If you want to be a Project Management Practitioner now, the New 2021 PMP Exam is in operation. The old one is dead and gone.
Therefore, we shan’t cover the comparison now – the old syllabus is no more. If you want to see a comparison, please take a look at our earlier article, ‘PMP Exam Changes in January 2021: What will be Different?’
This article is about the new PMP exam. If you are considering or in the process of becoming a PMI Project Management Practitioner (PMP), this article will Give you the Facts.
PMP stands for Project Management Professional. It is the principal qualification of the PMI, the Project Management Institute. This is the world’s largest professional body for Project Managers. Consequently, PMP Certification is recognized and valued by organizations everywhere.
You will gain your PMP Cerification by taking a demanding exam. And you will need to maintain it with significant continuing professional development (CPD) activities. Because of these, PMP certification also provides a real validation of your level of knowledge, and therefore competence, to manage and lead a project.
Of course, you can expect the PMI to have a bias in favour of PMP Certification. However, they are so widely respected, we must take their research finding seriously. PMI asserts that:
those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20% higher on average) than those without a PMP certification.
So, the new PMP Certification will be a highly-regarded professional qualification, all over the world. It gives you a solid grounding in all the basics of project management, and a status that will often be reflected in your employability and salary expectations.
However, beware. This is not going to be equally true everywhere.
The closer you are geographically and culturally to the US, where PMI is based, to more these things will be true. They are also the case when working in a US-based global organization, or in places and industries that do not have other, competing qualifications.
But, for example, in the UK, the Association for Project Management (APM) is the dominant professional body. As a result, its APM Professional Practitioner Qualification is at least as highly regarded.
For obvious reasons, I am often asked about how the PMP exam and qualification compares with other certifications. So, here are the articles in which I compare them:
This article will not compare the relative merits of PMP Certification and other competing qualifications, like the APM Professional Practitioner Qualification. So, to a degree, the arguments that follow can equally be made for equivalent qualifications.
As a Project manager, you would not expect your organization or client to undertake a new project without a robust business case. So, let’s look at why you should become a PMP (the benefits), and what it will take to do so (the costs).
We cannot assume the value you will apply to the benefits of PMP Certification, so we’ll just give you a list of the benefits you might consider.
I will document the individual costs below, but there is a summary, based on reasonable assumptions.
|PMI Membership||$139||Assumes you are not already a member. Student membership is far cheaper|
|Examination fee||$405||Assumes you are a PMI member.Retakes (maximum of 3) are $275 for members.|
|Examination Taking||$ nil||This used to be an item, when you’d have to travel and maybe stay overnight to access an exam center. Now, you can take the exams online, from your home.|
|PMP Preparation Course||$1,999||From a PMI Authorized Training Partner. I have used the cost from the course from PM PrepCast – a highly reputable provider. This is not a necessary item, as long as you have your 35 Education Hours.|
|PMP Examination Simulator||$ nil||Likely to be included with a full training course, but allow $100-$150 if you need this as a stand-alone item.|
|Books||$0 to $200||Broad Range. The two essential books are available free in PDF Format if you are a PMI member. You could spend many hundreds of dollars on the full reading list.|
So, to conclude…
To be a PMP, you need four things:
Before applying for your new PMP examination, you must meet one or other of these sets of certification requirements:
You’ll probably want to join the PMI. This will save you more than the cost of your exam fee. And you’ll save more money on the absolutely necessary PMBOK® Guide. It will also be the basis of your CPD and maintaining your PMP certification. And anyway, why wouldn’t you. This is the club you’ll be applying to join as a senior member.
This is non-negotiable.
No exam: no certification.
The new PMP exam will require you to have experience in, and answer questions from, three domains:
Within each of these three domains, there are:
The PMI states that the new PMP examination will give even (50:50) representation to:
Before you make your decision, however, you do need to think about the time and effort you will need to commit. Studying will be a big part of your life for anything from two to six months. Some do it in less or take longer, but this is the normal range. The exam is (rightly) hard. And the content you need to learn is big.
