Category: Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam using A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)

How to Upgrade Yourself to The PMBOK Guide 6th Edition

How To Upgrade Yourself To The PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition As of March 26th, 2018 the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam will be based off of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Sixth Edition. The Project Management Institute (PMI)® will grant no exceptions. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you had been studying the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition with the plans for taking the PMP® exam prior to March 26th, and you realize that this is just not going to happen, then you are probably wondering what to do now.

In a nutshell: You now have to study the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition because that is what you will be tested on.

You Cannot Study Only What Has Changed

You can start learning the new knowledge by reading the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition, which was released in September 2017. However, due to the extensive changes between the Fifth and Sixth Edition, you cannot simply learn the changes. Yes, there are a great number of articles available that talk about the changes. But unfortunately you cannot simply study those sections that have changed alone. There are too many interactions between concepts, processes and ITTOs to make this feasible. Instead, you need to take a holistic approach to learning the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition. Here we will review some of what has changed in this most recent edition, as well as some tips on how to prepare yourself to now take the "new" PMP exam based on the most current edition.

Conceptual Changes To The Sixth Edition

The changes start with a realignment of information in the first three sections. Information formerly discussed in these sections is now covered in the first two sections. Section one, "Introduction", now includes high level information on the selection of development approach (predictive, iterative, adaptive, and incremental) based on the nature of the project. Section two covers "The Environment in Which Projects Operate". Information on enterprise environmental factors and organizational process assets are covered as before; however, also included now is information covering different organizational systems to include governance, management, and types.

Section three is now completely dedicated to "The Role of the Project Manager". This section includes information on the project manager’s sphere of influence and competencies. Here you will also learn about the PMI Talent Triangle®, which focuses on the technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management skills required for project managers. Understanding the PMI Talent Triangle® will be invaluable to you once you become PMP® certified and you need to keep your skills up to date and need to report your professional development units (PDUs) to maintain your certification.

One of the most notable changes between the Fifth and Sixth Edition is the inclusion of agile and adaptive methodologies. Starting with section four, going though section 13, you will now see several new subsections to include: trends and emerging practices, tailoring considerations, key concepts, and considerations for adaptive environments. You will also see some information on using agile specific tools and techniques such as iteration planning and sprints.

In fact, if you purchase or download your copy of the PMBOK® Guide then a copy of The Agile Practice Guide is included to show the growing importance of agile in project management.

Knowledge Areas an Processes

There have also been numerous changes made in both the Knowledge Areas and Processes. Two Knowledge Areas have been updated to better reflect how work is actually accomplished. What was the Project Human Resource Management Knowledge Area is now the Project Resource Management Knowledge Area. This has changed because a project manager doesn’t just manage human resources on a project, they manage all of the project resources. The Project Time Management Knowledge Area has been changed to Project Schedule Management Knowledge Area because a project manager actually manages work as defined in the project schedule, they do not manage time.

Some processes have been renamed to improve consistency and clarity, as well as to be more in alignment with what project managers actually do such as managing, monitoring, and facilitating versus controlling. Those that have changed are:

  • 8.2 Manage Quality – was Perform Quality Assurance
  • 9.1 Plan Resource Management – was Plan Human Resource Management
  • 9.2 Acquire Resources – was Acquire Project Team
  • 9.3 Develop Team – was Develop Project Team
  • 9.4 Manage Team – was Manage Project Team
  • 10.3 Monitor Communications – was Control Communications
  • 11.6 Monitor Risks – was Control Risks
  • 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Engagement – was Plan Stakeholder Management
  • 13.4 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement – was Control Stakeholder Engagement

And these are just some highlights of what has changed. If you dig into the details you will find that there are dozens and dozens of small, medium and large changes in every chapter, paragraph and sentence.

Project Management Hasn't Changed

However, it must also be said that just because the PMBOK® Guide has changed, project management itself hasn't changed. The fundamental way in which projects are managed is still the same. Only the publication that describes the activities & techniques that are commonly accepted to be good practices on most projects most of the time has changed. And just because it updated some tools and techniques for Project Cost Management, that doesn't mean that Earned Value systems need to be changed as well.

But in order to pass your PMP exam you will need to be aware of everything in the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition. Studying them takes effort, dedication and time. There is no shortcut.

PMP "Upgrade" Guide To The Sixth Edition

Since you've already studied the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, here is our recommendation on how to approach the Sixth Edition:

1) Begin by studing Appendix X1. This appendix provides an overview of the changes made in the Sixth Edition. This will give you a good understanding of the conceptual changes that were applied.

2) Skip Appendix X2. You don't need to know this information for the exam.

3) Study Appendix X3 on the topic of agile, iterative and adaptive project environments. You may even want to open up The Agile Practice Guide that you received for free with your copy of the PMBOK® Guide and glance at it while reviewing this appendix.

4) Study Appendix X4 for an understanding of the key concepts in each Knowledge Area. You will notice obvious and subtle differences to what you know from the Fifth Edition.

5) Study Appendix X5 and learn that "tailoring" has a much bigger role than it previously did. In the Fifth Edition the term was mentioned only twice in the whole guide. In the new Sixth Edition tailoring has a dedicated section in each Knowledge Area.

6) Study Appendix X6 to be introduced to yet another fundamental change because the Sixth Edition presents tools and techniques differently than previous editions. In short: tools and techniques are now grouped by purpose.

7) Study the Glossary from beginning to end. Maybe not all at once, though. Instead, review a couple of pages a day as part of your studies.

8) Study Table 1-4 on page 25. This will give you a good overview of the Process Groups, Knowledge Areas, as well as the processes and how they are mapped. This is in fact the only information from the PMBOK® Guide that I recommend you know by heart. You should be able to draw this table from memory onto a blank sheet of paper.

9) And finally (and unfortunately): Study the complete PMBOK® Guide twice.

When studying the new PMBOK® Guide, familiarize yourself with the new inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs of all the processes. A good approach is to study the Data Flow Diagram for each process. These diagrams illustrate the flow of the inputs and outputs and will strengthen your understanding of how they move between the many processes. It will also help you understand the integrated nature of all the processes in the guide.


As you might have guessed by now, "upgrading" your knowledge to this new version of the PMBOK® Guide is not something that you can do in just a day. The changes in the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition are extensive and cannot be learned and understood on their own.

While your PM experience is the main focus of the PMP Exam, it will also be necessary for you to have an in-depth understanding of the PMBOK® Guide to be able to correctly answer many of the questions on the test. This is because the PMP exam uses the PMBOK® Guide as its primary reference for identifying the correct answer to a question.

I therefore recommend that you plan a minimum of two weeks of intense study.

Watch this video to know other essential PMP study materials you'll need to be successful:

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