New Guides: Impact on Credentials

On September 6, 2017, the Project Management Institute published the new A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Sixth Edition and the accompanying Agile Practice Guide. So anyone considering taking their PMP® or PMI-ACP® is probably wondering if and how these new releases impact their study plans.

The good news is that it’s a minimal impact. While PMBOK® Guide sees some significant changes such as a new appendix on the use of “agile, adaptive, iterative and hybrid approaches,” the content outlines for both exams are not changing anytime soon.

It is the Exam Content Outline—not the PMBOK® Guide or other publications—that dictates what is tested for in the exams. The outline for the PMP credential is created and published by PMI and available for download; the Exam Content Outline for the PMI-ACP credential is available.

Each question in the PMP or PMI-ACP exam is based on at least two source publications. For the PMP exam, PMBOK® Guide is frequently one source publication. For the PMI-ACP, there are a dozen reference books (listed in the PMI-ACP Reference List). So the exam questions are influenced by the outlines more than the reference publications. Questions do have to be based on the reference publications, but only on scope that is defined by each outline.

The image below depicts the process:

Of all the project practices that are in use, (1) the Exam Content Outline acts like a filter (2) that limits what scope goes into the item writing (question writing) process. Only topics defined in the Exam Content Outline will be tested on the exam. Item writers (question writers) create multiple-choice questions (4) based on two or more reference publications (3). It is entirely possible to write a question that maps to the exam content outline and is backed by two other books and not PMBOK® Guide. In this way, it’s meant to test experience and application of knowledge rather than test the content of any one book. The references are utilized to ensure questions aren’t based on peoples’ opinions or biases—rather they are based on best practices.

In the image above, the shaded portion of the reference sources represents just the scope of those books that apply to topics in the Exam Content Outline. When PMI recently published the PMBOK® Guide—Sixth Edition and the Agile Practice Guide, it added them to the reference publications. These new publications contain additional content, but until the outline is changed through a process called a role delineation study, none of the new content will be tested.

So, yes…the new publications contain additional information; and yes, the exam questions are based on these publications. However, since the Exam Content Outline has not changed, none of this new material will be on the exam.

What is changing for PMP and PMI-ACP?

A terminology harmonization process is occurring. This means questions will be checked and updated to be consistent with the latest standards and guides. Both PMBOK® Guide and the Agile Practice Guide have a definitions section that defines the terms they use located just before the index. It is recommended candidates read the updated definitions to make sure they are familiar with the terms and descriptions of them.

The PMP does not currently use the Agile Practice Guide as a reference source, so it’s unlikely that PMP aspirants need to learn any new terms from the agile source at this time. (However, the Agile Practice Guide does contain lots of practical guidance for project practitioners using agile and hybrid approaches.)

Likewise, the PMI-ACP exam does not use PMBOK® Guide as a reference source, so people are insulated from any terminology changes there. (However, the Sixth Edition contains guidance for tailoring approaches for agile lifecycles, so you might want to check it out.)


The only exam that will be impacted shortly is the CAPM, which is based solely on PMBOK® Guide. A role delineation study for a new CAPM exam is underway. PMI will be announcing when the CAPM exam is changing soon. Exams taken after the change will be based on PMBOK® Guide—Sixth Edition.


If you are studying for a PMP or PMI-ACP credential, the recent publication of PMBOK® Guide—Sixth Edition and the Agile Practice Guide should have only a small impact on your study plans. You should familiarize yourself with the terms used in these guides for the PMP and PMI-ACP, respectively. However, since the Exam Content Outlines are not changing in the short term, there is no requirement to learn any of the new material at this time.

Candidates studying for the CAPM whishing to take their exam in Q1 2018 or later should switch their study source to the new PMBOK® Guide. The CAPM is based solely on this, and this certification is having its Exam Content Outline updated. For the latest announcements for CAPM aspirants, check the PMI website.


Stevbros delivers project management training worldwide, our courses have proven their worldwide acceptance and reputation by being the choice of project management professionals in 168 countries.

Share in