PMP Exam Changes in 2022

The Project Management Institute (PMI) manages the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification process, the PMP® exam administration, and the PMP exam content, including changes within those components. In January 2021, PMI released a new PMP® certification exam, followed in August 2021, by a new Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Seventh Edition. The new PMBOK® Guide will influence the questions on the PMP exam, but that is only one of the PMP exam changes. It is essential to know when the PMP exam is changing, what PMP exam content will be changing, and how the PMP exam format is changing.  

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PMP exam changes

The PMP exam changes encompass the exam structure, the content, and the delivery options. The overall changes reflect how the online test-taking options expanded and how PMI’s PMBOK® Guide and Exam Content Outline have evolved.  Understanding the exam component changes will benefit your PMP exam preparation.

Structure

As of January 2021, PMI changed the PMP exam structure with shifts in duration, breaks, and the number of questions. This new structure will not significantly impact study approaches but will help you in knowing how to approach the exam on test day.

  • NUMBER OF QUESTIONS: from 200 to 180 questions
  • DURATION OF EXAM: from 240 minutes to 230 minutes
  • FREQUENCY OF BREAKS: from one break to two (both ten minutes)
  • QUESTION TYPES: from one question type to many types including multiple-choice, matching, hotspot, and fill-in-the-blank

Questions and content

PMI conducts extensive research to decide how, if, and when, changes are made to project management standards and certification exam content. The exam changes in content include not just content but the weighted percentages of the topics within the PMP exam.

  • CONTENT TOPIC CHANGES: from predictive project phases and knowledge areas to three domains of People, Processes, and Business Environment
  • CONTENT QUESTION DISTRIBUTION CHANGES: from weighted question distribution by processes [Initiating the project (13%), Planning the project (24%), Executing the project (31%), monitoring & controlling the project (25%), and closing the project (7%)] to a question distribution by domains [People (42%), Process (50%), Business Environment (8%)]

Note each exam is “unique” in that questions are randomly pulled from PMI’s secure question bank following certain parameters. There will never be an exam the same as another; each exam administered is ”unique”. What will not change is the distribution of questions across the three domains.

Delivery options including online

PMI provides a seven-page instruction list for scheduling a PMP certification exam session. All PMP exam certification sessions are managed by the third-party testing service, Pearson VUE. In consideration of local health safety regulations and guidelines, it is critical to go to the Pearson VUE site for the most current testing protocols. There are both online and in-person options. However, not all PMI exams are available at all testing centers. Use Pearson VUE’s “seat availability” tool to confirm specific PMP exam availability.

The global health crisis triggered by the spread of COVID-19 and variants sparked more online PMP exam testing options. Pearson VUE provides this PMP exam information related to COVID-19 changes. For more information around testing changes, including rescheduling and refunds, access the Pearson VUE PMP exam Frequently Asked Questions page.

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Significant PMP exam changes

Of the PMP exam changes effective in 2021, the most significant is the addition of agile and hybrid methodologies-based content. It is a change that for some project managers is long overdue, and for others, the added content is daunting. With half of the PMP exam questions to cover agile and hybrid practices, no matter which project management methodology you use, you need to study all of them.

When PMI added these new methodologies to the PMP exam content, by extension the overall scope of information to know expanded. How you study for the PMP exam should be driven not by your professional preference of methods but by what will be expected for a passing exam score.

PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO) changes

PMI provides potential exam takers with the ”PMP Exam Content Outline” (ECO) as a resource. To bridge the gap between the pre-2021 ECO and the 2021 ECO, PMI published the PMP Exam Content Outline Crossover Map as a guide. The outline is a content source for the PMP exam questions, just as the PMBOK® Guide is, hence the outline should be included in your PMP exam prep plans.

The PMP Exam Content Outline Crossover Map provides a line of sight into how the 2015 ECO organized the PMP exam questions by five Process Groups, and the new ECO is arranged by three domains.  Access the PMI’s PMP 2021 ECO resource file to see the distribution of questions by domains:

Although the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is a key source, it is by no means the only information used to craft PMP certification exam questions. Using a PMI-approved training solution is the best way to gain insight into the exam structure.

PMP exam format

What is unchanged is the PMP certification exam format is still designed to assess how well you know the foundational project management concepts, terms, processes, and methodologies. The PMI’s sample PMP certification exam reference sheet provides examples of what to expect.

What has changed, as evident in the 2021 Examination Content Outline, is that “predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches will be found throughout the three domain areas listed above and are not isolated to any particular domain or task.” When asking yourself “what is changing in the PM exam format?” think of it less about the number of questions or if you are taking it onsite or online, but more about the scope of content now assessed.

PMBOK® Guide seventh edition changes

The PMBOK® Guide7th edition’s new content includes performance domains, tailoring, and models, methods, and artifacts. The new PMBOK® Guide 7th edition is a change in project management standards including:

  • A shift from process-based to  principles-based
  • Knowledge areas move to new performance domains
  • Single project manager focus changes to team members and roles
  • Single approach changes to a new tailored approach for work

PMI® published a list of sources their exam creators used to base their questions on and this list, along with the current exam content outline (ECO), should be used to prepare to take the PMP® certification exam. According to PMI, the list of sources is not complete but does provide a large cross-section from which students can base their studies and feel confident they will be prepared to take the exam.

Impact of PMBOK® Guide seventh edition on the exam

PMI informed Authorized Training Partners (ATPs) there will be a slow rollout of new questions added to the PMP® exam question bank, rather than a complete replacement.This is a PMP exam change in that in the transition of previous releases, exam questions underwent a complete replacement at one time.

Students intending to sit for the PMP® exam should understand (not just memorize!) methodologies, tools, processes, and concepts to apply them to a given scenario for the best course of action possible. Rote memorization of PMBOK Guide content is not what is being assessed in the exam. Rather the ability to leverage critical thinking to assess a situation and apply best practices is the true driving goal behind PMI’s standards and related credentials.

Estimated date for upcoming exam changes

Using industry research from job bank data, PMI.org data, and member surveys, PMI updates the PMBOK® Guide about every 3 to 5 years to ensure alignment with where the profession is and where it is headed. Many new exam takers will search the web to answer: when is the PMP exam changing next?

Traditionally, PMI follows PMBOK® Guide releases with updated ECO and/or PMP exam content changes within six months. If that pattern held, then a new exam would be expected in 2022. Yet, PMI has already informed Authorized Training Providers (ATP) that exam content question changes will be gradual, so the pattern is no longer valid.

PMI has ongoing communications with all Authorized Training Partners. You will improve your chances of PMP exam success with the use of PMI-approved exam prep courses.

Conclusion

Working towards the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, with PMP® credential holders earning 25% more than their counterparts without it, is an important professional goal. Select a PMI Authorized Training Provider like the Project Management Academy to ensure your PMP exam study efforts will align with PMI changes in new exam questions and changing certification resources.

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell
Project Manager & Writer at Project Management Academy | + posts
Megan Bell