Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Top 11 Changes: New PMP 2021 Exam and Beyond


The PMP exam has changed from January, 02, 2021. There are still a number of misconceptions about the exam and how it has changed. This I came to know as I interact frequently with PMP aspirants. 

A lot of panic, rumors and fear-mongering are being spread and it’s informed that the PMP exam has become tougher! The exam has not become tougher, but the coverage area has increased. If you have REALLY understood the content for the previous version of the exam (with its brief Agile content from the PMBOK), then this version won’t be difficult. The PMP credential is very much achievable. Nevertheless, you do have to put in the needed effort. 

Here are the top 11 changes for the new PMP exam. The content and the final video towards the end of this article are taken from:

PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass or Your Money Back  

Exhaustive set of videos are available as part of the PMP Live Lessons.


Change – 1: Reduced Number of Questions

Earlier, the exam had 200 questions, out of which 175 were scored ones and 25 were unscored. This has changed.

There will be 180 questions now, with 175 scored and 5 unscored ones. Do note that only the unscored ones’ number has changed, not the scored ones.

I get this question many times:
How to know the scored questions?

You can’t. For you as an exam taker, there is no way to know which one is scored or unscored. Hence, like the previous exam, take the new exam with full question-set in mind, i.e., take it like a single 180 question-set.

Change – 2: Reduced Exam Duration

Earlier, the exam had 4 hours (or 240 minutes) duration. Now, the exam will be of 3 hours, 50 minutes (230 minutes) duration. 

In other words, the exam is actually giving you more time now for every question.

So, from this perspective, one can say you have a higher chance of scoring well in the new exam. 

Change – 3: Changed Performance Domains or Exam Domains

Earlier, there were 5 performance domains:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing 

Now, there are 3 performance domains:

  • People
  • Process
  • Business Environment

These performance domains are mentioned on the exam content outline (ECO), which sets the blueprint for the exam. It tells the domains, the tasks and associated enablers for the exam.

However, the theory part of these domains will be from the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition, the Agile Practice Guide (APG) and other reference books, from which few questions can come. 

Change – 4: Question Segregation (Predictive Vs. Agile or Hybrid)

In the previous version of the exam, there were Agile questions. The PMBOK guide covers almost all Agile concepts, though briefly. 

Earlier, some PMPs have mentioned NO Agile questions at all as this success story tells:

Some PMPs have written that they received Agile questions, for example, FEW Agile questions have been mentioned:

Also, in some cases, a NUMBER of Agile questions are mentioned. In the below success story, the PMP has informed about 15 Agile questions in the exam.

For the new exam, it’s very clear. Now, in the new PMP exam 2021, it is explicitly mentioned that:

  • 50% questions will be in Predictive mode, which is basically a project being executed in sequence of phases.
    Hence, out of 180 questions, 90 questions will be in predictive mode.
  • 50% questions will be Agile/Adaptive or Hybrid mode: Agile projects are both iterative and incremental. Hybrid projects will be sitting in between predictive and adaptive modes with the end-result being non-Agile.
    The remaining 90 questions will be in Agile/Hybrid mode.

Change – 5: Percent Distribution of Questions 

Below are the topic areas or domains, with the percentage of questions expected from each domain. The number of questions from each performance domain shows the proportions. The PMP exam remains pretty close to it, but you can expect a few variations.

As you can see the highest emphasis is on the “Process” domainwhich is fully covered by the PMBOK guide. For the “People” domain, you have to refer to the PMBOK guide, APG and some other minor references. For the “Business Environment” domain, again the previous mentioned references will be needed along with a few others. 

Change – 6: Reduced Number of Tasks 

Earlier, across the 5 domains from Initiating to Closing, there were 42 tasks. Now in the new exam, you have 35 tasks

These tasks map to various processes, knowledge areas, ITTOs of the PMBOK guide – in particular the process part which has the highest number of questions and tasks. 

Change – 7: Tasks with Enablers 

Every task now comes with multiple enablers. Earlier, it was not the case. The sequence is this:

  • Every domain contains a set of tasks.
  • Every task contains a set of enablers.

In total, there are:

  • 3 Domains – People, Process and Business Environment 
  • 35 Tasks – People (14 tasks), Process (17 tasks), Business Environment (4 tasks)
  • 133 Enablers – People (53), Process (61) and Business Environment (19)

Change – 8: Exam Question Styles

Earlier, the exam had only multi-choice questions. Now, you have a variety of questions. 

  • Multiple choice questions with ONLY ONE answer.
    There will be 4 choices with radio buttons. Only one answer will be correct.
  • Drag and Drop questions.
    Drag from left and drop on the right.
  • Hot-spot questions.
    Select the area in a graph or table depending on the situation.
  • Multiple response questions with MORE THAN ONE correct answer.
    There will be more than 4 choices with check boxes. More than one answer can be correct.
  • Fill-in the blanks questions.
    Questions will be there with empty “___________” lines. And you have to fill in the blanks.

Change – 9: Changed Filling of PMP Application forms 

This is not exactly a new change, but has happened before January 02, 2021. However, many candidates may miss this part. Currently, the exam process has been greatly simplified. 

You don’t have to fill-up your projects in hours, but overall in months. In writings (PMP book) and video, I mention it’s a Triple-E (EEE) approach.

  • E = Education, where you have to mention your academic qualifications.
  • E = Experience, where you have to mention your work experience. 
  • E = Exam Details, where you provide the exam related information, e.g., if you have any special need.

Change – 10: Exam Score Report

Exam score report will be across 3 exam domains of People, Process and Business Environment. Your exam score will look like the sample shown below.

As shown above, you will be rated in every domain and rating will be one out of four performance rating categories. 

Change – 11: Multiple Reference Guides and Books

While the PMBOK Guide, latest edition remains the main reference, there are other reference guides such as Agile Practice Guide (APG) and other books.

Hence, you should have a material which encompasses all the needed content. Though almost every provider claims to have such a material, in reality, VERY FEW actually do.

Go with the course from a provider, who is genuinely interested in your success and invested in your success.

Your major sources of questions will be from the PMBOK guide and the Agile Practice Guide (APG).

Video – Exam Change Highlights 

The below video captures the change highlights in just over 6 minutes. You can plug-in your earphones and listen to quickly know the PMP exam changes. [Duration: 6m:21s]

The complete video set with full discussion on the changes and also detailed coverage on the new exam are part of PMP Live Lessons.



Of course, above all, you have to know the content well and prepare thoroughly. The exam does test your project management knowledge thoroughly and the coverage area is quite vast. 

And, as I’ve frequently noted: Do NOT jump into practice questions immediately, like many do. You won’t get much value out of it, though you may pass. First understand the concepts well and then take high-quality mock exam questions. With this you not only has a high chance of being a PMP, but you also understand and can apply the concepts in your work.

Good quality questions are generally NOT available on the web. On the web, you will have useless questions (will waste your time), unless written by people who have genuinely built many PMP success stories.  

With these noted changes, I believe you are aware of the latest PMP exam and it helps in your journey to be a PMI-PMP.

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