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PRINCE2 Certification – Stand Out from the Crowd
By Paul Atkin

PRINCE2 certification is a great complement to your PMP and the 5th Edition of the PMBOK now specifically recommends PRINCE2 (Section 1.1). Having PRINCE2 Registered Practitioner on your LinkedIn profile shows you have taken your skills to the next level.

2 Levels of PRINCE2 Certification

You can gain PRINCE2 certification at the Foundation and Practitioner levels

Both the levels are based entirely on the manual: “Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2.” There are many PRINCE2 books available but this only source the examiners use when setting the questions. To ensure consistency and international acceptance both exams are mapped to Blooms taxonomy of learning objectives.

  1. PRINCE2 Foundation Exam

    The Foundation exam tests your knowledge and comprehension of PRINCE2 (Blooms Level 1 & 2). Most of the questions are straightforward multiple choice: 1 statement, 4 options – and you pick the correct option. Some questions require you to recognize a missing word while a few use the word “not”. For example: “which of the following are NOT produced during the PRINCE2 Managing Product Delivery process.” The Foundation exam lasts 1 hour and has 75 questions. The pass mark is 50%.

    A pass at the Foundation level is a pre-requisite to taking the Practitioner exam. Most people pass – if you do the work you’ll get it. The Practitioner exam is harder

  2. PRINCE2 Practitioner Exam

    Success at the Practitioner level shows that you can apply PRINCE2 to a scenario and analyze information and make appropriate decisions using the methodology. Application and Analysis are Levels 3 & 4 in the Blooms taxonomy.

    The Practitioner exam is a 2.5 hour exam. It’s based on a 1 page scenario with extra information assigned to some questions. The questions use a more sophisticated form of multiple choice called the objective testing format. There are 8 questions, with 10 points per question. There are 5 types of question in the Practitioner exam:

    • Classic multiple choice – you pick the right answer from a list of 3 or 4 possible answers
    • Multiple response – this time you have to identify 2 correct statements in each answer. These are tough as you only get the point if you get both correct. An example might be “which 2 documents would a project manager check when examining a new issue”

    • Matching questions – you get 2 columns of information. The first could be short paragraphs of text from the scenario. The second could be sections of a PRINCE2 document, such as a Business Case or Project Brief. You have to match the paragraphs with the correct areas of the document. For example does the statement “this project will result in significantly reduced headcount” belong in the Benefits or Risks area of a PRINCE2 Business Case? The correct answer depends on the scenario information you have been given so you have to make the right judgment in the circumstances given to you.

    • Sequencing questions – a series of actions or documents are given from the scenario along the lines of “what should the project manager do next.” Different orders are suggested and you have to pick the right one

    • Assertion / Reason questions – you get a sentence in 2 parts separated by the word “because”. For example: “Apples are good for you because they contain vitamin C.” You have to evaluate if each of the 2 parts of the sentence are true and if the second part of the sentence is true because of the first. In the example, all parts are true: apples are good for you, they do contain vitamin C, and this is a reason why apples are good for you. This means that there are 5 possible answers to an Assertion / Reason question and these correspond to A, B, C etc on your answer sheet.

    • The pass mark is 55% so you need 44 correct answers. You can refer to your PRINCE2 manual during the Practitioner exam. Not everyone passes Practitioner first time. Nor should they – it’s a professional exam, after all. Fortunately there is a network of Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) who provide classroom and online training to help you achieve success.

Taking the PRINCE2 Exams

You can get PRINCE2 certified by attending a class, taking an online course or studying in your own time:

  • Instructor Led Training

    If you take a course with a PRINCE2 (ATO) the exams are included in the class. If a training organization does not offer the exams they are probably unofficial and you should avoid them. During a course, the Foundation exam is usually taken on the afternoon of Day 3 and the Practitioner on Day 5. The Foundation exam is marked by your PRINCE2 Approved Trainer. The Practitioner exam is sent off to an examination institute for marking and you get the results later, by email.

  • Online Learning or self-study

    There are several exam options if you take an online course or study in your own time. It depends on where you live and how you prefer to take the test.

    • Library, college or testing center. Exam institutes have different arrangements in different countries. In Canada the most common arrangement is with libraries and colleges who will proctor the exams. In the US it is testing centers.
    • Take the exam at home – using a remote proctor or webcam recording of your activity.

    • The British Council – this organization has offices around the world and in some countries provides an exam service for PRINCE2

    • Public exams – some exam institutes organize regular public exams in big cities. You book a place online and then take the test in a hotel or exam venue with about 100 other people. This is how I did my Foundation back in 2002.

The best thing is to discuss it with your PRINCE2 Accredited Training Organization, or contact one of the exam institutes. They usually have more than one option available to you.

Do I need experience or qualifications before taking a PRINCE2 exam?

To take a PRINCE2 exam you need to do the study – either in class or online / self study and then take the test. You do not need to show academic qualifications or hours of project management experience first. I think of it like learning to drive: you learn the skill and then take the test.

Maintaining Your PRINCE2 Certification

The PRINCE2 Foundation exam does not need renewing. The Practitioner has to be renewed after 5 years or you are not a PRINCE2 Registered Practitioner. To renew, you need to pass the PRINCE2 Re-registration exam. This is a one hour exam in the same style as your original Practitioner except it’s only 3 questions, instead of 8.

Paul Atkin started using PRINCE2 in 1998. He has used PRINCE2 to deliver projects in the financial services, utilities and food & drink sectors. In 2007 he introduced PRINCE2 Certification to Canada and has provided training services to over 1500 project managers at Environment Canada, Manitoba eHealth, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Shared Services Canada. As a PRINCE2 Approved Trainer Paul trained over 1000 students in over 100 official courses. He is currently Training Director at Advantage Learning Ltd a PRINCE2 Accredited Training Organization providing PRINCE2 certification in North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa. You can check Paul’s PRINCE training on his website.

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