Tag Archives: PMI-SP

New Planning and controls website


Our new project Planning and Controls website at www.planning-controls.com.au/ is now up and running.  This site currently has two focuses:

Helping people study to pass their PMI-SP® examination:  www.planning-controls.com.au/pmisp-courses/  Backed by a library of helpful PMI-SP exam support resources:  www.planning-controls.com.au/support/

Providing a single location for planners and schedulers to access our library of project controls papers and other free resourceswww.planning-controls.com.au/controls/   Almost all of the papers are available for download and use under the Creative Commons licence.

This site will be progressively updated with a view to becoming a key reference for all planning and control professionals worldwide!  Any suggestions for improvements will be appreciated – we look forward to hearing from you.



Critical confusion – when activities on the critical path don’t compute……

The definition of a schedule ‘critical path’ varies (see Defining the Critical Path), but the essence of all of the valid definitions is the ‘critical path’ determines the minimum time needed to complete the project and either by implication or overtly the definitions state that delaying an activity on the critical path will cause a delay to the completion of the project and accelerating an activity will (subject to float on other paths[1]) accelerate the completion of the project.

A series of blog posts by Miklos Hajdu, Research Fellow at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, published earlier this year highlights the error in this assumption and significantly enhances the basic information contained in my materials on ‘Links, Lags and Ladders’ and our current PMI-SP course notes.  The purpose of this post is to consolidate all these concepts into a single publication.

The best definition of a critical path is Critical Path: sequence of activities that determine the earliest possible completion date for the project or phase[2].  This definition is always correct.  Furthermore, in simple Precedence networks (PDM) that only use Finish-to-Start links, and traditional Activity-on-Arrow (ADM) networks the general assumption that increasing the duration of an activity on the critical path delays the completion of the schedule and reducing the duration of an activity on the critical path accelerates the completion of the schedule holds true.  The problems occur in PDM schedules using more sophisticated link types.  Miklos has defined five constructs using standard PDM links in which the normal assumption outlined above fails. These constructs, starting with the ‘normal critical’ that behaves as expected are shown diagrammatically below[3].

Normal Critical

The overall project duration responds as expected to a change in the activity duration.

1 Normal critical

A one day reduction of the duration of an activity on the critical path will shorten the project duration by one day, a one day increase will lengthen the project duration by one day.

Reverse Critical

The change in the overall project duration is the opposite of any change in the activity duration.

2 Reverse Critical

A one day reduction of the duration of Activity B will lengthen the project duration by one day, a one day increase will reduce the project duration by one day.

Neutral Critical

Either a day decrease or a day increase leaves the project duration unaffected. There are two variants, SS and FF:

3 Neutral 1

3 Neutral 2

In both cases it does not matter what change you make to Activity B, there is no change in the overall duration of the project.  This is one of the primary reasons almost every scheduling standard requires a link from a predecessor into the start of every activity and a link from the end of the activity to a successor.

Bi-critical Activities

Any change in the duration of Activity B will cause the project duration to increase.

4 Bi-critical

A one day reduction of the duration of Activity B will lengthen the project duration by one day, a one day increase will lengthen the project duration by one day.  Bi-critical activities depend on having a balanced ladder where all of the links and activities are critical in the baseline schedule. Increasing the duration of B pushes the completion of C through the FF link.  Reducing the duration of B ‘pulls’ the SS link back to a later time and therefore delays the start of C.  The same effect will occur if the ladder is unbalanced or there is some float across the whole ladder, it is just not as obvious and may not flow through to a delay depending on the float values and the extent of the change.

Increasing Normal Decreasing Neutral

An increase in Activity B will delay completion, but a reduction has no effect! There are two variations on this type of construct.

5 Increasing Normal Decreasing Neutral 1

5 Increasing Normal Decreasing Neutral 2

A one day increase in the duration of Activity B will increase the project duration by one day, however, reducing the length of Activity B has no effect on the project’s duration.

Increasing Neutral Decreasing Reverse

An increase in Activity B has no effect, but a reduction will delay completion! Again, there are two variations on this type of construct.

6 Increasing neutral decreasing reverse 1

6 Increasing neutral decreasing reverse 2

A one day increase in the duration of Activity B has no effect on the project’s duration, however, reducing the length of Activity B by one day will increase the project duration by one day.

Why does this matter?

The concept of the schedule model accurately reflecting the work of the project to support decision making during the course of the work and for the forensic assessment of claims after the project has completed, is central to the concepts of modern project management.  Apart from the ‘normal critical’ construct, all of the other constructs outlined above will produce wrong information or allow a claim to be dismissed based on the nuances of the model rather than the real effect.

