[PMP Exam Changes] How PMBOK Guide 7th Edition Affect PMP Aspirants in 2021?


If you would like to get PMP® Certified in 2021, this article is for you.

PMI published the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition in August 2021, almost 4 years after the publication of the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition.  PMI has not made announcements to the changes this may have to the PMP® Exam which was just renewed in January 2021. 

It is still NOT known how and when the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition would bring changes to the PMP® Exam. But according to experience from the past, the publication of a new PMBOK® Guide Edition will not bring IMMEDIATE changes to the PMP® Exam. Just like the last time when the new PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition was published in Septemer 2017, the PMP® Exam was updated only in March 2018. That is the change to PMP® Exam was only made half a year after the release of PMBOK® Guide 6th edition.

Therefore, Aspirants will still be safe to base their studies on the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition for taking the PMP® Exam in 2021.

It is a practice for PMI to continually review and update the PMBOK® Guide to reflect the latest trend and changes in the field of project management and to amend any omissions/errors/inconsistencies of the previous PMBOK® Guide edition. And as the PMBOK® Guide is just one of the many references for the PMP® Exam, an update to the PMBOK® Guide will not have detrimental effects on the PMP® Exam. Even if one studied for the PMP® Exam with the current PMBOK® Guide edition but just cannot make it to the current PMP® Exam, they will need just a bridge course to update their knowledge and will be perfectly fit for the new PMP® Exam!

Key Dates for PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition and new PMP® Exam

  • Launch Date of PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition — 1st August 2021
  • Launch Date of new PMP® Exam — ???

Important Note: If you are PMP® certified with the PMBOK® Guide 6th edition syllabus, you will remain as a PMP® for the rest of your life without having to take the exam again provided that you fulfil the PDU requirements for re-certification. But it is highly recommended to study the new PMBOK® Guide 7th edition once it is published (you will be able to earn PDUs) to stay abreast of the latest development in project management..

To most Aspirants, To Take Exam before the PMP® Exam Change? That’s the question. If you are now thinking whether to take the plunge to get Certified now, I understand the worries and uncertainties as I have been there before. Hope this article will give you some useful advice.

How the Publication of PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition Affects Aspirants in 2021? What Changes to the PMP® Exam will be expected?

The answer is little if not none! Rest assured all the currently available Exam Prep materials, including PMP® Exam online training courses, Resources and Books are still useful and relevant for the current Exam in 2021 before the exam change which may or may not be announced in the near future.

On the PMI website, the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition is still listed as one of the reference material for the current PMP® Exam. That is, the publication of the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition does not have a major adverse effect on Aspirants in 2021. And the only effect of the publication of the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition is more on the psychological aspect.

The PMP® Exam will still be based on the current edition of PMBOK® Guide 6 (i.e. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Sixth Edition) as of now. Aspirants who begin their exam journey now will be able to complete their exam based on the current exam syllabus and PMBOK® Guide version — nothing has changed (as the average Aspirants need 2 months or less to complete their studies and write the exam). My free PMP® Exam study notes and lessons learned can still be relevant to your exam journey.

The only adverse psychological effect of the publication of the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition to Aspirants in 2021 is that if they can’t get a pass, they may not know if they can re-take the PMP® Exam based on the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide later on — as the exam syllabus might have been changed at that time. They would need to study for the exam again based on the PMBOK® Guide 7th version.

It seems that Aspirants in 2021 may have less time and opportunities (as each exam taker is given a maximum of 3 tries to clear the exam) than usual which is a disadvantage. But every cloud has its silver lining. The positive effect of this is that Aspirants are pushed more than ever to get certified in 2021 — which is a good thing as “procrastination” is the top reason for not getting PMP® Certified earlier!

Why Getting PMP® Certified in early 2021 before the exam change?

