My unpleasant PRINCE2® v7 exam experience
PeopleCert published PRINCE2 v7 a while back. We've been offering PRINCE2 elearning courses for many years, which requires accreditation. To offer courses for this new version, we should get a new accreditation, and one of its requirements is for us to take and pass the new PRINCE2 Practitioner exam. What follows is my experience in doing so.
To take the Practitioner exam, candidates must already have a PRINCE2 Foundation, PMP, CAPM, or IPMA-x certificate.
PRINCE2 Foundation certificates used to be valid for life, but when PeopleCert bought PRINCE2, they changed it to be valid for 3 years. Making such changes may be okay but shouldn't apply to the past. People who had invested in taking the PRINCE2 Foundation exam considered that it was valid for life when they decided, and now, their certificates are no longer valid.
This is the case for me as well. After 10+ years, my PRINCE2 Foundation certificate, which was supposed to be valid for life, is considered expired. Luckily, I have a PMP certificate. Otherwise, I'd have to retake the Foundation exam.
The PRINCE2 Practitioner exam costs €675, which is expensive. However, we received free vouchers because we were accredited trainers for the previous version.
After buying the exam voucher, I went to their website to redeem it. My first problem was with signing up for a new candidate user account. There was a strange error, and soon I realized that it was because of special characters my password manager had used in my password. I replaced it with a simple password, and it worked.
Their website is extremely slow, and it has multiple issues as well. For example, its user interface frequently switches to French. Given how slow the website is, switching back to English becomes very annoying. They also use flag icons to symbolize languages, which is wrong -- flags represent countries, not languages.
I contacted their live support to report these issues. They gave me an email address to send my report to. I did, but I am still waiting to receive a reply.
After redeeming the voucher, the platform gradually offers more things to buy. One option was the two mock exam packages they offered for €80 each. I bought both of them.
After buying them, I realized that each package stays available for only 24 hours once you take one of its mock exams! It's a really short time and unreasonable for an €80 payment.
Mock exam #1
I started taking the first mock exam. The questions were not well-formed, with typos and repeated or missing text. It seemed like they hadn't spent enough time preparing them.
I was nearly done with the exam when something came up, and I left my computer. When I came back after two hours, the time was up. When I pressed the button to view the result, it gave me an error without a description. Soon, I realized it was impossible to get the result, so I gave up and tried to start a new mock exam in that package. However, it didn't work and gave me the same error.
I contacted live support, and after spending a long time explaining the problem, they told me they couldn't do anything about it and that I had to open a ticket. I objected that in such a case, the live support staff should open the ticket for me and include relative information for their colleagues instead of asking me to do so from scratch. They did it. It was 2023-12-09.
5 days later (2023-12-14), I received a canned reply for my ticket explaining that the mock exam was valid for 24 hours and I no longer had access to it. But this had nothing to do with my problem: I couldn't take the exam within the first 24 hours. I replied and explained the problem again, adding that their answer was irrelevant and that since time was passing and I wanted to take my actual exam very soon, the mock exam was no longer useful to me and that I expected a refund for the mock exam. It has been 3 weeks since I replied, and I'm still waiting for their response.
Update 2024-01-22: Today, after 5 weeks, I received a reply and they refunded the unusable mock exam.
Mock exam #2
When I realized that my first mock exam package wasn't working, I started taking the second package. However, I soon discovered a few strange things:
- The second package is more than 90% the same as the first one! Yet, they sell it as a separate product.
- Each package contains enough questions for only one exam, and there's no point in taking it more than once.
- When you finish the exam, it only gives you a score without detailed feedback or the possibility of reviewing the questions.
Later on, when I took my actual exam, I realized that the questions in the mock exam were not even a good representation of the questions in the actual exam.
Another thing they encourage you to buy is what they call "Take²". You pay €100 before taking the exam, and in return, if you fail your first attempt, you can have a second attempt without having to pay again.
I didn't need to buy it.
