PMP (Project Management Professional) certification from PMI (Project Management Institute) is one of the most reputed project management certifications in the world. However, attaining PMP certification is not easy.
Furthermore, PMI has made things difficult by clouding many aspects of the exam including the PMP exam syllabus.
Many PMP aspirants believe that PMBOK Guide (A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge) covers the exam syllabus but this is not true.
The certification exam is not based on the PMBOK Guide. It is based on the PMP examination content outline (ECO), which provides a broad syllabus for the exam.
The PMBOK Guide, along with the Agile Practice Guide are primary reference books for the PMP exam prep. Both these books are published by PMI and are available as free downloads to the PMI members.
I have written this post to give details about curriculum of the PMP examination. After reading this post, you will understand all of the following:
- How is PMP credential exam structured?
- How are exam questions framed?
- What is the significance of PMBOK Guide for PMP exam prep?
- What is PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO)?
PMP Exam Syllabus
The exam is based on the PMP certification exam content outline (ECO), not the (PMBOK® Guide) or other reference books.
It is true that the PMP exam syllabus is contained in PMP ECO. However, there is another aspect of PMP exam – PMBOK Guide and Agile Practice Guide are considered as the primary reference books for the PMP exam preparation.
PMP ECO gives an outline of what a PMP aspirant needs to study and the PMI Guides are primary sources for that study.
PMI has listed many project management books as reference material for the exam but the exam questions are is based on the terminology used in the PMBOK Guide and Agile Practice Guide.
In the following sections we will look are how PMP exam syllabus is defined how ECO is structured.
How is the PMP Exam Syllabus Defined?
The theory of project management has not changed much over the years. The theory related to scheduling, budgeting, risk management and other aspects of project management has remained the same over the last few decades.
However, two things have changed drastically over the years – the role of project manager and best practices of project management.
The role of project manager has changed to keep pace with technological changes. In the past few years, companies across different industries have initiated new projects to start using new and disruptive technologies to keep ahead of their competition. Due to this, the role of project managers have has broadened. The role is still evolving and will keep on evolving in the future.
The PMP exam is primarily oriented around the role of project manager and best practices of project management.
PMI keeps of changing the exam to keep in line with project manager role. Every 4 to 5 years, PMI does a Role Delineation Study (RDS) or Job Task Analysis (JTS). It is conducted as a survey to determine the current role and responsibilities of a project manager.
The findings of RDS are incorporated in the ECO as tasks, which become the basis for the PMP exam.
PMI did last RDS in 2019, and its findings were incorporated as part of ECO in early 2020.
The exam based on 2020 ECO was supposed to change in the summer of 2020. However, due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the PMP exam change was postponed. The PMP exam changes were finally introduced in January 2021 and the exam has remained the same since then.
Prior to 2021, the PMP exam candidates were tested only on predictive project management concepts. However, the new PMP exam tests candidates on both predive and agile project management concepts.
What is PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO)?
PMP ECO contains the format, prerequisites, structure, and syllabus for the PMP exam.
The ECO is divided into project management domains, which are further divided in tasks and enablers.
- A domain can be considered as a high-level knowledge area that is essential to the practice of project
- Tasks are underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain.
- Enablers are illustrative examples of the work associated with each task.
There are three domains in ECO viz. people, process, and business environment. Each domain has multiple tasks.
PMP course curriculum is structured around ECO tasks and questions in the exam are based on these tasks. The following table shows the quantum of PMP exam questions coming from each domain.
Percentage of Items on Test
II. Business Environment
Let us take a look at the three domains in detail and some example tasks.
1. People Domain
The people domain contains tasks that are required for managing people. It talks about all kind people including project team, clients, vendors, senior managers, and other project stakeholders.
You will find tasks related to conflict management, aggrandizing team performance, and empowering project team members in this domain. Here is an example of a task and its enablers from this domain.
Task: Manage conflict
- Interpret the source and stage of the conflict
- Analyze the context for the conflict
- Evaluate/recommend/reconcile the appropriate conflict resolution solution
2. Process Domain
The process domain contains tasks that are required for managing technical aspects of a project. It includes tasks like scope management, cost management, and quality management. Here is an example of a task and its enablers from this domain.
Task: Execute project with the urgency required to deliver business value
- Assess opportunities to deliver value incrementally
- Examine the business value throughout the project
- Support the team in subdividing project tasks as necessary to find the minimum viable product
3. Business Environment Domain
The business environment domain contains tasks that are related to the business environment in which the project is being executed. It includes both internal or external environment.
You will find tasks related to project compliance management, focusing and delivering project benefits, and supporting organizational changes in this domain. Here is an example of a task and its enablers from this domain.
Task: Plan and manage project compliance
- Confirm project compliance requirements (e.g., security, health and safety, regulatory compliance).
- Classify compliance categories
- Determine potential threats to compliance
- Use methods to support compliance
- Analyze the consequences of noncompliance
- Determine necessary approach and action to address compliance needs (e.g., risk, legal)
- Measure the extent to which the project is in compliance
How to do PMP Exam Prep?
You would have realized that PMP ECO does not give a straightforward syllabus – it just complicates the matter. For a new candidate, it is very difficult to comprehend ECO domains and tasks.
PMI lists various reference books to study for exam preparation. However, the exam is not like a regular exam where you pick up a book or set of books and study them for preparation. In fact, this is not humanly possible for a working professional to go through all the books suggested by PMI.
So, here are three broad steps that you should follow to prepare for and crack the exam:
1. Enroll in a 35-hour PMP Training
The best way to overcome the syllabus uncertainties is by enrolling in a PMP exam oriented 35 hours project management education from a reputable provider like us. It will give you all the necessary tools and knowledge to pass the exam.
You can consider our PMP certification training course as it is competitively priced and comes with a host of features that will enable you to pass the exam in your first try. Here are a few benefits of our PMP training.
- 100% pass guarantee.
- Unlimited trainer’s support.
- Aligned to PMBOK Guide 6th and 7th editions and Agile Practice Guide.
- Always kept updated for the latest exam.
- Tips to clear the exam in your first attempt.
- Personalized PMP exam preparation study plan.
- Support for filling the PMP exam application.
2. Study PMI Publications
You must read PMI publications to prepare for the exam. These are PMBOK Guide and Agile Practice Guide.
In 2021, PMI released PMBOK Guide 7th edition but the PMP exam is still aligned to PMBOK Guide 6th edition. We would suggest you to study both 6th and 7th edition to prepare for the exam.
A PMI member can freely download pdf non-printable copy of PMI publications. However, if you don’t like to study a pdf book then you can consider buying paper copies of these books. You can click on the following links to check prices on Amazon.
3. Practice Mock Tests
We believe taking a simulator-based mock test is as essential as preparing for the PMP exam. A good simulator will test your understanding and a improve your preparation level. It will guide you with proper explanations for every wrong and correct answer. It will not only improve your knowledge but also boost your confidence for taking the exam.
Our PMP practice test simulator come bundled with our PMP training. You just need to invest in our PMP training for wholistic studies.
If you have already bought a 35 hours project management education course from another provider then you can consider investing in our PMP practice exam simulation software. It comes at a very attractive price and will help you in passing the exam in your first try. You can buy it for as low as $49.
What is your take on PMP exam syllabus? Do you think PMP ECO is east to follow? Or, has PMI made it very difficult for the prospective candidates by colluding the matter?
Let us know how we can help you by submitting your comment below.