2021 PMP Exam and PMP Certification-What You Must Know

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Last Updated on March 21, 2021 by andrewshih

PMP Exam and PMP Certification

What are PMP exam and PMP certification?

Project Management Institute (PMI) governs the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.  It is the most highly regarded project management certification in the world.  In order to obtain the PMP certification, the candidate must meet the application and work experience requirements and pass the PMP exam.

What are PMP certification requirements?

Project Management Professionals need to meet the high standard and must meet rigorous education, work experience, and learning requirements including:

Educational Background

Project Management Experience

Project Management
Education

Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or global equivalent)

Minimum five years/60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of
formal education unless
you are an active CAPM
holder

OR

Four-year degree (bachelor’s degree or global equivalent)

Minimum three years/36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of
formal education unless
you are an active CAPM
holder

OR

Bachelor's or post-graduate
degre from a GAC accredited program (bachelor’s degree or master's or global equivalent)

Minimum two years/24 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience*

35 contact hours of formal education unless you are an active CAPM holder

The Global Accreditation Center (GAC) for Project Management Education Programs is an independent academic accreditation body with project management and related programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels.

Upon completing the application requirement above, the PMP candidate will earn the right to take the PMP exam.  Upon passing the PMP exam, the candidate will earn the PMP certification.

What to write for PMP application

On the application, you must demonstrate you have earned enough work hours leading or managing projects.  You must complete the online application that includes the timeframe, hours, and summarizes each of the projects broken down the tasks into each domain group.

Completing the application is a common challenge for candidates especially with project descriptions and many candidates who have failed the audit simply wrote they wrote the project description not meeting the PMI’s requirement.

I have created an application blog section that provides an overviewtips with examples for writing project descriptions, and how to prepare for the audit.

How to earn 35 hours of project management education

Before January 1, 2021

You can satisfy the 35 hours of project management education by enrolling in a course provided by a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) available on PMI website.  An easier way to earn the required education credit and prepare for the exam at the same time is to enroll in an exam prep course.

Students can choose to enroll in the on-demand course, live virtual, or physical class settings offer by the R.E.P.  The on-demand course typically costs around $300, whereas the live virtual class typically costs around $1000.

After January 1, 2021

PMI introduced Authorized Training Partner (A.T.P.) in January 2021, while keeping the old Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.).  Many of the leading reputable training providers such as PMTraining, PM-Prepcast are now ATP.

The downside to the PMP aspirant is that there are fewer on-demand course options because those ATP can no longer offer on-demand courses per PMI’s mandate. The live virtual training can typically cost between $1000 to $2000 dollars.

A new option available is to take the official on-demand PMP course created by PMI.  The PMI’s official on-demand training cost $699 for PMI member and $799 for non-members.

Fortunately, there are still free and low-cost options for earning the 35 contact hours.

Who can take the PMP exam

Before you can even sign up for the PMP exam, you must meet the minimum education and work experience requirement as well as 35 hours of education credit as mention above as part of the PMP application process.

How many questions in PMP exam

Before January 1, 2021

The exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions with four choices having one correct answer. 25 out of the 200 questions are not scored and used for future exam preparation. There is no negative penalty if you answer the question wrong, so it is in your best interest to answer all questions even if you have to guess.

After January 1, 2021

The exam consists of 180 questions. Questions will be a combination of multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank.  You can refer to some prototype questions here.

There will also be 5 questions that are mixed within the 180 questions which are not scored and used by PMI for future exam preparation purposes.

Although the total number of questions is lesser compared to earlier exams, the exam is going to be more difficult because of more exam material to study and the new exam structure. There is no negative penalty if you answer the question wrong, so it is in your best interest to answer all questions even if you have to guess.

Reference: PMP Exam Update for 2021

How long is the PMP exam

Before January 1, 2021

You will have 4 hours to complete the exam, with one 10-minute break in between the exam.

After January 1, 2021

You will have 230 minutes to complete the exam, with up to two 10-minute breaks in between the exam.

I recommend getting comfortable with working at a pace averaging about 1-minute per question so that you will have time to review the marked questions at the end and not stressed under time pressure.

What is the PMP exam structure?