You will typically be spending 2 to 3 hours each day reading, learning, and practicing exams. That means anything from 100 to 300 hours of work – the figure of 180 is often cited on the internet.
What are your work and family commitments? Do you have the time and energy to prepare for the 2021 PMP exam properly? And, if you do, how will you spread it out; a quick sprint of 3-4 hours a day for 2 months, or a steady pace of 10 hours a week 6 months? You’ll also need to budget for your 35 hours of direct learning.
You also need to understand yourself, and how easy you find learning and understanding new material. If you are new to project management, a lot of that material can seem complex and difficult. For some, you may be able to assimilate all the knowledge in 120 to 180 hours. But for others, you may need 200 to 300 hours to fully understand and learn it all. Be brutally honest with yourself.
The syllabus for the 2021 PMP exam is set out in the May 2020 edition of:
You can download the current PMP Exam Content Outline (May 2020) from the PMI website.
The ECO contains:
|Domain||Tasks||Proportion of exam questions|
|3. Business Environment||4||8%|
Here is an image from the ECO, to give you a sense of how the Domains Tasks and Enablers look.
The PMI is clear, the new PMP exam will be designed for balance.
To quote the PMI:
About half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches.
PMI PMP Examination Content Outline, May 2020.
My expectation is that a lot of questions will apply equally to Agile/hybrid and Predictive PM, and so count on both sides of the balance.
The new PMP exam is not a test of your knowledge of the PMBOK Guide (and its predecessors never were either). Indeed, while the PMBOK Guide is one of the 10 references the PMI offers candidates, it is just one.
There is no clear mapping of new ECO to PMBOK6 although you will recognise a lot of the Knowledge areas in the 17 tasks of Domain II, Process.
And remember the PMBOK 6th edition was based on 5 Process Groups and 10 Knowledge Areas. The PMBOK 7th edition (due out in 2021) will be based on principles.
At the moment, the safest assumption is that:
However, I will, of course, update this when PMI makes a clear statement – probably soon after it published the 7th edition.
The PMP Examination Content Outline (ECO) is a short (10 page) document, that is mostly tables. So it would be wrong for me to reproduce too much of it. So, for all the detail, do download and study a copy. This is THE primary reference for the exam, so consider it mandatory reading.
However, I’d like to offer a flavor of some of the tasks in Domains I and III. For Domain II, which most closely reflects the PMPBOK Guide, I’ll offer a table that maps the ECO’s tasks to the PMBOK Chapters.
This reflects, to a large extent, the Leadership dimension of the PMI’s Talent Triangle. Here, we have:
To me, this suggests a strong focus on your role as a team leader. I particularly welcome Task 11: ‘Engage and Support Virtual Teams’. This recognizes the reality of many modern workplaces. Not just large multi-nationals, by the way. Lots of small businesses need to participate in multi-organization projects.
This domain covers the Technical aspects of project management (as does the Technical Project Management dimension of the Talent Triangle). It does not drop directly onto the PMBOK guide, but an inspection allows us to map relationships. We’ll do so in both directions.
