The Project Management Institute (PMI) jealously guards the reputation of its premier qualification, the Project Management Professional (PMP). So it regularly updates the standards and how it assesses them. And now we’re about to see major PMP exam changes, from 1 July 2020.
These PMP exam changes are the same ones that PMI originally scheduled for December 2019. However, as PMI said on their website:
‘Stakeholders began sharing feedback immediately and the consensus has been they feel they need more time to prepare.’PMP® Exam Change is Moving to June 2020
Retrieved 16 December 2019
As a result of PMI’s change of plan, this article is an update of our earlier article. We published the original article on 8 July, 2019.
But for this article, we have done more than just change the dates. This is a comprehensive update.
So, in this article, we’ll look at the background to the PMP Exam Changes, and how the exam will change. And we’ll also add our commentary on these changes.
It’s important to note first that we have no privileged knowledge. Everything in this article is based on what the PMP has published on its website. So, you can look for everything you need to know about the forthcoming exam change, for yourself. Here are the links you’ll need:
The last date for you to take the current exam is 30 June, 2010.
From 1 July, 2020, candidates will take the new version of PMP Exam, which will reflect the new exam content described below.
Because the work of a project management professional has changed (and is changing), so the PMP exam must change to reflect this.
The structure of the exam will no longer be based on the Project Management Process Groups. Instead, the exam will be structured around these three domains, and in these proportions:
The exam will therefore move further away from its formerly closer connection to the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, the PMBOK Guide. Which leads me to ask…
It feels like just yesterday that we got the 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide. But it is over two years ago: September 2017. Without a doubt, the 7th Edition will reflect some of the changes to the PMP exam that we’ll see from July 2020. So, what do we know about the PMBOK 7th Edition?
PMI has named Mike Griffiths as co-lead for the 7th Edition of the PMBOK Guide. Mike was involved in the creation of the Agile method, DSDM, and has over 20 years of experience in Agile methods. He’s an Agilist through and through.
What that tells me – and this short article on his website confirms it – is that we can expect the 7th Edition to be a BIG change from recent editions. Rather than an incremental change, I suspect Mike will want to shake things up. He says:
‘this will not be just an update,Mike Griffiths, Let’s Rewrite the PMBOK, 19 June 2019
insteada radical departure from all previous editions aligned with PMI’s new digital transformation strategy.’
We’ve gradually been seeing teazes from core team members about theses big changes to PMBOK7. It will be based on principles and organized by domains.
The changes will be so substantial that it will take a whole article to brief you properly. And, since we now have some substantial information, you can expect to see that article from us soon.
All I can tell you is that:
So, we can expect to see the 7th Edition of the PMBOK Guide sometime either late 2021 or early 2022.
PMI’s commitment to a world-class standard of certification has implications. One is that they must base their examinations on a formal Role Delineation Study (RDS) or Job Task Analysis (JTA). They conduct research every 3-5 years. And 2019 was four years since the previous study.
PMI carried out a survey of the trends in our profession that the current PMP exam fails to address. These then fed into their Job Task Analysis to produce a more relevant PMP exam for the coming period. The specification is their June 2019 PMP Examination Content Outline (ECO).
Here, by the way, ‘relevant’ means the things project managers do in their real work settings.
The new PMP exam will, therefore, have its questions mapped against the June 2019 ECO. PMI gives us a strong indication of the PMP exam changes in a document that compares this with the previous, June 2015, ECO. The comparison is their ‘Crossover Map’.
So, in short: the work of a project management professional has changed (and is changing). So, the PMP exam must change to reflect this.
This video was made before PMI changed the implementation date. But the exam changes it describes are correct.
The current (June 2015 ECO) PMP exam is based on five domains that closely mirror the Project Management Process Groups in the PMBOK Guide. Each has tasks that a Project Manager needs to be able to fulfil, and a set of statements of knowledge and skills that PMI expects them to have. The ECO also specifies the proportion of questions for each domain. Here’s a summary:
|Domain||Questions in ||No. of Tasks||Knowledge & Skills|
|Monitoring and Controlling||25%||7||10|
Most of the tasks, knowledge, and skills are fully documented in the PMBOK Guide. However, some are unique to the ECO. This
The new PMP Examination Content Outline (ECO) sets out three ‘domains’. These do not reflect the PMBOK Guide in any direct way, although Domain II, Process, does cover a lot the PMBOK Knowledge Areas and you’ll find much (but not all) of the knowledge for this domain in the PMBOK Guide.
The three domains are each made up of ‘tasks’; 35 in all. And each task has a variable number of ‘enablers’. These are 133 bullet points that illustrate the work that PMI associates with the task. They intend those bullets to do no more than give representative examples.
If the Domains don’t track to the PMBOK Guide, neither do the three Domains match the three sides of the PMI’s Talent Triangle – although they do bear a family resemblance. This does not smack of joined-up thinking. So, as I’ve wondered before, are we due for a revision to the Talent Triangle before long?
So, let’s summarise:
|Domain||Questions in Exam||No. of Tasks|
|I. People||42%||14 (40%)|
|II. Process||50%||17 (49%)|
|III. Business Environment||8%||4 (11%)|
The examination will split approximately equally between traditional, predictive project management (as per the PMBOK Guide) and Agile or hybrid approaches (set out in the Agile Practice Guide). And predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches will feature
PMI will be adding two new question types to modernize the PMP exam. These are:
The PMP Examination Content Outline (ECO) is a short (10
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:
The PMBOK Guide has never been the reference for the PMP exam. It has always been just one source of material. The new PMP exam will draw upon a curated list of around 30 reference materials.
