The Best PMP Study Guide®

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), 6th Edition®

The PMBOK Guide is designed by the Project Management Institute (PMI®to be the definitive global standard for everything known about good project management practice in the universe today. Updated every 4 years, the recent 6th edition was published in 2017, and the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam was changed to question aspirants on this new text beginning on March 26, 2018. The book is developed through a voluntary consensus standards development process, which brings together volunteers who have an interest in the publication. The 6th edition lists 14 pages of contributors to its development and review.

The PMP Exam tests not only your knowledge of this book; but, also your ability to apply that knowledge, with desired behaviors, to real-world scenarios. It assumes you have project experience, and that you have done all of this before; because you must first be approved by PMI to take the exam through demonstration of that experience on the PMP Application.

PMBOK 6 CoverThere are 3-Keys to passing the PMP Exam:

  • In-depth understanding of the PMBOK
  • Memorization of key concepts, terms, and formulas – commonly called a “Brain Dump”
  • Development of expert critical reasoning & testing skills

This PMP online study guide is presented by PM-ProLearn as an easy-to-navigate web of articles, or modules, focusing on the 3-keys. Think of this page as home base. Each module linked to from this home base provides a clear, concise, and easily understandable review of PMBOK content, what to memorize, and how to critically reason your way to success on PMP questions. The content in each linked module is organized into sections: 

  • Executive summary of a Knowledge Area, Process Group, or PMBOK concept
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
  • What to memorize
  • Critical reasoning and testing skills
  • Key takeaways

Using practical examples and analogies we’ll help you learn to apply PMBOK tenets to scenario-based questions that test your ability to respond to project situations, based on good standard practice, just like the PMP Exam. You should use this online study guide as a supplement to your overall PMP Exam preparation strategy. If you need additional help, please click the button below to see our course catalog and enroll in one of our onsite, virtual, or self-paced training courses. We’ll be glad to help you!

PM-ProLearn Course Catalog

This online PMP study guide is new & currently going through constant updates with new linked modules. All text in blue represents subscription content coming soon!

The PMBOK 6 Structure

5 Process Groups, 10 Knowledge Areas, 49 Processes, and 648 ITTOs

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably managed a few projects before, and you know how chaotic it can be. The PMBOK 6 brings much-needed structure to project management which vastly improves the chances of project success if good standard practices are consistently applied.

The PMBOK Page 25, Table 1-4 presents a matrixed framework of 5 Process Groups, 10 Knowledge Areas, 49 Processes, and 648 Inputs/Tools/Techniques/Outputs (ITTOs) that represent all the work that a project manager may need to do on a project. Because each project is unique, the framework should be tailored to the needs of the individual project, which means not every process, or ITTO will be used. Tailoring is the responsibility of the project manager.

Table 1-4 PMBOK GuideThe first three chapters of the PMBOK present foundational information on things like what is a project, types of project and development lifecycles, what is the role of the project manager, and factors that may impact project success, such as organizational structure types, enterprise environmental factors, and organizational process assets. Then chapters 4 through 13 covers each one of the 10 Knowledge Areas.

The numbering system on the framework assigns a number to each Process indicating what chapter and paragraph of the PMBOK should be referenced for information on that Process. That’s why you see the numbers starting at 4.1 for the Process of Develop Project Charter because chapters 1-3 do not discuss Processes.

How the 5 Process Groups Work

Process Groups are easily confused with project phases or stages, which is an incorrect understanding. Process Groups are merely logical groupings of processes, so that processes with similar characteristics, such as Planning, can be easily understood and applied. In reality, the 5 Process Groups can be repeated numerous times throughout a project, a phase of a project, and even on the same day of a project, in an iterative fashion. Process Groups do not represent a section of time in the project.
Process Group Interaction

For example: As a project manager on a commercial construction project, you come to work in the morning and read an email that requires the identification of new stakeholders (Initiating) due to personnel changes at the client company. The stakeholder additions then trigger the need to collect requirements from the new stakeholders and update the stakeholder management plan (Planning). Next, you hold a morning team meeting to collect data on what happened yesterday and issue new work instructions for today (Executing). During the morning meeting one of the team members suggests a change in how the work is planned to improve efficiency, and you decide to process the change through the change control board (Monitoring & Controlling). Later in the day, you are notified that a vendor has finished their required work packages, so you then verify that contractual requirements have been met prior to paying the vendor and releasing them from their obligations (Closing). There you have it – All 5 Process Groups occurring in just one day of the project!


