what is the pmbok guide

The PMBOK Guide is published by the PMI and stands for “Project Management Body of Knowledge.” This Guide establishes the standards of project management and defines the terminology.

PMI printed the first edition of this book in 1996, and a new edition comes out every four years. As of now, the current version is the 7th edition, published in August 2021.

The PMBOK Guide 6th edition was published in September 2017.

The PMBOK Guide is an invaluable tool to pass the PMP exam, the most renowned certification for project professionals; the exam is based largely on the PMBOK Guide.

Accordingly, every project professional who wishes to become a PMP should carefully study this guide.

What is the PMBOK Guide?

what is the pmbok guide

The PMBOK Guide is a process-based book that provides a framework to manage projects. The knowledge in it is derived from the best practices of project management professionals throughout the world.

Guidelines available in the PMBOK Guide are industry-independent, so you can apply them to any domain.

PMI develops this guide through a transparent consensus with the help of many cross-field project management experts and volunteers. Any PMI member can contribute to its development.

Please note that the PMBOK Guide does not provide a methodology or advice on running a project. It provides the framework. The project manager’s job is to develop the methodologies by tailoring the best industry practices available in the guide to suit their requirements.

A Brief History of the PMBOK Guide

Let’s have a look at the PMBOK Guide’s history:

  • 1969 – The Beginning of the PMI.
  • 1984 – First PMP Certification was awarded.
  • 1987 – The first “Project Management Body of Knowledge” is released. No hard-copy.
  • 1996 – The PMBOK Guide, First Edition 
  • 2000 – The PMBOK Guide, Second Edition 
  • 2004 – The PMBOK Guide, Third Edition.
  • 2008 – The PMBOK Guide, Fourth Edition 
  • 2012 – The PMBOK Guide, Fifth Edition 
  • 2017 – The PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition 
  • 2021 – The PMBOK Guide, Seventh Edition 

Note to All PMP Aspirants

You must understand this book to pass the PMP certification exam; in fact, you will see a few questions directly from this guide. Many PMP aspirants make the mistake of not utilizing this book while preparing for the exam.

No other reference books can replace the PMBOK Guide. You must study it.

The most successful students will read this guide at least two times before taking the exam.

Major Update in the PMBOK Guide

Until the 5th edition, there was no mention of Agile concepts in the PMBOK Guide.

The PMI has joined with Agile Alliance to develop the Agile Practice Guide.

With the launch of the 6th edition, the PMBOK Guide has a separate section for the “Agile Practice Guide.” If you buy the paperback version, you will get it as a separate booklet.

Since January 1, 2021, 50% of questions in the PMP exam are from Agile and hybrid methodologies.


The PMI publishes the PMBOK Guide to help project professionals learn the best practices in project management. It provides the framework and the industry-leading tools and techniques to carry out projects. This book has industry-independent knowledge, so you can apply it in any field.

I hope this short description of the PMBOK Guide impresses on you the importance of studying it thoroughly as you prepare for the PMP exam. If you have any comments, you can post them in the comments section.