29 May, 2023

Don’t Risk Being Left Behind: Understand the July 2023 Changes to the CAPM Exam Now!

The CAPM is PMI’s entry-level certification for Project Managers. It is designed for new and aspiring Project Managers. And it is widely recognized around the world. This makes PMI’s big 2023 revision to the examination syllabus an important event.

Don't Risk Being Left Behind: Understand the July 2023 Changes to the CAPM Exam Now!

So, in this article, I want to do a fresh survey of the PMI Certified Associate in Project Management certification. I will look at:

Please note that all of the information in this article is drawn from PMI’s:

You can download the latest copies of these from the PMI website.

What is CAPM?

Let’s start with the Project Management Institute, PMI. This is the world’s largest representative, accreditation, and standards body for Project Managers. It is based in the US, but many global organizations value its certifications in their recruiting and staff development processes.

As you’d expect, PMI offers a range of accreditations, and the base level core Project Management accreditation is the CAPM: Certified Associate in Project Management. Through PMI, organizations recognize it around the world. Many US-based organizations will use it as a recruitment indicator or advancement milestone for their Project professionals.

For a video summary:

As PMI’s entry-level accreditation, CAPM requires no prior Project Management knowledge or experience, before you start studying it. And the syllabus is designed to give a thorough grounding in what OMI considers the essentials of Project Management for early-career project professionals.

So, for many, CAPM is an early milestone in building a Project Management career. However, as I’ll discuss in the last section, it is not the only option and may not be useful to everyone starting out in the profession.

Why Take CAPM?

Without a doubt, some employers will expect a base-level certification for some roles. And some of these will prefer or even require the CAPM. So, it can for some people open up opportunities that would otherwise be either harder to achieve or maybe even be closed to you.

However, with a broad and well-considered syllabus, CAPM is also a good way to study and gain a strong general knowledge of the basics of the Project Management profession. So, whether or not the certification itself has value, the learning will have. Again, there are plenty of alternatives and I am not suggesting this is the right one for everybody. But you would certainly be wise to asses it against other options to find the best for you.

What are the Alternatives to CAPM?

  1. Alternative certifications and qualifications
    These include:
    • The APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) from Association for Project Management
    • IPMA® Level D: Project Management Associate from the International Project Management Association
  2. Non-accredited Project Management learning
    For example, my own Core Course programs

There are two broad categories.

The final reason to value CAPM in particular is relevant if you are committed to PMI membership throughout your career and you want to progress through PMI’s certifications. Earning your CAPM certification means automatically meeting the 35 hours of project management education and training required to sit for the PMI’s higher-tier exam, the Project Management Professional, or PMP.

CAPM Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the CAPM certification, you must meet the following PMI’s formal CAPM requirements:

  • A secondary degree, such as a high school diploma, GED (General Educational Development), or global equivalent
  • At least 23 contact hours of Project Management education completed before the exam (PMI offers its own online Project Management Basics course and there are plenty of third-party providers, which I’ll discuss below)

These are self-certified when you register online. But, be aware that you must keep good records of your education hours and copies of your education certificates. PMI will audit a proportion of applications – both a random selection and any applications it specifically chooses to review. There are full details of the audit process in the PMI Certifications Handbook.

Examination Content: The Syllabus for CAPM

I do not wish to dwell on the old, 2018, CAPM syllabus. PMI conducts periodic reviews – every 4 years or so – to ensure each syllabus for its certifications is up-to-date and meets the needs of the profession.

However, the 2023 change is a big one. So, it’s worth noting the change in tone, before looking in depth at the 2023 syllabus.

The Old 2018 CAPM Syllabus

The old syllabus was based entirely on the 6th Edition of PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, the PMBOK Guide, or PMBOK 6. It focused entirely on core Project Management knowledge. And, although it was not explicitly stated, the emphasis was implicitly on a traditional, predictive Project Management approach.

