What is the format of APMG’s Foundation and Practitioner exams?
The foundation exams, across the board, are all multiple choice. They might vary in the number of questions and the number of minutes you have to answer them but essentially they are basic multiple choice which means that you get one statement and four options and you need to identify which is the correct option. They are very straightforward, the critical thing when answering a multiple choice question is to pick up a pen and underline key words in the question. Get your brain working, identify what you’re looking for and then look at that list of four things. That way you can find out what you’re looking for which is the best way to get the answers quickly.
What does the Practitioner exam entail?
For the Practitioner exam, it’s what’s called objective based testing. What’s involved there is you get a scenario so you are looking at how you practically apply what you know. You’re expected to read the situation, whether it’s a project, change or programme, and you’re asked to apply what you know about PRINCE2®, MSP®, change management or risk, to that situation. There will be some multiple choice questions but a lot of them are what we call matching where you have to identify, from a description of something, what might be the correct heading in a document or the name of the document or where in the actual process it takes place. It might be a sequencing question, what you are trying to do there is identify the correct sequence of activities. I recommend with those sorts of questions to try to work out ahead of time what you actually think is happening. What do you think is the correct sequence before you go looking for it in the answers?
Also, within objective based testing is something called assertion reason. There will be a statement and you need to find out if it’s true or false and then you must consider the reason. Is that an explanation of the statement? Is that a true explanation or not? And then you have to see if they’re both the same, if they are both true or they are both false. Assertion reason takes quite a bit of working out, but it really does test if you know what it is you’re talking about.
What can candidates take into the Practitioner exam?
The main thing is you can take in your manual. So if you’re in a PRINCE2 course you can take in the text book, and the same for MSP. Remember that it is there for looking up critical details. We know from people who fail the exam the reason they failed is that they spent so long looking up all the details of things they already knew. They’ve got the book there and they think ‘Oh I’ll just double check it. That’ll be the best thing to do.’ But that’s not the way to answer the exam; the book is there as a support not there to look up every answer. But it is there, and that helps.
What is the best way for candidates to revise?
To be honest, revision starts not the night before the exam but probably during the pre-course preparation. For any training company, ask about pre-course preparation. They should give you the manual before you go to the course and give you lots of things to work out. The more you know before you get to the course, the more you can ask your trainer about how everything fits together and the deeper meanings of things. So hopefully during the pre-course you’ve got a lot of the terminology and the structure already in your head so you’re not cramming that during the course and you’re actually putting it together. I think it’s fair to say revision starts very early and I think it’s one of those things where the more information you get in ahead of time, the much easier it is on the day of the exam.
What should candidates do if they fail?
First thing is to try and find out why. A very simple test is to have a look and see how you scored in the latter questions as opposed to the former questions. If you were scoring highly in the earlier part of the exam, but you got very few marks towards the latter two or three questions, I can almost guarantee that it was a time management problem. You clearly knew the material in the first few questions and didn’t suddenly lose all of that knowledge as you worked through the exam. I expect you found that instead of spending 20 minutes on the first question, you may have spent 30 or 35 minutes. Do that a few times, and you’ve got nothing left for the latter questions. That is usually the most obvious thing to look for. Then be honest with yourself, have a look and see if there were a couple of questions in there you didn’t know the answers to. If you were scoring sensible marks the whole way through but a couple really let you down, you can see from your results letter what those subjects were and then you can find out if you should have known more.
Secondly, talk to your trainer. You should be able to phone up your trainer or ATO and ask to speak to the trainer. When you do that, you get the opportunity to talk to them and say ‘Help me out here. You know me, I was on your course and I expect you made a few records about what was involved, can you tell me any advice?’ So stay calm. And the third thing is that it’s people who pass the Foundation who perhaps go on to fail the Practitioner the first time. They have to remember – they’ve got a qualification on their CV! They’ve got the Foundation pass, so that I think is really important.