Ask PMI Anything: What Do PMI Exams Prepare You For?

Every exam at PMI has a purpose and a real life application. Learn more about how PMI exams prepare professionals for success.

Written by Michael DePrisco • 14 September 2020


Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash

PMI is well known for its comprehensive exams, and its certifications are often considered the gold standard in the project management industry. But what do PMI exams prepare professionals for? In this post, Michael DePrisco, Vice President, Global Experience & Solutions, and Sierra Hampton-Simmons, Director & Portfolio Leader, Certification Products, continue their conversation to discuss how PMI exams—including the Project Management Professional (PMP)® and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certifications—help professionals prepare and enhance their careers.

Read Part 1 of this two-part series here.

Project management increasingly involves “power skills” such as greater communication, emotional intelligence and empathy. How does the PMP® exam test these skills?

Sierra: It’s an interesting question. How do you test for seemingly soft skills like judgment, interpersonal or collaboration skills or team building? In the past, we tested for them via comprehensive written scenarios. We’d lay out a work situation and ask candidates how they would respond. It was sometimes difficult for candidates to choose options because the responses were very black and white and often depended on variables difficult to capture in the scenario description.

PMI is now developing animated videos to depict more realistic and nuanced work environments. This allows us to get at the technical skills required but also the powers skills that are needed—how you’re communicating, what you’re saying, how you’re motivating your team. These animations include facial expressions and will help PMI determine if candidates are really picking up on the power skills in the moments that matter when managing a project.

How is the exam for PMP® certification changing?

Michael: PMI works to keep all its certifications current, relevant and future-focused. The new Project Management Professional (PMP)® that will be released in January 2021 is reflective of this approach. PMI has pivoted the exam from a process-oriented exam to one focused on domains—people, business environment and process—to reflect what is needed from practitioners in today’s market.

We’re also shifting from an exam focused on traditional PM approaches with a little bit of agile sprinkled into an exam that is 50 percent traditional PM approaches and 50 percent agile and hybrid approaches.

PMI-ACP® is PMI’s fastest-growing certification. How has the certification built its reputation given all the other agile and scrum certifications out there?

Michael: There is rigor associated with the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, as there is with all certifications in the PMI portfolio. The PMI-ACP® requires an individual to have a certain level of knowledge and experience in agile practices. It’s not a book test or a test tacked onto a training session. It’s an exam that tests your understanding of a variety of agile methodologies and approaches.

For those looking to diversify their toolkit—to be able to demonstrate to an employer that they can work with any type of approach in the agile space—the PMI-ACP® really fits that need.

How has PMI designed an exam that covers the many different “flavors” of agile?

Sierra: The PMI-ACP® follows the same research and development process as other PMI exams. As with the PMP®, for example, we looked at the criticality of a topic. We examined a wide range of agile tasks and selected the ones that agile practitioners told us were the most important. While we can’t include every agile technique or framework, we’ve zeroed in on the ones that are the most widely used and the most critical to a project’s success.

Many people may be looking for a career change or a new job opportunity as a result of the COVID crisis. How can a certification help them stand out?

Sierra: Having a professional certification—whether it is pre- or post-COVID—demonstrates an individual’s commitment to their professional development and career advancement and allows that individual to stand out and differentiate themselves from their peers.

Michael: I couldn’t agree more. Certifications have always been important. College degrees aren’t enough, and people need to find ways to differentiate themselves throughout their entire career. A certification is a great way to do that.

The pandemic has shone a light on the need for individuals—now more than ever—to upskill and differentiate themselves to demonstrate that they have the knowledge, experience and capabilities to help organizations thrive in today’s environment, particularly given how work is changing and how organizations need to transform themselves to remain competitive.

Having a certification allows you to stand out from the crowd. It allows you to continue to grow and develop professionally. And it allows you to position yourself as someone who can unequivocally add value to your organization.

Learn more about PMI Certifications.

See what US News & World Report says about project management courses and certifications.

Mike DePrisco headshot

Michael DePrisco
Chief Operating Officer | PMI

As Chief Operating Officer (COO), Michael (Mike) DePrisco provides executive leadership to the Global Operations Group, supporting more than 1.4M active certification holders, 680,000 members, and 300 chapters from over 200 countries. He is responsible for the Product Portfolio, EPMO, Culture & Change Management, Digital Group, and Customer Care teams. His team's focus is on excellence in the execution of all major change initiatives at the Institute, digital product delivery and customer support, and optimization of ways of working, culture and change management.

Related Posts


Building an Agile Work Culture: Creating Inclusivity and Collaboration

Scott Ambler shares more on the advantages of building an agile culture and how to get started. Read more here.


How to Cultivate an Agile Mindset

Joshua Barnes explores the elements of an agile mindset and what you can do to cultivate it in yourself and in your team. Learn more here.


What’s Next for Agile?

The future of agile is reshaping entire enterprises and the value they deliver. Learn more about how agile is changing here.