However, do check out the PMI’s PMP Exam reference Materials page. It will change soon, I expect.
The PMI has published its own content comparison; their ‘Crossover Map’. Click the link to view and download it from their site.
This will be of particular value to anyone wondering whether to aim to take their PMP exam under the current or new Examination Content Outline. It shows how each enabler in the 2019 ECO matches to the 2015 ECO. Or, indeed, where the enabler references new content that was not in the pre-July 2020 exam.
If that’s a question you are working on at the moment, we say more about it at the end of this article.
I think you’ll have got the gist already. I like these changes… a lot.
And I am very much looking forward to the further, radical, changes we’ll see in the 7th Edition of the PMBOK Guide.
I’d like the Examination Content Outline to say more (much more) about the role of predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches in the exam and in the body of knowledge that PMI now expects PMP candidates to master. I am hopeful of more detailed information soon.
And, I can always find picky things to dispute. But the essence of this is a very positive change, that addresses a number of my long-standing concerns with the PMBOK Guide and the PMP syllabus. Most notably, these are around:
Anyone who provides help, advice, or learning materials for PMP aspirants will have a lot to do, to prepare new materials to properly address the PMP Exam Change. As you would expect, PMI Registered Education Providers like PM PrepCast and PTCoE, with whom we work, are working hard on this.
Cornelius is President of OSP International LLP, which provides all the PM PrepCast courses and materials, and is their principal trainer and voice of the PrepCast.
No-one is more knowledgeable about PMP than Cornelius.
As a PMP trainer, I have always focused not only on teaching my students how to pass their exam but also on how to become better project managers. That is why I think the change in the ECO is a step in the right direction.
With this change, PMI is moving away from the five current and somewhat ‘technical’ domains and shifts the focus of the exam to test a candidate’s knowledge of, and experience, in the skills necessary to actually lead and manage a project.
This is not to say that the knowledge of project management methods, concepts, and techniques, is any less important, but a candidate will now also need to show that they truly know how to lead a project and how to bring it to successful completion.Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM – Private Communication, 4 July 2019
PM PrepCast has published their response to the new Examination Content Outline on their website. In it they cover their take on the changes and how they advise current aspirants to prepare.
They also commit to publishing:
As you’d expect, Cornelius and his team have you covered!
Nader Rad is a Project Management author, speaker, and adviser with 16 years of experience in project planning, project management consultancy, and project board advisory work.
He is the face and voice of our PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation course. And Nader has recently been appointed to the 12-person Core Team for the development of the PMI’s PMBOK Guide 7th Edition. Here’s what Nader said:
I like the structure of the new exam content outline; it’s practical. I’m even wondering it may be a good idea to add this perspective to the PMBOK Guide as well; so, there will be three ways of looking at everything, process groups, Knowledge areas, and the three new domains
However, I hope that the 7th Edition of the PMBOK Guide will address the difference between the PMBOK Guide and the PMP exam, which is becoming larger these days. I believe the PMBOK Guide should be the main resource for the exam.Nader Rad, PMP – Private Communication, 12 Augusty 2019
‘Because this change is mainly in the perspective, the main update we’ll need for our course is in the simulated exams. We are working to see how this new outline is going to be implemented before we can make any changes.’
As you’d expect, Nader and his colleagues have you covered!
My advice echoes that of PMP: get in soon and plan your campaign thoroughly.
PMP says you should:
What they don’t say is this: the pressure will be on you to pass first time. It will become increasingly unlikely that you’ll have time before 1 July 2020 to schedule a second attempt under the current exam guidelines:
There is clearly a big advantage to taking your exam by 30 June. The current examination content outline has been in place since June 2015. Both examiners (who set questions and pass marks) and the training companies like PM PrepCast and PTCoE (who have developed training materials) understand it well.
From 1 July, we’ll be in very new territory, with all the uncertainty that means. That includes a bigger syllabus, probably tougher questions, and a lot more content on Agile and Hybrid project management.
As before, we’ll be advising you wait until the first cohort of examinees
But, every new exam needs a shake-down run. And I’d recommend waiting a few weeks.
The PMI is crystal clear. If you take the PMP exam under the current (June 2015) ECO and do not pass, and get a new exam date after 30 June 2020, then your new exam will be under the new ECO. There will be no second chance, as you approach June.
My YouTube video, ‘PMP Exam Change 2019: All we know and what I think of it’ attracted this question:
How will all of this new stuff be learned if the PMBOK won’t also be updated in Dec. 2019?’
The question is still valid, with the new July 2020 start date. So…
‘Most of this stuff is covered in the decent PMP preparation courses, like PM PrepCast. And certainly PM PrepCast (and I’m sure other providers) are committed to making updates.
But if you aren’t using a preparation course, then the answer is the same as it has always been. In the current exam, most of these ‘new’ items are present, but with very different emphasis. How would you learn them now? reading, workshops, training courses, practical experience… Unlike for CAPM, the PMBOK Guide has never been the sole reference source for the PMP exam.’
What I’m implying is that we have always needed additional reference materials to properly prepare for the PMP exam and for a career as a Project manager. Now I think PMI will need to start pointing us to them, rather than trying to make the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition a comprehensive encyclopedia of all Project Management knowledge.
This is a better syllabus.
(It is bigger so more work, but it is better.)
And, if you master it, you’ll be a better project manager.
I expect the exam will be harder. But nothing worthwhile should be easy.
Rather than rush: wait, and get the better PMP qualification.
Please do tell us what you think of PMI’s changes, in the comments below.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 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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