APMP is now known as APM PMQ (Project Management Qualification) so for the most up-to-date information see our APM PMQ Courses page.
This qualification can boost your career prospects providing new opportunities in the project profession. It is a knowledge-based and competence-based course of study so you will learn the practical skills that can be immediately applied on live projects as soon as you have completed the training course.
Whatever stage you are at in your career as a project professional, attending a training course and gaining a recognised qualification will show employers you have the commitment and skills to deliver successful projects.
APMP qualifications can boost your career prospects providing new opportunities in the project profession. APMP is a knowledge-based and competence-based course of study so you will learn the practical skills that can be immediately applied on live projects as soon as you have completed the training course.
Since late 2016 APMP was rebranded as APM PMQ so for the most up-to-date information see our APM PMQ Courses page.
APMP courses require a commitment of time, effort and money with a substantial amount of reading and preparation before the course, during the course itself, and then revision and exam preparation afterwards. So to pass the APMP course and reap the benefits of a recognised qualification, candidates will need to be prepared for that level of commitment.
Effective Preparation for the APMP Exam
Preparing for the APMP exam can be hard work, but preparation is essential if you want to pass. It is a valuable certificate to hold because it is so hard to pass. Employers simply wouldn’t value it so much if it was easy.
Prepare for the exam by taking the necessary project management course (via distance learning or a classroom-based course), practise exam papers, listen to our podcasts and as much revision as you can manage. Become familiar with the different types of question, structuring answers and time management. And don’t forget, whilst preparation is key, part of that preparation needs to be relaxing yourself and allowing your mind to absorb the relevant information and cope with the nerves! Spending 24/7 desperately cramming information into your head and succumbing to nerves in the lead up to the exam will not help you succeed. Balance your time by creating an achievable revision schedule and regular breaks and rewards.
Pick The Right Questions – Keeping Your Eye On The Time
With many activities, three hours is a long time, but not when it comes to exams. Passing this exam is a lot less likely if you don’t answer all of your questions. So pick your questions well and make sure you give yourself enough time to answer them properly. There are 52 different Body of Knowledge subjects and 37 of those are covered by the APMP syllabus. Any 16 of those 37 subjects will come up as questions in the exam, and you’ll be answering 10 of those questions.
How Do I Choose The Right Questions?
You must be able to choose the ten questions you want to answer extremely quickly. Learning how to do this before the actual exam is a great idea by using practise papers. You must be honest with yourself and recognise which subjects you’re comfortable with, which you’re not so comfortable with and ones you really don’t even want to attempt. When you open the exam, quickly read the questions and number them from 1-16 in order of the ones you are most comfortable with. Then work from the top of your top ten – easiest to hardest.
How Do I Manage My Time Effectively?
In the 3 hours you have to complete the exam you should look to spend around 15 minutes on each question, giving you 15 minutes either side of the exam to select your questions and check your answers. Some answers will require more elaborate answers than others, and each question is worth 50 marks. Bear the point score in mind for each part of the question answered (the potential marks to be awarded will be listed by each section).
Answering The Questions
Focus your attention on answering the questions precisely and specifically. Don’t write down all you know about a subject just because the question involves that subject. Never assume the examiner will know what you mean with vague remarks, or comments relative to your industry either. Try to make clear and concise statements directly relating to the question. Your examiner does not know you, remember that!
- Keep The Project Lifecycle In Mind
The project lifecycle can often be used as a guide, no matter what the question is you’re being asked. So if, for example, a question relates to project budgeting, you can think about all the different stages of a project lifecycle and identify the parts that involve money.
- Be Specific About Project Management But Not About Your Own Job
You should always describe and use your project management experience, but try not to apply that experience to a specific job or industry if possible. The examiner will not know about the industry you work in, or the technology you use, so you must try to keep the answers specific to project management, but not to any specialised area of it.
- Go Back To Basics
Remember in school when you were marked down for just writing down an answer, rather than showing how you got to that answer? Well the same rules apply all these years later! Calculation questions must always show the workings that got you to the answer so the examiner can see the processes you went through to get to the answer at the end. In some cases if you provide an incorrect answer but your workings show some correct methods, you may be given some extra marks for the correct parts of your answer, even if the end result is incorrect.
- Choose The Right Questions
37 of the 52 Body of Knowledge topics are covered by the APMP syllabus and any 16 of those 37 topics will be tested in the exam. Give yourself enough time to select your questions carefully at the beginning, so that you have the best chance of answering them in the allotted time. Know your strengths and weaknesses so you can quickly identify which questions will work best for you.