Using most contemporary tools, all the planner can do is be aware of the issues and avoid creating the constructs that cause issues.  Medium term, there is a need to revisit the whole function of overlapping activities in a PDM network to allow overlapping and progressive feed to function efficiently.  This problem was solved in some of the old ADM scheduling tools, ICL VME PERT had a sophisticated ‘ladder’ construct[4].  Similar capabilities are available in some modern scheduling tools that have the capability to model a ‘Continuous precedence relationship[5]’ or implement RD-CPM[6].

[1] For more on the effect of ‘float’ see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF/Schedule_Float.pdf

[2] From ISO 21500 Guide to Project Management,

[3] The calculations for these constructs are on Miklos’s blog at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/miklos-hajdu-a1418862

[4] For more on ‘Links, Lags and Ladders’ see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF/Links_Lags_Ladders.pdf

[5] For more on continuous relationships see:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877705815031811

[6] For more on RD-CPM see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1035_RD-CPM.pdf

PMI PDU Update

PMI is updating is Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) to reflect the needs of employers, which will result in a revision to the way Professional Development Units (PDUs) can be earned and accumulated.

This change is independent of and separate from the changes to the PMP examination structure and content scheduled for the 1st November 2015. For more on the changes to the PMP examination see: https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/pmp-exam-is-changing-on-1st-nov-2015/

The total number of PDUs required to retain your PMI credential are not changing but the proportion of PDUs required from different categories will change on the 1 December 2015.  PDUs earned before this date accrue on the current basis, after the 1st December the new requirements based on the ‘PMI Talent Triangle’ will apply.

The ‘PMI Talent Triangle’

PMI_Talent_TriangleThe ‘PMI Talent Triangle’ is an employer-identified combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise, and outlines the three skill areas employers need. They are as follows:

Technical Project Management: Knowledge, skills and behaviours related to specific domains of Project, Program and Portfolio Management. Education options in this skills domain include courses on: Advanced project management, Techniques to improve your WBS, How to gather and document requirements, Risk management for your portfolio, etc.

Leadership: Knowledge, skills and behaviours specific to leadership-oriented skills that help an organization achieve its business goals. Education options in this skills domain include courses on: Negotiation, Communication, Motivation, Problem solving, Conflict resolution, etc.

Strategic and Business Management: Knowledge of and expertise in the industry or organisation that you work in, that enhances performance and better delivers business outcomes. Education options in this skills domain include courses on: Product knowledge, Industry knowledge, Business acumen, Innovation strategy alignment, Market strategy alignment, Finance, Marketing, etc.

CCR Updates

The overall framework of the CCR program remains the same. You will continue to earn PDUs in the categories of Education and Giving Back and the total number of PDUs required in any three year cycle remains unchanged. PMP and other ‘professional’ credential holders (PgMP, PfMP and PMI–PBA) still require 60 PDUs; other credential holders PMI-SP PMI–ACP and PMI–RMP still require 30 PDUs. And the activities that can earn PDUs remain the same.

However, from the 1st December 2015 the following minimum and maximum requirements will apply for the PMP credential and other credentials requiring 60 PDUs in a 3 year cycle (and in brackets the PMI-SP and other credentials requiring 30 PDUs in a 3 year cycle).


The minimum number of PDUs required to be earned by participating in educational activities is increased to 35 (18), and there are now also minimum requirements in each of the three talent triangle skill sets:

  • Technical Project Management: a minimum of 8 (4) PDUs are required to be earned participating in education focused on acquiring knowledge, skills and behaviours related to specific domains of Project, Program and Portfolio Management. (eg, earned value training, scheduling training).
  • Leadership, a minimum of 8 (4) PDUs are required to be earned participating in education focused on acquiring knowledge, skills and behaviours specific to leadership-oriented, cross-cutting skills that help an organization achieve its business goals. (eg, team leadership training, stakeholder communication training).
  • Strategic and Business Management, a minimum of 8 PDUs (4) are required to be earned participating in education focused on acquiring knowledge of and expertise in the industry or organisation that you work in, that enhances performance and better delivers business outcomes. (eg, corporate stakeholder engagement training, safety training).

Provided you earn a minimum of 8 PDUs in each of the three categories, there is no maximum in this category, all 60 (30) PDUs can be earned through education activities including up to 44 (22) PDUs in just one of the three skill sets.

The education category includes ‘self directed learning’ these are activities which are individualised learning events involving personally conducted research or study such as:

  • reading articles, books, or instructional manuals;
  • watching videos, using interactive CD-ROMs, podcasts, or other source material;
  • having formal discussions with colleagues, coworkers, clients, or consultants;
  • being coached or mentored by a colleague, coworker or consultant.

The maximum number of PDUs that can be earned by self directed learning are defined in the relevant credential handbook (PMP = 30, PMI-SP = 15).

