As the project profession matures and more and more people make project management the focus of their career qualifications and certifications become more valuable. The APM PMQ (Project Management Qualification) is a great way to demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of the APM’s best practice for project management.
The exam is 3 hours, with 16 questions of which you must answer 10.
The thought of sitting an exam fills many people with dread and unwelcome flashbacks to long-forgotten school days. But fear not, there are simple things you can do to increase your chances of success. This guide is written by Karin Maule our senior training consultant, who herself has taken numerous project management exams and has trained and coached hundreds of project managers to pass APM PFQ, APM PMQ, PMP and MSP exams.
Before taking the APM PMQ exam
1) Understand what you are being tested on
A lot of people make the mistake of forgetting what their qualification is really testing. In the APM PMQ, you are not being tested on how you work in your organisation or your personal preference. No, the exam tests that you understand what APM say is the right or best, thing to do.
For some people it will be necessary to take off their “everyday work hat” and put on their “exam taking hat” and that can be a bit tricky if you are quite experienced or have gotten very used to your organisation’s particular way of doing things.
2) Ensure this is appropriate for YOU
The APM PMQ is not an exam for beginners. If you are starting out your project management career and this is your first encounter with the APM, or project management best practice in general maybe consider looking at the APM PFQ (Project Fundamentals Qualification) instead, or at least ensure you have extra time to study and get your head around all the topics!
Tips to help you with the APM PMQ
The sections below will help clarify what you need to know and do, but if in doubt contact your Wellingtone trainer and we will help you!
Yes unfortunately there is no way around it, you will need to do quite a lot of study to prepare for the exam. The things that are necessary to learn are:
- The relevant topics
- Exam techniques
Specific topics that are very likely to appear in any project management related exam are;
- Key definitions and concepts
- Definitions of roles and responsibilities
- Lifecycles and key processes as described by the APM
- Documents or assets
- Good practice (from the point of view of the APM) in leadership and teamwork
- Good practice (from the point of view of the APM) in stakeholder management
All exams are aligned to APM’s Body of Knowledge (APMBOK) but it is not sufficient to just read the book. A training course is highly recommended.
Take a look at some of the project management training courses Wellingtone has to offer.
2) Take a practice test
Each exam is a little bit different. It is useful to do a practice test to understand the type and structure of questions you are likely to get. It also helps those of us that left school a few years ago to get back into the swing of things.
Treat your practice exam as the real deal. Set a timer for the relevant time limit and approach the practise test as if it was the real one. No peeking in books, no asking your friends or family for help.
Relevant practice exams and practice questions are included in all wellingtone’s courses.
3) Virtual exams: make sure you have completed the relevant set-up in good time
Virtual or online exams are increasingly common. If you are doing a virtual exam check in good time (at least a couple of days in advance) what you need to do in terms of set-up.
For many exams, you need to download specific invigilation software. This might not always comply with your organisation’s IT safety policies so you may need to use a personal laptop.
There are also additional rules:
- You may not have notes or manuals on the table or visible on a wall etc while you take the exam
- You must not use headphones
- You must be visible to the invigilator throughout the exam
If you do a Wellingtone APM Accredited course, the exam is included in the course and you will not need to download additional software. However, your trainer will give you specific instructions for how to set up your room before the exam.
3) Need additional time or support? Apply in advance
The APM will allow extra time for anyone that has reduced capacity to read the questions or provide answers in the standard format (such as dyslexia or physical disabilities that may prevent you from writing etc) but you may need to provide some form of evidence in advance. Check this with the APM in good time to make sure you get the additional time and support you have the right to.
If you take your exam through Wellingtone your trainer will help you submit the right information but please note this has to be done a minimum of two working weeks before your exam!
4) During the exam
Before you start, and at any point during the exam that you feel stressed or panicky (it can happen to anyone), sit back, close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. This will help calm your nerves, focus your attention and “get you in the zone”.
- Read the question – and all the options
Yes, this might seem like an obvious thing to do but this is vital for success.
There are 16 questions and you must answer 10. Therefore it is vital that you select the 10 questions that are best for you. Answer those and ONLY those.
In October 2021 the APM added 15 minutes of reading time to the overall exam time. Use this time to choose your questions.
5) Ensure you understand what is being asked
The APM will use words such as “Explain” when they need a lot of detail and “Outline” when less detail is required.
Ensure you understand what is being asked of you for each question.
If you take a preparation course with Wellingtone your trainer will help you understand the different types of questions and do lots of practice exercises so that you are ready for the exam!
6) Use the full time and manage it well
To answer 10 questions in 3 hours you should spend 18 minutes on each question. Each question has Part A and Part B. You should aim to spend 7 minutes of Part A and 11 minutes on Part B to ensure you cover all topics in appropriate detail. You will need to manage your time carefully to ensure you answer 10 questions satisfactorily.
There are no bonus points for finishing quickly so don’t rush it. If you manage to answer all questions with time to spare take the time to have a look through the questions to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
If you take a preparation course with Wellingtone your trainer will give you lots of timed practice questions so that you are familiar with the format and ready for the exam!
After the exam
Celebrate! You made it!
Don’t forget to add your new qualification to LinkedIn, your CV etc.