|PMP ECO Process Domain Task||PMBOK Chapter|
|Task 1: Execute project with the urgency required to deliver business value||Chapter 1, 2|
|Task 2: Manage communications||Chapter 10|
|Task 3: As||Chapter 11|
|Task 4: Engage Stakeholders||Chapter 13|
|Task 5: Plan and manage budget and resources||Chapter 7, 9|
|Task 6: Plan and manage schedule||Chapter 6|
|Task 7: Plan and manage quality of products/deliverables||Chapter 8|
|Task 8: Plan and manage scope||Chapter 5|
|Task 9: Integrate project planning activities||Chapter 4|
|Task 10: Manage project changes||Chapter 4, 5|
|Task 11 Plan and manage procurement||Chapter 12|
|Task 12: Manage project artefacts||Chapter 4, 5, 8|
|Task 13: Determine appropriate project methodology/methods and practices||Chapter 1 |
+ Agile Practice Guide
|Task 14: Establish project governance||Largely missing from the PMBOK Guide 6th Ed|
|Task 15 Manage Project Issues||Largely missing from the PMBOK Guide 6th Ed|
|Task 16: Ensure knowledge transfer for project continuity||Largely missing from the PMBOK Guide|
|Task 17: Plan and manage project/phase closure or transitions||Part 2 Chapter 6|
Phase closure l
|PMBOK Guide 6th Edition Chapter||PMP ECO Process Domain Task|
|1. Introduction||Task 13, 15|
|2. The Environment in which Projects Operate||Task 15|
|3. The Role of the Project Manager|
|4. Project Integration Management||Task 9, 10, 12|
|5. Project Scope Management||Task 8, 10, 12|
|6. Project Schedule Management||Task 6|
|7. Project Cost Management||Task 5|
|8. Project Quality Management||Task 7, 12|
|9. Project Resource Management||Task 5|
|10. Project Communications Management||Task 2|
|11. Project Risk Management||Task 3|
|12. Project Procurement Management||Task 11|
|13. Project Stakeholder Management||Task 4|
To me, this suggests that the authors of the PMP ECO wanted to assert their independence from the PMBOK Guide. The PMBOK Guide has never been a syllabus or sole sourcebook for the PMP examination (as it is for CAPM). But, there is enough mapping here to have allowed them to bring them more closely in line – even if only by choosing a different sequence, to match the PMBOK chapter order.
This seems nothing less than perverse! It’s clearly a deliberate choice to keep the PMP examination very different from the PMBOK Guide.
This domain is very similar in intent to the Strategic and Business Management dimension of the Talent Triangle. Though, necessarily, it is smaller in scope. It only makes up 8 percent of the exam, and has four tasks. I particularly cheer Tasks 1 and 2:
Preparing for a major professional examination, like the PMP, is a project in itself. And I am currently considering creating a fully revised edition of our PMP Exam Prep Guide.
For now, do take a look at that guide – the Premium Edition is free, because it is no longer optimized for the current exam. That will still give you plenty of ideas and advice to plan your exam campaign.
You need 35 hours of Project Management education to meet the PMP requirements. But I also recommend you take a structured training course.
There will no doubt be providers out there offering all of these options:
Unless you have an exceptional mentor or are very confident with self-study, I do recommend you take training. And if you do, I strongly recommend you invest in training from a PMI Authorized Training Partner (ATP).
An ATP training program is endorsed by the PMI and uses authorized PMI materials and PMI-trained instructors. PMI has developed the content itself, to drive consistency. You will get a standard 5-day course.
You may be familiar with the PMI’s old system of Registered Education Providers (REPs). These no longer exist. Anyone displaying that badge is no longer authorised to provide PMP training by PMI.
Look out for these badges. They will tell you if a provider and an instructor are authorized.
Authorized trainer must still provide ther training through an ATP
The PMI provides ATPs with a standard 5-day Training course and all of the materials (including slides). They have structured it around 5 lessons; not quite one lesson per day.
PMI has developed both the course and the exam. This means that the course is designed to help you pass the 2021 exam. It contains exactly the information you need. This is another reason to go with an ATP for your 2 PMP exam training.
Premier ATPs also get 200 ‘cloned’ PMP exam questions from the PMI. Unlike the questions in other exam simulators, these are actual PMI questions, rather than similar questions the provider has developed.
By the way, PMI also offers (a paltry) 3 sample exam questions on its site. Not very generous, in my view.
I do have a serious critique of the materials PMI has made available. The content may be good, but the style harks back to the mid-1990s. Their slides are mostly bullet-point heavy. They are dull and unengaging. The quality of your training experience will depend on the extent to which the trainer can bring the ideas to life for you.
Training is not mandatory. But neither is it likely to be enough
There are two additional things you are likely to need:
The PMP exam has never been based exclusively on the PMBOK Guide. But it has always leaned heavily on it.
This has not changed. The new PMP exam uses the PMBOK Guide 6th Edition as one of the references for the PMP Exam. I don’t now expect the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition until mid-2021. This means that the PMI is likely to use the Sixth Edition as an exam reference throughout 2021.