The Examination Content Outline (ECO) divided the learning objectives into 13 groups, each accounting for between 4% and 10% of the exam questions. Each had between 4 and 6 detailed learning objectives. The 13 sections were:

  1. Introduction to Project Management
  2. Project Environment
  3. Role of the Project Manager
  4. Project Integration Management
  5. Project Scope Management
  6. Project Schedule Management
  7. Project Cost Management
  8. Project Quality Management
  9. Project Resource Management
  10. Project Communication Management
  11. Project Risk Management
  12. Project Procurement Management
  13. Project Stakeholder Management

Older readers may recognize the 10 Knowledge Areas of the 2nd to 6th editions of the PMBOK Guide in lines 4 to 13.

The Change from the 2018 Syllabus to the 2023 Syllabus

The shift in the ECO from 2018 to 2023 is very much a broadening of the syllabus. It does this in three ways, by introducing:

  1. The principles and domains approach from the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition
  2. An explicit inclusion of Agile frameworks and methodologies (with slightly more questions allocated to this than to predictive, plan-based methods
  3. Business Analysis frameworks – which now accounts for over a quarter of the exam

PMI asserts that this big change arises as a result of its Job Task Analysis research. So, while some will find the changes surprising – maybe unwelcome, they are rooted in what PMI believes industry to need – certainly within the domain of its research.

If you are unsure what Business Analysis is, take a look at our video, What is Business Analysis? And what is a Business Analyst? | Video

The New 2023 CAPM Syllabus

The CAPM ECO is divided into 4 major knowledge areas, which PMI calls Domains’. Each is subdivided into 3 to 6 ‘Tasks’ that represent Project team responsibilities. These tasks are further described in anything from 1 to 7 bullet points that PMI calls Enablers’. The ECO stresses that ‘enablers are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather offer a few examples to help demonstrate what the task encompasses’.

The four CAPM exam domains and the proportion of items in the exam are:

  1. I. Project Management Fundamentals and Core Concepts 36%
  2. II. Predictive, Plan-Based Methodologies 17%
  3. III. Agile Frameworks/Methodologies 20%
  4. IV. Business Analysis Frameworks 27%

    To give you a sense of what these domains contain, I will also summarize the tasks under each. For the full detail of the PMI’s wording of the tasks and the list of enablers, download a copy of the ECO. Please note that PMI could make small adjustments to any of this information.

    1. Project Management Fundamentals and Core Concepts 36%
      • Life cycles and processes
      • Project Management planning
      • Project roles and responsibilities
      • Project execution
      • Problem-solving
    2. Predictive, Plan-Based Methodologies 17%
      • When to use a predictive approach
      • Project Management plan and schedule
      • Project controls
    3. Agile Frameworks/Methodologies 20%
      • When to use an adaptive approach
      • Planning project iterationsProject controls
      • An adaptive plan
      • Project execution
    4. Business Analysis Frameworks 27%
      • Business Analysis roles and responsibilities
      • Stakeholder communication
      • Requirements gathering
      • Product roadmaps
      • How Project Management methodologies influence Business Analysis processes
      • Validating requirements through project delivery

    Studying for the CAPM

    Studying for CAPM requires a minimum of 23 education hours, but this is not a realistic time to devote to preparing for the exam. How long you will need will depend upon:

    1. How much prior knowledge and experience you have in Project Management and Business Analysis
    2. How easily you can assimilate and understand the information

    PMI recommends a set of sources for the knowledge you will need – mostly from among its own publications. As a PMI member, you can get those publications as free downloads. The printed books are fiendishly expensive. PMI is a very rich organization, so I find it unconscionable that their pricing gouges legitimate learners. However, PMI will do as PMI chooses.