Giving back:

The maximum number of PDUs you can earn in this category has been reduced to 25 (12) PDUs. The three elements of ‘giving back’ are Volunteering, Creating Knowledge and Working as a Professional. The maximum number of PDUs allowed against each of these categories are:

  • Volunteering: all 25 (12) PDUs can be earned by volunteering.
  • Creating Knowledge: all 25 (12) PDUs can be earned by ‘creating knowledge’.
  • Working as a Professional: a maximum of 8 (4) PDUs can be earned by ‘working as a professional.

Note: PDUs earned in excess of the maximum 25 (12) in this category are simply not counted.


From the 1st December 2015, your plan to accrue sufficient PDUs to retain your credential has to take into account the need to earn a minimum of 8 (4) PDUs in each of the three skill sets defined in the PMI Talent Triangle. You also need to remember that the maximum number of PDUs available for ‘working as a professional’ is reduced to 8 (4) and these form part of the overall maximum of 25 (12) PDUs that are available under the ‘giving back’ category.

Training providers (particularly PMI R.E.P.s) will progressively update their course information to allocate PDUs against the three elements of the PMI Talent Triangle.

These changes only apply to credential holders wanting to use the PMI CCR system to maintain their credential (and therefore stay on the PMI list of current credential holders) by accruing PDUs.  The training requirements to be eligible to apply to sit a PMI examination are not affected.

For more on the updated CCR processes and FAQs see: http://www.pmi.org/certification/ccr-updates-pra.aspx

For more on the current CCR program either refer to your credential handbook or see: http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Maintain-Your-Credential.aspx

To understand the difference between PDUs and eligible training hours see: PDUs and the PMI Examination Eligibility Requirements

CAPM Turns 10

CAPM Step outTowards the end of this year, the PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® reached its 10-year anniversary. More than 26,000 people from 150 countries hold the CAPM® today. A significant proportion of the 26,00 are our students, we conducted our first CAPM course early in 2005, jut a couple of months after the credential was released, and have been running training courses for this credential ever since.

The CAPM is designed for practitioners who wish to demonstrate their knowledge of the terminology and processes of effective project management. It shows that a team member understands the good practices described in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), which forms the basis of the 150-question CAPM examination. It also benefits professionals who are not on project teams but work closely with them.

Over time, many practitioners who hold the CAPM go on to earn their PMP credential, the major difference in eligibility requirements between the two credentials is a PMP applicant must demonstrate a minimum of 3 years experience working in a project leadership role. CAPM candidates just need to complete an approved training course.

CAPM PathWhilst the CAPM 10th anniversary is a significant milestone, we were offering PMP courses well before the CAPM examination was introduced and have since added our PMI-SP course.  All three are available world-wide via our Mentored Email™ courses; we run public CAPM and PMP classroom courses in Melbourne each month, the next course starts on the 19th January, and can offer in-house training anywhere.  As part of our ‘all inclusive’ package we help everyone navigate the PMI application process and guarantee to work with you until you pass your chosen examination.

For a brief history of the much older PMP credential see: https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/the-pmp-examination-is-30-years-old/

Our Mad March sale is over

IMG_9605Our Mad March sale is finally over but our world-beating prices remain for 2014 with our guarantee to beat any comparable price by $50.

Our fully catered, 4 and 5 day classroom courses for PMP and CAPM  are $1397, no more to pay (GST included).  See: http://www.mosaicproject.com.au/

Prices for our Mentored Email™ self-paced distance learning courses for PMI-SP, CAPM and PMP depend on your location and your selected options.

  • PMP Mentored Email courses – available world-wide from $680: see more
  • CAPM Mentored Email courses – available world-wide from $600: see more
  • PMI-SP Mentored Email courses – available world-wide from $520: see more


Understanding your PMP Score

– Updated –

PMP, CAPM  and PMI-SP scores are all based on how well you answer multi-choice questions in your exam.

Unfortunately, the information provided to candidates at the end of their PMI exam is minimal. You are told if you have passed or failed based on the number of questions correctly answered (but the passing score is a secret) and you are told if your score is below average, average or above average against a limited number of ‘domains’ or PMBOK® Guide chapters in the case of CAPM. But you are not told what average represents, how it relates to the passing score, or how wide the average band is. In reality the only option is to be happy if you are in the 70% to 80% who pass and talk to your training provider if you have failed. You cannot get anything additional out of PMI.

During your training the situation is (or should be) very different!

Almost every training organisation offers its PMI exam candidates sets of questions to help consolidate their learning – we build our courses around lots of regular tests.  If the tests are well designed they use the standard 4-option multi-choice question format used by PMI and provide feedback to the trainee on the number of questions correctly answered and detailed information about the answers to all of the questions. We do, and so does everyone else I talk to.

However, what many people don’t fully appreciate is the effect of the four options in the PMI multi-choice format and why a score of 55% is definitely in the ‘fail’ category! The cause is the fact that one of the options will always be correct, therefore a set of random guesses will score 25% on average, and the more questions you answer the more the 25% will come into play. The challenge is working out what proportion of the 55% can be attributed to ‘knowing the right answer’ and what proportion is likely to be consequence of the ‘lucky 25%’.

