As the certificate above shows, I passed the PRINCE2 Practitioner certificate in project management. I took a week-long intensive course with QA Training in Leeds in March, which included the foundation and practitioner exams.
I was lucky to get a funded place, in a ballot held by my trade union branch at work (Unison). QA’s PRINCE2 course is not cheap, costing over £1000 – there would have been no way that I would have been able to afford it with my own funds. For your money, you get a copy of the official textbook (Amazon link), workbooks and full sample papers for both examinations. Refreshments are also provided, and the coffee machine is pretty good, but you need to bring your own lunch. That being said, QA is based in City Exchange in Leeds, which is the tower block overlooking the Trinity Leeds shopping centre, so there’s no shortage of places to eat within staggering distance.
PRINCE2 is a project management method, originally developed by the British government. Indeed, the Cabinet Office co-runs Axelos, the company which manages PRINCE2, in a joint venture with outsourcing firm Capita. Consequently, PRINCE2 is commonly used in project management in the UK public sector and it’s a useful certification to have.
As mentioned, the PRINCE2 course is quite intensive – especially the first two days, where you prepare for the foundation exam. You start the course on Monday, and sit the foundation exam on Tuesday afternoon. There’s around three hours of coursework to complete before the course starts, and two to three hours each weeknight. That’s on top of full days in the classroom. That coffee machine was very much welcome, and I’m also indebted to my wife for managing Lizzie whilst I looked myself in the bedroom to study. I’m also thankful to one of my colleagues who took the course a few weeks before I did, and was able to lend me the textbook. That allowed me to read the first few chapters before starting, so that I had a better grounding of some of the terminology from day one.
You receive provisional results from the Foundation exam straightaway, as a pe-requisite of the Practitioner exam is that you have passed the Foundation level. On Wednesday, the class gained a few additional students who were just studying for Practitioner, and we took the Practitioner exam on Friday afternoon. Both exams are multiple choice, but whilst the Foundation exam is just an hour, the Practitioner exam is two and a half hours. And I needed the full two and a half hours. In the Practitioner exam, you’re typically given four choices; two will be wrong, and the other two will be the right answer but with one for the wrong reason. This is still counted as a wrong answer though, and is the major difference between Practitioner and Foundation. You need to know why an answer is right, not just that it is the right answer.
The results took a couple of weeks, and, fortunately I passed. The pass mark is 55%; I managed 81% in Practitioner and a similar score in Foundation. You don’t get anything extra for passing well: it’s pass or fail. There’s no merit or distinction grades.
The Foundaton certification is valid for life, and the Practitioner certification is valid for three years. You can extend this by doing continuing professional development with Axelos (and paying them some money), which I’ll have to contemplate.
As for my own career, having PRINCE2 doesn’t change anything in the short term. It may mean that I’m able to take on some project work in my current role at work, and I may look for other roles in project management. It was a big confidence boost though; excepting my driving tests, this was the first time I’d taken an exam since leaving university. I also feel pleased that the extra effort that I put in was worth it.