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Episode 467: PMI Answers Your Questions About The PMP Exam 2021 (Free)

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On Jan 1st 2021, the Project Management Institute (PMI)® rolled out an updated Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. For example: The PMP® exam went from 200 questions down to 180 questions, 50% of the exam is now on agile and hybrid methodologies, and there are two ten-minute breaks. And these are just three of the many changes

So, I’m sure you have questions.

We have good news everyone: because we welcome Sierra Hampton Simmons from PMI® to answer your questions. Sierra is Director & Portfolio Leader, Certification Products at PMI, and as such, she is ultimately responsible for all their exams, including the PMP. She is an Expert in Performance Based Testing (PBT) and former President of the Performance Testing Council.

We got lots of questions from the audience - even some critical ones - that Sierra answers frankly and openly.

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Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Video Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we welcome Sierra Hampton-Simmons from PMI to answer your questions about the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam.

Hello, and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at This is the live stream for Episode 467 and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. How nice of you for being with us today. And yes, we are live.

For those of you who are accessing this episode recorded and not live, then please remember, this is a video episode. So if you are only getting audio then please do look for the “Play video episode” link in your podcast app. Also, please visit and you can play it from the website.

And now, onto the PMP® Exam because on January 1st 2021, the Project Management Institute, PMI rolled out an updated Project Management Professional Exam. That’s the PMP® Exam. For example, the exam went from 200 questions down to 180 questions, 50% of the questions on the exam are now about Agile and hybrid methodologies, and there are now two ten-minute breaks. And these are just three of the many changes.

Video Presentation

Cornelius Fichtner: So, I’m sure you are going to have questions. So good news, everybody, because right now we are welcoming Sierra Hampton-Simmons from PMI. Let me bring Sierra in. There we are! Hi, Sierra! Welcome back to the program!

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: Okay! Thanks for having me! Hi, Cornelius!

Cornelius Fichtner: Of course, of course. Let me quickly introduce you to everybody for those who don’t know you. There we go! I have stolen your bio from LinkedIn. So, there we go!

Sierra is an expert leader in certification management with decades of demonstrated experience driving business objectives through the development of lucrative plans including performance-based training and commercial certification program. She is very keen in the focused areas of innovation, human-centered product design and high performance team management. And I love the next one. She is fluent in ISO standards and known for being able to help organizations maneuver through them while maintaining their bottom line. And she’s an expert in performance-based testing (PBT) and the former president of the Performance Testing Council, wow! What a background, Sierra! What exactly is it that you do for PMI?

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: Well, I’m currently serving as the Director and the Portfolio Leader for the Certification Products Department. So I oversee all of the development of certifications both our core and existing legacy products, as well as the new certifications that we’re introducing in the market.

Cornelius Fichtner: Would it be correct to say then that you are ultimately responsible for the PMP® Exam?

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: Absolutely!

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay, so you’re the top person at PMI for the PMP® Exam, wonderful! So everything we always wanted to ask PMI about the PMP® Exam 2021, we’re not exaggerating there. We have the right person with us today.

So folks, if you have any questions for Sierra during this live stream then please use the chat. There is a chat function both on Facebook and on YouTube, and we do welcome your questions coming in.

Alright! And the way we want to get started is we want to get started with some PMI® Publications because Sierra, you know this. I know this. There are three major publications that PMI has published that relate to the PMP® Exam. The PMP® Exam Content Outline, the PMBOK® Guide Sixth and Seventh Edition, as well as the Agile Practice Guide. And we’ll be getting back to those again and again. But if you wouldn’t mind, let’s take a look at these three from a 10,000-foot level and talk about how they relate to the PMP® Exam.

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: Sure. That’s my pleasure. So you’re right. There are three major publications that most people think about when they’re thinking about preparing for the PMP. So the PMBOK® Guide and the Agile Practice Guide were developed by the Standards and Publications team at PMI. They are written by experts in the profession and they serve as great reference guides to best practices and standardized principles that’s germane to the practice of project management.

However, the Exam Content Outline is an output specific to research that’s run and conducted by the certification team on the role of project managers. So this research, which includes focus groups and surveys, where we talk to professionals and those who hire them and thought leaders. That’s how we craft what’s going to actually be put into the examination. These topics are the topics that turn into the questions, which are the basis for the exam. And that is what the exam is based upon, the Exam Content Outline, which I affectionately call the ECO.

When the exam items are being developed by experts, they write in accordance to the task outlined on this Exam Content Outline and they base their questions on their experience in the job. Then once they’ve written that question based on their own experience, we require that they actually find some references that support that scenario or that question and to make sure that it’s universal. And oftentimes, the will use things like the PMBOK® Guide or the Agile Practice Guide. But there are several other references they use as well.

Cornelius Fichtner: Ten books in total, right?

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: Yup, no! So the PMBOK is one of…

Cornelius Fichtner: One of many.

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: One of many, 20 right now that we’re using.

Cornelius Fichtner: Twenty now? Okay.

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: We’re up to 20, yes, yes, yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright. And then the Agile Practice Guide. How does that fit in to the picture for the PMP® Exam now?

Sierra Hampton-Simmons: So similarly to the PMBOK® Guide, we reference the Agile Practice Guide as a reference. I like to think about it as the analogy if you’re writing a paper or a book, you will write those essay or the paper based upon whatever you’ve outlined it to be. And you will use some things like a dictionary, or back in the day, an encyclopedia to refer to certain things and to support your paper, but you’re not writing a book about the dictionary. So the PMBOK® Guide and the Agile Practice Guide or for us, the dictionary, right, however, the actual practices that are being tested are really based on the job experience that came to be on the writers of the test.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah. It’s something that every single PMP trainer out there knows and fights. The PMP® Exam is not based on the Agile Practice Guide. The PMP® Exam is not based on the PMBOK® Guide. The ECO, the Exam Content Outline, that’s what the exam is. Nothing else, nothing more, nothing less. That’s what you need to know.

Since we just spoke about the Agile Practice Guide, let’s move on and let’s take a look at the next topic that I have here because I’ve been reading a lot of lessons learned from the PMP® Exam this year and frankly, Agile dominates. That’s the only way to really emphasize this. Agile dominates the conversation in regards to the PMP® Exam.

So, my first question for you: How many Agile and hybrid questions will exam takers encounter on their PMP® Exam?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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