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What is the best course outline for PMP certification exam prep training?


Most training companies and instructors teach their PMP certification exam prep classes following the order presented in the PMBOK Guide. Have you given thought to what this means and the impact?

The first several sections of the PMBOK Guide are overview, general concepts, and vocabulary, so no big deal. But then, we get to the real content of the PMBOK Guide, to its 49 formal processes, 119 inputs and outputs, 284 tools and techniques, and 359 named deliverables. The PMBOK Guide is organized by knowledge area:

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Schedule Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholder Management

Is that how you run a project? No! The PMBOK Guide is a reference book and this is really no different, in that regard, than the alphabetical order of dictionary. Useless for learning, useless for applying.

Several years ago, PMI shifted exam test result reporting from knowledge area to process group, course outlines failed to adapt to this change.

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitor and Controlling
  5. Closing

Those five process groups and the underlying processes present a far more logical order and follows the highest level outline or effort-driven Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) you might actually use in a project.

With one notable exception, training companies still teach their PMP certification exam prep classes by knowledge area instead of process group. If you think about it, this is no different than just opening the book and reading it. Seriously, that is all most training classes consist of, the PMBOK Guide converted to a PowerPoint slide set, then read by an instructor. Useless, not meaningful.

Consider, for example, that one of the first things a project manager and their team needs to do when they are assigned a project is identify stakeholders. These stakeholders are then a key input and resource for almost every process that follows throughout the project. If you teach or try learning based on knowledge areas, the order of the PMBOK Guide, you would not get around to discussing stakeholders until nearing the end of the class, section 13 of 13 in the PMBOK Guide! Imagine not understanding who stakeholders were, how to identify stakeholders, assess stakeholders, plan stakeholder engagement, or monitor stakeholder engagement until the end of your course?

More specifically, compare and contrast a class taught by knowledge area to one taught by process group. By knowledge area, the first is Project Integration Management, which covers:

  1. Develop Project Charter
  2. Develop Project Management Plan
  3. Direct and Management Project Work
  4. Manage Project Knowledge
  5. Monitor and Control Project Work
  6. Perform Integrated Change Control
  7. Close Project or Phase

There is nothing in those seven Project Integration Management processes about stakeholders or lots of other things likely occurring at project initiation. What does project initiation entail? Here is a sample effort-driven work breakdown structure to initiate a project:

  1. Plan Project Assessment and Feasability Analysis
  2. Identify Key Deliverables
  3. Identify High Level Risks, Assumptions, and Constraints
  4. Estimate Project Cost
  5. Perform Stakeholder Analysis
  6. Determine Prioritization and Funding
  7. Plan and Conduct Procurement
  8. Develop Project Charter
  9. Assign the Project Manager (and Project Team)
  10. Accept (or Reject) the Project
  11. Conduct Initial Meeting with Sponsor
  12. Identify Stakeholders
  13. Develop Initial Project Plan for Planning
  14. Conduct Planning Kick-Off Meeting
  15. Close Initiating, Initiating Complete

Wow, that is a big difference. Most of the Initiating steps are not even covered in the PMBOK Guide directly and definitely not addressed in any course taught by knowledge area. Where do these other details come from? The PMP Outline, which defines what is actually on the test, and other reference standards. The PMBOK Guide is simply a reference book and does not, even by PMI’s direct admission and warning, cover what is on the PMP certification exam.

Look at it another way. To qualify for the PMP certification exam you must have at least three years of experience leading and directing projects. You very likely did not do it by knowledge area. You might not have even heard of the PMBOK Guide or open a copy until arriving in a classroom. Do you want to prepare for the PMP certification exam based on a reference book outline or more familiar process group and effort-driven outline that matches your actual experience?

When you consider where to get your PMP certification exam prep training, consider the course outline and coverage closely. It makes a big difference in becoming prepared and confident to take the PMP certification exam.

My instructors and I have taught thousands of students using a process group and effort-driven outline. ezProjectManagement is the only training company teaching PMP certification training using this approach.

Learn more here on our website. We teach using the process group and effort-driven approach.

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