Sunday, 7 February 2010

PRINCE2® Exams - Briefing

This is a video by Emma Jones - chief examiner for PRINCE2® at APM Group - so presumably she knows what she's talking about !

She talks about the exam formats and the impact of the 2009 Refresh - particularly for those who have done the exam in the past and need to re-register their qualification.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

PRINCE2® Foundation Exam - Technique 2

In a previous post I covered some points of exam technique for the:
PRINCE2® Foundation Exam

This covered time management, the "three pass" approach, "fifty-fifty" answers and transcription errors.

I'll now add a few more points to help you tackle it successfully.

RTFQ - Read The Flippin' Question !
Many people are not conscious of the fact that when they're reading a book or newspaper they are not actually reading all of the words. The eyes skim over some words and the brain fills in the gaps - this is how you are able to read for pleasure. In an exam your approach needs to be a bit more like a proofreader. Take your time and read every word of the question and possible answers carefully. Take particular care over "negative" questions of the form "which of these is NOT part of a PRINCE2® ........ ".

ATFQ - Answer The Flippin' Question !
Having read a question carefully answer it ! Somtimes one of the answers will be immediately obvious as the right one. Trust your first instinct - you are probably right, you know a lot about the method, so go for it. Thinking too deeply can sometimes work against you. Remember that the exam is based entirely on PRINCE2® terminology and what's in the manual.

Beware Of Changing Your Answers
When doing a second pass through the paper or a final check you may be tempted to start changing some of your answers. You can do this and you may spot an obvious mistake but ...... take care. I have marked hundreds of these papers and I can promise you that at least 7 times out of 10 a candidate changing an answer changes it from right to wrong. It is all too easy to talk yourself out of the right answer.

Move On If Stuck
If you get stuck on a question don't dwell on it - mark it on your question paper to remind you to come back to it then move on to the next question. You only have just over a minute to answer each question, so you can't afford to dwell for too long. Return to it on a second pass through the paper. You may well find that the answer then comes to you. If you're still stuck use the fifty-fifty technique mentioned in the previous post or simply guess.

Don't Look For Patterns
The question papers are assembled by the exam board from a "question bank". They balance out each paper with a set number of each type of question and topics spread across the whole PRINCE2® syllabus. But beyond that the selection of questions is entirely random. The result is that its entirely possible to have a run of questions where the answer is the same letter (a,b,c or d). I once saw a paper with a run of 14 questions in sequence where the answer was 'c' every time. This was entirely coincidental, not a deliberate ploy by the examiners. The danger is that you might start thinking "it can't possibly be c again". It can be, so treat each question individually.

When You're Finished Finish
Candidates take varying amounts of time to complete the paper. Some take the full hour, some find that they can comfortably finish in 40 minutes or even less in some cases. My advice is when you've completed all the questions and done a final check - stop. Don't start agonising, doubting and changing your answers.

If you attend an accredited PRINCE2® Foundation course you'll get further help from your course tutor and a chance to tackle some practice exam papers. Their advice may differ slightly from what I'm saying here, some things are a matter of opinion - so take on board what they tell you.

Good luck with the exam !

Monday, 18 January 2010

PRINCE2® Foundation Exam - Technique 1

PRINCE2® Foundation Exam
PRINCE2® Foundation - Choose One Answer From Four

In my previous post I covered the basics of the:
PRINCE2® Foundation Exam.

I'll now move on to some tips on exam technique.

On the surface the mechanics of the exam are pretty straightforward.

Complete 75 questions, multiple choice, four options for each question. One of the four is the correct answer. One hour to do it. Score 50% to pass. Simples !

The odds are also in your favour. You could expect to score 25% if you knew nothing and answered the questions at random. A chimpanzee could do the same or maybe slightly better. Even a Chav or Aston Villa supporter would be in with a good shout.

The exam is definitely eminently passable and most candidates do so.

But its not quite that simple.

Good preparation is absolutely essential - the subject of another post.

Assuming that you've done that here are some hints on tackling the exam itself. A little bit of exam technique can definitely help you to pass.

Do keep an eye on this. Keep more or less on track - running out of time or having to answer the final questions in a rush could be disastrous.

Three Pass Approach.
Work through the whole paper once, answering the questions where you are fairly confident of your answer. Mark the harder and more "wordy" questions on your question paper (not the answer sheet!) with a pen or highlighter. Tick a possible answer on the question paper if you can, but leave it off your answer sheet for now. Do a second pass - take a little more time reading the questions you left previously and answer them as best you can. Remember that you don't have to get all of the questions right. Do a final pass to check that you haven't missed out any questions. There is no point leaving any answers blank - if you are completely stuck you may as well just choose one of the four possible answers, you have a one in four chance of getting it right.

Fifty - Fifty.
If you are stuck on a question a good approach is to "reverse" your approach. Rather than looking for the right answer eliminate the two least likely answers, leaving you with a choice of two. Then choose the most likely from the two as your answer. The odds are 50 / 50 that you'll choose the right one. Spread over the whole paper this will definitely score you some marks towards the magic total.

Fifty - Fifty - Example.
Which of these is a heading in a Risk Register entry ?
A. Quality Assurance.
B. Tools and Techniques.
C. Probability.
D. Blame Indicators.
Clearly A and D are not likely. Quality Assurance would be part of a Quality Management Strategy, nothing to do with risk. Blame is not generally part of the PRINCE2® philosophy. Both C and B look feasible answers - but at least the odds of getting it right are reduced. The correct answer is in fact C - the Risk Register does not include Tools and Techniques according to the Product Description outline in the manual - this heading appears in the Risk Management Strategy.

