PMBoK 6th edition and the PMP exam: what you need to know

Thinking about taking the PMP exam? Scared from the upcoming PMBoK 6th edition? Heard about changes in the exam? Here is what you need to know.

Fact 1: the Project Management Institute updates the PMBoK Guide every 4 years. The current PMBoK 5th edition was released in 2013. The next PMBoK 6th edtion will be released in the third quarter of 2017 (between July and September 2017). The changes to the PMBoK have already been anticipated by the PMI itself, and, as expected, are not dramatic. In a nutshell, the new PMBoK will add three new project management processes, bringing the total from 47 to 50. The 10 knowledge areas will remain the same, albeit two will be very slightly renamed. A few processes will be renamed or clarified also. A new chapter will be added regarding the role of the project manager with a focus on the required skills. Agile and highly iterative project management practices will have a relatively larger place in the PMBoK sixth edition. The bulk of the current PMBoK will remain very much the same. Why so? The answer is simple: project management as a technical discipline has been defined between the sixties and the eighties of the last century, and formalized in the nineties, and is not going to change much in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, the PMBoK is not just a guide to some best practices; it is a standard for project management approved by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. The PMBoK as a reference is so well established that the 4th edition has been largely the base for the development of the ISO 21500 Guidance on Project Management, that has been published in 2012. Try to change THAT!

Fact 2: every 4 to 6 years the PMI carries out a project manager role delineation study in order to assess the evolution of the profession in the real world. The last role delineation study was completed in 2015 and its results have already been incorporated in the PMP exam in January 2016 and will be in the PMBoK 6th edition. As a result, the PMI also updated the "PMP exam outline" that provides a condensed blueprint or list of the expected skills and competences that will be assessed in the PMP exam. Again, changes are not dramatic: 8 new project management tasks have been added bringing the total from 34 to 42. This may seem a huge addition, but it must be said that these 8 "new" tasks were already well expected by a project manager and already described in the PMBoK 5th edition. As an example consider the Initiating process group, where a new task was added regarding "Conduct benefits analysis with relevant stakeholders to validate project alignment with organizational strategy and expected business value.". Project management basics really. Also, this topic is already stressed in the current PMBoK 5th edition, for example chapter 2 page 30 reads "Project governance—the alignment of the project with stakeholders’ needs or objectives—is critical to the successful management of stakeholder engagement and the achievement of organizational objectives.". I hope you now agree the last PMP exam update is not really THAT disruptive...

Our take: So, what to expect? This is our take of the things to come. Most of the impact for the PMP exam questions will come when the PMBoK 6th edition is finalized and the changes are reflected into the exam (reasonably around January 2018). Renaming project management processes can add subtle changes, mostly to mnemonic questions. We do not expect major changes to situational questions and, in general, to most questions that reflect current project management good practices. So, if you can finalize your PMP exam prep and take the exam by the end of 2017 with a good confidence and without rushing and taking too much risk, then do so. But if you are not comfortable with this schedule then our suggestion is to wait and start studying directly on the PMBoK 6th edition as it is available.

Hope this post helps! Take care.

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