The PMP Exam is broken up into 3 domains that you’ll need to know well before taking the test.
These domains are specific to the Project Management Institute’s Exam Content Outline (ECO) that was released in 2021.
Do not confuse these 3 domains with PMI’s 8 Project Performance Domains! You’ll also need to know those performance domains before sitting the exam, but they are very different and we’ve covered them in a separate article.
It’s unfortunate and more than a little confusing that PMI refers to both as “domains,” but such is life.
The 3 domains of which we speak are related to how the exam itself is broken up. PMI’s Exam Content Outline defines these domains as:
“… the high-level knowledge area that is essential to the practice of project management.”
3. Business Environment
Let’s take a closer look.
The PMP Exam’s 3 Domains, Explained
The PMP Exam underwent significant changes after the release of the PMBOK Guide — Seventh Edition.
In January of 2021, the Project Management Institute released an updated Exam Content Outline (ECO) that identified 3 domains that would make up the exam.
Note that the ECO can and does change, as well as the percentages that we’ll share below, so please make sure you get the most updated version of the Exam Content Outline before you begin studying for the PMP Exam.
As of January 2021, the exam breakdown — indicating percentage of questions on the exam within each domain — looked like this:
- People — 42%
- Process — 50%
- Business Environment — 8%
Each domain includes a set of “tasks,” which the content outline defines as “the underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain area.”
Let’s take a look at each of the exam’s domains and their related tasks that you’ll need to know for the PMP Exam.
PMP Exam Domain No. 1: People
The Exam Content Outline identifies 14 tasks a project manager must be able to perform within the People domain.
We’re providing a high-level overview here, but you’ll need to dig deeper as you prepare for the PMP Exam.
So study the latest version of the ECO and make sure you are familiar with each task before you attempt to take the exam.
Here are the 14 tasks that you should focus on, according to the January 2021 ECO:
1. Manage conflict
2. Lead a team
3. Support team performance
4. Empower team members and stakeholders
5. Ensure team members/stakeholders are adequately trained
6. Build a team
7. Address and remove impediments, obstacles, and blockers for the team
8. Negotiate project agreements
9. Collaborate with stakeholders
10. Build shared understanding
11. Engage and support virtual teams
12. Define team ground rules
13. Mentor relevant stakeholders
14. Promote team performance through the application of emotional intelligence
PMP Exam Domain No. 2: Process
If the People domain seemed important just based on the sheer volume of tasks plus that 42% exam makeup, then the Process domain ups the ante.
Accounting for a whopping 50% of the exam content, Process is clearly a very important area of study for the PMP Exam.
You’ll notice some people-related tasks listed among this domain — such as “Manage communications” and “Engage stakeholders.” For the purposes of your studying, focus on the processes involved with these people-related tasks.
For example, “Manage communications” in the context of the Process domain is concerned with how you analyze the communication needs of the project stakeholders, and the processes involved with determining the proper communication methods, and communicating project information.
There are 17 tasks for the Process domain identified in the ECO. They are:
1. Execute project with the urgency required to deliver business value
2. Manage communications
3. Assess and manage risks
4. Engage stakeholders
5. Plan and manage budget and resources
6. Plan and manage schedule
7. Plan and manage quality of products/deliverables
8. Plan and manage scope
9. Integrate project planning activities
10. Manage project changes
11. Plan and manage procurement
12. Manage project artifacts
13. Determine appropriate project methodology/methods and practices
14. Establish project governance structure
15. Manage project issues
16. Ensure knowledge transfer for project continuity
17. Plan and manage project/phase closure or transitions
PMP Exam Domain No. 3: Business Environment
The Business Environment domain makes up 8% of the exam content, per the January 2021 ECO.
This is not an indication that this domain is unimportant in the world of project management; merely that there are fewer overall tasks involved.
Take it from me, though; don’t skip over studying the tasks and details that make up the Business Environment domain; you’ll need a healthy understanding of it to pass the PMP Exam!
Here are the 4 tasks in Business Environment:
1. Plan and manage project compliance
2. Evaluate and deliver project benefits and value
3. Evaluate and address external business environment changes for impact on scope
4. Support organizational change
If you take away any one thing from this article, it should be that tasks and topics related to the People and Process domains will make up the bulk of your PMP Exam.
According to the ECO, they’ll account for 92% of the exam questions! So frame your studying accordingly.
And remember: the 3 Domains that make up the PMP Exam should not be confused with the 8 Project Performance Domains of project management.
Best of luck on the exam!