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The New PMP® Exam - Project Management Book of Knowledge

April, 2018- By Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, Apex Systems Contributor and an internationally recognized author, lecturer and trainer


Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, change comes to the Project Management Professionals® examination. This time around, it’s because of the release of the new, improved Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge-Sixth Edition. Since the exam changed a few months ago, the initial reports are in, and the early words on the new exam are not too surprising. The biggest changes are the inclusion of Agile practice, more process questions, and a few subtle shifts within the knowledge areas.

Agile If you order a copy of the new PMBOK® Guide, you’ll receive not only the PMBOK, but a bundled Agile application guide that provides some in-depth insight on the Project Management Institute’s perspective on Agile practices. The good news for those who have not taken the deep dive on Agile yet is that this supplement to the PMBOK® is not part of the exam. The bad news is that there’s still plenty of Agile content within the PMBOK® itself. That means there’s no avoiding Agile practices and the ability to speak about adaptive life cycles is essential.

On the new exam, you’ll need to know the core principles of Agile management, as well as the difference between scrum and Kanban.

For scrum, you need to know that you have a backlog of user stories, rather than a work breakdown structure. You prioritize the user stories, select the stories for the next sprint, and work to burn them down in the fixed 2- or 4-week sprint. Get more done than planned? Your velocity is increasing. Fewer? You’re losing velocity. (To the average scrummaster reading this, these are the ABC’s. For the exam, these are the basics.)

For Kanban, you need to know that you are working to keep work flowing effectively. Work in progress needs to be in a virtual constant state of progress. It’s more about flow than deliverables. If you keep the flow going, the deliverables will inherently follow.

Process Questions

Speaking of flow, what would the project manager do next? That’s been a perennial question on the exam for quite some time, but it seems the updated exam takes that question to extremes. It’s about flow (as described in PMBOK® Guide 6th edition) and it’s about following that flow rigidly. Page 25 of the new Guide goes a long way toward clarifying that flow across the process areas of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. In the perfect world of the PMP® exam, we follow those processes in sequence, forever moving forward across the chart. In addition, there are a reasonable number of questions about flow within the sub-processes, so testers will need to invest some time getting to know the flow within certain areas.

The areas where there seem to be the most questions on flow include:

  • Schedule Management
  • Cost Management
  • Risk Management, and
  • Procurment Management

For these, the good news is that you can generally use some logic to get where you need to be. The bad news is that you may also find the “next step” in the process takes you to a completely different knowledge area. Nowhere is this more profoundly felt than in Schedule Management.

The sequence in the Guide drives us to plan, define activities, sequence them and then estimate durations. However, for the exam, we need to insert a step from Resource Management. The process becomes: Plan, Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Resources, and then Estimate Activity Durations.

Since there are a host of questions in this area, these are not inconsequential points. The trick is not memorization. The trick is having a clear idea of what the process is all about and then being able to work through the process logically. In this instance, you need to know which activities come first before you can hire people to work on them. And you need to know who’s working on an activity before you can figure out how long it’s going to take. Some tasks can be done by experts in short order. A less talented team member might take three or even four times as long.

The Knowledge Areas

Within select knowledge areas, there’s clear evidence that the old approaches (those from PMBOK5 and before) have shifted. There’s also new content worth knowing.

Resource Management – The move of the scheduling content into resource management was only one of the changes there. The fact that PMI® has changed the name of the knowledge area to resource management (from human resource management) indicates a shift that recognizes our roles as logistics managers. While most of the content here is unchanged, it’s still important to be aware of the need to understand the fundamentals of tracking materiel, as well as tracking and managing people.

Risk Management – While most of the risk management content remained in the same sequence, the addition of a sub-process to implement risk responses was new. So was the inclusion of a new risk response—Escalation. (Escalation is the elevation of risks to a management level where the project manager no longer has to track or monitor the risk). Also new is the inclusion of “known-unknown” risks, which are risks related to the amorphous and variable nature of the project environment. It translates as “We know something bad may happen, but we don’t know what.”

Stakeholder Management – The slight shift in terms in Stakeholder Management came with the loss of the “management” term throughout, replacing it with “engagement”. The stakeholder management plan is usurped by the stakeholder engagement plan, which we plan, manage and monitor.

Part II

Trying to wrap your head around all of the changes and don’t have time to read the 978 pages of the PDF you have of the PMBOK® Guide (with the Agile supplement)? Try the 90 pages beginning at Page 541. It’s called “Part Two”. It’s the actual process sequence of the PMBOK® It’s the ultimate coaching tool to learn the processes. It’s an essential read before you sit through the exam. In fact, if you get PMP® training, let the instructor guide you through the important content from the first 540 pages. Take over your self-study program on page 541. It’s 90 pages that help ensure your success.

Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, is an Apex Systems Contributor and an internationally recognized author, lecturer and trainer. He is the author of seven texts in project management, and serves as the U.S. Correspondent to the UK Project Management magazine, Project Manager Today. He produced the Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam with Bruce Falk (just released for PMBOK Guide 6th Edition). And he’s hosting Seminars at Sea, sailing from Baltimore October 2018. He welcomes your feedback at carl@carlpritchard.com. Follow him on Twitter at @carlpritchard and @pmpprep

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