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 certification was first introduced.

This latest analysis from PMI has shown, as is to be expected, that the project manager’s role has evolved. Plus PMI want to put more emphasis on Agile ways of working. The exam is being updated to reflect that.

When is the PMP® exam changing?

It was going to change at the end of 2019 but now the date is 1 July 2020. That’s to give all the training and e-learning providers time to prepare for the change, plus notice for candidates who would rather take the exam under the current arrangements.

30 June 2020 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?

There are currently 5 knowledge domains. This is changing and in the new exam content outline, there are only three. These are:

  • People – this new domain is going to emphasis the skills to do with effectively leading a project team
  • Processes – this is where all the technical PM skills will sit
  • Business Environment – this domain joins the dots between projects and strategy, which is something I have been talking about for a loooong time… so it’s great to see that the exam is finally catching up with what we all know is important for our roles.

As you can see, the exam content looks very different to the current exam content outline, where the knowledge domains are basically the project lifecycle.

Each new domain is made up of a number of tasks (in the same way the old exam content outline was).

Recommended CAPM and PMP Prep Books

How questions are split on the new exam

Questions across the domains are going to be split like this:

PMP exam content outline domains

OK. Anything else changing?

Yes.

PMI states that today’s project managers work across projects taking place in a variety of environments. As such, the exam needs to reflect the “value spectrum” (whatever that is) encompassing predictive, agile and hybrid approaches.

In other words, expect to see situational questions on the exam that are set in each of those types of environment. Questions on each environment will be included in the three exam domains. It is not a case of the process domain having all the agile questions, for example. How I understand it is that each domain will have questions drawing from predictive, agile and hybrid approaches.

Fun.

How much agile is in the exam?

PMI says we should expect to see:

More approaches to delivering outcomes. The exam will cover both predictive (approximately 50%) and agile/hybrid (approximately 50%) approaches to project management.

So, quite a lot of agile.

Do you need agile experience to take the exam?

Not technically, no. The exam eligibility requirements are not changing.

But I expect you’ll find the agile and hybrid questions a lot easier if you have experience working on agile projects.

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 – Sixth Edition has never been the only book you need to get through the exam and that stays the same. You’ve got the Agile Practice Guide too.

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.

Third, if you can (and want to), schedule the exam as soon as you can. If you can study and pass the exam before 30 June 2020, none of this new stuff needs to matter to you. You’ve still got time. Get a PMP prep course and start learning how to pass the exam right now!

Of course, you might want to wait for the agile-improved version of the PMP certification, especially if your employer values agile and it’s a way to demonstrate you have skills in that domain.

(Having said that, does your employer really know what the exam tests you on??)

Finally, if you are planning on taking the new exam, make sure you use updated materials. At the time of writing (March 2020) new exam course materials are not available from any vendor, so watch out for when they become available next year.

Meanwhile, practicing with an exam simulator is still my preferred option for getting exam ready, whether you are taking the exam before or after July 2020.

I imagine it’s going to take PMI an incredibly long time to update the full bank of questions used for exams, so my guess is that some of the current questions will also appear on exams after July 2020, at least for some time (I haven’t asked PMI about that, it’s just my thoughts).

Should I be worried about PMP exam changes?

No!

People have been studying for and passing this exam for years. 2020 might bring a few tweaks, but ultimately if you study, use good PMP prep materials (like this course), take practice exams and feel ready, you’ll be fine.

The changes might feel like a big shock at the moment, but hopefully in time they will feel like a natural evolution of the role. Take some practice exams to build your confidence and then go for it! Good luck!

The PMP exam changes in July 2020. Find out what is new and what you should be doing if you are studying now to take the test.

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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.

Comments

  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.

    BR
    Praveen.

    • 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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