Turning Organizational Goals into Project Direction

Initiating is all about getting things started on a project. As part of Project Integration Management, the PM must first perform the process of Develop Project Charter to understand the organizational business case, benefits management plan and any existing contracts that will impact the project. The PM works to generate consensus with key stakeholders on the translation of organizational needs and legal duties into a high-level controlling document called the project charter. The assumption log is also created at this time, which documents all known, high-level, project assumptions and constraints. The charter serves as the project’s foundational guiding document and shouldn’t change unless absolutely necessary and approved by the project sponsor, the charter’s signing authority. The charter contains all the high-level deliverables and states how the project will align intended outcomes to the organizational business needs. The charter is an input to 14 processes, 12 of which are planning processes.

Once the charter has been established, the PM may then start Project Stakeholder Management by performing the process of Identify Stakeholders to identify and analyze all project stakeholders for their appropriate roles, interests, and expectations. Stakeholder analysis tools, such as a power & interest grid or a salience model, are used to produce a project document called the stakeholder register, upon which much of project planning relies. Improper identification and analysis of stakeholders has multiple, negative, trickle-down impacts to project planning, so care should be taken to get it right.

PI Grid1

Sometimes, the initiating actions of the project manager uncover concerns that call into question the feasibility of project success. In that way, Initiating can serve as a kill point or exit gate to prevent the organization from pursuing something that will not work or may not fulfill its business needs.

You will have to answer 26 questions about Initiating on the PMP Exam, or 13% out of 200.


Developing a Plan to Achieve Project Goals

PlanningPlanning is all about coming up with a realistic project management plan (PM plan) of how to execute, monitor & control, and close the project to achieve the project goals outlined in the project charter and to align project outcomes with the business case and benefits management plan. The PM plan consists of chapters or components called subsidiary plans and baselines. The Project Integration Management process called Develop Project Management Plan is where the project manager integrates all the sub-plans and baselines (identified as one input called “outputs from other processes”), deconflicting them to arrive at a comprehensive plan that covers all 10 Knowledge Areas. The change management plan and configuration management plan, both components of the PM Plan, are also created during this process. There are 24 processes in the Planning process group, 12 of which directly produce components of the PM plan as part of their outputs. Because each project is unique, there is no set order in which project planning must be done; this is subject to tailoring by the project manager to meet the needs of the project and its stakeholders.


PM Plan Stack1


The Project Scope Management Knowledge Area produces several parts of the PM plan and must begin with the process of Plan Scope Management, where the project team creates the scope management plan and requirements management plan. These plans detail all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing the scope of the project. Then, Collect Requirements can be performed where all known stakeholder and project needs are identified. The key outputs of this process are requirements documentation and the requirements traceability matrix (RTM), which function as the starting point, or “wish list” of what might be possible to deliver by the project. The PM takes this wish list, and then filters it against high-level constraints, such as a budget cap or imposed completion date, from the project charter to determine which requirements can be met by the project, and how to meet them through the use of alternatives analysis in the process of Define Scope. This produces the scope statement, which is considered a more detailed version of the project charter, and creates a vision of what will be included and what will not be included in the project work. The scope statement is then decomposed during the process of Create WBS into the deliverables and sub-deliverables needed to meet the requirements on a hierarchical document called the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS, combined with its dictionary and the scope statement, make up the scope baseline, one of the 3 major baselines included in the PM plan, and against which project work performance can be measured.

