I recently passed my PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner exams and wanted to pass on some advice. If you’re just here to find useful exam resources, keep scrolling to the How to Study and Exam Resources section below!
For those who don’t know, PRINCE2 is a project management qualification which is internationally recognised, and applicable to projects of any size and within any industry. It’s therefore a very good general introduction to project management and can help you even if you’re not (and don’t intend to be) a project manager, but you often work as part of project teams or you simply want to know how to run smaller internal projects more efficiently.
Note that, in order to qualify for the Practitioner exam, you must first pass Foundation.
How to Pass?
For both the Foundation and Practitioner exams all you need to pay for is the book MANAGING SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS WITH PRINCE2 (2009, OGC). There are courses available to help you study, which you might prefer if you struggle to get motivated. If you’re fairly disciplined with self-study then you can easily pass without taking any formal training.
The Foundation exam costs around £170 and covers basic theory (closed book, so you have to learn by rote), and the Practitioner exam is about £250 and puts the theory into practice using a real-world scenario (this is open book, so you can use your annotated manual).
I took both exams through CUPE International (accredited by AMPG) which is the cheapest I could find offering you exam only (i.e no training included), as well as the option to sit both exams at home online via a Proctor service (though you can take them in a centre if you want). CUPE also give you 14 days’ access free to their online training portal which includes 2 free exam papers and answers as well as lots of interactive quizzes you can do. This material is not essential to pass but it’s nice to get something for nothing isn’t it!
It’s worth noting that, whilst both exams are multiple choice, this actually can make it more confusing because the ‘wrong’ answers for a question are probably still correct statements (just not for that question!).
I won’t go into this one in too much detail, but essentially the exam focuses on the Themes, Principles and Processes, as well as various Product descriptions. If you learn all of these by rote, you’re almost guaranteed to pass. This is an amazing website which has created flashcards for all the key definitions you need to learn. There is also a post with useful tips on how to pass the PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
PRINCE2 Practitioner Explained
The exam paper covers all of the 7 Themes (Business Case, Organisation, Quality, Change, Risk, Plans, Progress) as well as the 7 Processes (Starting Up a Project, Directing a Project, Initiating a Project, Closing a Project, Managing a Stage Boundary, Controlling a Stage, and Managing Product Delivery).
At the start of the exam, you’ll get a scenario explained to you of a fictional project. There will also be further supplementary information on the project relating to different parts of the paper, and it’s indicated when you’ll need to refer to it. I’d strongly advise you read only the first part of the project scenario before starting. Just read the other extra bits when you get to the section to which they relate. Otherwise your brain is flooded with too much context and it’s hard to work out what is relevant.
You don’t need to learn everything by heart, but know exactly where it is within your manual. In addition to those 14 sections, you will also heavily use Appendix A (which defines the structures and composition of the key management products) and Appendix C (which defines key roles and responsibilities). Some people write notes or put sticky notes in their manual, which is totally fine, but you don’t really need to if you know your manual well enough (which you should from Foundation!).
The chapter at the end on Tailoring (which I didn’t read for the Foundation exam) was interesting for explaining the sort of tailoring approach you might take, as before reading that I had only a vague idea. The Foundation exam teaches you to think quite rigidly about Project Management in my opinion, whereas the Practitioner gives you a far greater sense of how you might actually start to apply the theories to your own work life. You start to learn how roles or management products might be combined for smaller projects.
How to Study
There are 8 sections on the exam worth 10 marks each. You need 55% to pass. You have 180 minutes (2.5 hours). Some of the sections mentioned above for the processes will be combined into one question. Each question has 2-4 sections within it which are denoted by letters A, B, C etc.
There are three types of questions you’ll get in the exam.
Choose 1-2 correct options from a list of potential answers. Remember to look for TWO and make sure you don’t select too many or too few answers by accident!
‘Because’ questions. There is a list of two part statements. A simple example:
|1. I am eating an apple||I am hungry and I like apples|
|2. Apples are made of cardboard||Apples are grown on trees|
You then have to decide between:
- Both statements are true and statement 2 explains 1 (correct answer for question 1)
- Both statements are true but not dependent
- True, False
- False, True (correct answer for question 2)
- False, False
You get two columns and, working your way through the statements in column 1, you must decide which is the correct match from column 2. Each column two statement can be used once, more than once, or not at all. In this simple example below, answers would be 1B, 2A, 3B, 4C.
|1. I’m eating an apple||A. Things I like|
|2. I like apples||B. Activities I’m doing|
|3. I’m going for a run||C. Things I have|
|4. I have an apple||D. Brands of apple|
I’m actually not that big on apples…
The best way to study for the Practitioner exam is to do practice papers. It’s very hard to revise without doing that because you have no way of verifying you understand the information without applying it to a context. Therefore…
- As I said, CUPE International offer 14 days’ free access to their training portal when you book your exam through them, which has two free exam papers on it. Once you buy the exam you have 30 days to take it. After passing my Foundation it took me about 2 weeks of extra study to pass the Practitioner (whilst working full time so don’t worry, it’s achievable).
- This is a great site that I found run by a PRINCE2 trainer called PRINCE2 Primer. This page in particular provides some questions with explanations of the answers which helps you get used to the thought process involved. It also has some good tips as well as a link to YouTube videos which are worth a watch.
- Awesome free quiz with 40 Practitioner style questions and answers. A good way to start and get used to the questions before you start the exam papers. Click the puzzle icon on the right of the page to start.
- This Resource Book from ILX Group was literally the most useful thing I found online. From page 92 onwards there are two full free example papers complete with scenarios, questions and answers. The best bit though is that after the answers, there is a further section which actually explains the rationale behind them. This was such a help for me as it’s hard to learn from mistakes if you don’t understand why the correct answer is correct!
Taking your Exam Online
I prefer the convenience of taking an exam online but I was a bit worried about how it would be laid out compared to the paper version of the exam. For some of the questions there is additional information to add to the scenario, and you need to be able to compare it side by side.
Don’t worry – most of this information appears in a minimisable window above the questions, which is great. Some also pops out in another window, which is a bit of a pain to be honest, but it was mostly all kept within the same screen and you simply minimise and maximise as required. A bar at the top tells you how much time you have left, and you have the option to ‘take a break’ during the exam if you need a water top up or anything.
Go forth and manage your projects in a controlled environment 😉