Join Oliver Yarbrough for an in-depth discussion in this video Definition question, part of Exam Tips: Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®.
- You'll see many types of questions on the exam and one of the most common is the definition question. Exams test your knowledge and you really can't get any more basic than knowing the meaning of key terms and concepts. In fact, this is so important that PMI has dedicated an entire glossary in the PMBOK for these terms. If you don't understand project management definitions, you will be at a serious disadvantage.
That's why definition questions show up throughout the exam. Let's look at an example. A new project team member asks you, "What is the significance of a WBS?" What is the best way to respond? A, it helps keep the project on track, B, it collects all of the activities, C, it represents all of the product and project work, or D, it's an output of the Define Scope process.
We can see this is a classic definition question. In order to get it right, you have to know what a WBS is and what is its primary purpose. A WBS shows up at the intersection of the Planning Process Group and the Project Scope Management Knowledge Area. We know this by studying the Process Map in the PMBOK, and there's nothing we can eliminate from the question. Also, nothing jumps out at us in the question.
At this point, you can proceed to eliminate the least optimal answer choices. Although answer choice A might have some relevance, it certainly isn't the most relevant for this question. Answer choices B and D are simply wrong. That leaves only one possible answer, C. A WBS represents all of the product and project work. Do you see how breaking down a question prevents you from jumping at the first answer that looks right? A definition question can sometimes masquerade as another type of question, such as a math-based one.
Don't be fooled by the numbers, the following is a prime example. A CPI of 1.4 indicates which of the following? The project is over budget, on schedule, not going well, or under budget? Let's break down this question. To answer this question correctly, you have to know what CPI stands for and what is a good CPI versus a bad one.
No calculation is actually needed in this example, so this is not a math question. It's a definition question. Since CPI is an Earned Value term, this indicates we are at the intersection of the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group and the Cost Management Knowledge Area. Again, we know this by studying the Process Map in the PMBOK. There is nothing we can eliminate from the question. Additionally, nothing jumps out at us in the question.
A general understanding of CPI will help you analyze and eliminate answer choices. An index is a measure of performance where one indicates neutrality, anything less than one is bad and anything greater than one is good. Since the CPI is greater than one, we can eliminate answer choice A and C because they indicate the project is doing bad. Now we are left with answer choices B and D.
CPI indicates how you're performing cost-wise, so we can eliminate choice B. The only possible answer is D. In this example, for every one dollar spent, you're getting $1.40 in work. If you have a thorough understanding of the definitions, you won't be easily intimidated on the exam, especially by definition questions dressed up as other types of questions. Let the PMBOK be your guide and you'll be fine.
- What to expect on exam day
- Reviewing the fundamental aspects of project management
- Key success factors
- Navigating the CAPM® exam
- Managing your time on the exam
- Reviewing practice questions
- Establishing a solid study routine
- Reading for understanding