What is Changing in PMP Exam from 2020

What is Changing in PMP Exam from 2020 1

What is Changing in PMP Exam from 2020


PMI announced PMP exam changes for 2019 – 2020 some time ago, and followed it up with an announcement for syllabus change in December 2019. In this post we shall what exactly has changed (hint: it’s nothing like we’ve seen in a decade), what does this mean to a PMP® aspirant, and what the next steps should be.


Years ago when I was preparing for my PMP® exam, I got to know that the syllabus was changing. And I was thinking..



Why does PMI keep changing the exam syllabus?

Project management practices evolve based on the needs and demands of the industry, stakeholders, dynamics of the economy, and human ingenuity.

A project manager needs to follow the best practices in order to manage her projects effectively and efficiently.

I mean, isn’t that one of the reasons why we take up certification exams?

To know the best way of handling projects, based on what works out there.

PMI ensures that the PMP syllabus reflects the best practices from the industry and stays relevant to every project manager looking to learn the best practices and approaches.

PMI follows a unique process to keep it relevant to industry practices.

Important date: 30 June 2020
Last day to take the current version of the PMP® Exam.

It does this by studying in detail how projects are managed across industries across the world, and incorporating those best practices into what is known as the ‘Examination Content Outline’ (ECO) document.

This ECO is the real PMP exam syllabus (did you think it was PMBOK?).

Thus, when you pass the exam, you would have been tested in a way that your result reflects your readiness to manage projects in the real world.



Make sure you read the Summary section below to understand what’s changing and its impact for you, at a glance.

In other words, both

(a) content of the PMP exam, and

(b) the way the exam evaluates a candidate for the application of these concepts to real-life project scenarios,

are made to reflect the project management practices in the industry.

Consider this a way to train yourself to manage projects based on the best practices across industries around the world.

This way when you pass your PMP exam, companies know that you are prepared to manage projects effectively.

This increases your value in the job market.

PMI does this market research exercise every 3-5 years and brings in its findings into the PMP syllabus – the ECO document.

PMBOK guide – used as one of the reference books for PMP exam preparation – is based on this Examination Content Outline document, but is not the sole and only reference resource to prepare for the exam.

What is Changing in PMP Exam from 2020 2

So, what did PMI find this time?


This year PMI conducted a Global Practice Analysis market research study and discovered a number of new trends.

These go into Job Task Analysis which sets the tone for the PMP syllabus.


Examination Content Outline defines 3 things –

  1. Domains
  2. Tasks under each of the domains, that define specific job expectations from the project manager
  3. Enablers

Each task has a title, and with the latest update to Examination Content Outline document, instead of definition, it has something called ‘Enablers’.

Enablers give some ideas on how to handle the job expectation under each task, but they do not represent an exhaustive list.

Here’s an example –

Currently, we have,

  • Domain – Initiating
  • Percentage questions –13%
  • Task – Task 1
  • Definition – Perform project assessment based upon available information, lessons learned from previous projects, and meetings with relevant stakeholders in order to support the evaluation of the feasibility of new products or services within the given assumptions and/or constraints.

The new changes will bring in something like this –

  • Domain – People
  • Percentage questions – 42%
  • Task – Task 1
  • Title – Manage Conflict
  • Enabler –
    • Interpret the source and stage of the conflict
    • Analyze the context for the conflict
    • Evaluate/recommend/reconcile the appropriate conflict resolution solution

Alright, what are other changes?



First, domain names have changed.



You probably noticed that in the example above.

PMI has attempted to map the domains to PMI Talent Triangle with it’s 3 sides – Leadership, Technical Project Management, and Strategic & Business Management – mapping to People, Process, and Business Environment respectively.

This means the questions appear under a different set of domains and with a different percentage.

When you pass PMP on or before 30 June 2020 – your result will show your level of expertise under 5 domains – Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing.

Yes, same names as Process Groups.

And the percentage of questions covered under each domain is as below –

  1. Initiating – 13% (26 questions)
  2. Planning – 24% (48 questions)
  3. Executing – 31% (62 questions)
  4. Monitoring & Controlling – 25% (50 questions)
  5. Closing – 7% (14 questions)


Come Dec 16, 2019 – and the results most likely (‘most likely’ because I am yet to see an official word from PMI on this) will show under 3 domains –

  1. People– emphasizing the skills and activities associated with effectively leading a project team
  2. Process– reinforcing the technical aspects of managing a project
  3. Business Environment– highlighting the connection between projects and organization strategy.


And the questions will appear in the following proportions –

  • People –  42% (84 questions) – covers 14 tasks
  • Process – 50% (100 questions) – covers 17 tasks
  • Business Environment – 8% (16 questions) – covers 4 tasks


Can you see what is challenging?