The Project Schedule Management Knowledge Area produces the schedule baseline against which project schedule performance can be measured, and starts with the process of Plan Schedule Management where the project team creates the schedule management plan. This plan details all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing the schedule of the project. Then, the work packages on the WBS from scope planning, are further decomposed into an activity list during Define Activities, put into the most efficient, logical order during Sequence Activities, and also estimated for durations during Estimate Activity Durations. When sequencing activities, it is critical to know the skills of Project Network Diagramming. Finally, all of the planning up to this point is consolidated into an achievable and manageable schedule to accomplish all the project work during Develop Schedule.


The Project Cost Management Knowledge Area produces the cost baseline against which project spending performance can be measured, and starts with the process of Plan Cost Management where the project team creates the cost management plan. This plan details all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing the budget of the project. Then, the project team starts to determine the detailed cost of all resources, project work, quality, and risk during the process of Estimate Costs. These cost estimates are then aggregated during the process of Determine Budget, and the project schedule is used to develop a time-phased spending plan called the cost baseline.

The Project Quality Management Knowledge Area produces a quality management plan and quality metrics, both of which are outputs from the process of Plan Quality Management. The quality management plan details all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing the quality of the project in order to comply with the organizational quality policy. Quality metrics are the specific quality attributes of the project that must be met and how the process of Control Quality will verify compliance during project execution.

The Project Resource Management Knowledge Area produces the resource management plan as an output from the process of Plan Resource Management. The resource management plan is about both human and physical resources, and details all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing the resources of the project. This is where the project team identifies the roles that need to be filled, along with position descriptions, a project organizational chart, and resource utilization procedures. Then, the resources that the project needs to accomplish all the work can be estimated during the process of Estimate Activity Resources, which is a key contributor to being able to accurately estimate activity durations and cost estimates.

The Project Communications Management Knowledge Area produces the communications management plan as an output from the process of Plan Communications Management. This plan details all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing the communications of the project to ensure the information needs of stakeholders, and of the project, are met in a proactive manner and support successful achievement of project objectives.

The Project Risk Management Knowledge Area produces a risk management plan as an output from the process of Plan Risk Management. This plan is not about how to deal with each individual risk, but rather it details all processes, procedures, and guidance for ensuring that the degree, type, and visibility of risk management are proportionate to the overall project risk, and the importance of the project to the organization. Then, individual risks, or known-unknowns, can be identified and documented on the risk register during the process of Identify Risks. Once a risk is on the risk register, it goes through the process of Perform Qualitative Analysis, which is really about scoring every risk according to the probability of occurrence and estimated impact. Once risks are scored, on some projects, it may be prudent to the Perform Quantitative Analysis on the top-rated risks, which provides a more detailed probabilistic analysis of overall project risk that can inform risk decisions such as funding of the contingency reserve or whether the project strategy is still sound.  After risks have been analyzed, and the project team has a good understanding of the risk environment, specific plans for each risk can be determined in the process of Plan Risk Responses, including strategies for opportunities, strategies for threats, and contingent response plans.probability-imapct-matrix

The Project Procurement Management Knowledge Area produces the procurement management plan, bid documents, the statement of work (SOW), make or buy decisions, independent estimates, and the procurement strategy as outputs from the process of Plan Procurement Management. This procurement management plan details all processes, procedures, and guidance for managing all project procurement activities. Bid documents facilitate advertising for vendor bids, the SOW details work needed from vendors. make or buy decisions list the items that need to be procured, independent estimates serve as baseline appraisals, and the procurement strategy details the types of contracts to be used for each planned procurement.

The Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area produces the stakeholder engagement plan, as an output from the process of Plan Stakeholder Engagement. This plan details all processes, procedures, and guidance for moving stakeholders from their current state of engagement to the project manager’s desired state of engagement. The ultimate goal of the stakeholder engagement plan is to gain support for the achievement of the project objectives.

While subject matter experts may provide significant assistance to the project manager in developing all the individual components of the PM plan, it is the project manager’s responsibility to integrate all sub-plans and baselines into a realistic and achievable plan and get approval/buy-in from key project stakeholders before executing the project work.

You will have to answer 48 questions about Planning on the PMP Exam, or 24% out of 200.


