Project management qualifications are a great way of demonstrating knowledge and understanding of project management principles. A qualification gives you formal recognition of your professional knowledge as well as a better understanding of relevant approaches to project management. Undertaking a professional qualification shows a willingness to learn, an interest in the field and a desire to be seen as a knowledgeable professional, formalising what you have learnt so far in your project management career. Whilst qualifications are particularly useful in the early stages of your career, learning and development should continue throughout your project management career.
If you have been away from academic study for some time, or haven’t taken an exam in a while, a professional qualification may seem daunting. But it doesn’t need to be. You will have gained skills and knowledge from doing your day-to-day role, and if you approach taking a qualification with a curious mindset, you’ll learn everything you need to succeed in the exam along the way.
Below are five useful tips that will aid your preparation and give you the best chance of succeeding in your project management qualification.
1. Do pre-reading
Completing assigned pre-reading ahead of time will stand you in good stead for undertaking a project management qualification. The aim of pre-reading is to give you the opportunity to read and review the information that you will need for the qualification in your own time. It may seem obvious, but taking the time to complete the pre-reading will help you. This allows you to reflect on the material in your own way and without the pressure of being in the classroom environment. It will also give you the opportunity to think about areas that you want to focus on in the course and come up with any questions you might have for the course leader. Completing the pre-reading gives you an idea of what to expect during your qualification and lets you set your expectations.
2. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your course leader. They are there to help you understand the content of the course and succeed in your qualification. If you are unsure of a concept or want further clarification on a point, ask them to explain or give an example. Asking questions demonstrates your curiosity and willingness to learn. You might prompt others in your group to ask questions and you might learn something from them too.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Do as many practice questions as you can. This will help you with the practicalities of taking the exam. Whilst you want the knowledge you gain to remain with you beyond the qualification exam, you also need to succeed in the exam format. Your course leader should take you through practice questions and examples, but most qualification bodies, such as the APM, will supply practice papers to candidates taking their exams. Getting the practice in and becoming familiar with the types of questions that you might see will help to prepare you for the exam and mean that you can give the questions your best effort when under time pressure. You’ll have an idea of what the questions are going to look like and how you can answer them to the best of your ability.
4. Clear your calendar
When undertaking a qualification, you want to give yourself enough time to take in the information, revise and prepare for your exam. If possible, clear your calendar and get the support of your manager to undertake the qualification. A formal qualification will benefit your organisation as you will have increased your knowledge and skills, so asking for study leave or similar is a useful thing to do. It means you will not feel excess pressure or stress when undertaking your qualification, which will help you perform at your best.
5. Highlight areas of interest
Whilst the aim of undertaking a professional qualification is to pass an exam and get a recognised qualification, it is also an opportunity to learn more about project management as a whole. Think about areas that particularly interest you. These will help you with revising for your exam, as you will have a particular enthusiasm for them, but in the long term it also helps to identify the areas that you might want to pursue further. Undertaking a qualification is an opportunity to explore new areas of your professional life. Take the opportunity to learn more about the different areas of project management and find subjects that interest you.
When you are undertaking a formal project management qualification, make sure you set yourself up for success. Take the time to prepare for the qualification and review any materials that you’re given in advance. Be curious, ask questions and practice what you’re learning. This should be an exciting opportunity to broaden your understanding, so explore new areas of interest and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure. Engage with the content and enjoy the process of learning. Finally, make sure that you carve out the time to commit to the qualification. Ask for study leave if it is available – you want to make sure you can commit fully to the time required to do well in your qualification.
A project management qualification can be the first step towards a successful project management career and further qualifications. If you are considering taking your first project management qualification, think about the opportunities that it can give you and how you can get the most out of it. This might be your first step towards an exciting career.