If you would like to get certified in 2021, you are highly advised to take action NOW as a kind of risk management:

  • the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide and the exam are already well-known and Aspirants can find lots of lessons learned and study resources/materials readily at their hands. There is still plenty of time to study and prepare for your it based on the current exam version.
  • the PMP® Exam fee may see a hike in 2022 following the introduction of the new exam
  • the format of the exam may be changed
  • the exam may be getting more difficult as there are quite a few complaints that the quality of PMP® holders is decreasing over the previous years as getting certified is becoming easier
  • the publishers of the PMP® online courses and exam prep books may not be ready to release the updated versions of their study resources with the introduction of the new PMP® Exam (this has happened in 2020 when PMI updated the PMP® Exam Content Outline and the new exam was forced to defer)
  • some of the previously highly recommended study resources/materials may not live up to expectations for the new exam as the depth of their understanding of the new exam may not be the same as before (owing to change of the authors/editors, etc.) — it would take more time to search for the best exam prep materials
  • it is expected lots of errors in terminology and project management processes would be spotted in the early release of the exam prep materials based on the new PMBOK® Guide 7th edition as PMBOK® Guide 7 is a major update from PMBOK® Guide 6
  • major exam prep books will take time to get published
  • the exam prep courses may become more expensive (my exam prep course saw an over 20% increase… I should have made the purchase earlier as the publisher of the course has a free upgrade policy to the latest exam version provided the course is purchased within 3 months of the PMP® update…)
  • for the new exam version, all the exam prep books, mock exams and online training course will see a price increase FOR SURE (maybe over 15% or more) — if you begin now, you can lock in the current price level without worrying about requiring to spend more for the same title

Talking about the push factors:

  • lots of tried and tested exam preparation materials (based on PMBOK® Guide 6) are around now, with many available for FREE — it really takes time to build up such a wealth of resources for the new PMP® Exam version
  • according to many PMP® aspirants, it usually takes around 2 months or less to complete the exam preparation — if you begin now, you will almost certainly get certified in 2021
  • don’t worry and take action, if you are qualified for the experience requirements, why not get the required 35 contact hours of project management education right away? (as a bonus, the 35 contact hours are VALID FOREVER — meaning that you will not be required to take another project management course even if the exam has changed). My very first step is to take an online course (the PM PrepCast™ — my review here)

The conclusion is: if you don’t get certified in 2021, it is highly likely that you cannot get certified in early 2021 — your career plan may be adversely affected.

According to the experiences of many Aspirants, the average duration of exam study is around 2 months (between 1 – 3 months for most of us).

Conclusion: Begin Your Preparation Now

This is my personal story: I was hesitant to begin my PMP® Journey for fear of not finding the time to study, not getting the required project management education contact hours, not passing the PMI audit… these had hindered my certification attempt for several years. At the same time, I kept on reading the success stories of other Aspirants with jealousy. I really wanted to get Certified, but I was too worried to try — but until I actually tried, I was able to get PMP® Certified on the first try with 2 months’ study.

Don’t worry too much if you have begun your preparation in early 2021 but cannot finish it. The bottom line is: if you have understood PMBOK® Guide 6 knowledge well and you will find many of the concepts of PMBOK® Guide 7 very familiar — it is more like a reorganization of the knowledge based on a different framework only. If you have stuided the PMBOK® Guide 6 closely, you will be able to understand PMBOK® Guide 7 readily, though you still have to memorize the new structure and some new terminology.


Appendix: What will be Changed in PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition?

The PMBOK® Guide 7 is a major update from PMBOK® Guide 6th edition. The new PMBOK® Guide discard the process-based approach to a principles/outcome-based approach. This is the result of the changing landscape of project management from traditional waterfall to Agile ones and Agile emphasizes “principles”. That is projects are evaluated more on “outcomes” than “deliverables” in which “value” is the core focus.

PMBOK® Guide 7th edition has 274 pages while PMBOK® Guide 6th edition has 756 pages. And one will be certain that many “details” are removed from the PMBOK® Guide.

  • 5 Domains (PMBOK® Guide 6) → 12 Project Delivery Principles (PBMOK 7)
    • Stewardship
    • Team
    • Stakeholders
    • Value
    • Systems Thinking
    • Leadership
    • Tailoring
    • Quality
    • Complexity
    • Risk
    • Adaptability and Resilience
    • Change
  • 10 Knowledge Areas (PMBOK® Guide 6) → 8 Performance Domains (PBMOK 7)
    • Stakeholders
    • Team
    • Development
    • Approach and Life Cycle
    • Planning
    • Project Work
    • Delivery
    • Uncertainty
  • “Tailoring”, “Models, Methods, and Artifacts” are added in PMBOK® Guide 7
  • most importantly ITTO’s in PMBOK® Guide 6 is gone forever

Wish you PMP® success!

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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