- Give Yourself A Time Plan
You have three hours to complete your exam, which will fly by. You must answer all the questions in the allotted time in order to have the greatest chance of passing. This means it is really important that you have a time plan and select 10 questions that you know you can answer in the allotted time. When you practise the exam you should get a feel for how long each question takes you to answer, keeping that as a rough guide will help you structure those precious 3 hours. Remember to leave yourself enough time at the end to check through your answers as well.
- Be Structured
Be structured in your answers to ensure they are easily followed by the examiner. Follow the basic ‘beginning, middle and end’ structure to ensure you write all the necessary components in a concise order. It can be a really good idea to map out your answer structure before you write anything down so that you have a rough idea of what you need to include as you go along.
- Explain Yourself
When you are asked to explain your answer to a question, it can seem a bit daunting fully elaborating on why you have said something. A good way to work through this problem is to think about the consequences of not doing something. By thinking about this, you should be able to clearly recognise why the process explained in your answer is important. The negative consequences recognised can also be used to strengthen your answer.
- Remember The Key Factors Of A Plan
When you answer questions relating to plans, remember that all plans involve what, how, when and who. So what needs to be done, how will it be done (processes), when will it be done and who will be doing it.
- Keep Calm And Carry On!
If you make a mistake answering a question, don’t start again! Cross the mistake out and keep going, you simply cannot afford to start again, especially when you’re completing charts and diagrams.
10. Refine Your Answers
Although it is tempting to write down everything you know about a subject when a question relates to it, you must not do it. Answer the question you are being asked specifically and avoid a general answer that talks about everything and anything relating to the related subject.
Q: Explain five difficulties a project manager may experience when working in a matrix organisation and give examples of how these can be overcome?
Difficulties which a project manager may experience in a matrix organisation include:
1. A conflict of priorities with line management.
Staff are naturally more likely to focus on work priorities as defined by their line manager. This could result in a lack of focus and hence progress on project tasks, with a risk that project milestones are not met. The project manager could mitigate this risk by agreeing priorities, decision making and resource requirements with functional line managers upfront and sharing this with staff at the start of the project. If conflicts continue the project manager will need to meet with functional line managers and use their influencing skills to help reach an agreeable resolution.
2. Motivation of the project team.
Project team members in a matrix organisation may become stressed due to the additional workload of managing their project work alongside their day job. This could impact their motivation and have a knock on impact to the successful delivery of the project. The project manager should ensure that all project meetings are purposeful and do not waste valuable time. They could also review workload with the individual to see if additional training could help make tasks more efficient or if additional administrative support could help share the workload burden, budget permitting.
3. Team development.
In a matrix organisation, as staff may join and leave the project team throughout its life cycle, it can be more difficult for the project manager to develop a strong, cohesive and therefore effective and productive project team. The project manager can end up spending more time on resolving personnel issues than project execution. Communication can help alleviate this, in particular creating and sharing an organisational breakdown structure and RACI matrix with staff so that they are clear on both their own and the team’s role, responsibilities, terms of reference and goals. Taking the team out for a team drink or lunch can help speed up team development too.
4. Limited knowledge regarding resources.
The project manager may not have knowledge or visibility of the available resources and capabilities across the organisation. This may make the task of team selection more difficult. To overcome this the project manager should pro-actively network with functional line managers to help identify potential resources within functional teams.
5. Relationship with Project Sponsor.
The project sponsor may not be the project manager’s functional line manager and therefore they may have little or no previous working relationship. The relationship and trust between the project sponsor and project manager are vital to the success of the project. The project manager should pro-actively invest time and effort in building this relationship and this is best done through regular face to face contact.
Q: Explain the concept of a matrix organisation and describe four advantages of such an approach?
The concept of a matrix organisation refers to the structure whereby employees report directly to their line manager in the first instance i.e. head of finance, marketing but in addition to this, staff members may also work for the project managers as and when the organisation’s current projects require it.
Four advantages of this approach are:
1. An advantage of this type of organisational structure is the skill retention made possible. Usually, say in a project organisation, once the project is completed the project team is no longer needed and so dissolves, thus losing vital skills and knowledge. In a matrix organisation, people and skills are retained even when they may not be working in a project environment.
2. Another benefit of a matrix organisation is the greater utilisation of resources. Whilst a functional organisation may see periods where staff are under utilised, a matrix organisation can clearly see staff availability and can use staff on projects should they become available. This greater flexibility allows more efficient use of resources across the business.
3. A matrix organisation also provides the ability to motivate staff in more challenging ways. In a functional organisation there is a very structured career progression in the specialist functions however this can be slow quite restrictive. In a matrix organisation staff who are periodically used on project work will feel a greater sense of worth and contribution to the business activities as a whole, because of a wide range of opportunities. Some people prefer the structured nature of a functional organisation for career progression; it is less clear what the career path is in a matrix.
