Passing the PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam

Published: 26th January 2009
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The PRINCE2? Practitioner Exam tests understanding of the PRINCE2 terminology and principles, as well as the ability to apply, analyse and evaluate the PRINCE2 method within given project situations. It is aimed at those who aspire to, or already have, responsibility for project management.

The Exam Structure

? 9 topics, each focusing on one of the 11 syllabus areas (these are: the 8 PRINCE2 components; the PRINCE2 process model; Product-based Planning technique; the PRINCE2 Quality Review technique)

? 40 marks per topic

? 50% pass-mark (180/360 total marks)

? 3 hour exam

? An annotated copy of the PRINCE2 manual, annotated by the candidate, is allowed to be taken into the exam. No other study materials or revision notes are allowed.

The exam paper contains a Scenario Booklet, which describes a case study, including information about the candidate's role (appropriate to the level expected of a recently-qualified PRINCE2 Practitioner), and the history and status of the project.

The Competencies

Each topic is made of up sub-sections, which are intended to examine different competencies.

? Knowledge

(familiarity with key terms and principles of the PRINCE2 method)

? Comprehension

(undertanding of the material, demonstrated through the ability to interpret the key terms and principles in one's own words)

? Application

(use of the key terms and principles of the PRINCE2 method within a particular project situation)

? Analysis

(the ability to break down the PRINCE2 method into its component parts, to explain the relationships between these parts. Typical questions ask the candidate to identify errors in the application of the PRINCE2 method to a given situation)

? Evaluation

(critiquing or justifying the application of the PRINCE2 method in a given situation)

These competencies, and their corresponding sub-sections, are ranked according to difficulty (with "Knowledge" as easiest and "Evaluation" as most difficult). The proportion of marks available for each question, indicated at the start of the sub-section, reflect this increasing complexity. A maximum of 30% is awarded for sub-sections testing knowledge and comprehension. It is therefore impossible to pass the Practitioner Exam without demonstrating the ability to apply, analyse and evaluate the PRINCE2 method.

The Questions

There are three main question types:

? Multiple Choice, True/False and Multiple Response (select the correct answer(s) from a range of possible responses)

? Matching and Sequencing (determine the relationship between items, by placing them in sequence, or linking the items in two lists)

? Assertion/reason questions

The Assertion/reason questions are most difficult. These consist of two statements, one of which is referred to as an "Assertion", and the other as a "Reason". The candidate must determine whether either or both of these statements is accurate. If both are accurate, then the candidate must decide whether the "Reason" is an accurate explanation for the "Assertion".

Assertion/reason questions carry three marks, but partially-correct answers receive nothing. It is therefore important to consider carefully each element of the question. It is perfectly possible for the "Assertion" to be incorrect, but for the "Reason" to be an accurate statement.

Revision Strategy

While you are allowed to refer to the PRINCE2 manual during the examination, relying on this for basic knowledge may waste time that could be spent considering more difficult questions. If you scored highly in the Foundation Exam then you should have the core understanding necessary for applying the PRINCE2 method at Practitioner level. Even so, it is a good idea to revise the PRINCE2 method thoroughly in advance.

Exam Strategy

Read the Scenario Booklet carefully before starting the exam, and try to identify the elements of the PRINCE2 method that have been applied to the project. Keep an eye out for flaws in its application.

It is easy to assume that timing is not an issue when the exam is 3 hours long. However, the 360 marks available allow only 30 seconds per mark. A question worth six marks, therefore, should take approximately three minutes, while a question worth two marks should take only one minute.

It is a good idea to read through the entire paper first, then to attempt the simpler questions, and finally to go back to the more difficult. This ensures that easy marks are not lost by mis-estimation of the time available.

There is no negative marking in this exam, so answer every question, even if you are uncertain of your answer.

The PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam has an 88% pass-rate. Geared towards a higher level of understanding and competence than the Foundation Exam, it is a rigorous test of practical analytical abilities. These can be honed and best applied by working through practice questions, and by considering the internal structure and the application of the PRINCE2 method in detail.

PRINCE2? is a trademark of the Office of Government Commerce

About the author

Simon Buehring is a project manager, consultant and trainer. He works for KnowledgeTrain which offers training in project management and PRINCE2 courses in the UK and overseas. Simon has extensive experience within the IT industry in the UK and Asia. He can be contacted via the KnowledgeTrain project management training website.

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