Accomplishing the Project Work

ExecutingExecuting is all about carrying out the activities defined in the PM plan to accomplish the work needed to create the deliverables, and ultimately to achieve the project goals outlined in the project charter and to align project outcomes with the business case and benefits management plan. The Project Integration Management process of Direct & Manage Project Work is the overarching process in Executing where the project manager uses the entire PM plan, plus all approved change requests, to guide the work of the project team. In doing so, the team completes the work packages from the WBS and produces deliverables as a key output. While the team is working, the PM collects work performance data (WPD), such as how much of the work is completed, how much money was spent, how many manhours were worked, etc. WPD is considered raw and unanalyzed until it is analyzed later in 10 Monitoring & Controlling Processes and converted to work performance information (WPI) to understand what the data indicates about project performance and health. Also, during Direct & Manage Project Work, the issue log is created as the project manager documents project problems and categorizes them by severity for potential resolution. Also in Integration Management, the project manager must Manage Project Knowledge. This is the process of using existing knowledge and creating new knowledge to achieve project objectives and contribute to organizational learning.

The Project Quality Management Knowledge Area contains the next Executing process of Manage Quality where work processes are analyzed to ensure good processes are in place to be followed, and then audits are performed to ensure project activities comply with the good processes. The goal here is process improvement, and it uses quality control measurements to control variation in project processes and deliver accurate and precise project results.

In the Project Resource Management Knowledge Area, the project manager must Acquire Resources, according to the resource management plan, to get the human and physical resources assigned to their roles and activities on the project. Once the human resources begin joining the project team, the project manager must build them into a cohesive, functioning unit through the process of Develop Team. The goal here is to move the team through the stages of Tuckman’s model (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, & Adjourning) to reach the Performing stage as quickly as possible. Once the project manager understands how well the team is progressing, each team member can be assessed for their team fit and impact on project performance during the process of Manage Team. This process is really about determining if the right person is in the right job doing the right work.
Directing Work

In the Project Communications Management Knowledge Area, the project manager must carry out all the communications on the project, according to the communications management plan, in the process of Manage Communications. According to PMI, project managers spend up to 90% of their time communicating. If you think about it, there’s not any process in the framework that can be accomplished without communicating to someone in some way.

In the Project Risk Management Knowledge Area, the project manager must Implement Risk Responses. This is very similar to Direct & Manage Project work, in that the project team is being directed to perform work; but, this time in the area of specific risk response strategies.

In the Project Procurement Management Knowledge Area, the project manager must manage the project team in acquiring items needed from outside the project through the process of Conduct Procurements. In this process, bid documents are used to solicit vendor proposals, those proposals are evaluated, and selected sellers are negotiated with to finalize contractual terms of work, resource, or service agreements.

In the Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area, the project manager must carry out stakeholder strategies, as defined in the stakeholder engagement plan, during the process of Manage Stakeholder Engagement. This is performed to gain stakeholder support towards achieving project objectives and includes proactively resolving and clarifying issues, meeting stakeholder needs and expectations, and fostering involvement in the project.

You will have to answer 62 questions about Executing on the PMP Exam, or 31% out of 200. 

Monitoring & Controlling

Comparing Planned to Actual

Monitoring ControllingMonitoring & Controlling is all about comparing what is planned to occur on the project to what is actually happening. The project manager must continually monitor the correct sources of actual performance data and effectively compare that to the PM plan to understand the status of the project. This enables sound judgements, decisions, and recommendations for moving the project to success. In the Project Integration ManagementKnowledge Area, two Monitoring & Controlling processes are carried out. All WPI is collected during the process of Monitor & Control Project Work and analyzed for its integrated impact to the project so that work performance reports (WPR) can be created to support stakeholder awareness and trend analysis. Also, the process of Perform Integrated Change Control is performed as needed to consider and approve or disapprove project change requests. On a large and complex project, such as the ones PMP questions are based on, a change control board should be used to account for potentially competing interests of multiple stakeholders.

