The PRINCE2 project management methodology was developed for use on government in the late 1980s, and within ten years had become an internationally recognized framework for successful project management, used on projects in public and private organizations across the world.
PRINCE2 certification is an essential requirement for many project management jobs, and a PRINCE2 qualification of some kind is a valuable addition to any project manager’s CV. But which level of PRINCE2 certification is suitable for each individual? And how can a PRINCE2 certificate most easily be acquired?
The Three Levels of PRINCE2 Certification
There are three levels of PRINCE2 certification: PRINCE2 Foundation, PRINCE2 Practitioner, and PRINCE2 Professional.
PRINCE2 Foundation Certificate
The PRINCE2 Foundation qualification is the first step for any aspiring project manager. Indeed, it is suitably for anyone who works, or wants to work on a project team. PRINCE2 students must gain the Foundation-level qualification before progressing to the Practitioner and Professional certificates.
PRINCE2 Foundation candidates will typically attend a three-day PRINCE2 Foundation training course, during which they become familiar with the official PRINCE2 manual (Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2), in preparation for the PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
The PRINCE2 Foundation exam is a closed-book, multiple-choice paper lasting one hour, and containing 75 questions. Exam candidates have to score 50% in order to pass (35/70 questions, since 5 are “trial” questions, and not included in the final score). The national pass rate for the PRINCE2 Foundation exam is 99%, although the pass rates for different ATOs (Accredited Training Organizations) varies.
PRINCE2 Practitioner Certificate
The PRINCE2 Practitioner Qualification is aimed at project managers, or individuals who would like to work as project managers. It indicates understanding not simply of what is involved in the PRINCE2 framework, but also how the various project management processes and techniques should be applied to real situations and projects.
Successful PRINCE2 Practitioner exam candidates are listed as “Registered Practitioners” in the Successful Candidates Register maintained by the APMG (the PRINCE2 examination and accreditation body), and are entitled to include “PRINCE2 Practitioner” on their business cards. However, the PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification only remains valid for 5 years, and must be maintained by passing the PRINCE2 Practitioner Re-Registration exam.
The simplest way for new PRINCE2 students to gain the Practitioner certificate is to enrol in a 5-day PRINCE2 Foundation & Practitioner course that includes both Foundation and Practitioner examinations. The first three days of such courses focus on familiarizing students with the PRINCE2 syllabus and gaining the PRINCE2 Foundation certificate; the following 2 days concentrate on applying the PRINCE2 methodology to project case studies, in preparation for the PRINCE2 Practitioner examination.
Students who already hold the PRINCE2 Foundation certificate can enrol on a 2-day PRINCE2 Practitioner course, although it is important for such students to ensure both that they have sufficient recall of the PRINCE2 Foundation course content, and that they learned from an up-to-date version of the PRINCE2 manual.
The PRINCE2 Practitioner exam also involves a multiple-choice paper. Unlike the Foundation exam, however, it is open book (students can refer to the official PRINCE2 manual during the exam), and lasts for two and a half hours. Students must score 55% (59/108) in order to pass. Whereas the PRINCE2 Foundation paper asks candidates to provide basic information about the PRINCE2 method, the PRINCE2 Practitioner examination provide a project scenario, and tests the candidate’s ability to apply PRINCE2 guidelines to each situation.
The PRINCE2 Practitioner paper is divided into nine question areas, each of which is framed around one of the 11 PRINCE2 syllabus areas (two syllabus areas are omitted at random):
o Business Case
o Starting up a Project and Initiating a Project processes
o Directing a Project, Managing a Stage Boundary, and Closing a Project processes
o Controlling a Project and Managing Product Delivery processes
The national pass rate for the PRINCE2 Practitioner examination is 73%, reflecting the greater demands placed upon the project management capabilities of Practitioner candidates. Research suggests, however, that the pass rate is higher for candidates who attend a full PRINCE2 Foundation & Practitioner training course, as this provides the most intensive and consistent instruction in the PRINCE2 method and its application.
