pmp knowledge areas

Understanding PMP Knowledge Areas for the PMP Exam

What are the Project Management Professional (PMP) knowledge areas, and are they still relevant to the new PMP exam? In the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) most recent update to the PMP exam, some familiar concepts may seem to have “disappeared.” While the PMP exam now focuses on three domains with various tasks, enablers, and tools, this does not mean information about process groups and knowledge areas is now obsolete.

Your experts at Project Management Academy can guide you to better understand the PMP knowledge areas and how they correlate with other essential project management knowledge so that you are prepared for the updated PMP exam, modern project leadership, and more.


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What are the PMP knowledge areas?

The 10 PMP knowledge areas cover the essentials of effective project management. These knowledge areas demonstrate what you need to know to pass the PMP exam, refresh your project management knowledge, and be a better project manager in general.

Here is a high-level PMP exam breakdown by knowledge area:

  1. Project Integration Management

Think of project integration management as the big picture of your project. This is the broadest area, and it covers the various tasks that hold a project together from end to end. Information from this knowledge area will also help you consider how the project fits into the mission, vision, and goals of your organization and any stakeholders.

  1. Project Scope Management

Defining, validating, and controlling your project’s scope is essential to completing all components and delivering results on time. Setting expectations and staying within the scope prevents extraneous tasks from filtering in. This knowledge area covers information to help you and everyone involved in your project stay on task.

  1. Project Schedule Management

Also known as project time management, this knowledge area is your guide to managing multiple people’s timelines and schedules. You will have to create a project schedule and determine who is responsible for what and when. Effective time management helps you plan for unexpected problems and schedule changes so you can still finish on time.

  1. Project Cost Management

It is essential to create, monitor, and control your project’s budget to ensure you are within your limits. Establishing a budget requires precise estimating techniques to account for resources, labor, materials, and any other costs. Monitoring and controlling this budget will have to occur regularly to align expectations with reality.

  1. Project Quality Management

How do you define and meet quality standards in a project? The project quality management knowledge area deals with quality specifications, control, and assurance from end to end. This includes planning for quality issues and ensuring the promised quality of deliverables aligns with the project’s time & cost budgets.

  1. Project Resource Management

Project resources can include everything from members of the project team to materials needed for project execution. These resources are essential to your project’s success. Managing a project’s resources requires precise estimation, planning, acquisition, development, management, and control throughout the project’s entire life cycle.

  1. Project Communications Management

Smooth communications facilitate a smooth project. This crucial project component keeps the team and stakeholders informed and updated. As a project manager, you will need to identify communication needs, outline procedures, and manage & monitor communications throughout the project to ensure everything is occurring as planned.

  1. Project Risk Management

Anticipating potential risks to the project during any stage will help keep your project on track if any of those risks actually become issues. The project risk management knowledge area deals with identifying risks through qualitative and quantitative risk analysis, prioritizing risks, planning responses, and controlling & monitoring risk levels.

  1. Project Procurement Management

If your project requires outside resources, project procurement management is essential to integrating those outside contractors or vendors into your team and project. This knowledge area prepares you to identify, hire, manage, and monitor outside resources within your project’s budget, from creating statements of work to closing contracts.

  1. Project Stakeholder Management

Every project has stakeholders: the people for whose needs the project was created in the first place. Know who they are, what concerns or ideas they have, and how to manage expectations, address their needs, and communicate effectively. This is essential to project stakeholder management and, by extension, your project as a whole.

In previous iterations of the PMP exam, these ten knowledge areas were aligned with the five process groups and their associated 49 processes. While, as we mentioned, this information is not as front-and-center to the PMP exam’s 2021 update, it remains relevant to the three new domains. Understanding and memorizing the 10 knowledge areas will help support your knowledge of the People, Process, and Business Environment domains.

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Tips on how to remember PMP knowledge areas

With ten knowledge areas and many related tasks and other pieces, you may be wondering how to memorize and apply this information to the PMP exam and your project management practices.

Mnemonic devices are helpful for memorizing many related items, such as the ten PMP knowledge areas. Try these mnemonic devices created by Project Management Academy:

  • I Saw Single Chickens Quietly Receiving Coffee Reading Poetry Silently
  • Inharmoniously Swimming Sharks Contemplating Questions Regarding Classical Refrains Play Saxophones
  • I Start Sharpening Colorful Quills Rarely Confronting Rude Porcupine Shepherds

The first letter of each word in these sentences aligns with the first letter of the ten PMP knowledge groups, making them much easier to remember. It may help to develop your own sentences or use other memorization techniques to figure out how to remember PMP knowledge areas in a way that works best for you. Flashcards, writing it out, using songs, and other strategies can all help you find success.

Remember, the updated PMP exam will focus more on applying knowledge to analyze and resolve various project management situations. While memorization is still required and useful, your grasp of the material will have to go beyond memorization for you to earn your PMP certification.

How do the knowledge areas relate to the updated PMP exam?

In the most recent version of the PMP exam, updated in early 2021, the primary focus is now on three domains and various tasks, enablers, and tools. However, as we mentioned, this does not mean the 10 PMP knowledge areas and 5 process groups have disappeared entirely. This “old” information simply exists as a subset of the three new domains: People, Process, and Business Environment.

The knowledge areas and process groups are primarily part of the Process domain, but are represented in all three domains. Understanding the knowledge areas and process groups will help you grasp the natural flow of projects through the project lifecycle and the overarching principles and processes that you move through during a project. This will help you identify the appropriate project documents, tools, and techniques to address various conflicts and situations.

The five PMP process groups represent the project lifecycle: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. The 10 PMP knowledge areas map to the different process groups and are closely related to tasks that fall under the new domains. Take a look at the process group and knowledge area mapping below in the PMP knowledge areas chart:

Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas

Understanding the different pieces of project management, how they relate to each other, and how they align with the overarching domains of People, Process, and Business Environment will help you identify what resources to use and when. As we mentioned earlier, memorization will help this exam, but more important is being able to correctly apply domains, tasks, enablers, and tools to situations presented on the exam.

It is also helpful to know that the updated PMP exam is evenly split between Agile and Predictive methodologies. The great thing about predictive project management is that it is based on established best practices and proven strategies for planning, analyzing, and anticipating potential risks. If you are dealing with a conflict surrounding resource utilization, you probably already have an approved project management plan in place.

When answering a question focused on Agile concepts, remember that servant leadership is key. The answer that provides the closest thing to a “win-win” solution is most likely going to be the best choice regardless of the situation described. Agile or adaptive project management is much more flexible, but it still includes planning, scheduling, and identifying key milestones and potential risks or blockers.

Feeling overwhelmed by the changes to the PMP exam? While the PMP certification exam has changed significantly, the knowledge and established practices for good project management have not.

The updated exam is designed to meet the needs for more diverse project management skills and approaches, and the new exam scoring system reflects this. As a result, the knowledge areas are not as prominent in the exam as before, but understanding the 10 PMP knowledge areas, the project management process groups, and other information is still essential to successfully passing the PMP certification exam.

Your experts at Project Management Academy can help you understand the PMP exam changes and how to apply critical project management knowledge, such as the PMP knowledge areas, to the new domains of People, Process, and Business Environment. Sign up for our PMI-approved online pmp training courses and in-person pmp training courses to access all the guidance and resources you need to pass the PMP certification exam.

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Erin Aldrige
Content Manager at
Erin Aldrige