On January 2, 2021, the PMP® exam radically changed its structure and content. The changes were based on research undertaken by PMI into which tasks and approaches project managers frequently use.

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New Focus

Based on this research, the new exam dropped the old domains based on process groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, Closing) and is now based on three new domains:

  • Business Environment (8% of questions)
  • People (42% of questions)
  • Process (50% of questions)
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New Content

PMI’s research revealed that many project managers use agile approaches or agile concepts in hybrid life cycles. So, the new exam now covers predictive, hybrid and agile approaches.

These agile concepts and increased weight on the people aspects of projects are a significant shift. Topics such as conflict resolution, servant leadership, and retrospectives were previously only in the PMI-ACP® exam but will now also be featured in the PMP® exam (although not in so much depth or frequency).


New Question Types

In addition to the traditional four-option multiple-choice questions used in the past, PMI is now using some new question types. There are multiple-select questions, where you would select all the appropriate options from a more extensive list. For example, select the three correct answers from a list of six.

There are also drag-and-drop options to match scenarios/options in one column to their corresponding options in another column. Finally, click-on-the-image questions where you have to select the appropriate area of a chart or graph.

Not PMBOK


Not a Test of the PMBOK® Guide

The PMP® exam is not a test of the PMBOK Guide.  When question writers create questions, they reference two source documents for each question. This is to ensure questions are based on approved sources and not just their belief or suggestion. Previously, the PMBOK Guide was frequently used as one of the two sources, but it was always backed up by at least one non-PMBOK reference.

Now there is more people-based and agile-approach coverage, more questions will come from outside the PMBOK Guide. Exam takers need to understand and apply the concepts described in the new Exam Content Outline (ECO). That’s where this website and the book come in.


The Scope of the Exam

This website and associated book are based on the new ECO topics. These domains, tasks and enablers align with the new questions in the PMP® exam. Think of the ECO as the scope of the exam. If something is listed in the ECO, there can be exam questions on it. Things outside the ECO will not be tested in the exam.

The tasks you see on the content maps (such as “1.1 Manage Conflict” and “1.2 Lead a Team”) are the tasks from the new ECO. This is why this website and the book are structured the way they are. It is to match the sets of questions used in the exam.

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Multiple Life Cycles

The new exam tests knowledge of predictive (plan-driven/waterfall) life cycles as well as agile and hybrid life cycles. If we lay these approaches out on a spectrum, projects can exist anywhere from Highly Predictive through to Highly Adaptive.

Large construction projects that need a lot of planning would most likely fit at the “Highly Predictive” end of the spectrum. While new technology projects that have high rates of change and uncertainty would fit at the “Highly Adaptive” end.

(These are stereotyped examples, and there are always exceptions, such as small, high-tech predictive projects and large agile projects. However, to convey some common scenarios, hopefully, these examples are helpful.) 

Throughout the book and this website, we use animals to depict different types of projects. This is to make them fun and memorable. 

Predictive

 

We use strong but slow Mr. Carthorse for traditional/predictive projects.

We use a fast but small Ms. Gazelle to depict agile lifecycle projects.

A hybrid is a mixture of two (or more) elements. In project lifecycle discussions, hybrid approaches combine some aspects of predictive and agile lifecycles. As a result, they are neither predictive or agile. However, they might be a practical approach for an organization that cannot be one or the other.

We use Mx Zebra to describe hybrid projects. Half black, half white Mx Zebra is stronger than Ms Gazelle and faster than Mr Carthorse.

Mx Zebra is also slower than Ms Gazelle and weaker than Mr Carthorse, but they do have fancy stripes!

Some organizations use a hybrid approach as they transition from a predictive approach to an agile approach. During the transition period, they may still have remnants of predictive processes. Others use a hybrid to link their largely agile teams with decidedly non-agile other units.

Hybrids can exist anywhere on the spectrum from Highly Predictive to Highly Adaptive.

Summary

The new PMP exam is very different. No longer is the PMBOK® Guide a primary study reference. The new ECO draws upon people, process and business environment questions. It also embraces agile and hybrid lifecycles.

The good news is these changes reflect how today’s projects operate. To understand and answer the questions, there is less converting to PMI process and recalling what comes next in the sequence. Instead, it comes down to knowing and applying the tasks outlined in the ECO, and that’s why you are here. We make the exam scope visual and memorable so you can understand and recall it more easily.