PMP Exam Changes: Updated Exam Pattern, Duration, Breaks

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20th Feb, 2023
PMP Exam Changes: Updated Exam Pattern, Duration, Breaks

Why is The PMP So Important?

Studying for an exam is generally a very stressful event. Regardless of how big or small the examination is, you often struggle not to buckle under the pressure. There’s anxiety and nervousness about several things, often from having a large syllabus to cover, or having too little time to study everything. There’s also the fear of failure in case it’s a competitive exam you’ve been preparing for from a long time. Now, just consider the following scenario for a moment. Amidst all the stress, what if someone were to tell you that the exam outline and content were going to change? It would certainly throw you in for a loop, right? Well, all Project Management Professional (PMP) aspirants know exactly what it feels like.

For anyone looking to accelerate their project management career, or switch to a career in project management, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a very big deal. Let’s say your best friend has been preparing to be a project manager for the past few years, and you still don’t know what PMP, or PMI is. In that case, they might consider cutting you off, because you’re clearly absent-minded, forgetful, or just a bad friend. They would’ve mentioned the PMP exam several times to you, and it’s likely that they’ve also signed up for a PMP exam prep course to study better.

The PMP is a prized certification. It’s considered the qualification to pursue to become a qualified project manager. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), who offers and manages the certification, there are about 1,000,000 holders of this globally recognized certification in the word.

Now, to help you understand just how tough the PMP exam is, here’s a statistic for you. For every million people in the USA, there are only 1,126 certified PMP holders. And for a total population of 331 million, there are only around 372,726 active PMP certification holders. Now that you know how tough the exam is, imagine how anxious, or frustrated your best friend might’ve been when the PMP exam changed in January 2021. But what are these PMP exam changes? Is there enough need for worry or frustration? Let’s find out.

Get to know more about importance of project charter.

Changes in The PMP Exam Questions & Duration 

Before we explore the changes that have been made to the PMP exam, let’s address one question: why did the exam change in the first place? Simply put, it’s because the role of a project manager is completely evolving. The changes in the exam are a result of two things – the release of the PMBOK® Guide Seventh Edition in January 2021, and recommendations based on research that has been going on since 2019. 

However, let’s get one thing straight. Just because the seventh edition of the PMBOK Guide has come out, it doesn’t render all your past efforts useless. The Guide was never intended to be any candidate’s sole reference material. If you’re a PMI member, you also get free access to the PMBOK Guide, so you needn’t worry. Now for the PMP exam changes.    

The first change is in the Exam Content Outline (ECO). Before January 2, 2021, there were five domains under the Exam Content Outline, closely mirroring the five process groups. These were: Initiating (13%), Planning (24%), Executing (31%), Monitoring and Controlling (25%) and Closing (7%). The percentages represent how much weightage each of these domains had in the old PMP exam. However, in the new ECO, there are only three domains: People (42%), Process (50%), and Business Environment (8%). The approach behind the old PMP ECO was testing the candidate’s knowledge of the five process groups, and the various tasks therein. The new ECO has been designed keeping in mind that project managers today work in a variety of project environments and utilize different approaches per project. As a result, predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches will be spread throughout the three domain areas listed under the new ECO.  

Then comes the number of questions and the time allotted. The old exam format had 200 questions (including 25 unscored questions) which had to be answered in 240 minutes.  In the new exam, you must answer 180 questions (including 5 unscored questions) in 230 minutes.

What about breaks? You’ll get two of them. The first break will happen after you’ve answered and reviewed questions 1-60. The second break will happen after you’ve answered question 120 and reviewed all 120 questions. Each break will be ten minutes each.

Let’s now talk about the modes of the exam. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, PMI has also rolled out online proctored exams in collaboration with Pearson Vue. This way, there’s no more wasting time for scheduling your PMI exam date. You can take it from the comfort of home. However, there are center-based examinations as well, for those who’d like the environmental stimulation of an actual exam. Compared to only MCQs in the old exam, you will now face a combination of questions: multiple-choice, multiple responses, matching, hotspot, and fill-in-the-blanks.

If you’re already overwhelmed with the PMP exam changes, I’m afraid that you can’t go back to the old exam pattern. After January 2, 2021, the PMP exam will follow the new pattern. So, my advice to you would be to start preparing. There are a ton of project management skills course to help you on your prep journey if you’re feeling stuck.

Three Main Domains & Weight For The New PMP Exam 

As discussed earlier, while the PMP exam earlier focused on five domains, the new version will concentrate on only three of them. These three domains are new and completely different, to accommodate for predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches of project management. This is how the weightage for the new exam will be distributed amongst the three domains:

DomainPercentage of Items on Test
Business Environment8%

PMP Exam Content

As you can see in the previous section, the PMP exam changes reflect modifications to the exam content as well. If you’re an aspiring PMP candidate, you will have to answer a variety of questions spanning the value delivery spectrum. Predictive, agile, and hybrid project management approaches will be the three main exam domains. 

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PMP Exam Format

A part of the PMP exam changes include the exam format as well. Since I’ve already covered that in detail earlier, here is a quick snapshot to help you remember and prepare well for the exam:

No: of questions
180, but 175 questions will be scored
Time given
230 minutes
Paper-based tests: No
Computer-based tests: 2 breaks of 10 minutes each
Types of questions
Multiple responses  

What Are The Consequences of The PMP Exam Change? 

The first thing I’d like to tell you is not to panic. While it’s natural to feel concerned that such a prestigious exam has gotten a few tweaks, it’s important to remember that they are just that – tweaks. It’s typical for most important and competitive exams to undergo changes in order to keep up with the times and stay relevant. And just because the seventh version of the PMBOK guide has come out, you should know that it doesn’t automatically mean that all your exam questions will only come from there.

Numerous candidates across the world have been studying and passing the PMP exam for years now, so what if January 2021 brought with it a few PMP exam changes?  As long as you study hard, have good preparatory resources (like the ones offered by KnowledgeHut’s PMP exam prep course), and take practice exams regularly, you should be fine. 

In terms of consequences, it does seem like the PMP exam pattern change will make things more difficult, but that shouldn’t make you more worried. The PMP exam was always one of the world’s toughest exams, so stop worrying and get studying!

When is The PMP Exam Likely To Change Next? 

As per the PMI, there aren’t any more changes to the PMP exam coming anytime soon. The 2021 release of the PMBOK® Guide Seventh Edition will not change what you need to study. It does change what you must focus on, rather, your approach to the exam prep, and your awareness of the fundamental concepts of project management.

Change is The only Constant

Through this article, I hope I’ve given you a comprehensive guide of all the changes that have occurred in the PMP universe. While they might seem like a lot right now, and you might feel like you have to start from scratch all over again, there is no real cause for concern. Just do what you’d anyway do – build your confidence through mock exams until you feel truly ready. I wish you all the best for the new exam and am confident that you’ll do well. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. Is the new PMP exam harder? 

No, the new PMP exam is not harder. It is just in a new format, so if you’re a stickler for formats, that might be a small bump in your journey. The PMP exam tests your knowledge and understanding of project management concepts, approaches, and capability to deal with the issues using a predictive, adaptive, hybrid agile methodologies and environments as well.  

2. Is there any change in PMP exam? 

Yes, the new PMP exam format focuses on three domains instead of five earlier. These domains are people, processes, and business environment. These domains carry a weightage of 42% for people, 8% for business environment, and 50% for processes – meaning that the focus has shifted on processes more than before.  

3. When may the PMP exam change next? 

There is no certainty of when the exam might be updated again. It is advisable to follow the PMI blog and social media handles to keep track of updates to the PMP Exam.



KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
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