A new exam format for the APM PMQ

Paul Naybour

Say goodbye to long essays! The new APM PMQ exam features multiple-choice questions, short answers, and more. More accessible, flexible, and up to date.

The Association for Project Management (APM) Project Management Qualification (APM PMQ) has long been a respected foundational qualification for project managers, providing a solid base for building a successful career. Previously, it involved a written exam with ten essays to be completed in 3 hours. However, many candidates found the quantity of written content challenging within the time allowed. Over the past year, the APM has reviewed the PMQ and will launch a new version incorporating three significant changes after extensive consultation and piloting.

The syllabus has been updated to align with the APM competence framework used for Chartered Project Professionals. Consequently, some new topics have been added to the course, and many assessment criteria have undergone minor but significant changes.

The APM PMQ exam format has significantly transformed, making it more accessible to a broader audience. Traditional essay questions have been replaced with four types: multiple-choice, select-from-a-list (missing word), and short and long answers. This change is intended to provide a more diverse and comprehensive assessment of your project management capabilities.

The pass mark will now be flexible, similar to the adjustable boundaries of GCSE and A-levels, offering you more opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills.

The exam is now in two parts, with a rest break between the two parts.

In September 2023, Parallel participated in the pilot for a new exam. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with attendees reporting a significantly reduced stress level compared to the old exam. The new syllabus is less congested, with some of the more esoteric topics, such as critical chain, being removed. This smaller syllabus allowed more time to discuss application of the theory and make the questions more straightforward. Overall, the qualification is still challenging but more accessible for those who found the previous requirement of writing several thousand words in three hours difficult.

In this blog post, we explain the key differences and what they mean for people considering taking the APM PMQ in the next few months, or people who want to resit the APM PMQ.

We will start by explaining the changes.

Changes to the syllabus

New additions to the syllabus, which is now aligned with the APM Competence Framework, include:

  1. Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion
  2. Sustainability
  3. Ethics, Compliance, and Professionalism
  4. Transition Management

There are also many minor changes throughout the syllabus, such as “Differentiate between linear, iterative and hybrid life cycles” becoming “Understand the distinctive features of linear, iterative and hybrid life cycles (including why projects are structured as phases in linear life cycles) and know when each is applicable.” The new objectives explore the application of and distinctive features of each. In practice, this means that much of the course is significantly different.

AddedRemoved
• Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion
• Sustainability
• Ethics, Compliance, and Professionalism
• Transition Management
• Understand how the context and culture of an organisation, and the
needs of a specific project, influence the choice of life cycle and any
adaptations that may be needed to the life cycle.
• Know that an organisation’s governance approach will inform the
approach used for a project.
• Knowledge of how organisational environments impact projects.
• Understand the importance of linking projects to an organisation’s
objectives.
• Know that the business case forms the baseline for the project.
• Importance of tailoring messaging to meet stakeholder requirements.
• Understand the importance of producing information and collecting
data to inform decision making and communicate actions and
decisions to stakeholders.
• Understand the importance of a coaching and mentoring style in
leadership, and the role of emotional intelligence.
• Emphasises the relationship between the business case and project outcomes.
• Understanding of using MVP and MMP in iterative life cycles.
• Knowledge of quality indicators and their relation to the business case.
• Understand why governance is important in risk and issue
management.
Assessment criteria taken out of the APM PMQ syllabus
1.2 explain the way in which an organisational breakdown structure is used to create a responsibility assignment matrix.
1.3 explain the role and key responsibilities of the project manager
1.6 describe the functions and benefits of different types of project office (including project/programme/portfolio management office (PMO), embedded PMO, central PMO and hub-and-spoke PMO).
2.4 outline the role of knowledge and information management to inform decision making.
2.6 explain why projects may close early.
3.2 differentiate between project management, portfolio management and programme management
3.3 outline the relationship between programmes, projects and strategic change.
3.4 describe situations where the use of programme management may be appropriate. 
3.5 describe situations where the use of portfolio management may be appropriate.
6.1 explain the importance of a business case throughout the project life cycle.
6.3 explain investment appraisal techniques used by a project manager (including Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Net Present Value (NPV)).
6.4 explain an information management process (including collection, storage, curation, dissemination, archiving and the destruction of information).
6.6 explain the relationship between the deployment baseline and the development of a project management plan in linear and iterative life cycles.
6.9 explain approaches to producing estimates (including parametric, analogous, analytical and Delphi).
6.14 interpret earned value data (including variances and performance indexes). 
6.15 explain the benefits of using the interpretation of earned value data.
8.1 describe ways to create and maintain a schedule (including critical path and Gantt charts).
8.2 differentiate between critical path and critical chain as scheduling techniques.
8.6 differentiate between cost planning for iterative life cycles and cost planning for linear life cycles
11.2 differentiate between quality control and quality assurance.
Lots of small but significant changes to the syllabus

 

Changes in Question Format

Every question in the new format exam will require a response, this is a significant change from the current format where a choice of 10 questions from 16 is required.

The new questions include multiple-choice types such as Multiple responses, select from the list, short answer, and long answer. Samples of each are below.

Multiple responses:

You will be presented with a list of possible answer options for the following questions. Sometimes, more than one option will be correct. The question may specify how many answer options to select, or you may need to determine this yourself. You can answer the question by clicking to choose the correct combination of answer options. Each question is worth one mark, and there will be 20 of these questions in your exam.

