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  • The Current PMP Exam – It’s Not Based on the PMBOK ® Guide, 6th Edition

    Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

    A month or so back we reached out to PMI to find out why they were using the 2015 PMP Exam Content Guide as the basis for grading PMP candidates exams – when they made such a big deal about the exam change to the PMBOK 6th edition.

    This is what Sierra Hampton-Simmons, the Global Manager, Certification Exams for the Project Management Institute told us:

    “The Project Management Professional (PMP) exam is not an exam “based” on the PMBOK ® Guide, 6th edition. The content of the PMP test, as detailed in our Examination Content Outline, is a direct output of our role delineation study (RDS) which is a job analysis of the project manager role. We conduct these types of studies every 5-7 years, independent of the PMBOK ® Guide development schedule, to identify any changes to the profession and ultimately determine what content should be included in the test. The last RDS for the PMP concluded in 2015 as is reflected in the publish date of the Examination Content Outline. Additionally, when the exam is developed, each item written must align to at least two published reference books. The references used are not limited to PMI global standards or publications. In fact, there are some items on the PMP exam that do not reference any PMI standards or publications at all.

    When the PMBOK ® Guide is updated, PMI Certification will assure that we align the terms used in the test with those used in the global standard to minimize confusion. We take extensive measures to update terms in the active exams so they are in “harmony” with the glossary of terms used in the most current PMBOK ® Guide. However, during this terminology update, we are not changing the structure of the exam, the scoring model, etc. only updating the terminology. Likewise, when the PMBOK ® Guide is updated you will typically not see updates to our Examination Content Outline or the Handbook for the PMP as these items relate directly to the RDS research and thereby the design of the PMP exam and not content of the PMBOK guide. Lastly, the tasks included in the detailed assessment of your students’ performance on the exam are intended to align only to the Examination Content Outline and not the PMBOK guide.

    As we state in the Examination Content Outline “…although the PMP Examination Content Outline and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) have commonalities, it is important to note that those involved in the study described previously were not bound by the PMBOK® Guide. They were charged with defining the roles of individuals leading and directing projects, and using their experience and pertinent resources to help in this task”.  Additionally, in the content outline we also refrain from pointing to a specific version of the global standard and instead state “Candidates studying for the examination will certainly want to include the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide as one of their references, and would be well advised to read other current titles on project management”. 

    We try our best to educate the public to these matters and have done our due diligence to transparently cover these matters in the examination content outline as well as the handbook for the PMP. However, as a training partner, I would appreciate it if you could assure this is understood by your students who intend to pursue the PMP. Currently, the only exam we have that is intended to measure candidates’ understanding of the PMBOK ® Guide is the CAPM exam. The CAPM was updated to align directly with the PMBOK ® Guide, 6th edition.  For your reference, below are links to the respective handbooks for the PMP and CAPM, as well as the CAPM examination content outline.”

    So there you have it.  A couple of weeks later, PMI announced it was updating the Role Delineation Study then and updating the exam in December.

    From our experience, we are seeing that students are passing the PMP exam in much higher numbers when they use our old PMBOK 5 exam questions than with the newer PMBOK 6 exam questions.

    So it’s a good thing they are updating their exam content guide.  Even though PMI claims the PMP exam is supposedly not based on the PMBOK  –  it will be better when the Exam Content guide aligns with the current version of the PMBOK that is out now  As said in the letter, they attempt to match terminology but there were many changes in the PMBOK 6th edition that extend far beyond terminology edits.   But then according to this letter, the PMP exam is not based on the PMBOK anyhow, so what is all the fuss when they change versions of the PMBOK?

    Food for thought…….

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