PMP is not a test of the PMBOK guide – it is a test of the ECO. But I do think we can expect that 70-80% of questions will come from PMBOK 6. But there will also be around 50% of the questions referencing Agile and hybrid methods. So, you must also study the PMI’s Agile Practice Guide (APG).
However, the detail within other PMI Practice Guides is not necessary for the PMP examination.
As a result, I consider the PMBOK Guide and APG to be pretty much essential reading. You will will need to be familiar with all of the content. But note: you will not need to memorise it. Success in the new PMP exam is not about rote learning.
Here are links to those books.
The PMI also recommends PMP candidates to look at 8 other books. The PMI does not endorse these books. They also state that these books are only part of a broader set of educational resources and texts that you could use for exam and study preparation.
So, you must select your reading matter for yourself. But, here are the books PMI lists:
In addition, you may also want to use a new PMP exam preparation book. Candidates have found this kind of book extremely helpful in the past. There have been many on the market but, at time of writing (late December 2020), only two are advertised as being ready for the 2021 PMP exam:
A well-constructed exam simulator will prepare you for how PMI words its questions and how the different question types work. As we will see below, there are five types of questions.
There is no method as good at evaluating your progress and identifying gaps in your knowledge as a simulated exam. This would be a very wise investment.
PMI currently uses Online Testing – and you can do this from your home. Therefore many aspects of how they run the test arise from this.
The examination consists of:
The mandatory breaks are there in the online exam because, during the sessions, you need to stay in full view of the camera. You may not get up from your seat. Also, you must work on a completely clear desk.
The examination software also provides you with:
I never advocated for this idea and now, frankly, nobody I know does. You cannot do it on paper and the on-screen whiteboard is not suitable. It will just waste a whole load of your time.
Use the brain dump method solely as a revision practice.
I understand that the math questions are likely to be easy and not require any calculation beyond what you should, as a practicing project manager, be able to do as mental arithmetic (in your head). But, there is an on-screen calculator available because you are not allowed to use your own device.
As long as you meet the PMI’s Continuing Certification requirements (CCRs), you won’t ever need to take the PMP exam again. But you will need recertification every 3 years. This requires you to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs).
You can earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) for every hour of learning, in the three talent areas of:
To learn more about this, take a look at our article, PMI Education Contact Hours and PDUs: Your Essential Guide.
You should also take a look at our article on the PMI’s Talent Triangle: The PMI Talent Triangle: A Guide [for members and non-members]
Here is a link to the PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Handbook.
If you failed your PMP exam last year (2020), you cannot retake the old exam. You will need to take new exam.
If you studied under the old ECO, you have probably covered around 4/5 (c.80%) of the new syllabus. So you will need to find a way to learn the extra 20%.
The good news is that I can confirm that your training hours during 2020 are still valid towards your 35 hours in 2021.
PMI has committed to creating a free online course for New PMP Exam candidates. They say that you won’t need to reapply or pay any additional training fees to take the new version of PMP.
Their new online course will help you bridge the knowledge from the current and the new version of the PMP. It will cover concepts related to agile and hybrid approaches of project management. The course is:
If you don’t do well in your exam, PMI will offer eligible candidates 65% off your re-examination fees.
If you are planning to take the new PMP by 18 April, you will be eligible for the free course. You just need to fill out a form to register to gain access to the course.
They closed access to that free course on 7 January. Nice one! As elsewhere, PMI’s behaviour is a lull generous and a little parsimonious and petty at the same time.
I will be continuing to create free videos on my YouTube Channel. Some of the videos I will be publishing in early 2021 will address elements of the new syllabus.
I have created a new playlist, which will include all the new videos and also any from my backlist that I think will be helpful to you. Check out my PMP Conversion to the 2021 Syllabus playlist.
Some ATPs are looking at creating content for you – but I am not aware that any has it currently available.
I’d love to hear your thoughts (and answer your questions). As you’d expect, I’ll respond to any comments you make, below.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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