WP Flow

In the Project Scope Management Knowledge Area, verified deliverables from Control Quality are shown/demonstrated to the customer for acceptance during the process of Validate Scope. This process is performed for each deliverable and can be viewed as analogous to a test drive of the items created by the project team. All throughout the project, the project manager must monitor the work being performed by the project team, and ensure it complies with the PM plan during the process of Control Scope. Any variances from planned work must be analyzed for project impact and decisions made to correct the variances or allow them to remain if it is still possible to successfully complete the project with variances uncorrected.

In the Project Schedule Management Knowledge Area, the project manager must keep project work on track to meet milestones, and the project completion date, through the process of Control Schedule. During this process, work completion status is compared to planned activity dates and adjustments made, if necessary, to keep the project schedule baseline intact. Resource optimization, schedule compression, critical path method, and massaging lead & lag times all serve as options to control the schedule.

In the Project Cost Management Knowledge Area, the project manager monitors actual project spending and compares it to the cost baseline, which is the project’s time-phased spending plan. The tools of Earned Value Management are used here to determine current project performance, forecasts of future performance, and what the target spending rate needs to be in order to complete the project without running out of funds. Also, the sponsor is informed of any needed changes to project funding requirements based on changes in spending patterns or the risk environment.

EVM Basic Concept1

In the Project Quality Management Knowledge Area, the project manager ensures the project deliverables created during Direct & Manage Project Work comply with quality metrics through the process of Control Quality. Also, approved change requests are monitored for proper implementation and outcomes of project changes. The key output here is verified deliverables, which can then be shown/demonstrated to the customer in the scope process of Validate Scope.

In the Project Resource Management Knowledge Area, the project manager ensures that the physical resources are available and utilized, according to the resource management plan, during the process of Control Resources. Resources are released only after pre-defined release criteria has been met. It is important to note that this process is not about human resources.

In the Project Communications Management Knowledge Area, the project manager observes project performance (WPD) and the issue log during the process of Monitor Communications to determine if communications are being effective or if performance problems and project issues are increasing due to poor communications. Action is taken to correct comm-related shortfalls in the form of change requests.

In the Project Risk Management Knowledge Area, the project manager monitors project performance (WPD) and trends (WPR), along with the issue log, during the process of Monitor Risks to determine if risk strategies on the risk register and risk report are being effective at managing the risk environment of the project. Increases in risk can be identified by risks turning into issues and by trigger events occurring that are pre-defined points for implementing a contingent response. The contingency reserve (money set aside for known-unknowns) must also be continually re-evaluated to ensure proper funding for managing risk. Negative risks, or threats, are accounted for by negative dollar amounts while positive risks, or opportunities, are accounted for by positive dollar amounts.

Contingency Reserve

In the Project Procurement Management Knowledge Area, the project manager ensures that both parties to each contract (the buyer and the seller) perform their legal duties and responsibilities according to the agreement during the process of Control Procurements. The buyer, whom the project manager represents, must pay all invoices from the seller and provide the agreed-on work environment. The seller must perform the work, deliver the resources, or provide the service they agreed to. Claims administration may be used to handle any contractual disputes.

In the Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area, the project manager ensures that stakeholder engagement supports the achievement of project objectives during the process of Monitor Stakeholder Engagement. The current and desired states of engagement for each stakeholder may be updated and stakeholder strategies modified to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of stakeholder engagement activities as the project progresses.

You will have to answer 50 questions about Monitoring & Controlling on the PMP Exam, or 25% out of 200. 


Finalizing All Project Activities

ClosingClosing is all about archiving project records, completing the work and releasing resources to work on other projects or operations. This Process Group only includes one process from the Project Integration Management Knowledge Area called Close Project or Phase.  The naming of the process here is important; PMI specifically indicates that this process is done at the end of the phases of a multi-phased project, and also at the end of the overall project. In this process, final project documents are updated (most notably the lessons learned register), final transition of product results are made to the customer or operations, a final report is generated, and organizational process assets are updated with historical project information. The final report should include how well the project end-state aligned with the goals in the project charter and business documents.


You will have to answer 14 questions about Closing on the PMP Exam, or 7% out of 200. 

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