Passing The PRINCE2 Exams For Dummies (UK Edition)
Learning the PRINCE2 method and passing the PRINCE2 exams involves a lot of work: make no mistake about that. But never fear, it’s not all hard labour. This Cheat Sheet is here to help you with your approach to the exams.
Mastering Basic PRINCE2 Exam Techniques
The best preparation for PRINCE2 exams is to know the method well. That means hard and dedicated work while you’re learning; if it pays off with exam success, it will have been worth the effort. Here are a few tips for the exams themselves:
Get plenty of sleep: No, not during the exams, because that can seriously reduce the number of marks you score. Do, however, get a good night’s rest before the day of an exam. You’ll be at a disadvantage and likely to misread questions if you’ve been revising hard until 3.30 a.m. and have then gone into the exam room tired.
Arrive in good time: If you’re travelling to the exam, set off in plenty of time. Currently the rules say you should be there 30 minutes before the start of the exam, so aim for quite a bit earlier than that. Don’t rush into the exam room hassled and right on the 30-minute limit because there was a travel delay and you didn’t allow sufficient contingency; you need good project management skills!
Eat well: Especially if your exam is in the morning, do have breakfast. An empty stomach does not help with exam nerves. Equally, if your exam is in the afternoon, have a light lunch and not a heavy one. Be especially careful if you’re on a training course and your course provider has hired a hotel or conference centre which automatically provides a three-course hot dinner at lunch time. You could pay dearly for that meal if you end up sleepy in the exam.
Carry the right gear: You don’t need much for the PRINCE2 exams, but make sure you have everything to hand that you actually do need. Have a couple of HB or B pencils (wooden ones are rather better for shading in the ovals on the answer sheets, as the leads are thicker than with automatic pencils and are less likely to break).
Have a pencil sharpener, a decent eraser and, for the Practitioner exam only, your PRINCE2 manual. You might like to have a few sweets and a bottle of water as well. If you take sweets, make sure they don’t have noisy wrappers that will annoy other candidates as well as embarrass you in the silence of the exam room.
Take photo ID: Registration for the exam currently requires a photo ID such as a passport, photocard driving licence or official photo security card if you work in a large organisation such as a government department. Be careful not to forget your ID, as you can’t sit the exams without it. The idea is to make it harder for someone to attend a course pretending to be another person and then sit the exams for that person.
Avoid last-minute cramming: It’s not usually helpful to cram information in the minutes before the exam. Instead, walk about, breathe deeply and try to relax. It can be a good idea to avoid other candidates if you’re a bit nervous. If you talk to others and they mention something you didn’t revise too well, it will only increase your tension.
Understanding the PRINCE2 Foundation Exam
The PRINCE2 Foundation Certificate, then, is intended to show that the holder understands the principles and terminology of the method. The questions are fact based, not opinion based, so the ‘right’ answer will have been taken from the manual. The logistics of the exam are as follow:
It’s one hour in length
It has 75 questions, of which 70 are live, with the remaining 5 being questions that the exam board is testing. You won’t know which 5 are the experimental questions, and they won’t affect your mark in either direction; they simply don’t count.
Questions are all the classic style of multiple choice, usually with four options: a, b, c and d.
Each question has only one right answer.
The pass mark is 50 per cent. So of the 70 live questions you need to score 35 or more to pass.
The exam has no level of pass. You’ll be told your mark, but the official result is simply a pass or a fail, and there are no ‘honours’ or ‘you only just scraped it’ levels.
Your result can be given to you immediately by your training company, but the result is provisional. The paper will be re-marked by the exam authority for the final result.
There are no trick questions – allegedly. If there’s a poor question, then it may cause you a problem, but there is no deliberate intention to trip you up.
Understanding the PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam
The Practitioner Exam is there to test your understanding of how to use PRINCE2 and whether you can apply the method successfully to a project.
It lasts two and a half hours.
It has eight sections, each with ten questions. Unlike the Foundation Exam, there are no ‘experimental’ questions in this exam, so all questions are live ones.
Each question is worth 1 mark, so the whole paper is 80 marks.
The pass mark is 55 per cent, so you need 44 marks to pass.
You don’t have to pass each section, just achieve 55 per cent across the whole paper.
Questions are different styles of multiple choice, such as matching questions and sequence questions.
Only one right answer exists to each question unless you’re specifically asked to give more than one answer.
As with the Foundation exam, there are no levels of pass. The result is simply a pass or a fail.
Your training company may give you your result very quickly, or it will follow within about two weeks – after the paper has been marked centrally.
There are no deliberate trick questions and there’s no intention to try to catch you out.
Dealing with Failure on the PRINCE2 Exam by Trying Again
If you’ve failed a PRINCE2 exam, you need to prepare for your next shot by revising the whole method as well as focusing on those areas where you think you’re below par. In particular, make sure you’re clear on each of the following areas:
Roles and responsibilities: Make sure you know what each role is responsible for within the project management team and what the roles are doing in a PRINCE2 project.
Processes: Check you know the sequence in which the processes are used, who is primarily responsible for the activities within each process, and who else is involved. Practise ‘locating yourself’ when looking at a particular activity, to be clear on what is going on at that point, what products are in use and where you are in the project.
Themes: Go through them all again to be sure you have a clear understanding. Make sure that you know what each theme is for and what it contains and, for the Foundation exam, make especially sure that you’re familiar with the ‘purpose’ statements at the start of each theme and process chapter in the PRINCE2 manual.
Principles: Make sure you understand what each one means and check that you know how it’s built in to the method.
Management products: Make sure you know what each product is used for and when, who produces it and what the sections in each one are all about.
Product planning (for Practitioner level): Make sure you understand the diagrams and the Product Description, and practise drawing some diagrams. Although you’re not required to draw answers in a multiple-choice format exam, if you’ve practised you’ll be well used to the techniques and you’ll find it easier to answer questions about them.