The current (or say ‘old’) 5 domains mapped to the stages that a project will progress – initiate the project, plan it, execute and monitor, and close – in other words, they mapped to Process Groups.

It made it intuitive for the student.

People, Processes, & Business environment as domains do not form a logical sequence, and while studying it might become a bit harder to understand and remember in terms of domains.

And, with % questions from current 5 domains no more being valid (that’s the current understanding in the absence of any concrete word from PMI on this, and going only by the ECO document), there is no way to know what to expect from each of the Process Groups.



Do you see the point?


Areas covered in PMI’s patented Talent Triangle.

Image courtesy: PMI’s talent triangle

There’s more to the changes.


PMI found that more and more projects are moving towards Agile, and many are taking the middle-ground – Hybrid approach.

Thus, about 50% of questions on the exam will test your knowledge as applicable to the Predictive project environment, and rest as applicable to Agile and Hybrid.

So you could expect half the questions from People domain to be based on Predictive environment context, and the half (that is 21% of overall questions or 42 questions) to be based on Agile and Hybrid environment.






Does the PMBOK  version or content change?


At least as of now, there is no official word from PMI, although it mentions that the research team wasn’t restricted by PMBOK in any way and that there are differences between the findings and PMBOK.

So, in that context, it is a bit surprising that PMBOK doesn’t change.

But again, as of now, PMBOK-6 does not change.



What about CAPM?

Yes, there are changes. Please refer to this article to know more.

In a nutshell,

Come December 16, 2019, you can expect the following in the PMP exam –

Domain % Questions Approx. questions testing Predictive knowledge Approx. questions testing Agile & Hybrid knowledge
People (14 tasks) 42% 42 42
Process (17 tasks) 50% 50 50
Business Environment (4 tasks) 8% 8 8

Well, I still have a few questions.

For instance, how does the percentage distribution maps to knowledge areas or process groups?

Or, if the result says someone failed in the Process domain, which PGs or KAs or processes would the candidate deemed weak in?

Or, what would be the impact on the CAPM exam?

I shall update this section once I find out more. If you have any questions, please send them to me at info@crmnigeria.com – and I’ll find answers for you.




This is the snapshot of changes and the impact for a PMP aspirant –

  • PMP syllabus is the Examination Content Outline document, not PMBOK guide
  • Domains are changing
  • Percent questions that appear from domains are changing (no more from earlier 5 domains – Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, Closing)
  • Tasks and their definitions are changing
  • More of Agile and Hybrid project context (about 50% actually!) – across each of the 3 domains
  • In other words, expect DRASTIC changes in the exam kicking in on 16 December 2019



Have you begun PMP exam preparation?

Are you looking to spend as less time as possible on PMP prep?

Would you rather avoid a complete revamp of PMP prep and dealing with uncertainty?



Take Your PMP Certification Exam Now Before It Changes!



What’re the next steps?



Unless you seek risk, it would be better to plan for the PMP exam in its current form.

While you have 5 and a half months from now till the next exam kicks in, start now with a 6-12 week plan. Don’t push this till the wire.

If you haven’t yet applied to the PMI site, follow this step-by-step guide. It also shares a spreadsheet for you to collect your experience information in a way that PMI expects.



Schedule your exam slot as soon as you can.

As the new exam date approaches there is going to be a mad rush at exam centres and it becomes hard to get exam slots.

Considering the average prep period is about 4-6 weeks, decide on your exam date based on any professional and personal commitment you have in the next 6-8 weeks.

As Oliver Lehmann says, before October it is important, after that it becomes URGENT (now, it would be by after April 2020)

Urgent beats important – your risk increases and effectiveness decreases.



Get the study resources that you really enjoy studying from.

I recommend PMBOK and this. (you can, of course, get soft-copy of PMBOK for free by becoming a PMI member & it reduces exam fee too).

But if you want to use study brain-friendly techniques that cut down efforts by half and double the effectiveness (and confidence!), I recommend joining my mailing list to get updates about the PMP Exam.


Lastly, share this article in your network so PMP students can know what exactly is changing in the PMP exam this year and plan their exam accordingly.

Cheers and all the best!





PS – Write to me at info@crmnigeria.com about the biggest blocker you have on the way of your PMP goal and I’ll help you get past it.


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Adeniyi Salau Scrum Master Certified , CCNA R&S , BeingCert and Scrum Certified Digital Marketing Professional, CEP, MOS, MCP, CSCU (Project 2016), Microsoft Certified Security and Networking Associate is a Google and Beingcert Certified Digital Marketer, Project Manager and SEO Expert of repute with about a decade of Blogging and online marketing experience. He is always ready to share his experience with others.

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