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The PMP Exam Changes after January 11. Here’s What It Means for You.

Project 365 #147 270509 Testing Times Ahead - Pete

Every five to seven years, the Project Management Institute (PMI)® performs a “Role Delineation Study (RDS).” This is a big survey among project managers from around the world with the goal to identify what it is that we do on our projects. As a result of the most recent RDS, PMI now has a pretty accurate picture of the tasks that we project managers perform, as well as the knowledge and skills required for our job.

PMI has used this information to update the PMP Examination Content Outline. This document is the basis for the PMP exam. And because this document changed, the PMP exam also has to be updated.

The update to the PMP exam is scheduled to become active on January 12, 2016.

Let’s first look at why this change is happening and then we will examine what this means for you. You’ll be surprised at how little is actually changing.

Why is the PMP Exam Changing?

PMI wants to ensure that the PMP exam is an accurate reflection of the tasks, knowledge and skills project management professionals actually perform and need on a daily basis. If PMI didn’t regularly add new methods and remove outdated ones, then PMP aspirants would still be tested on obsolete tools and techniques that were used 30 years ago when the PMP exam first came into being.

The PMBOK® Guide Isn’t Changing

This is important: The PMP exam is based on the PMP Examination Content Outline and NOT on the PMBOK® Guide. Yes, there are many overlaps, but they are not 100 percent the same, and the exam content outline even has some unique sections not covered by the PMBOK Guide. The PMBOK Guide itself, however, is not changing.

The PMP Exam Structure Isn’t Changing

The PMP exam is computer-based. You have to answer 200 multiple-choice questions in four hours. There is no change in this aspect of the PMP exam.

The Domains and Score Report Aren’t Changing (Much)

When taking the PMP exam, you will be tested in the five domains:

  • Initiating the project (13 percent);
  • Planning the project (24 percent);
  • Executing the project (31 percent);
  • Monitoring and controlling the project (25 percent); and
  • Closing the project (7 percent).

At the end of the exam you will receive a score report that tells you how you did in each domain and whether you passed or failed the exam.

There is just one minor change here: Executing went up from 30 percent to 31 percent, while Closing went down from 8 percent to 7 percent. This is negligible and should not affect how you prepare for the PMP exam.

The PMP Exam Eligibility Requirements Aren’t Changing

The PMP exam eligibility requirements remain the same. You still need to show the same amount of education and experience as before. You can find the details on page six of the PMP Credential Handbook. No change.

The Exam Changes Become Active on January 12 — No Ifs, Ands or Buts

The change was originally scheduled to take place on November 1. Because this didn’t leave enough time for everyone involved to get ready, PMI changed the date to January. The current exam will remain active until January 11, and after that date only the new version of the PMP exam will be administered. In other words:

  • If you are taking the exam on or before January 11, 2016, you will take the current exam; and
  • If you are taking the exam after January 11, 2016 you will take the new exam.

Your Study Materials Will Change

The new PMP Exam Content outline includes some modifications to existing tasks, removal of a few tasks and the addition of eight new tasks. Some of the main drivers for the exam changes include:

  • Emphasis on business strategy and benefits realization;
  • Values of lessons learned;
  • Project charter responsibility; and
  • Enhancing stakeholder relationship.

PMI states that about 25 percent of the content change is based on new topics from the eight new tasks, which were previously not tested. Note that in addition there are updates to other exam questions not the eight new tasks.

One of the reasons why PMI pushed back the exam changeover date is to give Registered Education Providers (REPs) more time to include all the new concepts in their training materials. It’s their responsibility to ensure that their training materials are up to date, which means that if you’re a student you shouldn’t be concerned. You should simply be able to expect that your provider ensures that your training materials are current. That’s what you’re paying for.

My Recommendations for PMP Students

  1. Take Your PMP exam before 11 January 2016. Plan your PMP exam studies in such a way that you can take the exam before December 11, 2015, which is one full month before the changeover. In this way, you avoid the last minute rush in January when everyone wants to take the old exam before it changes. This timeframe also gives you an extra four weeks to recover and retake the exam if worst comes to worst and you don’t pass on your first try.
  1. Study the PMBOK Guide 5th Edition. You must study the PMBOK Guide 5th Edition no matter if you are planning to take your exam before on or after January 11, 2016. It’s still the primary source to learn about exam concepts.
  1. Use study materials from PMI Registered Education Providers. PMI REPs are working fast to update our study materials to cover the new concepts that are being introduced. Before you buy study materials from a PMI REP, ask them to confirm that the materials are current to the upcoming exam.
  1. Read The PMI FAQ. The PMI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page delves into all the details.

My final recommendation is this: Don’t worry about the coming change too much!

We have done an extensive comparison between the old and new examination content outline, and I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing “big” coming. Yes, there are a number of exciting concepts like “lean principles,” “regulatory impact” and “emotional intelligence” listed in the new outline. But most likely you have already heard of these new tasks, knowledge areas and skills, or you may even be practicing them at present.

Also remember that PMI is continuously updating the PMP exam. For example, some time back questions about “delegation” started appearing on the exam. PMI didn’t officially announce this and so nobody made a fuss about it. But now that PMI is officially announcing an update, everyone gets anxious.

So instead of agonizing about this change, a more positive approach for you as a PMP candidate is simply to purchase and use the right study materials that cover all the concepts you need for your exam. Focus your energy on your studies and don’t worry about the update.

Project Management Professional, PMP and PMBOK are all registered trademarks (®) of the Project Management Institute.

This article originally appeared on The PM PrepCast and is reprinted by permission of the author.

Image courtesy of Pete — CC 2.0

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  1. Hi Cornelius,

    Many students have confusion that PM Exam is based on PMBOK Guide. You amply clarified it. Here is an update as on January 12 for those students who did not appear in the exam.


  2. Hi, I have scheduled my PMP exam on 7th March’2016. I have prepared myself based on PMBOK 5th edition. I need a study material,which will give me all the changes and modifications along with the details in 8 new taks that is applicable post 11th January’2016. Please suggest me.

  3. Rinku.

    We recommend http://www.pm-prepcast.com and http://www.pm-exam-simulator.com. They are fully updated to the new requirements.


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