    The recommended texts are:

    • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge  – 7th Edition (PMI)
    • The Agile Practice Guide (PMI)
    • Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide (PMI)
    • The PMI Guide to Business Analysis – December 2017 (PMI)
    • Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Hybrid Robert K. Wysocki
    • Project Management Answer Book, 2nd Edition Jeff Furman

    CAPM Learning Providers

    PMI offers its own training program that covers the CAPM syllabus. If you do not with to learn with PMI, you have three options:

    1. Learn with a PMI Approved Training Provider (ATP)
      Their training comes with pre-approved Education Hours and follows PMI’s prescription of content and format closely. If you want to learn with an ATP, we recommend the CAPM course from GreyCampus. Some don’t find that style of learning helpful.
    2. Learn with a third-party business
      These are able to set their own program and learning style. Their course may be self-paced or live. And live courses can be online or in-person. If you want a self-paced online CAPM program, we recommend the CAPM training from PM PrepCast.
    3. Learn through your own study
      There is no requirement to use an external training provider at all. You can create your own training program and learn from the PMI’s recommended sources and/or others, in your own time. Just be sure to cover everything in the ECO.

    CAPM Examination Format

    The CAPM examination lasts 3 hours and has one 10-minute break after question 75. Once you review your responses to questions 1 to 75, and start your break, you will not be able to return to the questions from the first section.

    There will be 150 questions, of which the first 15 will not be scored. These are to ease candidates into the exam and also to support PMI’s testing and validation of future questions – if they turn out to be unfair or confusing, PMI can try new alternatives.

    The questions will be a mixture of:

    • Multiple choice questions
    • Drag and drop questions
    • Animation or comic strip questions
    • Hot-spot questions

    You’ll find details of how these work in the ECO.

    Retaining Your CAPM

    Like other PMI certifications, the CAPM is subject to Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR). This means that, to retain your CAPM accreditation, you will need to demonstrate continuing professional development to renew your CAPM certification every three years.

    To do this, you will need to earn 15 Professional Development Units (PDUs) over the three years. These must include:

    • A minimum of 9 Education PDUs
      Gain these through training, events and meetings, reading, informal and online learning
      You will need a minimum of 2 PDUs in each of the three skill areas of PMI’s Talent Triangle:
      • Ways of Working (Core PM skills)
      • Power Skills (Soft skills like leadership, communication, and personal effectiveness)
      • Business Acumen (understanding the business environment)
    • A maximum of 6 Giving Back PDUs
      Gain these through sharing knowledge through presenting, teaching, and training, volunteering, or creating content and ideas.

    What’s Next, after Your CAPM?

    CAPM study or certification may be an end in itself for you. Or, you may see it as a step on the road to further qualifications and certifications. The obvious next step for most CAPM holders will be PMI’s next general Project Management certification, the Project Management Professional or PMP. You can learn more about that from these resources (or, of course, from the PMI’s website).

    To be ready for the PMP, you will need to meet stiffer eligibility requirements, either:

    • Four-Year Degree
    • 36 months of experience leading projects within the past eight years
    • 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® certification


    • High School Diploma or Associates Degree
    • 60 months of experience leading projects within the past eight years
    • 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® certification

    Mike’s Assessment of the CAPM Certification

    I think the new CAPM certification (like the most recent update to the PMP exam) is excellent. It is broad and suitably deep. It does seem to me that the basic Business Analysis knowledge that it requires is appropriate for many modern workplaces.

    But should you seek CAPM certification? That’s a whole other question. The answer is, of course, ‘it depends’. It depends on your circumstances and your aspirations. What you want to do, in what industry, and where in the world. Depending on these, CAPM could be:

    • Essential to achieving your goals
    • A valuable asset that will give you an advantage
    • Of very little use to you at all.

    The best advice I have is in this 60-second video:

    Go Deeper…

    For more depth, see my article, Project Management Qualification: Should you go for a PM Certification? And watch my conversation with Dawn Mahan: The Project Management Certification question: Discussion with Dawn Mahan | Video.

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    Mike Clayton

    About the Author...

    Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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