Must-Know for PMP Exam Change in 2020/2021


Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by andrewshih

PMP exam change postponed until January 2, 2021

As a result of growing concerns over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Project Management Institute announced that the current Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam will be available until December 31, 2020. The launch of the new PMP Exam will be postponed until January 2, 2021

Please check with PMI and the Pearson VUE testing center about their exams. Here is the link to the Pearson VUE website with their latest information

PMP exam change in 2021 is raising the bar

PMP is raising the bar for the PMP exam after December 31, 2020.  PMI initially announced the change was going to take place on December 15, 2019, but will defer the change for the second time.

With the PMP Exam change in 2021, PMP aspirants will need to know more to pass the PMP exam.  You should be well aware that the new Exam Content Outline (ECO) has already been released and that you must take the PMP exam on and before December 31, 2020, if you want to take the 2020 version of the PMP exam.

What are PMP exam changes at the high level

Focus more about people and less on process

In the past, PMP exam has primarily focused on the process area.  After December 31, 2020, the new PMP exam will expand and cover three domain areas, including People, Process, and Business environment. 

While the new exam will continue to reinforce the process area – the technical aspect of managing a project, it will only account for 50% in the new exam.  The people domain area will account for 42%, and the business environment will account for 8% in the new PMP exam.

PMP aspirants will be tested for the understanding of the project management process. They will also need to know the skills and activities of effectively leading a project team and connecting the projects to organizational strategy.

Focus more on Agile and less on the Waterfall model

Traditionally, the PMP exam has been 100% predictive waterfall model. In the new PMP exam, only 50% of the exam will be about predictive model, and 50% will be about agile and hybrid model across all 3 domains.

More questions types, not just multiple choice

In addition to multiple-choice questions, there will four other types of questions – multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank.

Different number of questions and break allowed during the exam

In the exam after January 2021, there will be 180 questions that need to be completed in 230 minutes, instead of 200 questions in 240 minutes.

The new exam also has two 10-minute breaks at 60 and 120-question interval. However, you will not be able to go back once you complete one section.

Detail Look at 2021 PMP Exam Changes

Exam Content Outline Comparison

The PMP exam on and before December 31, 2020, has 42 tasks from the role delineation study compared to 35 tasks for the new PMP exam.  Here is the breakdown of the tasks:

Exam Content Outline AFTER December 31, 2020

Domains # Tasks % of Exam
People 14 42%
Process 17 50%
Environment 4 8%
TOTAL 35 100%

Exam Content Outline BEFORE December 31, 2020

Domains # Tasks % of Exam
Initiating 8 13%
Planning 13 24%
Executing 7 31%
Monitoring 7 25%
Closing 7 7%
TOTAL 42 100%

However, do not be tricked into believing that the new exam will be easier because there are fewer tasks.  The 42 tasks from the old role delineation study are process-oriented and will be merged into the 17 processes as part of the new exam. 

Process Domain Area

If you look into the tasks in the new Exam Content Outline (ECO), all the 10 knowledge areas will still be covered by the new exam.  All the processes and ITTO within the 10 knowledge areas are expected to remain the same.  The changes to the process domain area should be minimum.

10 Knowledge Areas Process Tasks in E.C.O.
1. Project Integration Management 9,10
2. Project Scope Management 8
3. Project Schedule Management 6
4. Project Cost Management 5
5. Project Quality Management 7
6. Project Resource Management 5
7. Project Communications Management 2
8. Project Risk Management 3
9. Project Procurement Management 11
10. Project Stakeholder Management 4

People Domain Area

The new PMP exam will have a significant increase in coverage for dealing with the project team and stakeholders. 

PMP aspirants will need to know how to be a team leader and a problem solver:

  • Team Leader: Leading a team, build a team, training, mentoring, empower a team/stakeholder, support team performance, engaging virtual team members, and collaborate with Stakeholders.
  • Problem Solver: Manage conflict, address blockers, negotiation, define ground rules, and build shared understanding.

In PMBOK Guide Edition 6, Chapter 3 is the primary chapter that covers the role of the project manager.  You should pay attention to the information in this chapter, but there will still be informational gaps.  It will be reasonable to expect PMI will likely expand the content in this area within the PMBOK guide in the future to properly account for 42% of the exam.