4. Project managers have an authority in a matrix organisation. The organisation recognises that the project manager needs to direct others and utilise specialist skills from within different parts of the organisation when required. The organisation can support the project manager in this task and are familiar with the requirements.
Q: Explain five distinct benefits of a project office
Five distinct benefits of a project office are:
1. A benefit of the project office is the administrative support provided to project managers. This frees up the project manager’s time to focus on project delivery and progress. For example the project office can organise meetings, issue agendas and minutes, chase actions, thereby reducing the administrative workload of the project manager.
2. The project office may include experts with specialist knowledge. This is a benefit as it can help build organisational capability in a cost effective way by reducing external training costs. For example the project office can coach, mentor and provide guidance to staff on their areas of expertise, such as project tools like Microsoft Project.
3. A further benefit of the project office is helping ensure consistency of approach across all projects in the organisation. This is important as it increases continuity in project execution and reduces organisational risk. The project office can do this by defining, issuing and ensuring compliance with project standards, procedures and templates across the organisation.
4. The project office can provide a library or repository of project information. This is important as it helps facilitate a culture of continuous improvement and saves valuable time and effort researching information across the organisation. For example, information on estimates and actuals from previous projects can be easily accessed and lessons identified which can be embedded in to future project estimates.
5. The project office has access to information relating to all projects across the organisation. This enables the project office to take a helicopter view and can help to identify links and dependencies between projects. This is important as it facilitates improved project planning and helps reduce unexpected delays and risks in project delivery.
Q: List and describe five approaches a project manager can adopt to manage the scope of a project
1) Define a product breakdown structure
2) Define a work breakdown structure
3) Define and control requirements
4) Apply configuration management
5) Use change control
1) One way in which a project manager can define scope is to produce a product break down structure. This is important because it clearly identifies the deliverables that must be produced by the project. For example it will define the different civil, M&E and structural products that need to be produced by the project.
2) Scope is defined as all the products delivered by the project and the way in which they are delivered. So a work breakdown structure is another way of defining project scope. This is important because if defines the way in which the products will be produced. For example we may be building a new school using either a design and build contract or a traditional contract. The difference between these approaches will make a big difference to the project scope.
3) Requirements management is another way in which the project manager can define the scope of a project. This is important because it defines the requirements and acceptance for each of the product in the product breakdown structure. Without requirements then the scope can still be ambiguous for example in a school we need to define the level of lighting required in a class room using lux levels and energy efficiency. Without these requirements the scope if not defined clearly
4) Configurations management is another way of controlling the project scope. This is important because a project may be subject to many technical changes during the project lifecycle and the changes need to be controlled. Without this control the scope can easily creep. For example if we want to change the key colours used in the design of a school then these changes need to be condoled careful.
5) The final way to control scope is through change control. This is important because without effective change control and record keeping, then it is all too easy for the scope to change as the project progresses. Therefore it is therefore very important that a project manager implements a change control process from the outset and maintains rigours control of changes throughout the project lifecycle
The APMP is a foundation level qualification from the Association for Project Management. It includes a three hour written paper on the theory of project management. As such it primarily seeks to improve and evaluate your knowledge of project management. Typical questions might include
- Describe the typical roles in a project?
- Explain the factors that influence a projects context?
- Explain the project risk management process?
- Describe the principles of project governance?
The questions are to a large extent theoretical and are not related to you skills as a project manager. So you could ask how will this knowledge make me a better project manager? The answer to this question requires and understanding of how competence is developed. It is widely recognised the competence is made up of three elements; these are technical, behavioural and contextual competences. A good project manager needs to be able to demonstrate all of these competences. The technical competences form a foundation on which the other competences are developed, without this basic understanding of the principles of project management than the more refined behavioural and contextual skills have no foundation on which they can be developed. The APMP seeks to establish these technical competences early in your project management career.
Figure 1 APM Competence Framework
APMP training should not be seen in isolation
To be effective you need to plans ways in which you can apply the knowledge learned on and APMP course, to a real world project, as soon as possible after the training is completed. In this way the knowledge is translated into practical skills and experience. Key ideas to get you going include
1) Facilitating a project start up workshop to examine the project objectives and identify the critical success factors that you need to establish for a successful project.
2) Complete a project management planning workshop to identify the project work package and develop a high level schedule for the project
3) Conduct a project risk review with your project team. Identify the key risks and how you will overcome them.
4) Schedule and hold regular project reviews using a simple set of KPI.
5) Arrange a meeting with you stakeholders to ensure you fully understand their requirements.
The simple but effective activities will not only consolidate your learning from the course but will also improve your chances of delivering a successful project.
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