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Tips on Passing the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification

The APM provides a robust range of formal project management qualifications with the recently retitled Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) being the start point for most Project Professionals.

Typically studied over a two day period, this 60 minute multiple choice exam consists of 60 questions.

Each questions comes with four potential answers, A to D, and each requires you to pick just one.

With an average of 1 minute per question this might sound like tight timing but for most this provides plenty of time.

Here at Wellingtone we frequently combine the PFQ with customised training for each corporate client.

Organisations like the professional rigour of a formal exam but also want their colleagues to understand their specific project methodology and associated document templates.  We run these types of courses for all types of organisations; from Honda to Argos, London law firms to Yorkshire based engineering companies.

The tools and techniques of best practice project management can be applied in all projects and establishing formal project management qualifications within an organisation helps enable professional recognition for practitioners.

We have trained thousands of people through formal project management qualifications and here are our top tips for passing the APM PFQ:

  1. Download the APM Body of Knowledge and APM PFQ syllabus. Both are available from the APM website.  You are being tested on your knowledge of the APM Body of Knowledge (currently 6th edition), but not all of it.  The syllabus document clearly shows which topics are included in the PFQ and which are not.
  2. Learn the definitions. Quite a few questions are around “What is the BEST definition of…” so knowing the best definition of a project, programme, configuration, communication is a key requirement. On that topic the APM definition of a project includes the wording “transient endeavour”…not your usual day to day expression! Any answer therefore that includes these words is probably the right answer!
  3. Do the practice paper.  Again you can download this from the APM website and it comes complete with 60 questions and answers (on the back). After studying, go through this paper to understand the style of questions. Once you have marked yourself go through those that you got wrong and try to understand why the answer was something else.
  4. Make sure you understand the role of the Sponsor (they OWN the business case) and the role of the Project Manager.  The PM runs the project on a day to day basis and they OWN the PMP (Project Management Plan).  The Sponsor approves the PMP, so it effectively becomes the contract between the organisation and the PM.
  5. Understand the difference between a risk and an issue (risk might happen, issue has happened). Risks can be positive as well as negative. The formal definition of an issue is also more than you might expect. Something is an issue if it has to be escalated from one level to the next level of management.
  6. Be familiar with Belbin.  He defined a way of assessing non-technical characteristics of team members and a Belbin analysis can help determine if you have the right mix of characters in your project.
  7. Understand critical path analysis.  There used to be an example network diagram frequently included in the exam but I’ve not seen this for some time.  Rather having to therefore do an analysis to calculate the float you will be asked around the terminology of this subject.  So understand the terms logic links, lags, float and critical path.
  8. Understand the basic methods of estimating; parametric (a measure per unit), bottom up, comparative (compare with historical data) and that estimates should improve over the lifecycle (the estimating funnel).
  9. Any answer that includes a defined amount of time or money is not the right answer. For example if one of the answers to the question “how often you should produce a status report” is “no more than MONTHLY” then this is not the right answer. Projects vary in size from hours to years so every project cannot be shoehorned into a defined “monthly” process.  The exam & PFQ generally is not about your particular projects, but about any type of project.
    Understand the meaning of WBS, CBS, PBS and OBS and know that if you combine the WBS and OBS you can get a RACI Matrix which is an example of a RAM (acronym city!)

Of course the exam includes questions on many other topics too and I could end up replicating the APM Body of Knowledge before completing a thorough list of top tips.

In terms of actually doing the exam, read each question thoroughly before looking at the answers. You are likely to be able to eliminate one or two answers straight away, often leaving you with a couple to choice from if you’re not sure.

I always say to delegates to go with your first “gut” view.  In other words, don’t second guess yourself.  The number of people who review their answers and then change them to something that’s wrong as they have time to over think an answer.

Don’t do this.  The APM is not trying to catch you out but is testing your knowledge of the APM Body of Knowledge.

I hope this provides some guidance, do your homework and good luck!

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