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July 1, 2020’s PMP® Exam Changes

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam has changed several times in the past twenty-five years, and it is making another – far more dramatic – change soon. Anyone who has been thinking of taking the exam might want to act now, while the target is clear and exam prep resources are abundant.

The new exam, which goes live on July 1, 2020, contains the biggest changes the exam has ever experienced. Traditionally, candidates for the exam could look to the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide, or PMBOK) as the primary source for topics that would appear on the exam. This is no longer the case.

The revised exam, according to PMI, “is evolving, just like the profession.” The biggest change is a greater emphasis on Agile. In fact, approximately 50% of the exam content covers Agile topics. That’s a major reason why the current PMBOK is insufficient as the only source of study for the exam.

What drives these changes?

Before any exam change, PMI sponsors a role delineation study, an analysis of the typical responsibilities of a project manager. This is the method for keeping the PMP a relevant certification. In the most recent study, apparently, a large group of the project managers surveyed were using Agile principles and frameworks. Enough so, that the exam moved to cover Agile topics even more than it has in the past.


How should you respond to these changes?

For current PMP’s, there are no announced changes. For project leaders with sufficient experience (4500 hours of project management responsibility over three years*), this might be the time to dig in, study, and pass the exam. Why? Every author and training firm that provides PMP® Exam Preparation resources is dialed in on the current exam. While many of these firms are using the new Exam Content Outline to update their resources, they are responding to the biggest change in the exam’s history, so it will be more difficult to get it right.


What if you wait?

Eventually the exam preparation resources will catch up to the new exam. PMI has already listed some exam study resources that address the new exam content. Find out for yourself about the changes to the exam by referring to the PMI website.

*Read about the requirements to apply to sit for the examination.


Written by Eric Verzuh

Eric Verzuh, PMP, earned his PMP in 1992. He is the author of the bestselling Fast Forward MBA in Project Management and the PMP® Deep Dive, a better, faster, and more fun exam prep program. You can contact Eric via email at EVerzuh@VersatileCompany.com.

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  1. PMI is swinging the pendulum to its extremity with adding 50% of content to PMBOK (incl. its Agile Practice Guide) and exam, because their own PMI research has found that only 30% of ALL projects are Agile in nature (falling in the ‘adaptive project management’ category): 70% are in the ‘predictive project management’ category and will always stay predictive. For example a cloud scraper will NEVER be built in an Agile way: “Do we have the finances/commitment for another sprint to built the next floor?”

    When will the pendulum come back to its middle ground? When is PMI going to come to its senses?

  2. @Eric Uyttewaal. I surely can’t speak for PMI, only observe them. They do seem frightened by the rise in non-PMI certifications. Their ACP certification is not catching on while Certified Scrum Masters grow by the thousands.

  3. I gave up PMP certification a few years ago because PMI and the satellite industries that provide training and resources are more about selling products than helping project manager professionals meet business demands for quality project management. PMI is actually falling behind what occurs in the business environment. Further, PMI and PMP certification does not provide good value for money for project manager professionals. It has become bloated with convoluted concepts that have very little, if any value.

  4. @Jim Kerr. Thanks for not sugar-coating your point of view. We have many, many happy customers that would disagree with your characterization of PM training providers. The high number of companies that invest in PMP certification for their employees also serves as a counterpoint to your experience.

  5. The PMP Certification Process only demonstrates that a PMP knows WHAT to do. It does not, and never has, indicated that a PMP knows HOW to do something in the real world.

    Since there is no “internship” or “residency” requirement, there is no way to measure a PMP’s ability to actually do the work.

    It is like sending an M.D. straight from medical school to the operating room. Would you like to be that surgeon’s patient???

    P.S. Keep up the good work Eric.

  6. The effort to obtain the PMP certification is the value of the PMP certification. PMI has always mirrored the reality in the field. The PMBOK is a collection of existing Knowledge (the lowest level of learning under Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy). To embrace Agile by including the reality of Agile processes for a PMP certification is more efficient, I assume, than rewriting the entire PMBOK.

    Rigid flexibility…a new requirement to be an effective Project Manager. Thanks for the heads up Eric.


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