Environment Domain Area

Environment Tasks includes:

  • Plan and manage project compliance
  • Evaluate and address external business environment changes for impact on the scope
  • Support organizational change
  • Evaluate and deliver project benefits and value

The environment domain area will only account for 8% of the exam.  The project manager will be expected to manage the project in a changing business environment.

Replacing REP with ATP in 2021

In addition to the PMP Exam change, PMI will replace the long-standing Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) program with a new Authorized Training Partner (ATP) program. 

If you already earned 35 contact hours, it will be carried over to the next year, and you do not need to retake another training class.  If not, you will want to look for a course provider with an ATP badge and not the old REP badge.

ATP will not be able to provide on-demand training for earning 35-contact hours. PMI will be the only official on-demand course. ATP can only offer instructor live (virtual or in class) training. 

PMP Certification will likely be more costly

Overall, the cost of earning PMP certification is expected to go up after January 2021. 

There will not be cheaper PMP on-demand course alternatives such as ones on LinkedIn or Udemy.  As mentioned, PMI will be the only official on-demand course provider, no other ATP can provide on-demand courses anymore.

Fewer quality on-demand course options

The PMI’s official PMP on-demand course in 2021 will cost $699 for members and $799 for non-members.  In the past, the on-demand course offered by the former Registered Education Providers (REP) such as PMTraining used to cost around $300.

Once the training provider becomes an ATP, its on-demand course will no longer satisfy the full 35-contact hour requirements.

More live virtual training providers

As an alternative to the PMI’s on-demand course for earning the 35 contact hours, the student can opt for live virtual training with an ATP. The live virtual training will cost between $1000 to $2000 dollars.

If you are looking for an ATP course, I created a PMP boot camp course comparison chart so you can easily compare the 3 popular providers – PMTraining, Project Management Academy, and GreyCampus. Find out which one is right for you.

 You can learn more about PMI’s ATP program.

Exam simulator cost a little more

The PMP exam simulator will go up in price as well.  The price for the most popular PM Prepcast PMP exam simulator will go up from $139 to $149 starting January 2021.

Can I still take on-demand training from REP, LinkedIn, and Udemy and qualify for 35-contact hours?

I think this is a common question for many PMP aspirants. I was able to get the confirmation from PMI. The short answer is “Yes”.

This is the response from PMI customer service:

Any formal [project management/project scheduling/risk management/business analysis/agile] course can be used for contact hours of education on your credential application.

Courses through an employer, training company, college/university, PMI Registered Education Provider, PMI Chapter, or distance learning company are all acceptable. In order to be considered formal, the course must provide an end-of-course assessment and certificate of completion (or similar documentation verifying that you have successfully completed the course).

PMI also provides a number of online courses. A contact hour is one hour of time spent in the classroom environment, either in person or online. If you earn credit hours for a college/university course, the credit hours are generally equal to the number of classroom hours per week. There is no time limitation associated with obtaining contact hours of education. 

Applicants can record any education/training in project management, regardless of when it was accrued, as long as the hours were completed prior to your application submission. 

Please be sure that you still have documentation verifying the completion of the contact hours in case your application is selected for audit. Though we cannot review course or experience information before it is submitted to us on a completed application, please note that there is no cost to apply for any of our credentials.

Can I still use PMBOK Edition 6?

Yes, PMBOK Edition 6 will remain applicable for preparing the new PMP Exam.  However, you need to be aware that study the PMBOK guide alone will most likely no longer be sufficient for passing the new PMP exam.

This is noted by PMI in the new Exam Content Outline:

 “In this year’s update to the PMP, PMI conducted a Global Practice Analysis market research study, which produced a number of trends in the profession previously unaddressed in the PMP exam.”

“Finally, there are noticeable differences between this updated PMP Examination Content Outline and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition. While there are some commonalities, it is important to note that the volunteer taskforce involved in the study described previously was not bound by the PMBOK® Guide.”

When is PMBOK 7 coming out?