Transcription Errors.
If you miss out any questions as you work through be careful as you fill in the answer sheet. If you get any answers out of order you can correct them as you'll have used pencil and can erase. But this will cost you time.

If you attend an accredited PRINCE2® Foundation course you'll get further help from your course tutor and a chance to tackle some practice exam papers. Their advice may differ slightly from what I'm saying here, some things are a matter of opinion - so take on board what they tell you.

I have run many courses and marked many of these exams. I currently work with accredited PRINCE2® training provider Vi²dus.

I'll give you some more hints on Foundation and Practitioner exam technique in future posts.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

PRINCE2® Foundation Exam - The Basics

PRINCE2® Foundation Examination

The exam leads to the first level PRINCE2® qualification - Foundation.

It is awarded by APMG - the official examining body.

It is designed primarily as a test of your knowledge of the method and terminology.
(The Practitioner exam that follows is meant to be designed more as a test of understanding and application of PRINCE2® - more about that in a future post.)

According to the guidance issued by APMG:
'This level is aiming to measure whether a candidate would be able to act as an informed member of a project management team using the PRINCE2® method within a project environment supporting PRINCE2®. To this end they need to show they understand the principles and terminology of the method.'

It is "closed book" so you can't refer to the manual, notes or any other material.

You have one hour to complete it - most candidates find that they can do so fairly comfortably within this time limit. You do need to take care though - one hour can pass very quickly!

It consists of 75 questions in a multiple choice format.
Each normally has four choices - A, B, C, D - and only one correct answer.

Five of the questions in each paper are "trial questions" used by the exam board APMG to test new questions. These do not count towards your score - but when you take it you won't know which ones so you need to answer all of the questions.

To pass you need to score 35 out of 70 available marks.

You will be given a question paper and a separate sheet for marking your answers. You must use pencil, not pen, to complete this. I think this is because APMG use automated reading technology that partly uses electronic mark reading - graphite is a good electrical conductor whereas as ink is not. You must hand in the question paper as well as your answers when you're finished - the exam board insist that all papers are returned to them. They don't want to see them on sale on eBay!

Your paper will usually be marked by the course tutor straight after the close of the exam. You will normally be given a "provisional" result as soon as this has been done - although arrangements may vary depending on the timing of the course. It is "provisional" because your result has to be formally confirmed by the exam board - they will check your answers when they are sent on after the course.

Some trainers have the unfortunate practice of announcing results publicly to everybody on the course. Something that I completely disagree with. Some even do so in reverse order, starting with "The lowest scoring candidate is ..... "! If you have concerns about this check beforehand. If necessary you should insist that you are given your result privately.

This may be stating the obvious but - ensure that you have all that you need beforehand. Pencil, spare pencil (+spare spare pencil?), rubber, pencil sharpener. You might also need a pen / highlighter - you are allowed to annotate the question paper as you wish. Plus refreshments to suit you - Red Bull is a favourite of some!

If you pass you have a recognised qualification - PRINCE2® Foundation. You can breathe a sigh of relief - you will never have to take the exam again according to current regulations. APMG will issue you with a certificate in due course and add you to their register of successful candidates.

If you fail - it happen sometimes - you will normally be given the chance to re-take either immediately or the next day. You also have the option of re-taking at any future date when an exam is scheduled. My advice to candidates is generally to re-take the following day if possible.

Most candidates do pass this exam - the current national pass rate is around 95%.
The secret is good preparation and sound exam technique.
More on that in a future post.

PRINCE2® 2009 Primer

PRINCE2® 2009 Briefing

Above is a handy video briefing about the new 2009 version of PRINCE2® and how it differs from the old version.
Produced by Project In A Box.

An important note for those seeking to renew their PRINCE2® Practitioner qualification and take the APMG re-registration exam. You will not be able to take an exam based on the previous 2005 version of the method after 31st December 2009.

For those not aware - APMG are the body that administer PRINCE2® exams worldwide. It is a requirement that all PRINCE2® Practitioners renew their qualification from 3 to 5 years after the date on their original certificate.

According to the official APMG website:
'The PRINCE2® Re-Registration exam comprises of an exam paper set at the same standard as the Practitioner examination and will be based on the 2005 or 2009 PRINCE2® Manual. Candidates can choose between either the PRINCE2® 2005 Re-Registration Examination or the PRINCE2®: 2009 Re-Registration Examination until the 2005 edition is retired on 31st December 2009.'

If you did a course based on the old manual you will have a fair amount of work to do if you take the 2009 exam. The changes are quite extensive.

Welcome to PRINCE2® and Project Management.

Eden Project - Cornwall

Welcome to my new blog - PRINCE2® and Project Management.

I'll be posting on a number of topics including:
  • Help and advice for exam candidates.
  • Application of the method.
  • General project management.
  • Project management techniques.
  • Anything else of interest.
I've been delivering PRINCE2® Foundation and Practitioner courses since they first started in 1996 - although I'm no longer involved in training at present.

I've worked as a consultant on various assignments ranging from large central government projects to small local community enterprises.

I hope to share some of what I've learned.

I'll be including advice, tips and tricks for PRINCE2® Foundation and Practitioner exam candidates. Although passing these exams depends on knowledge and understanding of the method, exam technique has a large part to play as well. I've helped to train hundreds of candidates over the years and seen many exam papers and exam questions.

Some of this exam advice may be of help to candidates for other exams such as Managing Successful Programmes, Management of Risk, APM, PMI and ISEB.

I'll also be talking about the application of PRINCE2® in real projects, general project management and project management techniques. I'll give examples of projects that I've worked on and how things might work in different environments.

Please do join the blog and comment - feedback is welcome.

I'm happy to consider guest postings if they would be of interest.