PMP certification Exam - Important terms and concepts - Part - I

PMP certification Exam - Important terms and concepts - Part - I


Last updated March 27, 2017

The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences. - Saint Augustine

The PMP® certification exam is a tough examination which tests your knowledge and your ability to apply them in various scenarios. Aspirants need to cultivate a better understanding of all the knowledge areas, process groups and processes which are outlined in the PMBOK®Guide, before taking up the PMP® exam. However, before working on these processes, aspirants need to cement their understanding of some important terms and concepts which are used throughout the PMBOK® Guide version 4 and many prep books. A better understanding of these foundational terms and concepts , can help PMP® aspirants in reducing their time required to study all the processes , knowledge areas and the process areas. As per the PMBOK® Guide version 4, there are 9 knowledge areas, 42 processes and 5 process groups. As per the PMBOK® Guide version 5, there are 10 knowledge areas, 47 processes and 5 process groups. On July 31st 2013 the PMP® exam will be revised to be consistent with the PMBOK® Guide fifth edition. In this article, we will go through the following foundational terms and concepts:

  • Baseline The  baseline plans include the original approved project management plan plus all approved changes. The baseline plan is useful in measuring how actual results deviate from the plan. Baselines can and will change throughout the project life cycle as changes are approved. Baselines also apply to other measured areas such as performance and quality.
  • Criteria Criterias are objective measures for accepting or judging quality.
  • Deliverables
  1. Deliverables are a part of the product or the product itself, that is presented  to the customer or stakeholders for acceptance. As per the   PMBOK® Guide version 4, deliverables are major outputs of the Direct and Manage Project Execution process . Deliverables could be classified as internal deliverables or external deliverables.
  2. Internal deliverables:  Internal deliverables are usually deliverables that make a project run, but they are not a part of the product that the end users would like to see. They are deliverables which the project generates internally. Project Management, Configuration Management, Training and Testing are some examples of internal deliverables.
  3. External Deliverables: External deliverables are usually those that the project delivers to the users or the client. An external deliverable could be an IT system and subsystems that make it up or the resulting organizational transition and benefits from a project to reduce the turnaround time of a process. Deliverables are further decomposed into work packages in the Create WBS process.
  • Estimate Estimate could be best described as a numerical representation of cost or time. Project estimates should always specify the confidence or expected margin of error . For instance , an estimate for the design of a software module could be Estimate +-50%.
  • Project Management Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, and tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project objectives. Project Management is achieved through the appropriate application and integration of processes and process groups.
  • Program Management:

A program is defined as a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain the benefits of  and control not available from managing the projects individually. A project may or may not be  a part of a Program, but  a program may comprise of  multiple projects.

Therefore, program management is defined as a centralized management of program to achieve  the program's strategic objectives.

  • Portfolio Management

A portfolio usually refers to a collection of projects and programs and other activities that are grouped together to meet strategic business objectives. A portfolio  contains several programs or projects that may not be interdependent.

Portfolio management, therefore, refers to the centralized management of one or more portfolios, which includes identifying, managing, prioritizing, authorizing and controlling projects, programs and other activities, to achieve strategic business objectives. Portfolio Management is primarily focussed on ensuring that projects and programs are reviewed, to prioritize resource allocation, and management of portfolio is consistent with and aligned with strategies within the organization.

  • Project Life Cycle Project Life Cycle is a group of project phases specified by the project management methodology used by any organization. The project life cycle is made up of project phases viewed as a whole. Projects are divided into phases in order to create logical management and decision points.
  • Phase: Phases are groupings of project activities.  Many projects are divided into two or more phases in order to provide a point where the deliverables can be evaluated. Phases could be separated into EXIT gates or Kill points. Exit Gates or Kill points are quite useful since someone who is not directly involved in a project can evaluate the deliverables to determine whether or not the next phase could be initiated.
  • Process: Process is a set of inputs, tools, and techniques which are used together to produce one or more specific outputs for the project. According to the PMBOK® Guide version 4, there are 42 processes which are outlined in detail. Each process is outlined in such a manner that it belongs to one Project management knowledge area and one process group.
  • Project Management Information System (PMIS ): The Project Management information system is used to support the management of the project. It can be used to support all aspects of a project, from initiating to closing and can include, both manual or automated systems. It is a repository for information, and a tool that is used for communication and tracking.
  • Progressive Elaboration: Progressive elaboration is an iterative approach where planning occurs in cycles rather than upfront. Projects that use progressive elaboration are known to typically do some planning, a bit of execution, some monitoring and controlling and then repeat the cycle.

Project plans are usually progressively elaborated in most projects i.e they are developed, refined, revisited, and updated.

Conclusion  :
The PMP® examination is a tough examination which tests your knowledge and your ability to implement it in various project scenarios. Aspirants could focus on several important terms and concepts, before working on the 9 knowledge areas and 42 processes. By focussing on these important terms and concepts initially, an aspirant is able to reduce the time required the grasp the concepts, processes and knowledge areas listed in the PMBOK® Guide.


PMP and PMBOK are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

About the Author

Sabyasachi has over a decade’s experience in leading IT and non IT projects in the Healthcare, Oil and Energy, eCommerce, Public Sector Undertaking and Services industry . He is a PMI certified Project Management Professional , PMP, and a volunteer in the Project management community with a focus on best practice and mentoring other project management professionals . His writings are regularly published in several blogs , forums and online project management communities.


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