Today is an important day. A day that those of us looking to become certified Project Management Professionals (PMP’s) have had marked in our calendars in big red letters for months. Today is the day the PMP certification exam changes.
Back in September, the Project Management Institute (PMI) released a new version of the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). The PMBOK is essentially the Project Management Bible, detailing all of the guiding principles, best practices and nitty gritty details that define and guide the field of Project Management. This update of the PMBOK to Version 6 has several significant changes, including key changes to Project Management Knowledge Areas and the inclusion of a smaller text which details Agile Methodologies.
What This Means
Current and aspiring Project Managers who wished to become PMP certified under PMBOK version 5 had until today to take the exam. As of today, the PMP exam (and other related exams for Project Management) has been updated to reflect the materials found in PMBOK version 6.
Because the PMBOK v6 pivots to provide more information and use cases for Agile Project Management Methodologies, as well as including the new Agile Methodologies supplemental text, it’s safe to say that this new exam will include questions on Agile. While no one has been able to say for certain (the exam was just released today), my guess is that the information in the Agile Methodologies text is fair game for the exam.
For at least the next year, those of us looking to take the PMP Exam will need to examine our Test Prep materials closely to make sure they are current to the new PMBOK v6. There are still a lot of online courses, practice exams and study materials out there that were written for the PMBOK v5. If you are going to spend money on exam prep materials (and I strongly recommend it given that the exam is expensive and, by all accounts, a beast), make sure your materials are for the new version of the exam.
What This Does Not Mean
The one big thing this exam change does not mean is that all of the studying you may have done for the PMP under the old version is useless. The new PMBOK v6 was not a complete re-write. There are many key knowledge areas which did not change between PMBOK v5 and PMBOK v6.
- The Knowledge Areas that represent the Knitty Gritty of Project Management were, for the most part, left unchanged. This includes:
- Project Cost Management
- Project Quality Management
- Project Scope Management
- Project Integration Management.
- Important calculations and formulas used for Scheduling, Estimating and determining Project Value did not change.
If you began studying for your PMP under the old PMBOK, most of the foundational project management knowledge and information you studied is still the same. Nothing you studied prior to the exam change was a waste of your time!
This is a Tough Exam…So Be Strategic
There are generally two ways to approach taking a standardized test (which is exactly what this and all other Certification exams are):
- The Broad Approach – Attempt to learn all of the knowledge the exam is based on and use that to pass the exam because you know everything about what the exam is based on.
- The Narrow Approach – Use the study materials as a guide and focus on passing the exam, rather than trying to learn all of the materials that created it. This means you focus more on the exam itself.
As someone who went through their entire school career under the specter of Standardized Exams, I can say without hesitation that taking the Narrow Approach is the better method. Make sure that your studying focuses NOT on teaching you Project Management, but on how to PASS the PMP exam. There are a couple of reasons I recommend this.
First, if you are looking to be certified as a PMP you are already a Project Manager. You have to have either a college degree and 4000 hours experience managing projects, or a high school diploma and 7500 hours experience managing projects. Regardless of whether you have the title, you are already a project manger before you sit for the exam.
Second, the exam is expensive. It costs $555 to take the exam if you aren’t a member of PMI, and $405 if you are. That’s on top of the study materials you will need to meet the 35 hours of education you need to be eligible for the exam. If I’m spending that much of my hard earned money (or if you are extremely lucky and are spending your employers money), I’m going to make sure I can pass the exam in as few attempts as possible.
Finally, the goal of this entire exercise is to become Certified PMP, not to become a Project Manager. Remember, you are already a Project Manager, even if you don’t have the title. Since the goal is to become a Certified PMP, the goal is to pass the exam. This means you should:
- Know the Exam Inside and Out. Know exactly how much of the exam is based on which PM Process Group and calibrate your studies accordingly. This helps you study efficiently. For example, if one PM Knowledge area has only 10 questions on the exam, while another area has 45, you should be spending much more of your time and effort on the process area with 45 questions.
- Practice Practice Practice. You need to be as familiar with the exam format as possible. That means a good chunk of your time should be spent taking as many practice exams as you can find so you can be familiar with how questions are worded, why certain answers are more right than others and how the exam tries to trip test takers up.
- The questions on this exam are famously situational, and many seasoned PM’s get tripped up by answering the question the way they would manage a project in real life, rather than the way PMI wants them answered. Remember you are trying to pass the exam, not prove your knowledge. Even if you disagree with the options given for a question based on your experience, put your pride aside and answer the way PMI wants.
- Strategically complete the exam questions, meaning answer everything you can answer quickly on a first pass through. You can mark questions you are unsure about for review later. Return to those questions once you have answered all of the others. You only have four hours to complete 200 questions, so you have to use your time wisely.