APM BOK6 vs APM BOK7: what are the changes?


Earlier this year APM announced they would be introducing an update to their Body of Knowledge, changing from BOK6 to BOK7. Due to the current situation with COVID-19, the transition will not make a formal change until January 2021, although you can take your APM BOK7 exam now should you wish.

In the podcast episode above we give you significant insight into these changes, answering the questions you more than likely have such as what is new in the update and while you have a choice, should you take your APM exam with BOK6 or BOK7.

Our Chairman Martyn Kinch leads the interview with our lead APM trainer Terry; both have a significant history with APM and their insight into the differences between the two will leave you with a clear and solid understanding of what is changing, and what this means for you and your teams.

Here is a transcript of the podcast.

Terry can we start by running through what the changes are in the new APM BOK7?

I would estimate that about 30-40% of the content has been amended. Firstly, in some areas new content has been added and in other areas the wording or terminology has been updated. In general BOK7 tries to represent the fact that not all projects are the same, rather that they come in different shapes and sizes, and we need to have a more flexible approach to managing them.

Starting with the new content, the APM BOK7 now recognises the changes in the Project Management thinking over the past few years. It now covers both iterative and hybrid life cycles, as well as the more traditional linear life cycle that was covered by BOK6. Even the linear life cycle now has updated phases; development becomes deployment; handover and closure becomes transition; and operations becomes adoption.

The APM BOK7 refers to the life cycle ranging from being very predictive at one extreme, to being more adaptive at the other. So there are quite a few assessment criteria and therefore exam questions that focus around the way things are managed differently in linear and iterative life cycles.

Are there any other new topics included in BOK7?

Yes, the APM BOK7 now also considers the different types of PMO (the Project Management Office), namely embedded, hub and spoke and a central PMO. So, either embedded in the project team, held centrally in the organisation or a mixture of the two.

It also introduces “virtual teams”, which are a growing concept in modern project work. The syllabus looks at the different management needs and at the typical challenges leaders face when trying to run project teams in a virtual environment. So for delegates, these changes should be seen as a benefit because they tend to better reflect more of how projects are delivered these days.

I understand there have also been some changes in the Scheduling section of the APM BOK7?

Yes, looking at scheduling, BOK7 now brings in the concept of critical chain analysis together with the more familiar critical path analysis.

With Critical Chain analysis, more focus is made on the availability of the resources and it aims to get the work on each activity finished as soon as possible, with any available float being moved to the end in the form of a project buffer and therefore managed at project level, rather than at activity level.

Additionally, the APM have removed the requirement to complete mathematical calculations in the PMQ exam. So no calculation of critical path or earned value. Rather the focus is on the interpretation of the data provided. I suspect this will be seen as a benefit to some delegates, but not others.

Have there been any other changes?

Yes, here are just a few:

  • Data protection has been updated to GDPR  (general data protection regulation) within the Legislation section.
  • The role of product owner has been added to the list of project team roles. This role is often used in more iterative life cycles and is focused on defining the vision of the outcomes, and on the link between the end users needs and the project delivery team, and on prioritising their requirements.
  • The Business Case now includes the “five dimensions” model of strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management, which aligns with a model used in HM Treasury.

Various new acronyms have also been introduced:

  • VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity which is to be used when assessing the context of a project, together with the more familiar PESTLE and SWOT analysis.
  • When looking at Negotiations two new acronyms are introduced:
    • ZOPA – Zone of Possible Agreement, which looks to see where the two sides of the negotiation overlap
    • BATNA – the Best alternative to a negotiated agreement, to be used when planning to get the best result out of the negotiation.

The term “deployment baseline” is now used, referring to the key agreements of time, cost and scope, etc that are recorded in the PMP at the end of the definition phase, before moving into the “deployment” phase. Deployment being the new term (was “development”) used for the delivery phase in a linear life cycle.

Within information management the term “curation” has been included, meaning to look after the data, in the way that a Museum Curator would look after the contents of a Museum.

Additionally, within the risk and issue management section we will now cover the differences between proactive and reactive risk responses, and there is a new six step issue resolution cycle.

