PMP Earned Value Measurement: Discrete Effort vs Apportioned Effort vs Level of Effort for PMP Exam


PMP Earned Value Measurement: Discrete Effort vs Apportioned Effort vs Level of Effort for PMP Exam

Earned Value Management is one of the more difficult topics in the PMP® Exam. Not only does it requires the Aspirants to remember and apply a number of EVM formulas and mathematics, but also they will need to understand the concepts behind Earned Value Management in order to differentiate between different EVM formulas. Discrete Effort, Apportioned Effort and Level of Effort are one of the least understood concepts in EVM.

Discrete Effort vs Apportioned Effort vs Level of Effort

Discrete Effort, Apportioned Effort and Level of Effort (LoE) are three of the most common activity types with different techniques to measure earned value (EV) / work performance for activities in EVM mentioned in the PMBOK® Guide.  The activities are decomposed from the Work Packages in the WBS.

  • Discrete Effort: Discrete Effort is work that can be planned and measured with specific output.
    • also known as “Measurable Effort”
    • the work can be directly associated with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) component and can be measured with percentage of progress
    • e.g. the coder has already finished 500 lines of code for the component with an estimated length of 1000 lines — 50% completion
  • Non-discrete Effort: Opposite of Discrete Effort, further divided into two types:
    • Apportioned Effort: Apportioned Effort is work which cannot be divided into discrete efforts and is allotted proportionately to other discrete effort(s).
      • the work is directly associated with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) component/deliverable, usually cannot be separated from the discrete efforts
      • Apportioned Effort supports Discrete Efforts and therefore its earned value is directly proportional to the discrete effort
      • e.g. inspection, quality assurance, verification, validation activities
    • Level of Effort (LoE): Level of Effort is supportive work that do not produce definitive output but is measured with (passage of) time.
      • the work is not associated with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) component/deliverable
      • Level of Effort activities support an activity or the whole project
      • usually consists of short duration of work repeated periodically throughout the project
      • Level of Effort activities cannot be put in the critical path as they do not add time to the project duration
      • Level of Effort activities are included to reflect the resource requirements of activities without deliverables, such as:
        • project management, meetings, administrative work, accounting, maintenance

Illustrated Example

For the exam prep project for the PMP® Exam, one would usually have the following activities/effort involved (to name but a few):

  • Exam Prep Project Management
  • Getting 35 Contact Hours of Project Management Education
  • Applying for the exam
  • Responding to the Audit (if needed)
  • Finish reading the PMBOK® Guide
  • Finish reading a exam prep Book
  • Taking mock exams
  • Quality assurance of the Exam Prep process / knowledge
  • Attempt and pass the PMP® Exam

Since all these efforts would involve project resources, planned value (PV) should be allocated for each of these activities. Many of these are actually Discrete Effort with measurable progress/results, however, some of these are Apportioned Effort and Level of Effort (LoE) as indicated in the list below:

  • Exam Prep Project Management — Level of Effort (LoE): to overlook the whole project, measured with the passage of time, will end only after attempting the exam (the target exam date)
  • Getting 35 Contact Hours of Project Management Education — Discrete Effort
  • Applying for the exam — Discrete Effort
  • Responding to the Audit (if needed) — Discrete Effort
  • Finish reading the PMBOK® Guide — Discrete Effort
  • Finish reading a exam prep Book — Discrete Effort
  • Taking mock exams — Discrete Effort
  • Quality assurance of the process / knowledge — Apportioned Effort: relative the the percentage of completion of the whole exam prep
  • Attempt and pass the exam — Discrete Effort
recommended PMP resourcesAdditional free resources: 46+ Commonly Confused Term Pairs with detailed explanations. If you found this article useful, you may wish to reference other Commonly Confused Term articles.

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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