Why this change?

Actually, the PMP exam change was already foreseen to happen in July 2020, but due to a global pandemic, the implementation date was postponed with half a year, as PMI justly realized, that people who were already studying for taking their PMP exam based on then existing materials and exam content, would likely encounter issues and delays in their study and training. Therefore the exam opportunities were extended with half a year.

Back to the reason for change…. This PMP exam update assures that the validity and relevance of the PMP examination is, in fact, appropriately measuring and evaluating the specific knowledge and skills of a project manager. To ensure that, PMI conducts, on average every 3-5 years, a global PM practice analysis study, to understand how the PM practice is developing in real life. This study always produces a number of new developments and trends in the PM profession and the subsequent changes in the role of the project manager, which is then used as input into the analysis of the PM job.

The task analysis seeks to get an answer to the questions:

  • What are currently the expectations of several project stakeholders (project sponsors, customers, project team members, other PM’s, etc.) for labeling a professional as ‘A good project manager!’?
  • Which tasks should these project managers typically be able to perform in practice?
  • And which skills should they typically master for performing these tasks?

The answer to these questions results in a new PMP Examination Content Outline. The latest version has been published by PMI in May 2020, (minor update of June 2019 version) in support of the January 2021 PMP Exam Update.

This task analysis of the PM job provides a blueprint for the PMP exam. It links the exam questions to the PM role in order to guarantee that the PMP examination validly measures all of today’s elements of the project management profession.

Maybe also good to know: contrary to what many people may think, the PMP exam is not linked to any specific version of “A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)”. This is just one of the references which PMI uses to design their PMP exam. As said, the exam is based on the PMP Examination Content Outline, which uses multiple inputs as a reference.

So what has changed in the PMP exam content?

1. Multiple project approaches

First of all, the latest PM job research showed that today’s project managers work in a variety of project environments and will utilize multiple project approaches: predictive, agile, or a pragmatic mixture of both, called hybrid. Accordingly, the PMP certification has to reflect al these approaches. Therefore about half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches.

2. A simplified structure of the Examination Content Outline

Secondly, PMI simplified the structure of the Examination Content Outline to make it easier to understand and interpret. In this structure, the exam content outline is split up in a list of tasks, which a competent project manager should be able to perform. These tasks are grouped together in three high-level knowledge areas (domains) that are essential to the practice of project management:


Exam questions related to predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches will be found throughout these three domains.
Then, per task, a set of enablers is provided, which are illustrative examples of the work associated with that task.

As an example of the new structure we take Domain III. Business Environment, task 2: ‘Evaluate and deliver project benefits and value’


3. Subset of deliverables and tools

Thirdly, for executing the work, associated to that task, PMI provides guidance in the form of a subset of deliverables and tools which a competent project manager should have knowledge about.

Based on this exam content outline, for all these domains, the PMP exam validates the candidate’s capabilities to select the best way of working, when being confronted with a specific project situation, as briefly described in the exam question.

And what has changed to the examination itself?

📑 2 exam alternatives: Center based testing or Online Proctored testing.

Originally the PMP exam could only be taken at a test center of Person VUE. However, caused by the Covid pandemic, where options for visiting a test center were limited, PMI quickly responded by providing so called ‘Proctored exam’, as an alternative.

10 minute break

The PMP exam now has a built-in 10-minute break, somewhere halfway your exam (total exam = 4 hrs. - 200 questions total). Once your 10-minute break is over, you will not be able to return to the questions from the first section of the exam.

multiple response questions

The PMP exam always had multiple choice questions with 4 possible answers, of which only one was correct (the best). The new exam will also contain so called ‘Multiple response questions’, were more than one answer can be marked as correct. In tht case there is no partial scoring. So when the correct answer was like ‘A and C’, and you answered ‘A and D’, then your answer as a whole is scored as incorrect.µ

4,500 hrs. practice experience requirement is gone

Already when preparing for the PMP exam during the last two quarters of 2020, applicants may have noticed that in the PMP exam application process, the eligibility requirement of being able to specify 4,500 hours of practice experience in the reference projects, has disappeared. Depending on your educational background, the only remaining requirements is a minimum of of three years/36 months or five years/60 months relevant project management experience. The experience should meet the domains (tasks, knowledge and skills) specified in the PMP examination content outline.

How to prepare myself for the PMP Exam?

PMI has initiated the PMI-ATP program for assured quality in PMP certification training. Threon is the first PMI-ATP in the BeNeLux region and training with an ATP is the only way to ensure you are learning using “PMI-developed” PMP®exam prep material (thus 100% guarantee that the material covers all exam content – no additional books needed), delivered by a PMI-vetted instructor.

I expect that with this update you have gained a better understanding about the changes in the PMP exam, active per 1-1-2021.

In case you want to know more about the PMP exam, our PMP exam prep trainings, or other questions related to this PM certification, please consult


Anton Zandhuis

Anton Zandhuis
Sr. Consultant NL & PM trainer

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