Monday, October 11, 2021

What Should You Know about the PMP Exam Changes in 2021 and Beyond? (Part 2)


The Impact of the Changes

Obviously, as the exam has changed, there have been quite a few impacts. Let’s look at them one by one.

Impact #1: Exam Complexity

Many have been saying the new exam is more difficult, which I don’t agree with because the needed experience level to appear for the exam has not changed. It still is either of the following:

For four-year bachelor’s degree or global equivalent: Minimum 36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience,

– or –

For secondary degree (high school diploma or global equivalent): Minimum 60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience

As the experience level is relatively low and remains unchanged, I don’t expect the exam questions to be tougher. That said, the exam is more complex now because of the new addition of tasks within the new domains, along with the Agile content increased the scope of coverage. If you are an aspiring PMP, you will need to expand your horizon in the project management landscape.

Impact #2: First Score Report

The first examination score report are changed now. This is the report exam takers get immediately after the exam at the exam center. It's based on the three domains and the report will come as shown below.

The proficiency levels, nevertheless, remains unchanged, in that the score will continue to have four performance rating categories (Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement).

Impact #3: Detailed Score Analysis *** NEW ***

For each domain in the new ECO, there are number of enablers, and for each enabler, there are a number of tasks. These are spread across the three domains – Process and Business Environment.

More explanation on it has been given towards the later part of this article. Your evaluation will be on these domains, tasks and enablers. 

Impact #4: Questions in Agile/Hybrid Approaches *** NEW ***

As noted earlier, there is equal distribution of questions with respect to predictive and adaptive (Agile) or hybrid approaches.

These are spread across all of the domains, People, Process, and Business Environment. 

Important Note:

While Agile is 50% of the questions, many confuse Hybrid questions as part of the Agile. As per PMI, this is the definition of hybrid model:

A hybrid model is a combination of two or more agile and non-agile elements, having a non-agile end result. 

In other words, you can say that Hybrid ones will have a combination of Agile and Traditional/Waterfall approaches. 

Hence, combing Agile and Hybrid questions you can expect  more than 50% questions! In fact, many successful PMPs in this year have informed so. Some of the questions with Agile related concepts will be part of a traditional/waterfall project. These questions will fall under Hybrid type. It’s not explicitly Agile/Adaptive. 

PMI Talent Triangle and the New ECO Triangle

If you look closely, you can find that the three domains in the ECO are aligning closely with the three arms of PMI’s Talent Triangle. The PMI Talent Triangle was introduced in 2015 because technical project management skills for a practicing project manager were found to be insufficient to succeed in the real world with real life practices. Hence, two new areas were added (leadership capabilities and strategic and business management proficiency). The PMI Talent Triangle is depicted on the left side of the diagram below.


Similarly, the new ECO of 2020/2021 has three domains, which are aligned with real-world project management practices. I’ve put these three domains as the arms of the “New ECO Triangle” for easier correlation – shown on the right side of above diagram. Comparing these two triangles, you could say that:

  • The Leadership arm maps to People domain,
  • The Technical Project Management arm maps to Process domain, and
  • The Strategic and Business Management arm maps to Business Environment domain.

This is significant because in the new PMP exam, you need to evaluate your understanding in these contexts.

We now know what are the changes and impacts. Next, let’s dive a bit deeper into the domains and associated concepts of the new exam.

Domains, Tasks, and Enablers

Each domain in the new ECO is empowered by a set of tasks and enablers. In fact, in the new 2020/2021 ECO, the format of Domains, Tasks, and Enables is used throughout. I’ve depicted it in the below figure.

As shown, every domain has a set of tasks, and each task is associated with a set of enablers. Let’s look at some examples.

Domain: A domain is defined as the high-level knowledge area that is essential to the practice of project management.

  • An example of this is People.

Tasks: A task informs about the underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain area.

  • Examples (for the People domain) are: 
    • Task 1: Manage conflict
    • Task 2: Lead a team
    • Task 3: Support team performance

Enablers: Enablers are illustrative examples of the work associated with a task. For example, for Task 2 (Lead a team) under the “People” domain, we have these enablers:

  • Enabler 1: Set a clear vision and mission
  • Enabler 2: Support diversity and inclusion
  • Enabler 3: Value servant leadership
  • Enabler 4: Determine an appropriate leadership style

In simpler words, you can say that each answers a different question, as shown below.

