Current State of the PMP® Exam
The PMP® Exam is based on the current Exam Content Outline (ECO), which covers the three domains of Business Environment, People, and Processes. This can include both predictive and adaptive (agile) questions. Per the ANSI standard ISO 17024 that the PMP® credential aligns with, the ECO was updated at the beginning of 2021, per the five-year life cycle it runs on. This ECO is still in place as of 2024 and we do not expect to see a new ECO published by PMI until the second half of 2024 with an exam cutover date at least six to 12 months (January to June 2025 estimated) after that.
Exam Content Outline (ECO)
The Exam Content Outline (ECO) is the basis of the PMP® Exam. This is what the exam is based on and built from, including what content is covered and the amount of content that is covered. The ECO is typically updated about every five years and the PMBOK® Guide as well, so there is a common misunderstanding that the PMP® Exam ties directly to the PMBOK® Guide. The reality is that the exam actually ties to the ECO, but most people do not pay attention to that.
PMBOK® Guide (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge)
The PMBOK® Guide is a summary or aggregation of project management knowledge that is an ANSI standard that PMI updates every five years. This publication is written as a reference of what project management is about. It is NOT written as a reference to pass the PMP® Exam.
For example, I was in a meeting at the Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) with the person in charge of the PMP® Exam. They said that 60% to 80% of the exam could be referenced in the PMBOK® Guide. Anything else comes from other publications.
Historically, the PMBOK® Guide has had process groups and knowledge areas which have processes. The processes have inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs.
The Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide (I was on the core team that created it.) was blown up and started over from scratch. It went from 800+ pages in the previous edition to only over 200+ pages. Processes, knowledge areas, and everything people were familiar with were gone. While I think it is a really well put together publication, I can say that if I was studying it for the exam, there is not a decent degree of substance to get into a great degree of detail, compared to past editions.
Exam Content Outline (ECO) vs. PMBOK® Guide (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge)
Previously when predictive projects were the only ones referenced on the PMP® Exam and the PMBOK® Guide only addressed predictive projects, the ECO and PMBOK® Guide were generally in sync. For example, they covered initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing.
When Agile became more dominant, PMI decided to incorporate more of it into the PMP® Exam, even though it was not in Sixth edition of the PMBOK® Guide.
COVID-19 Pandemic Era Updates and Adjustments
This period was where the timing of things, as well as the order of some things and what referenced them evolved. The pandemic era resulted in a lot of internal changes, causing PMI to move dates on a number of things.
PMI announced the current ECO (Business Environment, People and Processes domains) would start January 2, 2021. This ECO is still in place today.
PMI emphasized that they were (to quote Sierra, the employee in charge of credentials at PMI) “decoupling” the PMP® Exam from the PMBOK® Guide. This meant that it “could” be used as a reference to create exam questions, along with many other references. For example, a charter does not require you to have any version of a PMBOK® Guide to know enough of it to be successful on the exam.
As of the start of the current ECO, PMI had not yet released the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide. This was the FIRST time in the 25 years I have been around the PMP® Exam that a PMBOK® Guide was not released followed by an exam update occurring within 6-10 months after that.
PMI announced mid-2021 that the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide was being released to the public. The date had been moved multiple times and was expected for the fall of 2021. Mid-2021 was a surprise, but this had nothing to do with the PMP® Exam.
PMI sent out a communication to some organizations about the value of a predictive standard (translate PMBOK® Guide, but for predictive projects). PMI stated they expected a decision on whether they would do something like this and in what format by the end of the year. They ended up releasing a Process Groups Practice Guide, which is actually content from the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide. It is all the content that disappeared with the Seventh Edition. They now promote this practice guide and the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide together because of consumer feelings with the Seventh Edition, compared to earlier editions.
Products for the PMP® Exam
Due to past relationships with the PMBOK® Guide and the PMP® Exam, Publishers of printed or digital products for the PMP® Exam have a perception issue that just does not go away. The perception is that their material is old or outdated, based on the version of the PMBOK® Guide that it aligns with.
In speaking with PMPs that have taken their exam years ago, or trainers who are not in sync with the current changes to how the exam is based on the ECO and not the PMBOK® Guide, I’ve experienced misconceptions and confusion on their parts about training materials being outdated, when in fact they are current. For example, most people do not know that the exam has a major update every five years. As a result, any material created based on the January 2, 2021, PMP® Exam Content Outline (ECO) is current material, regardless of the PMBOK® Guide that it aligns with or references.
I have spoken with several other authors in our field, and we are all dealing with this misperception. All have taken different approaches in how they identify the version of their materials. For example, one author’s book says 6+agile (meaning sixth edition + agile content), one emphasizes the ECO and Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide on literally every paragraph to the point they look like pop-up ads. One said he put Seventh on everything because he was tired of people asking about it, but nothing was updated after the January 2, 2021, updates they did to their courseware.
Crosswind Products for the PMP® Exam
When Crosswind released our product line based on the previous ECO, our main book was version 6.0. When the current ECO was released, our book went through a major redesign and was updated to align with the current ECO. This is version 6.1 and is our current version.
The perception issue with this ended up being that people thought 6.x was old because of the past relationship between the PMBOK® Guide, ECO, and PMP® Exam. This was not correct. Just because our version started with six did not mean it was old or only aligned with the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide. It was an internal number. As a result of this misperception, Crosswind shifted to a year-based version of our products starting in 2022. We have done three printings since our materials were updated to align with the current ECO that was released at the beginning of 2021 and is not expected to be updated by PMI until sometime in mid to late 2025.
Our question bank does still have references to our best-selling Crosswind Bootcamp Manual and the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide. As we do updates to our question bank, any outdated questions will be either removed or modified to be current and we will be removing any PMBOK® Guide references.
Throughout our product line the Processes domain in the PMP® Exam relates to subjects like scope, schedule, cost, quality, risk, procurement, and agile. The People domain relates to subjects like resources, roles and organizations, stakeholders, and communication. Those subjects and the other PMP® Exam domain (Business Environment) all have chapters in our Bootcamp Manual and are covered in our product line.
Crosswind Products, the PMP® Exam Content Outline (ECO) and the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide
If you have looked through the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, compared to an earlier edition, you will see significant differences. When I was on the team creating the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, I asked, “Where are the processes?” and “Where are the details?” I asked because they were gone. In the back of the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, there are various appendices that list items like models, methods, and artifacts (MMAs). While these MMAs are described, what is missing is the processes that use or create those MMAs. Those processes later showed up in the Process Groups Practice Guide which has content from Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide that shows the current processes used to create these MMAs.
In looking at those MMAs in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, you will see that those items are distributed throughout our Crosswind Bootcamp Manual with the processes that create them. This is because these are things that are commonly used in project management, regardless of the edition of the PMBOK® Guide, and the basis for how to do project management as it relates to the PMP® Exam.
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