Tips for Passing the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) Exam

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Tips for Passing the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) Exam

The Project Management Qualification (PMQ) is a valuable accreditation to add to you portfolio and CV. The qualification will give existing and aspiring project management professionals everything they need to know to be confident in managing future projects, both large or small. If you have recently sat our APM Project Management Qualification or studied elsewhere and are now planning on sitting the exam make sure to read on.

The PMQ exam is complex in that it is a written exam completed over a 3-hour period. You will be given a booklet which will contain 16 questions, of which you will need to select 10 questions that you feel comfortable answering.

To help you secure your professional qualification we have put together some top tips to help you prepare and pass your exam, with the help from our trainer, Michelle Rowland.

What tips can you give me to pass the APM PMQ exam?

The best tip is to practise, practise, practise. The more you write answers the better you will get, and the more confident you will become.

Remember to answer the exact question asked

Pay attention to the wording of the question and make sure you remember to answer the exact question posed. For example, if you are asked to explain benefits of a process try not to focus on the features of a process.

Pay attention to the command verb

Again, make sure you read the question carefully and remember to pay attention to the command verb posed within the question.

  • Explain the difference/differentiate: focus on the differences between the two project management practices/knowledge areas within your answers, as well as the reason and purposes for these differences
  • Explain: focus on the reasons, purposes and why of the project management practices/knowledge areas
  • Describe: focus on: the how, the features, the relevant characteristics and events of project management practices/knowledge areas within your answers
  • Interpret: focus on translating information/data into another form to aid understanding of the subject matter, to demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter and/or to inform a future action
  • Outline: focus on setting out the main points/characteristics of the project management subject area posed within the question
  • State: focus on expressing the details of the project management subject area posed within the question, without elaboration

How do I answer a differentiate question?

For questions that ask to differentiate between two project management elements – candidates often write two answers. One answer will describe one element of the question and a second answer will describe the other. These types of answers aren’t showing two differences or considerations between the project management element(s) of the question, and therefore the candidate misses out on an opportunity to be awarded sufficient marks within the question.

For differentiate questions – candidates often explain one element of difference, but not the other(s), so it’s unclear what the difference is.

How do I answer a sub part question?

The layout of your answers do not impact how you're awarded marks, but it’s suggested that you make clear distinctions between each point you are making for each question sub part. For example, if a question sub part asks for three descriptions, it’s advised that you separate out each of your descriptions into three individual paragraphs, each one tackling one of the descriptions.

You are advised to answer parts (a) and (b) to each question – the combined total of both parts is 50-marks, this is how you can achieve maximum scores for questions. Candidates often provide the same amount of information for both parts (a) and (b) even though part (a) is allocated 20-marks and part (b) is allocated 30-marks.

How much time should I spend on each question during my PMQ exam?

Time needs to be managed effectively. Candidates usually provide answers lacking depth and containing insufficient information when they’re running out of time within the assessment. As well as this candidates often don’t complete all ten questions for the assessment. You should look to spend 18 minutes per question, to answer 10 questions within 3 hours, this includes reading time. This can be broken down as 7 minutes for the part (a) 20-mark questions and 11 minutes for the part (b) 30-mark questions.

How much should I write in my PMQ exam?

Your trainer will cover this with you during your training. There is guidance on how much is too little or too much. Generally speaking, for ‘Explain’ style questions we say that you should have covered ‘Why, What, How, Who and When’ to give you a well answered question. Each of these could be a paragraph made up of 2-3 sentences, making it easier for the examiner to mark.

Questions with ‘and’ for instance; “describe three aspects, and the function of these aspects, of …” candidates often don’t address the ‘and’ element and therefore miss out on an opportunity to be awarded sufficient marks for a passing mark within the question.

Some final points to remember

Get someone to read your answer

Another tip I often recommend, in training sessions and with homework, is to get someone else to read your answer. Get them to be your critical friend. Do they think the question was answered or have you started to waffle? Have you included enough to give the reader a sense of what you are trying to get across without too much waffle and jargon?

Swap answers with fellow delegates

It is also worth swapping answers with your fellow delegates/classmates during the course to read their answers. You’d be surprised at what you can learn from each other. You may like the way they have said something which you can adopt and adapt in your own answers.

Use the PMQ study guide

Another tip is to use the PMQ Study Guide and attempt to answer all the question types they have so that you are well prepared for whatever may feature in the actual exam paper. Having a well-rounded understanding of all the topics will allow you to go into the exam feeling ready for whatever may be presented in the exam paper.

Here is some guidance from the APM that gives you examples of good and bad answers to potential PMQ exam questions - your trainer will go through these during your course.

There is also a whole section on the APM site where they offer you lots of information - scroll down to the Supporting resources section.

If you would like to learn more about this qualification and like to join our next course, check out our Project Management Qualification (PMQ) here.

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