They also encourage you to buy the ebook of the manual, which I already had outside their system. Candidates can use the manual during the exam, but my normal ebook was unacceptable, and it had to be on their platform. So, I paid €130 to access the ebook on their platform.
When it was time to take my exam, I realized I couldn't access the ebook. Their support and I tried to fix it, but we gave up after an hour.
You need one computer for the exam, running their native application in kiosk mode. To view the ebook, you need to have a second computer with another application in kiosk mode. The problem was that the second application couldn't log into my account and said that my email address didn't exist in their system.
I hadn't worked the whole day to save my energy for the exam in the afternoon, and yet, I couldn't take the exam. The live proctor told me, "We're going to make an exception and allow you to reschedule your exam without paying the rescheduling cost"! They were framing it as my problem, whereas it was a problem with their application, and they had to apologize for wasting a whole working day of mine.
I ordered the printed version of the book (~€100), waited for it to arrive, and then booked another time for the exam. Meanwhile, I opened a ticket (2023-12-12), explained the issue, and asked for a refund for the ebook because the bug in their application made it unusable to me. So far, it's been about 3 weeks, and I've got no reply for my ticket.
Taking the exam
Their exam application only supports Windows and Mac. So, I temporarily installed Windows on my spare laptop and then installed their application. I ran their application to make sure it worked, and it did. It also has a feature to test system requirements, which passed.
For my first exam date, which didn't work because of the issue with the ebook, I opened the application an hour beforehand and reran the self-test. Everything was fine. While it had been open for more than an hour, when it was time for the exam, and I could go to the next step, it told me that there was a new version of the application and that I should update it. I had a 5-10 minute delay to install the new version and go through the self-test again; an unnecessary stress factor before the exam.
When the first date didn't work, I simply turned the laptop off and only returned to it for my second exam date. I turned on the laptop and went through the self-test, and this time, it told me that it couldn't connect to the streaming servers of PeopleCert and gave me a list of 10-20 servers that were not reachable. This was so even though nothing had changed on the laptop or my home network. I contacted support, and it was solved after 20-30 minutes of work. They did ask me whether I wanted to take a break and relax before starting my exam, which was thoughtful.
About 40-50% of the questions were too superficial, based on things in the manual that are not essential or on things that were taken out of context. It gave me the impression that the people who had designed the questions didn't have much project management experience and weren't familiar enough with the essence of PRINCE2.
Moreover, a few questions seriously lacked essential information needed to give a proper answer, and I had to guess the examiners' assumptions to answer.
When I took my first PRINCE2 Practitioner exam about ten years ago, I scored about 95%. Since then, my general knowledge and experience in project management have increased a lot, and I've also gained a much deeper understanding of PRINCE2. One can't expect a score of 100% because one always makes a few silly mistakes, so I expected a score of about 95%. What have I got? Only 80%! That's given that I was highly focused and careful throughout the exam and had read the new manual very carefully. My only conclusion is that some of the questions are wrong or misleading.
Overall, it was a very unpleasant experience for me and took too much time. I had taken online exams with APMG and EXIN a long time ago, but I had no difficulties.
The following are the main areas I believe PeopleCert has to focus on to provide a better service:
- They have grown a lot, which requires rebuilding some aspects of their business. The first thing they need to rebuild is their software ecosystem, including the website, the exam software, and the ebook viewer.
- Their live support is good; I didn't have to wait more than 10 or 20 seconds to be connected to someone, and they were informed enough to answer most questions. However, they don't have access to "do" anything. It would make the customer experience much smoother if they were given access to basic actions.
- Their ticket-based support is very slow and unhelpful. They'd do well making fundamental changes to it.
- The mock exams are not okay at all. The two packages are better merged into one, with improved questions and detailed feedback.
- The questions in the actual exam can benefit a lot from a revision by experienced project managers who know PRINCE2 very well.
- I didn't have to pay full price, but this journey costs €1000 + training costs for a regular candidate. These recent price increases make it less accessible to people.
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