Typical Multiple Response Question

A pharmaceutical company is developing a life-saving new drug that requires a specific raw ingredient. How would a procurement strategy support the selection of an appropriate supplier?

1. To manage the cost of the ingredient

2. To ensure bulk savings are achieved by using existing suppliers

3. To ensure the quality assurance of ingredients is defined

4. To ensure the project is completed within the specified timeframe

5. To manage potential supply chain risks

6. To create a short-term saving to the project

(1 mark)

Select one correct combination of the above statements:

a. 1, 4, 6

b. 2, 5, 6

c. 1, 3, 5

d. 3, 5, 6

Answer: c. 1, 3, 5

Select from list

For the following questions, you will be presented with a passage of text. Certain words or phrases will be omitted from the text. To complete the text, you must select the correct option from a drop-down list for each missing word or phrase. These questions are 2 marks each, and there will be 5 of these questions in your exam.

Typical Select from List Question

An online retailer is redeveloping their website using a linear life cycle. During the project, the retailer requested several improvements to the website, which were not in the original specification. The project manager will require technical specifications for the change __________

a. At the point of request

b. During the detailed evaluation stage

c. During the decision-making stage

d. During the recommendation stage

The Project Manager insists on all the improvements being logged as a change request to __________

a. Ensure alignment to the project’s scope

b. Encourage changes based on user feedback

c. Inform stakeholders of project progress

d. Redefine implementation timelines

(2 marks)

Answer

b. During the detailed evaluation stage.

a. Ensure alignment to the project’s scope.

Short response

For these questions, you’ll need to type your answer. Answers will be either a single word, phrase or sentence. These questions are each worth 2 marks. There’ll be 5 of these questions in your exam.

Typical short-response question

You have received a change request during a project that you are managing. List two pieces of information you would require during the detailed change control process evaluation stage.

Answer

Impact analysis and stakeholder feedback

Long response:

For these questions, you’ll need to type your answer. Answers will be a few sentences or a short paragraph. These questions are each worth 5 marks. There’ll be 10 of these questions in your exam.

Typical long response Question

A software company is creating a new mobile application and is exploring the options of using a linear life cycle rather than an iterative life cycle.

What considerations should they give to how the risk management process in the identification stage will differ between these life cycles?

Your response should consider:

• The differences between the identification stages in iterative and linear life cycles

• The advantages and disadvantages of both approaches

How you respond to long response questions will influence the number of marks you’re awarded. If your answer is unclear and/or its content is disjointed, it will be difficult for the marker to be confident that you’ve demonstrated appropriate knowledge and understanding.

Typical answer

In considering a linear versus an iterative life cycle for a mobile application, the software company should note that the risk identification in a linear life cycle occurs once, typically early, requiring comprehensive upfront analysis. In contrast, an iterative life cycle allows for continuous risk identification throughout, adapting to changes and emerging risks.

While the linear model provides a clear, early focus, it may lack the flexibility to address new risks effectively. Conversely, the iterative approach offers adaptability but can lead to prolonged risk management efforts as new risks might be identified in each cycle, potentially impacting timelines and costs.

Changes to the pass mark

The new exam for the APM Project Management Qualification will not have a fixed pass mark. The pass mark will vary between exam versions to accommodate slight differences in question difficulty between different exam papers. This means that if a paper has a higher percentage of ‘harder’ or ‘easier’ questions, the pass mark will be adjusted accordingly.

The exam is now in two parts, with a break between the two parts.

The exam has a time limit of 2.5 hours, not including the break, and is split into two parts. You can take a break of up to 30 minutes between parts, if you want to. When you’ve completed the first part of the exam, you cannot go back and edit your answers from that part of the exam. It is okay to leave the room during your break, for example, to make a cup of coffee or use the toilet. You may leave the room for the entirety of the break. If you don’t want a break, or don’t need the full 30 minutes for your break, you may resume the exam as soon as you are ready. However, if you take the exam in a classroom setting, the group will all be required to take the same break.

Timelines

Candidates who wish to sit the current APM Project Management qualification have until 30 August to complete their exam, but those who wish to have the opportunity for a resit are encouraged to sit the exam by July 2024. All exams, including resits for the current version of the Project Management Qualification must be completed by 4 October 2024.

Parallel’s approach to this new qualification

We welcome these changes to the APM PMQ. During the pilot, we found that the questions were still challenging but did not rely upon the ability to write detailed written answers as in the current exam. We also welcome the syllabus’s alignment with the competence framework and the improved focus this brings to the course, with the added benefit that the syllabus now aligns with the ChPP competencies.

We have a detailed plan for developing course materials to support the syllabus and are working on creating new study guides, podcasts, e-learning, and mock exams. We hope to have a sample exam ready very soon for anyone who wants to give the new qualification a go.

At Parallel, we are ‘with you all the way’ so if you or your organisation found the written format of the old exam challenging and want to resit the new format, please get in touch and we will be happy to offer you a discounted place on one of the new format course starting in August 2024.

FAQs

I failed the APM PMQ exam using the old format. Should I resit now or wait for the new exam?

It depends how much you failed by and why. If you had a marginal fail (scoring above 45% for example) and are confident with the essay style of the old exam, resit now. If you found the written style of the old exam challenging, consider the new format. However, the new format has significantly different topics, so you will most likely need to take a conversion course. If you are in this position, please call us to see if we can help you with the conversion.

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