As a starting point, any score you achieve will have a certain number of questions answered correctly because you knew the correct answer and a certain number of questions that you answered incorrectly but fluked the right answer for the wrong reason (the ‘lucky 25%’ effect). One way to assess how many of each are included in your score is to assume a known number of answers are correct because you ‘know the right answer’ and then add 25% of the rest as likely to be correct based on the ‘lucky 25%’ factor. Therefore in a set of 100 questions, if you ‘know the right answers’ to 40 questions and add 25% of the remainder (60 / 4) = 15 you get a score of 55 (or 55%). So whilst superficially a score 55% may seem to be ‘not too bad’ knowing this represents a real score of around 40% gives a very different picture. And the reason increasing your score is quite hard work is because as you real score increases, the remaining number of questions subject to the ‘25% luck’ factor decreases

This chart is one way of assessing what you really know from any score achieved in a 4-option multi-choice question exam. If you don’t know the answer to any question and guess the lot, should still score around 25%. Conversely if you know the correct answer to every question, there are none left to be affected by the ‘25% luck’ factor.


In the chart, your total score is represented by the Pale Blue line and the questions you can assume you ‘know the correct answer to’ is represented by the Dark Blue line.

Between these two lines, there are a steadily decreasing number of questions that you did not know the right answer to but got a correct answer to based on the ‘25% luck’ factor. This 25% factor is represented by the Green Line.

To use the chart

See what your score is and convert it to a percentage. This is your ‘Total Score’ on the vertical axis, and is represented by the Light Blue line. Look down the chart to see your real score on the horizontal axis, and the Dark Blue and Green lines will give you an approximate split. For example, if you scored 62.5% in total, you probably know the answer to around 50% of the questions and the random factor added another 12.5%.

Taking into account the possible distribution of results, the ‘luck factor’ is probably somewhere between 10% and 15% (at ± 1SD) meaning there is a 65% probability you actually scored somewhere between 47.5% and 52.5% (but the effect in any specific test may be greater).

Limitations & Observations

This chart explains why PMI has set a passing score above 60% in the past (when we knew this information) and seem to have maintained this policy into the present time. A score of around 65% would assure PMI the candidate probably achieved a score of 50% or better from knowledge. But there are a number of issues with the chart.

  • The first major problem is that on average there will be a ‘25% luck’ factor affecting the questions you don’t know the right answer to, but some people will be luckier than others.  Based on a series of Monte Carlo analyses by Jesus Carrillo we can assume 1 Standard Deviation is a bit less than 5 (at the starting point), therefore the ‘luck factor’ in around 65% of all tests will fall somewhere within the two dotted green lines (see comments below).
  • The number of questions subject to the 25% luck factor decreases as the number of questions you answer correctly increases and because we are dealing with whole numbers this introduced some distortions (skew) into the assessment, as does the 3:1 ratio between wrong and right answers.  The chart is a simplification of quite complex data which hopefully does not limit its usefulness.
  • The next major problem is very few questions will be answered randomly. Most trainers tell there candidates to make sure you answer every question, but the majority of questions will have a considered answer, some considered correctly and other considered incorrectly. This factor is impossible to graph.
  • There is no way of knowing which specific questions were answered correctly for the ‘right reason’ and which were in the lucky 25%. You need to check the answers from you training organisation to see if you were ‘right for the right reason’.
  • The last consideration is the potential to remove some variability by correctly deleting ‘obviously wrong’ answers. If you can remove one option the probability of your guess being correct rises to 33%, if you can knock out two options it is up to 50%. This shifts the odds into your favour but reduces the ‘known to be correct for the right reason’ value. Again impossible to graph.


Next time you test you take a practice test use this chart to asses your real level of knowledge but make sure you check all of the answers you got right so you can identify the questions you got right for the wrong reason, the ‘25% luck’ factor.

One of the reasons we set our trainees a benchmark score of 75% in our coursework is to help overcome the factors discussed in this post. By the time you are scoring around 75% the effect of the 25% random variability has reduced well below 10% and we know you know enough to score around 65% in the exam without the luck factor. This means most people will pass most of the time; score below 75% and you are starting to rely on the 25% luck factor and there is always a chance you may not have an average amount of luck on exam day.

To help you practice your PMPCAPM  and PMI-SP answering skills we Tweet a new question every day, for today’s see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-PMP-Q-Today.html

PMI Promotes the PMI-SP Credential



And we agree!

Don’t wait to validate your skills and take you career to the next level

Apply Now

To help prepare of the examination and meet the PMI-SP training requirements, our PMI-SP courses are available world-wide via Mentored Email™ to see http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-Planning_One-on-One.html