In March of 2018, PMI gave us the PMBOK Guide sixth edition, and with it, changes to the PMP exam for certification. This is the first revision to the PMBOK guide in five years, and many of the changes in the sixth edition come to accommodate the rise of agile adoption. In fact, this sixth edition now includes an Agile Practice Guide.

Change elicits different reactions from everyone, and there are many project management professionals or aspiring PMPs who are more than a little worried about the changes this will bring to PMPs, especially the PMP exam itself. But is there real cause for concern here? Are these changes good or bad for the PMP industry?

Let’s go over the updates.

Agile Practice Guide

The biggest change to the new PMBOK is undoubtedly the Agile Practice Guide. While the Agile Practice Guide was published last year, it has now been combined into the sixth edition of PMBOK. The reasons for this are obvious: agile is the biggest PMP trend at the moment. Experienced PMPs are educating themselves and implementing changes to their projects. New PMPs are going into a workforce where agile is all the rage. It’s simply necessary information for anyone in the business.

However, this has been a chief cause of concern for aspiring PMPs about to take the exam. They’ve been preparing for some time for the PMP exam, and now information seems to compound everything they need to learn. However, PMI says that at the moment, the Agile Practice Guide will have no bearing on the exam. The exam comes from the Exam Content Outline (ECO), not from the PMBOK. The ECO has not changed this year and is not likely to change for at least two years, so studying aspirants can rest easy.

New Sections and Verbiage

Entirely new sections and new vocabulary have been incorporated into the sixth edition, and new or aspiring PMPs will need to study these in order to prepare for entering the workforce as  PMP. This is unsurprising. The workforce changes, the role of PMPs change, so it’s only natural that our information about it would also change. In fact, one new chapter covers the role of a project manager in a thorough, current way.

The Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs section has been rehauled and expanded as tools and techniques have expanded in the past five years. Because there are so many tools listed, commonly used tools have been lumped into one section. These portions of the PMBOK will need to be studied carefully, as they have more information and are structured differently than the previous edition.

In addition to the practice guide, there are new sections about agile approaches and agile terminology scattered throughout the book. Even if you don’t need this for the exam, it’s definitely in your best interest to study up on this and stay current.


Here again, keep in mind that it’s the ECO, not the PMBOK, on which the PMP Exam is based. The structure is the same, as is scoring and the number of questions. Essentially, if you downloaded a study guide for your PMP exam, your study guide will still suffice. There’s no change to the application process or the fee, either.

However, there are some changes to testing based on the PMBOK. For instance, if you failed a test based on the 5th edition and had planned to retest to boost your score, you won’t be able to take the same test. You’ll now have to take a test based on the sixth edition PMBOK.

Still the Same

Though there are many differences to the PMBOK sixth edition, none of these changes are a drastic departure from the fifth edition. Rather, these are expansions on what was in the fifth edition and attempts to stay current. The core of the PMBOK and the five processes of project management are essentially the same as they always are.

In fact, it’s good to keep in mind that changing the PMBOK is itself nothing new. The PMI releases a new PMBOK edition every few years  just to stay relevant.  After all, this is the 6th edition in 22 years. By that math, you can expect a 7th edition in about 3-4 years.

So, are the changes a bad thing? Well, there are some changes that are certainly challenging to newly certified PMPs as well as those aspiring towards pmp certification who now have even more information to take in and study. Those planning to retest might feel some frustration at the timing of this edition. But ultimately, these changes are more of an elaboration on the current landscape than a total change in everything you knew. The purpose of the PMBOK was to help the PMP industry, not hurt it, and in many ways, help is just what it does.