PRINCE2 is the professional project management certificate offered by the UK’s Cabinet Office. As a result, it has become the de facto standard for UK public sector projects, and is also used in many countries around the world. So, if you do choose to go for this certification scheme, how can you approach the exam to give yourself the best possible chance of success? Here are 5 tips to make exam day easier.
1. Read the answers The answers are just as important as the question! The exam is multiple choice, so you will have a selection of answers to choose from – sometimes a few and sometimes a lot. Most importantly watch out for the language used in the answer. As there are hardly any absolutely fixed rules in PRINCE2 you should avoid selecting answers that say ‘all’, ‘always’ or ‘must’. Opt for an answer that can be interpreted as ‘in most cases’. Remember to fill in the correct answer box on the exam paper – you have to shade in a little circle and it is very easy to get out of sync and color in the wrong circle, especially if you have chosen to leave a question out and come back to it later.
2. Write in your manual Fortunately for many exam takers without a photographic memory, the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam is ‘open book’. This means that you can take your manual in to the exam room but not any other materials. So you can’t take in your own notes or any course handouts. However, no one will check what has been handwritten inside your manual! Write all your key notes in there and draw any process diagrams that you think will be helpful.
3. Ignore what would happen in real life Most questions will require you to refer to a detailed scenario. This explains a project and the people involved, and then you’ll be asked questions about the situation that the project manager or other members of the project team find themselves in. the scenario is important! Ignore what you would do in real life. In reality, you would probably find that some of your Project Board can’t carry out all their duties because of lack of time, or you would have managed the situation in a different, more effective way. Forget all that and answer the question based solely on the information that has been provided. You may find that many of the questions don’t need you to refer to the scenario at all, but it is still worth reading the scenario booklet and highlighting anything that could be relevant to the questions later.
4. Watch the clock Doing practice papers will help you work out how long you are taking to get through an exam. But on the actual exam day, make sure you keep an eye on the clock. Pace yourself so that you have enough time to answer every question, and if that means leaving one to come back to because it is too hard and is taking up too much time, then leave it out. Make a note of the question number and come back to it later if you have time. Look for the number of points that you will get for each question. It isn’t worth spending lots of time on a question that only gives you 3 points if you can spend the same time on a multi-part question that will give you lots more. However, you could also choose to quickly go through the whole paper answering the questions you find easy and then go back to the beginning to tackle the harder questions. Ultimately, your exam taking strategy is up to you, so practice with some sample papers to get a feel for how you can best approach the exam to manage your time effectively.
5. Arrive with the correct ID You won’t be allowed to take the exam if you don’t have your photographic ID. Even if your trainer has been with you for the whole course, they still need to check that you are who you say you are and that the certificate will be awarded to the right person. You can also take your manual into the Practitioner exam, so don’t leave it behind! You will be at a massive disadvantage if you don’t have it with you during the exam. That’s about all you will need in the exam room, and all you will be allowed to take in. Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your practice papers and your time in the real exam – and help you pass successfully! Good luck! Guest post by: Jason Westland is CEO of projectmanager.com, an online project management software company. He’s also the author of The Project Management Life Cycle. You can find him on Google.