PRINCE2® Practitioner exam tips
This guide to passing the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam provides you with some great hints and tips to make you well prepared to sit your PRINCE2 Practitioner exam (2017 version). Read on for the details.
Since 2005, Knowledge Train has helped over 10,000 people gain PRINCE2 Practitioner certification. Since 2012, our pass rate for the PRINCE2 Practitioner exams has been 10% above the UK national average at 83%.
With thorough training methods and understanding about exam techniques our delegates consistently achieve their PRINCE2 Practitioner certification.
Practitioner exam purpose
The purpose of the exam is to assess whether you can apply and tailor PRINCE2 in context. If you pass the exam you should, with suitable direction, be able to start applying the method to a real project. However, you but may not be sufficiently skilled to do this appropriately in all situations.
Some factors which may affect your ability to apply PRINCE2 on a real project includes your project management expertise, the complexity of the project and the support provided to you in the use of PRINCE2 in your work environment.
The PRINCE2 Practitioner exam assesses whether you are able to:
- apply the PRINCE2 principles in context
- apply and tailor relevant aspects of PRINCE2 themes and processes in context
- assess whether an approach to applying the themes or processes is effective and fit for purpose in a given context
- apply the PRINCE2 requirements for a theme, demonstrating an understanding of the management products and recommended roles and responsibilities of the theme
- carry out the activities of the processes and their recommended actions, demonstrate an understanding of the recommended roles and responsibilities, and how the themes may be applied within the processes.
Syllabus areas examined
- The 7 principles
- The 7 themes (business case, organization, quality, plans, risk, change, progress)
- The 7 processes (starting up a project, directing a project, initiating a project, controlling a stage, managing product delivery, managing a stage boundary, closing a project)
You are required to have any one of the following:
- PRINCE2 Foundation
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- IPMA Level A® (Certified Projects Director)
- IPMA Level B® (Certified Senior Project Manager)
- IPMA Level C® (Certified Project Manager)
- IPMA Level D® (Certified Project Management Associate)
What's in the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam?
The PRINCE2 Practitioner exam takes 2.5 hours to complete, and you may take an annotated copy of the manual into the exam room with you.
Note: non-native English speakers get 25% more time!
You will be examined on the 4 integrated elements of PRINCE2: the principles, the themes, the processes and tailoring both the themes and processes.
The total number of marks is 68 (8 marks for principles questions, 35 marks for theme questions, 25 marks for process questions).
The pass mark is 55% which means you must score 38 marks or more to pass.
You will be given 3 things:
- a scenario booklet containing information about a fictional project;
- a question booklet containing all the questions;
- an answer sheet where you mark your answers.
This contains a fictional project scenario which describes an organization investing in a project and is normally about 1 page of A4 text. It is this scenario upon which all the questions are based.
This contains all 68 questions, divided into 17 topics. Each topic will be clearly labelled e.g. PRINCIPLES, ORGANIZATION, DIRECTING A PROJECT etc.. The sequence of questions follows the chapters in the PRINCE2 manual i.e. first the principles, then the themes, then the processes.
You fill in your answers in a grid in pencil. The grid is clearly marked to show which question the grid refers to. You will be given a pencil and eraser in the exam.
After attending a course, or studying online, practice papers are the best way to prepare for the types of questions used during the exam. Even when the training day is over, you should practice at home to fully ensure you get to grips with the type of questions used.
Here are the two styles of objective test questions (OTQs) you’ll have to answer during the Practitioner exam:
‘Standard classic’ OTQs – select one answer from a range of options
‘Matching’ OTQs – link each item in one list to the correct item in a second list
‘Standard classic’ OTQs
This question style is where you must choose one from a range of 4 options, like this:
As an example, take a look at this:
Tip: for a question such as this where you have 2 ‘Yes’ and 2 ‘No’ answers to choose from, first decide whether it is yes or no. Then from the 2 options remaining, choose which one sounds the most appropriate.
This question style is where you must link items in one list to items in a second list. There is only one correct response to each question item, but options from the second list may be used once, more than once (in most cases), or not at all. Look at this:
As an example, take a look at this:
How to prepare
Trying the 2 sample exams which comes as part of the course will help you enormously. Timing yourself whilst completing practice papers is also crucial so that you become used to working at a speed required to pass all questions. We’ll talk about exam time-management a little later.
Tabbing the manual
Although you may take the manual into the exam, it’s pointless flicking through it for each question, when you could be using it only for the tricky parts.
Inserting tabs into the PRINCE2 manual will help you quickly find important sections of the book during the exam. Don’t have too many though, because having too many will make it harder to find important pages.
The key sections I recommend to students to tab are: the contents page, the 7 theme chapters (chapters 6-12), the 7 process chapters (chapters 14-20), appendix A, appendix C and the glossary.
Highlighting the manual
Highlighting key parts of the manual will help you as well. Too much highlighting will hinder you, however, so make intelligent decisions when deciding which parts to bring to your attention. Your trainer will advise you on the best sections to highlight.
Learning about a new subject requires you to engage your brain with the material. Having to think about the different elements forces your brain to process the information and make connections between them. A good way to do this is to draw mind-maps – one for each theme and process.
Within our pre-course study we already have mind-maps, but if you draw your own on a blank piece of paper it will help you enormously. After you finish you can compare yours against ours. Just remember, there is no ‘perfect’ mind-map so although yours might not look the same as ours it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Ensure you get a good night’s sleep the night before your exam. You want to arrive at the exam venue bright and alert, not sleepy after a late night.
The exam lasts for 2.5 hours (or 3 hours 8 minutes if you’re a non-native English speaker).
Read the scenario first
When the exam starts, spend 5 minutes reading the scenario booklet. Underline or highlight things which appear significant. For example, if it tells you the reason why the project is happening, write “reason” next to the sentence. This will help you when answering the questions later.
It will usually explain the number of management stages in the project and will probably say which products are delivered in each stage.
There will then be a further 145 minutes left. There are 2 time management strategies you can consider.
Strategy 1: equal time per question
Allocate 2 minutes for each of the 68 questions. Mark your answer in the answer sheet clearly. After answering a question, move to the next one. This will take 136 minutes which, if you spend 5 minutes reading the scenario will leave you 9 minutes for checking that you have filled in your answer sheet correctly. Ensure you answer all 68 questions.
Strategy 2: two pass approach
Starting at the beginning go through the entire exam paper twice. The first time through you will answer the easy questions and you will fill in your answer sheet with those answers. “Easy” questions might be the ones which take little time to answer, or the ones which you are confident that you know the answer for.
Skip any questions which you think are too difficult or take a lot of time to read.
During the second pass through, you will attempt the questions which you skipped in the first pass. The risk with this approach is that it is more difficult to keep track of time and you might end up not completing all questions.
Lastly, remember to answer every question. As marks are not deducted for wrong answers, you might just be right, and trusting your instincts will usually serve you well.
What to bring with you
You must remember to bring:
- Photo ID (such as a passport or driving license) otherwise you cannot sit the exam
- Note: you will be provided with a pencil and eraser
You might also like to bring:
- Water, to keep your concentration levels high
- Highlighter to highlight important details in the scenario booklet
If you want to see a detailed PRINCE2 Practitioner syllabus it’s available for download from the AXELOS web site.
Simon Buehring is the Founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train.