I’ve received a number of questions from aspiring PMPs who are using PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass35 Contact Hours PMP Program, and/or the I Want To Be A PMP book to prep for the exam. I’ll address a few of the most common in this article.

Many aspiring PMPs in fact have followed the above courses and/or book clear the exam in 2021. You can read their success stories below.

PMP Success Stories for Year 2021

As we reach the end of this article, let see the frequently asked questions (FAQs). It's a detailed one. This list is prepared based on my interactions with aspiring PMPs. 

Frequently Asked Questions (Top 10) *** NEW ***

Question – 1: As the domains in the ECO are changing, will a new PMBOK Guide be available with these new domains? 

Answer: No. The PMBOK Guide for the current PMP exam has not changed in 2021. The 6th edition of the guide will remain as is with its five process groups. The PMBOK guide continues to remain as one of the most important reference guides for your exam.

A new edition of the PMBOK guide, 7th edition is available. But it's not related to the domains of the ECO. [Also see Question - 3]

Question – 2: Should I refer to the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide and/or any other resource?

Answer: You have to refer to the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide for your PMP exam preparation irrespective of taking the exam on or after January 2, 2021.

The PMBOK Guide is one of the main references that is used for PMP examination preparation. There are other references that will also be used, as noted in Part - 1 of this article. Because the questions are created by project management practitioners who are not solely bound by the PMBOK Guide. 

Question – 3: Currently a new edition of the PMBOK Guide, 7th Edition is available is available. Should I also read it?

Answer: No. The PMBOK guide, 7th edition, though released this year (July 2021), has not been enforced. There is no need to read this guide while preparing for your PMP exam.

The PMBOK guide, 6th edition is listed as a reference for your current PMP exam. 

Question – 4: When will be the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition be enforced?

Answer: There is no information available at this stage. This is as of October, 2021 when this article is posted. 

PMI will surely communicate before the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition is enforced. As and when it’s enforced for PMP exam, it will also be listed as one of the items in the Exam Reference List. 

Question – 5: Do I need to remember the new tasks and enablers of the new ECO?

Answer: No. It is not necessary that you remember them, but you have to understand what they are and how they are mapped to the contents of the PMBOK guide and other project management references to become a certified project management professional.

Question – 6: How much should I focus on the Agile aspects?

Answer: Agile is obviously 50% of the exam as mentioned earlier in this article. With 90 questions, you need to have a sound knowledge of Agile approaches.

In addition, there will be a number of questions on Hybrid mode, which will have Agile content. Hence, I’ll strongly suggest that you prepare the Agile part thoroughly. 

Question – 7: Should I read the Agile Practice Guide?

Answer: Yes. If you are going for the exam in 2021 and beyond, I would strongly suggest that you read the Agile Practice Guide, which comes bundled along with the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition.

Question – 8: Should I read all the other reference books?

Answer: There are quite a few reference books, as noted earlier in Overall Changes section. No one can read all these books and prepare for the exam. 

In this case, good preparatory courses (preferably video courses because you learn faster with videos) and books will be needed. I’ve already mentioned a number of courses and books offered by ManagementYogi. You can refer them or the course of your choice.

Question – 9: Should I practice for other types of questions?

Answer: Yes. As informed earlier in Part - 1, other question types such as Multi-response, Drag and Drop questions are coming in the exam. This has been the consistent feedback by successful PMPs who have written their success stories.

Any course material you use, must have these types of questions to give you practice. If it doesn’t have, then it’s not worth your time. Also be very careful about outdated questions, which are rampant in the marketplace. It will give you no value. 

Question – 10: As the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition has been released, will a new ECO be released now?

Answer: This is another important question. The short answer is this: Another ECO is unlikely to come this year or next. 

The ECO’s development follows a different path compared to the PMBOK Guide’s development. You can consider ECO’s development and PMBOK’s development as two separate release trains. 

new ECO, as mentioned in Part – 1 of this article, is released every three to five years. PMI has released a new ECO last year (2020, though actually first released in 2019). Hence, it’s unlikely that another ECO will be coming in 2021 or 2022.



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