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Stressed About My APM PMQ Exam!

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 23rd May 2019

This is quite a common comment from exam stressed students

Got my exam tomorrow and feeling unprepared despite doing revision constantly for the last two weeks. I’m finding it hard to retain the detail in my head. Has anyone else suffered from this exam stress? Any coping techniques?

Six ways to cope with APM PMQ exam stress

1) first thing to remember that the APM PMQ is not a very advanced exam. Many of the questions are 95% common sense.

  • Describe the barriers to communication?
  • Attributes of an effective project leader?
  • The strengths and weakness of a matrix organisation?

I find many people can answer these quite well at the start of the course but they get stressed about trying the learn the textbook answers. This lead on to my second point.

2) The second thing to remember is that there are many right answers to many of the questions. So there are dozens of attributes of a good leader, not just the ones that we list in the study guide. So don’t leave your experince at the exam room door. We have all worked for good leaders (I hope) and know what makes them great.
3) The third point is to get used to writing detailed paragraphs. Not just a paragraph of one or two sentences. You need to tell the story. This about who is involved, why it’s important when in the lifecycle the point is relevant, what do we have to do as a result of this new knowledge. So for example

The ability to motivate is a key attribute of any project leader. This motivation is especially important when a project is going through difficulties. This is because the team may not see a light at the end of the project. At this point, the PM needs to be able to describe how the project can be organised to deliver the objectives. This requiers planning, clarity and a lack of a balme culture.

I just made this up, but it would do (I think) as part of an answer. I describe the problem, why motivation is important, who is involved and what the PM should do about it.

4) The fourth point is to keep practising. I learn by reading and writing. Sample answers are a great way of learning and practising. Reading the same stuff again and again won’t help. Try the podcasts or e-learning. maybe explaining it a different way might work.

5) The fifth way is to ignore the topic. It critical path or investment appraisal is not going in, then skip it. Clearly, you can only do this for a few topics because you have to do 10 out of 16 questions. But if you skip 3-4 topics then the chances of all 4 comings up are slim.

6) Six and final, remember it’s not that important. Many great project managers don’t have the APM PMQ. It is good if you can get it but a 3 hour written exam is not the ultimate test of a project manager. It really about applying what you have learned and delivering great projects. Remember the saying

You’re only as good as your last project.

Which is why we’re with you all the way.

  1. Student says:


    It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed before an exam. You will see Adrian first thing Friday morning and he will take you through exam techniques. A bit of stress will focus you and drive your motivation, too much can be overwhelming.

    I would recommend trying a few more questions. Try five factors that make up a projects context? Or five benefits of risk management? Don’t just look them up in the book but write your own answer and post them here. I will look at them for you.

  2. Student says:

    Thanks Paul 🙂

  3. Paul says:

    Hope you got on okay Sam! I always feel stressed before an exam no matter how well I revise so I haven’t yet found a technique that stops that happening. I sit mine in two weeks and fully expecting to feel nauseous!

  4. Student says:

    Hello Paul,

    I am trying to create a new topic for getting feedback but every time I go to the APM PMQ study group in the forum, it logs me out (not sure why).

    The question would be: Explain 5 challenges a PM has when working in a programme

    1) The project manager has the programme manager as the sponsor but not in isolated projects. The project manager is far from the client in the organigram of the overall programme. Therefore, the PM might not be directly involved on some of the key decisions and is controlled by the programme manager.
    2) There is a distance between the project manager and the end costumer. The output is delivered to the client through the programme. Adding another layer to the deliverable can produce misinterpretation and confusion unless well managed.
    3) In relation to governance, the project manager might not understand the programme role and the programme governance overhead. The programme has own governance structure arrangements.
    4) In relation to management, the project manager needs the time to liaise and work along with other project managers as there is an inter relationship between projects more complex. This requires reliance and commitment to managerial meetings and coordinating activities with others.
    5) In relation to resources, the project manager might need to release resources in his project for working in other projects that are part of the programme and might be considered a priority. A justification needs to be prepared if resources are needed showing the balance on costs/risks versus benefits/returns. The programme manager will support the PM on this.

  5. Paul says:


    I’d agree with your comment ‘many great PM’s don’t have APM PMQ’, i’ve done PMQ training but failed the exam…this means i failed the exam but doesn’t mean i don’t understand the elements of PMQ.
    I tried for text book answers and thus made the exam tougher for myself.

    Will i go back to it, i’m now not sure (off course i will, its the one PM qual i desperately want…and maybe thats the issue)…i’ll firstly concentrate on gaining PM experience.


    • pnaybour says:

      Like any exam the PMQ is partly about knowlege but also about exam technique. I do know some experienced PMs find the PMQ exam particularly tough.

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