According to PMI’s customer care response to my inquiry in December 2020, PMBOK 7 is coming out in Q2 2021. Typically there will be an additional 6-month ramp-up period for the new exam to take effect and the ATPs to update their training material.

Therefore, it is possible that the PMP Exam may be based on PMBOK7 in early 2022. Of course, this is just a projection, and it is possible the rollout date can change and delayed. Let’s pass the PMP Exam in 2021, so you do not have to worry about dealing with another change!

Will the new PMP exam be harder in 2021?

Yes, the new PMP exam will very likely be harder for a few reasons:

  • It is much broader covering more domain knowledge – process, people, and business areas with predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches – vs mostly process and predictive for the exam before December 31, 2020.
  • In addition to multiple-choice questions, there will four other types of questions – multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and limited fill-in-the-blank.
  • As indicated on the new Exam Content Outline there are noticeable differences between the new exam and PMBOK Ed 6.  Therefore reading PMBOK Ed 6 alone will not be sufficient.
  • With any changes, there will be confusion and take time for Authorized Training Partners (ATP) to adjust.
  • The available online free resources such as free PMP exam questions will likely be outdated.

How Should I Prepare for the new PMP Exam?

If you are not able to pass the PMP exam before December 31, 2020, and need to take the new PMP exam.

  • Study PMBOK Edition 6
  • Study the Agile Practice Guide
  • Complete 35 contact hour training course
    • You can take the official on-demand course from PMI.
    • Or, you can take the live virtual training with an Authorized Training Partner (ATP) approved by PMI.
    • Or, if you have a limited budget, the Joseph Phillips Exam Prep course on Udemy is a popular choice.
  • Use a quality PMP Exam Simulator that is up to date with the new Exam Content Outline. I recommended the PM Prepcast Exam Simulator. Check this page for the latest PM Prepcast coupon.

Because there are noticeable differences between the new exam and the PMBOK Guide, your choice of REP and exam simulator will likely be important in helping you get ready for the new PMP exam.

If I failed or not able to take the 2020 PMP Exam, what should I do to pass the 2021 PMP Exam?

On the bright side, you already earned the 35 contact hours and it carries over to 2021. You do not have to purchase the training course again.

You will need to bridge the gap and focus on passing the PMP exam in 2021. Here is the (most affordable) action plan:

  • Read the Agile Practice Guide. 50% of the exam questions are likely going to be about Agile and hybrid approaches.
  • Review PMBOK Appendix X3 – Agile, Iterative, Adaptive and Hybrid Project Environment
  • If you still have an active premium PMP exam simulator license by end of the year, ask the provider for a complimentary upgrade to 2021. If not, you will want to purchase the 2021 exam simulator just so that you can practice the 4 new question formats and agile/hybrid approach questions.
  • PM Prepcast has a 120 free practice question simulator already aligned to the 2021 exam, and you can find the link near the bottom of my PMP Resource page where I keep the resource up to date. It’s the only free exam simulator I found that’s aligned to the 2021 exam at this time.

I think that should be enough to get you through the finish line.

If you want to get a PMP study guide, Andy Crowe’s how to pass on your first try book is aligned to the 2021 exam.

You can find recommended Exam Simulator, free practice exam, and link to Andy Crowe’s new book on my updated PMP resource page.

Lastly, some ATP may provide a “booster course” to bridge the gaps between the 2020/2021 course material. According to the analysis done by PM Prepcast, their 2020 PMP course material covers about 85% of the content for 2021. I expect it will be similar for other ATP.


In conclusion, there is no question that the new PMP exam after December 31, 2020, will be more challenging than the previous PMP exam because of more material and more question types covered in the new exam. 

Not only you have to prepare processes similar to the previous exam, but also there is a much greater emphasis on agile and people skills as well as how your project should adapt to environmental changes.

The current PMBOK 6 Guide is focused primarily on the processes, and not enough coverage on the people and environment domain areas for the new Exam Content Outline.  You will need to read the Agile Practice Guide and supplement your study with a quality exam simulator will become crucial in passing the new exam.

Good Luck!


PMP Exam Content Outline after December 31, 2020

PMP Exam Content Outline 2015-2020

PM-Prepcast Exam update 2020

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