Apart from dropping the need to perform mathematical calculations, are there any other changes to the exam ?

Firstly, the exam format has been brought up to date; that typed answers are now allowed when taking the exam online, rather than just hand written. This means you can now take your APM PMQ exam online.

The exams will also use different exam command terms, including “differentiate” which is used where they want you to explain the difference between two things.

The old “list and describe” has been replace by the command verb “describe”, and as mentioned earlier ,“interpret” is used to get the delegate to show their understanding of data, resulting out of a given calculation.

There is also a new “marking grid” that indicates what marks will typically be awarded.

That’s covered at least some of the changes in the exam, what has stayed the same?

In fact most has stayed the same. For the PFQ exam it is still:

– 1 hour
– 60 questions
– closed book
– 60% to pass, so 38+ / 60

And the PMQ exam is still:

– 3 hours
– closed book
– do 10 out of 16 questions
– 55% pass mark, so 275+ / 500 to pass

Finally, lets chat about the timing of the various options and the delivery formats available.

As I understand it the timings have changed slightly in light of Covid 19, and currently these are that BOK6 exams are available until the end of December 2020, and that the new APM BOK7 exams will run from the 4th May 2020, so really it is down to personal preference.

BOK6 exams are established; they are a known quantity, and there is a lot of knowledge and supporting materials, so there may be an advantage to sticking to BOK6 exams for now.

As Terry mentioned earlier, around 30% of the exam paper has changed and the paper is still fairly new, so the APM BOK7 exams will include new questions around the areas of life cycles for example, which are not in the current paper.  In my experience, any potential employer may want to see that you hold the APM qualification, but they are unlikely to  prefer one BOK over another.

If you are a corporate and you are rolling out the APM qualifications across your team, then it would make sense for everyone to have the same level of knowledge, including life cycles and newer areas such as chartered, GDPR and virtual teams. So in that case, you might consider BOK7 as being more appropriate for a longer term training investment.

All APM courses we run are available in classroom format, blended, combining online and workshops, or fully online with full support from our experienced trainers, regardless of which exam you decide to take.

Exploring an APM qualification with Training ByteSize

At Training ByteSize, we offer four levels of APM accreditation for you to choose from.

APM Apprenticeships

A full holistic learning experience for apprentices, designed to provide technical training and awareness of key elements of project management.

APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ)

The first step for many in their project management journey. Gain an introduction to the basics and essential terminology of project management with the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) Course.

APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ)

If you’re familiar with project management and are keen to develop your skills within a professional capacity, the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) Course is ideal for you.

APM Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) Course

For those with significant experience in project management who wish to achieve Chartered status, we’d recommend the APM Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) Course.If you’re unsure about which course is right for you, please do get in touch and we can suggest the best option based on your experience, objectives and existing knowledge of project management.

Taking the step towards ChPP

You may wish to put in place a longer term plan to included Chartered Project Professional. This accreditation elevates project delivery professionals to the equivalence of Chartered Accountants, Chartered Engineers, Chartered Surveyors and Chartered Financial Advisors and recognises project delivery as a formal profession.

ChPP is awarded only to project delivery professionals who can demonstrate both significant experience of working in a complex project delivery environment together with a broad knowledge of project techniques. It is the benchmark for the project delivery professionalism.

We can offer a route through APM to ChPP, find out more about this prestigious certification on our website, or email us at learning@trainingbytesize for full details.

Our top tips to passing your APM BOK6 exam

If you’re at the stage of sitting your APM PFQ or PMQ exam, take a look at the recordings of some webinars we held recently. They explain the exam format, share hints and tips, clarify the marking scheme, explain key words, answer questions, and review some of the key revision topics. Click here to view the APM PFQ exam tips webinar, and here to view the APM PMQ exam tip webinar.

Our guide to taking your APM PMQ exam online

With the changes introduced and the option to now take your APM PMQ exam online, we have produced an in-depth guide to support you. It includes useful links, screenshots of the new online exam, plus FAQs to take you through the process step by step. Click here to find out more.

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