PRINCE2 Practitioner Re-Registration
All PRINCE2 Registered Practitioners must renew their Practitioner certification within 5 years of passing their PRINCE2 Practitioner examination. The PRINCE2 Re-Registration exam is essentially a shortened version of the Practitioner paper, intended to ensure that Registered Practitioners maintain their familiarity with the PRINCE2 framework.
PRINCE2 Re-Registration exam candidates can apply to take this exam directly through a PRINCE2 ATO or the APMG, but 2-day PRINCE2 Re-Registration courses offer a more secure approach for Registered Practitioners to revise and update their grasp of the PRINCE2 methodology.
The PRINCE2 Practitioner Re-Registration exam is, like the Practitioner paper, based on a scenario booklet, but contains only three question areas. There are, accordingly, 36 marks (12 for each question area), and candidates must score 55% (20/36) in order to pass. Students have one hour to complete the paper, and are allowed to refer to the PRINCE2 official manual during the examination.
PRINCE2 Professional Certificate
Launched in January 2012, the PRINCE2 Professional qualification is the newest addition to the PRINCE2 family. The Professional certificate is aimed at experienced project managers and Registered PRINCE2 Practitioners, who want to deepen their understanding of PRINCE2, demonstrate their ability to apply the PRINCE2 framework to project situations, and enhance their project management CV.
Unlike the PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner qualifications, the PRINCE2 Professional Certificate is not based on a training course and examination. Instead, candidates attend a two-and-a-half day assessment, during which they undertake various group and solo tasks, under constant evaluation by at least two accredited PRINCE2 Professional Evaluators. There are 19 competency criteria, in each of which candidates score a mark between 0 and 3. A PRINCE2 Professional candidate must score an average of 1.6 in order to gain the PRINCE2 Professional certificate.
Like the PRINCE2 Practitioner examination, the entire PRINCE2 Professional assessment is based on a project scenario. Unlike the Practitioner paper, however, PRINCE2 Professional candidates are asked not simply to answer questions about how, for example, a Business Case should be constructed, but rather to prepare a Business Case, create plans, and capture risks and lessons, etc. In other words PRINCE2 Professional assesses candidates’ abilities to actually perform project management activities.
Alternative PRINCE2 Training Options
Research suggests that PRINCE2 students who attend full, face-to-face training events have a greater chance of passing the PRINCE2 examinations. However, classroom training is not appropriate for every student, particularly as PRINCE2 students can now be found on every continent, sometimes at great distance from a PRINCE2 ATO. It is therefore important to be aware of the different options available for preparing for the PRINCE2 examinations.
PRINCE2 e-Learning Options
Distance learning can be an effective way to prepare for the PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner examinations. PRINCE2 e-learning packages typically include accredited PRINCE2 study materials (e.g., access to online content and exam-style testing), online mock PRINCE2 examinations, access to an accredited PRINCE2 trainer, contact with other PRINCE2 students via a PRINCE2 study forum, and the opportunity to take the PRINCE2 examinations online.
The PRINCE2 Foundation syllabus usually takes about 12 hours to complete, and students are advised to practise the examination 4–5 times, before attempting the formal PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
Online PRINCE2 Practitioner training is also widely available, and follows a similar format to the Foundation syllabus. However, it is recommended that PRINCE2 Practitioner students also obtain the official PRINCE2 manual, for use in the Practitioner examination.
PRINCE2 Blended Learning
The PRINCE2 Practitioner examination requires far deeper understanding of the PRINCE2 framework and its application, and some students therefore prefer a blended learning program, using e-learning materials for the PRINCE2 Foundation component, and classroom training for PRINCE2 Practitioner training. This option allows students to spend as long as they need familiarizing themselves with the basic PRINCE2 material, and then to receive intensive, face-to-face training in the more complex aspects of PRINCE2
This article is written by Simon Buehring, the Lead PRINCE2 Trainer and founder of Knowledge Train.