Before January 1, 2021

According to the 2020 PMI Exam Content Outline, here is the proportion of the questions from each of the domain groups for the PMP exam:

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

After January 1, 2021

According to the 2021 PMI Exam Content Outline, here is the proportion of the questions from each of the domain for the PMP exam:

People 42%
Process 50%
Environment 8%

Compared to the old PMP exam, the new PMP exam has much greater emphasis on the project manager’s leadership skill and ability to align the project to the business strategic initiatives, not just the understanding and ability to apply project methodologies.

What is PMP exam passing score?

You will need to score 61% or above to pass the exam.  In other words, you will need to get 106 questions correct out of the 175 real questions.  Since you cannot tell which questions are graded, you should aim to get at least 122 questions out of 200 questions correct to pass the exam.

At the end of the real exam, you will only know if you pass or fail the PMP exam and you will not receive a percentage score. For PMP exam tips, please take a look at my blogs under Exam category that includes exam study tips, how to prepare the day before the exam, and taking the exam.

Where can I take the PMP exam?

Before July 1, 2019, PMP aspirants used to take the PMP exam at Prometric testing center.  After July 1, 2019, you will need to register and take the PMP exam at Pearson VUE test center.

Due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Project Management Institute (PMI)® announced in mid-April 2020 that candidates can now schedule and take the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam online from the convenience of their own home or office. The online-proctored PMP Certification exam is available 24/7.

For more information, please see:

PMI Online PMP Certification
PMI Coronavirus Updates
Pearson VUE Coronavirus Updates

How hard is the PMP exam

It is not an easy exam.  About one-third of the candidates failed the PMP exam even after rigorously studying for the exam.

What makes the exam difficult is that it is mostly a “situational-based” exam.  Many questions will give you a situation and you will need to be able to based on the knowledge and facts you learned and be able to apply to the situation.

Several answers may appear to be correct and rightfully you may need to take all those tasks, but usually, you need to pick the one that you need to perform first.

The new exam format will make the test more challenging because it is no longer straightforward multiple-choice questions, and there will a mix of 5 types of questions including multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank.

Lastly, the PMP exam is not an exam that simply tests on your memorization – it tests if you can apply the knowledge in real project management scenarios.

Should I take the PMP exam?

In order to get into the project management career, it is becoming more common that the job requirement stated candidate with PMP is preferred.  With more senior positions, a PMP designation will likely be a requirement.  For current project managers, they may see having PMP designation is becoming more prevalent and need to stay competitive.

How many times can I take the PMP exam in a year?

The candidate will have 1 year to pass the PM exam from the time the application is approved by PMI.  The candidate has up to three attempts to pass the exam within 1 year.

If you fail the examination three times within your one-year eligibility period, you must wait one year from the date of the last examination you took to reapply for the certification.  However, it doesn’t limit you from pursuing another different exam such as CAPM.

How much is PMP membership fee

The PMP annual renewal membership fee is $129 and $10 extra if you are a new member.  If you are going to take the PMP exam, it is more cost-effective to become a member and get the discounted fee as well as getting a free electronic version of the PMBOK guide for free.

What is PMP exam cost?

The cost for online and center-based-testing are the same, but it will depend on if you register as a member and if you are taking the PMP test the first time or retaking the test.

Attempt Status USA Euro
First Time member $405 €340
First Time nonmember $555 €465
Re-exam member $275 €230
Re-exam nonmember $375 €315

There are other costs that you need to consider in addition to the cost of the PMP exam.  You should also factor in the cost of acquiring 35 professional development units (PDU) that are required before you can take the exam.

Moreover, there is the cost of the online practice exam simulator and PMP exam study guides you may want to purchase. Here are the approximate costs for those additional items:

Item Cost
Printed PMBOK guide (if you are a member) $50
Printed PMBOK guide (if you are NOT a member) $99
A.T.P. Live Training $1,000 ~ $2,000
Online Practice Exam Simulator $149
One Study Guide/Book (Book Review) $50 ~ $100

Please refer to the resource page for a complete list of recommended resources.

How to maintain PMP certification

PMP holders have to continually educate themselves from the date you pass the examination. PMP has to earn 60 professional development units (PDU) every three years.

There are several ways to earn PDU at no cost including volunteer opportunities at local chapter or at PMI.  If you are a PMI member, you can also access projectmanagement.com where you can access live and on-demand online webinars for free and earn PDU.

Do I need to pay the renewal membership fee to maintain PMP certification?

No, you do not have to pay the membership fee to maintain your PMP designation.  The only requirement is that you must satisfy 60 PDU every 3 years to maintain the designation.

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