Author: Steve McIntosh
PRINCE2is a structured method for project management developed and owned by UK government body The Office of Government Commerce (OGC). It is widely used in the UK and around the world as a framework for project management and is generally accepted as representing "best practice". It is used by many UK government departments and also by many private sector organisations. It is intended as a standard approach for any type of project. In 2009 the method was thoroughly revised and updated to reflect the experience of users and current thinking.
The method is fully defined in the OGC manual Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2.
This article is intended to help you to take and pass the PRINCE2 Foundation Examination. It covers the basic structure and format of the exam. Future articles will include more on preparation, revision and exam technique. I will also be publishing articles about the PRINCE2 Practitioner Examination and use of the method in practice.
The exam leads to the first level PRINCE2 qualification - Foundation. It is awarded by APMG - the official worldwide 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 more a test of understanding and application of PRINCE2). It is a recognised qualification and specfied as either mandatory or desirable for many project management jobs. The syllabus is entirely based on the PRINCE2® manual mentioned above.
You can take the exam as part of a training course or at one of APMG's open exam centres.
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.'
AMPG Website - Foundation Exam
It is "closed book"so you cannot 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 the answer sheet. 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 can annotate the question paper as you wish - using pen, highlighter or anything else. For example you may wish to mark a possible answer if you are unsure and come back to it later.
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 trainer / invigilator 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. 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 afterwards.
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?), eraser, pencil sharpener. You might also need a pen / highlighter to annotate the question paper. 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 pass rate is 95.93% (source: APMG October 2009). The secret is good preparation and sound exam technique. More on that in future articles.
More about the method and the examinations is on my:
About the Author
teve has been delivering PRINCE2® courses since they first started in 1996. He has trained hundreds of exam candidates and has seen many exam papers over that time. He is based in St Ives Cornwall UK.