2 May, 2024

Top 10 Things to Know about the PMP Exam Syllabus

The Project Management Professional certification is the PMI’s premiere qualification. It requires a 180-question exam. So, what will they ask you about?

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10 Things to Know about the PMP Exam Syllabus

PMP Examination Content Outline

The PMI publishes the syllabus to PMP (and to other certification exams) in a document they call the Examination Content Outline, or ECO. The last revision was in the summer of 2019, and it was a big one. It came into effect in 2021 (with a delay due to covid). We would normally expect a new one fairly soon, but I’m not sure, because of the delay. And, I am guessing it is likely to be an incremental evolution next time.

Before starting any exam preparation, you should always download the latest edition of the ECO directly from the PMI’s website. This is the only 100% reliable source of the current document. Just look for PMP at PMI/org. If the ECO is due to change, PMI will put a note on the relevant page.

PMI’s Global Practices Analysis

PMI derives its syllabus from a periodic review of the demands of the Project Management profession, called their Global Practices Analysis (GPA). This includes a Role Delineation Study (RDS), or Job Task Analysis (JTS).

Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

It is a myth that the PMP syllabus is based on the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. It is not. The PMBOK Guide is just one of the references that PMI expects its PMP candidates to be familiar with. So, while there will be some questions in the exam for which the answers are in the PMBOK Guide, there will also be plenty of other questions that go well beyond the content of the PMBOK Guide.

Three Domains in the PMP ECO

The PMP Syllabus is divided into three domains:

  1. People (worth 42% of the marks in the test)
  2. Process (worth 50% of the marks)
  3. Business Environment (worth 8% of the marks)

PMP ECO Domains: Tasks

Each Domain is divided into a number of tasks that set out the responsibilities that PMI has identified, in the domain.

  1. People has 14 tasks
  2. Process has 17 tasks
  3. Business Environment  has 4 tasks

PMP ECO Tasks: Enablers

The ECO illustrates the breadth of the knowledge PMI expects of candidates in each of the tasks with from 3 to 7 bullets points that they call ‘enablers’. These enablers derive from the results of the PMI’s Job Task Analysis.

The People Domain

The People Domain of the PMP Exam Content Outline covers your project team, leadership, and stakeholders. The 14 Tasks are [READ]:

  1. Manage conflict
  2. Lead a team
  3. Support team performance
  4. Empower team members and stakeholders
  5. Ensure team members/stakeholders are adequately trained
  6. Build a team
  7. Address and remove impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team
  8. Negotiate project agreements
  9. Collaborate with stakeholders
  10. Build shared understanding
  11. Engage and support virtual teams
  12. Define team ground rules
  13. Mentor relevant stakeholders
  14. Promote team performance through the application of emotional intelligence

The Process Domain

The Process Domain of the PMP Exam Content Outline covers the core project management process and disciplines. The 17 Tasks are [READ]:

  1. Execute project with the urgency required to deliver business value
  2. Manage communications
  3. Assess and manage risks
  4. Engage stakeholders
  5. Plan and manage budget and resources
  6. Plan and manage schedule
  7. Plan and manage quality of products/deliverables
  8. Plan and manage scope
  9. Integrate project planning activities
  10. Manage project changes
  11. Plan and manage procurement
  12. Manage project artifacts
  13. Determine appropriate project methodology/methods and practices
  14. Establish project governance structure
  15. Manage project issues
  16. Ensure knowledge transfer for project continuity
  17. Plan and manage project/phase closure or transitions

The Business Environment Domain

The Business Environment Domain of the PMP Exam Content Outline covers project compliance, value delivery, organizational change, and a basic level of business awareness. The 4 Tasks are [READ]:

  1. Plan and manage project compliance
  2. Evaluate and deliver project benefits and value
  3. Evaluate and address external business environment changes for impact on scope
  4. Support organizational change

Predictive, Agile, Hybrid

Finally, across all of the three domains and 35 tasks, candidates are expected to be able to apply their knowledge to predictive, adaptive, and hybrid contexts. PMI states that

about half of the examination will represent predictive project management approaches and the other half will represent agile or hybrid approaches’. (my emphasis)


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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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