New PMP exams: tips and study materials

Since the 2nd January 2021, the new exam for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification of the Project Management Institute has changes. In this post, you will find an overview of the most significant changes, along with tips and resources to prepare for the exam.

New domains

The changes derive from the latest Role Delineation Study, conducted by the Project Management Institue in 2019. All the previous similar studies led to some small changes, but always within the five domains Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Control, Closing. The last study, on the other hand, revealed the need to review the domains as follows:

  • People, related to the skills and activities associated with the effective leadership of a project team;
  • Process, for the technical management aspects;
  • Business Environment, related to the connection between projects and organizational strategy.

It also changes the way domains are defined. The traditional ones were defined based on activities, knowledge, and skills, while the new domains on tasks and enablers. By tasks we mean the project manager's fundamental responsibilities within each domain, while enablers are illustrative models of the work connected with the task.

Therefore, the new structure is defined in terms of the activities for which the project manager is responsible and provides examples related to this responsibility.

An example, provided by the PMI in the new PMP Exam Content Outline

TaskManage conflict
Enablers – Interpret the source and stage of the conflict;
– analyze the context of the conflict;
– evaluate/recommend/reconcile an adequate solution capable of resolving the conflict.

The distribution of tasks and enablers is the following:

  • People includes 14 tasks and 53 enablers;
  • Process includes 17 tasks and 61 enablers;
  • Business environment includes 4 tasks and 19 enablers.

Exam question

The questions, which will be a combination of multiple-choice and answer, matching, hotspots, and fields to be filled, will no longer be focused on predictive project management approaches but now we have a perfect perfect balance between predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches.

The largest number of questions will be focused on the Process and People domains: of the 180 exam questions (previously there were 200), 50% will be focused on Process, 42% on People, while only 8% will focus on Business Environment. Before, the questions were divided into:

  • Initiating 13%
  • Planning 24%
  • Executing 31%
  • Monitoring and Controlling 25%
  • Closing 7%

New content

The three domains have new content compared to the previous version of the exam.

People-Value servant leadership;
– measure training outcomes;
– maintain team and knowledge transfer;
– assess behavior through the use of personality indicators;
– analyze personality indicators and adjust to the emotional needs of key project stakeholders.
Process– Assess opportunities to deliver value incrementally;
– support the team to subdivide project tasks as necessary to find the Minimum Viable Product;
– coordinate with other projects and other operations;
– recommend a project methodology/approach (i.e., predictive, agile, hybrid);
– use iterative, incremental practices throughout the project life cycle (e.g., lessons learned, stakeholder engagement, risk);
– confirm the approach for knowledge transfers.
Business Environment- Classify compliance categories;
- determine potential threats to compliance;
- use methods to support compliance;
- analyze the consequences of noncompliance;
- determine the necessary approach and action to address compliance needs (e.g., risk, legal)
- measure the extent to which the project is in compliance;
- verify measurement system is in place to track benefits;
- evaluate delivery options to demonstrate value;
- assess and prioritize impact on project scope/backlog based on changes in the external business environment;
- recommend options for scope/backlog changes (e.g., schedule, cost changes)
- continually review external business environment for impacts on project scope/backlog;
- assess organizational culture;
- evaluate the impact of organizational change on the project and determine required actions;
- evaluate the impact of the project on the organization and determine required actions.

For the complete list of each domain's content, the PMI developed a Crossover Map, available at this link.

Study material

The exam's main references are the sixth and seventh editions of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Please, note: the main, but not exclusive resources: the PMP is a competency-based certification that evaluates the integrated set of knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired from practical and learned experiences. The exam is based on the PMP Examination Content Outline and the Guide is only one fo the main references.

The PMI suggested the following (non-exhaustive) list of study material:

  • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – 6th Edition, authored and published by the PMI;
  • Agile Practice Guide, authored and published by the PMI;
  • Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, by Harold Kerzner, published by Wiley;
  • Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Hybrid, by Robert K. Wysocki, published by Wiley;
  • Fundamentals of Technology Project Management, 2nd Edition, by Colleen Garton and Erika McCulloch, published by MC Press;
  • Project Managers Portable Handbook, 3rd Edition, by David Cleland and Lewis Ireland, published by McGraw-Hill;
  • Information Technology Project Management, 7th Edition, by Kathy Schwalbe, published by Cengage Learning;
  • Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process, by Kenneth S. Rubin, published by Addison-Wesley;
  • Project Management: The Managerial Process, by Erik Larson, published by McGraw-Hill;
  • The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right, by Tom Kendrick, published by AMACOM.

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