If you studied to take your PMP exam using the PMBOK® Guide 3rd edition and were unable to take and pass the exam before June 30th 2009, then you are now required to take the exam based on the new PMBOK® Guide 4th edition. The PMI will not make any exceptions. This article will show you a possible approach to "upgrade" yourself from having studied the 3rd edition, and you now have to take the 4th edition exam. However, we all learn differently. You should adjust this approach to your own needs.

There are notable changes between version 3 and version 4 of the PMBOK® Guide. For instance the number of processes has been reduced from 44 to 42. This seems straightforward at first. But if you look deeper into this, you will realize that the change wasn't simply that 2 processes have been removed. Instead what happened is that some processes have been removed from the Guide, some have been combined and several new processes have also been added. So what looks like a simple reduction in numbers is in fact more complex than that.

Appendix A in the PMBOK® Guide 4th edition describes these changes in detail. A number of authors have also described these changes and made their analysis available for free:

It is important to note that these descriptions don't list all the detailed changes. For instance, the inputs, tools & techniques and outputs of many processes have changed. Some have been removed and new ones have been added. You will not find a complete description of all the changes.

Because of this large amount of changes throughout the PMBOK® Guide it is impossible to simply "study the difference". The changes are sometimes conceptual, sometimes dramatic and sometimes minor. But they are here and your PMP Exam may require you to know them. "Upgrading" your knowledge from the 3rd to the 4th edition can therefore not be done "change-by-change". It has to be a holistic approach.

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. The PMBOK® Guide is our general framework describing the activities & techniques that are commonly accepted to be good practices on most projects most of the time. Just because the PMBOK® Guide has changed its procurement section from 6 to 4 processes doesn't mean that procurement systems need to be changed immediately.

But in order to pass your PMP exam you will have to be aware of the new definitions in the PMBOK® Guide. Studying them takes effort, dedication and time. Here is a  possible study approach to "upgrade" yourself to the PMBOK® Guide 4th edition:

  • Read Appendix A and familiarize yourself with the changes. In particular:
    • Familiarize yourself with the processes that have been added, removed and combined
    • Learn the new process names
    • Study table A1 on page 350 and know which documents are part of the PM Plan and which ones are "other" project documents
  • Read Appendix F and familiarize yourself with the summary descriptions of the 9 knowledge areas and the 42 processes.
    • At this time you may also wish to read the introductions to chapters 4-12.
  • Read Appendix G and familiarize yourself with the Interpersonal Skills
  • Study table 3-1 on page 43 and know which process belongs to which process group.
    • It is a good idea to start with a blank piece of paper and be able to draw this table from memory.
  • And finally (and unfortunately): Read the complete PMBOK® Guide 4th edition twice.
    • Familiarize yourself with the new inputs, tools & techniques and outputs of all the processes
    • Study figure 3 in chapters 4 through 12. This is the Data Flow Diagram for each process. These diagrams illustrate the flow of the inputs and outputs and will strengthen your understanding of the flow of all the inputs & outputs. It will also help you understand the integrated nature of all the processes in the PMBOK® Guide.
    • Get to know the new processes that have been added.
    • Make special note of the changes to the Earned Value Formulas in Chapter 7.3.2

"Upgrading" your knowledge to this new version of the PMBOK® Guide is not something that you can do in just a day. Even though the PMP Exam consists mainly of scenario-based question, it will be necessary for you to have an in-depth understanding of the PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition to be able to answer questions correctly.

Plan a minimum of two weeks of intense study.

Until next time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP
The Project Management Podcast™ -


pmhut's picture


Glad to see that you're still very active in the Project Management Community.

I think this article on the difference between PMBOK3 and PMBOK4 is exactly what most Project Managers need to know what changed.


Project Management - PM Hut