Contrary to popular belief, the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam is not based on the PMBOK® Guide, 6th edition. The content of the PMP test, is detailed in the PMP Examination Content Outline, which is a direct output from the PMP role delineation study (RDS), a job analysis of the project manager role.
PMI conduct a new RDS study 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.
When the PMBOK® Guide is updated, PMI do align the terms used in the test with those used in the global standard to minimize confusion and we as trainers have to follow suite as well as updating references, etc in our training materials. However, during this type of update, PMI do not change the structure of the exam or the scoring model.
The update associated with a new RDS is quite different! After the new RDS is published there are likely to be changes to the design of the PMP exam reflected in the PMP Examination Content Outline and the Handbook for the PMP exam as these items relate directly to the RDS research. These changes may affect the scoring model, the examination structure, the scope of knowledge tested, and what’s required to be successful in the exam.
The PMP Examination Content Outline and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) have commonalities, and this is likely to continue, but it is important to note that those involved in the RDS study are not bound by the PMBOK® Guide. They are charged with defining the roles of individuals leading and directing projects, and using their experience and pertinent resources to help in this task.
The current edition of the PMBOK® Guide is, and will remain as one of the key references for the new PMP exam but this is only part of the overall requirements for PMP – the core document will be the updated RDS.
CAPM is the only exam PMI have that is intended to measure candidates’ understanding of the PMBOK® Guide and this examination will not be changing until the 7th edition of the PMBOK in 2 to 3 years time (see more on CAPM).
What is completely unknown at this time is what the new PMP RDS will encompass, and by definition what will be included in the new PMP examination come December 2019. My expectation is too see far greater emphasis on communication, leadership, stakeholder engagement and ‘agility’ (‘soft skills’). Less emphasis on prescriptive tools and structured techniques but this is a guess. Fortunately, PMI do give their training community early access to the updates so we can adapt our courses.
What does this mean for you? My recommendation is anyone planning to become PMP certified and who is in a position to do the examination this year get stuck in and pass before December. The current exam structure has been in place since 2015 and is well understood. Come December it may be a whole new ballpark… or not…. we just have to wait and see!
What does this mean for us? Apart from a few long weeks updating training materials this is ‘situation normal’, we have to refresh our training materials every 4 years or so to deal with the PMBOK update cycle and every 6 years or so to deal with changes in the PMP RDS. After 20 years teaching PMP, we know what to expect.