Don’t let agile content on the PMP® exam take you by surprise! As expected, test-takers are reporting that 50% or more of the PMP® exam consists of hybrid and agile questions. Through our research, we have identified some key agile tools you may come across on the exam. By knowing these tools and some related terminology, you could get more answers right on the exam.

5 Agile Tools for the PMP® Exam

  1. Product Backlog
  2. Iteration
  3. Information Radiator
  4. Story Points
  5. Kanban Boards

1. Product Backlog

Sometimes called a “backlog,” this tool is part of the requirements management process and is used and maintained throughout the project. The requirements are categorized by priority into a list. As requirements are met (or “done”), they are removed from the backlog. Items can be reprioritized, added, or removed. This is called “grooming the backlog.” Below is an example of a backlog, followed by some other useful terms to know for the exam.

User Story: Agile teams typically break the product features (or high-level requirements) down into user stories. User stories are written in the following format: As a <role>, I want to <functionality> so that <business benefit>. As you can see from the backlog example, each user story is written following this structure.

Definition of Done: The team and the product owner need to agree on a definition of done before the team begins working so that everyone has a shared understanding of what “done” will look like for that increment.

2. Iteration

An iteration is a timeboxed period of product production. Specifically, you might see the term “sprint” on the PMP® exam. “Sprint” and “iteration” are synonymous, and they are timeboxed to one month or less. Each sprint is like a mini project. When a sprint ends, any incomplete product backlog items are returned to the product backlog, to be added to the next sprint or reprioritized. Here are other terms to know related to iterations.

Scrum: Scrum is a popular agile methodology that is lightweight and easy-to-understand. In Scrum, iterations are called “sprints.”

Scrum Master: The Scrum Master is the team’s servant leader. The Scrum Master guides and coaches the team.

Sprint backlog: The sprint backlog can be presented like a Kanban board (see the information radiator section). It relates only to tasks that happen during that sprint. The sprint backlog serves as a highly visible view of the work.

The daily scrum, or daily stand-up, is a 15-minute meeting that is held at the same time and place every day while the team is working toward the sprint goal. Each member of the team briefly answers three questions about what they are doing to meet the sprint goal:

  1. What have I done since the last meeting?
  2. What do I plan to do today?
  3. Are there any impediments to my progress?

The team leader or Scrum Master makes sure the meeting happens every day and follows up on any identified obstacles.

3. Information Radiator

This is agile’s umbrella term for highly visible displays of information, including large charts, graphs, and summaries of project data. Information radiators are usually displayed in high-traffic areas to maximize exposure, where they can quickly inform stakeholders about the project’s status. A Kanban board (see Kanban board section) and a sprint backlog are examples of information radiators, as are burn charts. Here are specific burn charts you may see on the PMP® exam:

Burndown chart:  This example of a burndown chart tracks the work that remains to be done on a project. As work is completed, the progress line on the chart will move downward, reflecting the smaller amount of work that still needs to be done. Burndown charts allow us to quickly project when the work will be done but they make it hard to separate the impact of scope creep from the team’s progress.

Burnup chart: Burnup charts track the work that has been completed. Therefore, the progress line on it will move upward, showing the increasing amount of work that has been completed. A burnup chart can show changes in scope, making the impact of those changes visible.

4. Story Points

Story points are used as an estimation tool for agile teams. Instead of estimating in hours or days, agile teams estimate in a relative unit called “story points.” For example, imagine we have already developed a simple input screen and have given that task a size of 2 story points. We can then estimate the remaining tasks by comparing them to the input screen. We might assign 1 story point to a simple fix or change and assign 3 points or 5 points to bigger pieces of work. Relative sizing, as in story points, doesn’t give a false sense of an exact measure, as hours might. Sizing one piece of work relative to another also accounts for the different speeds at which people work. A story might be 3-points for experienced developer, or 5 points for a novice worker.

5. Kanban Board

A Kanban board is the primary tool for planning and monitoring the progress of the work. It’s generally a whiteboard (or its electronic equivalent) with columns that show the various stages of work (as shown here). The tasks that are being worked on are represented by sticky notes that team members move through the columns to reflect their progress. Teams will often have the daily stand-up meeting at a Kanban board.

Learn More About Agile for the PMP Exam

RMC has several opportunities to learn more about these tools. If you are planning to take the PMP exam, sharpen your Agile knowledge as part of your test prep.

RMC offers a self-directed Agile Fundamentals eLearning Course that teaches agile project development, practices, tools, and techniques to immediately use agile methods on your projects. We also have the Agile Fundamentals book in hard copy or in an online subscription format.

If you are looking to introduce additional team members to Agile Fundamentals, contact us to learn more about our instructor-led classes.

You can also watch our webinar on the 5 Key Agile Tools to Know for the PMP Exam.