Published on Nov 09,2015
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The fundamentals of project management hinge on the five stages of any project- Initiation, Planning, Execution, Control and Closing. However, real-life projects are rarely in sync with the theory they operate around. Every industry has different challenges and  different kind of resources to alleviate them. Every team structure is different for the kind of results anticipated and every professional path needs different project challenges to acquire what it has to acquire.

The bottom line is, project management can be approached in three different ways based on the factors mentioned above.

PMP®, PMI-ACP® and PRINCE2® are all certifications for project managers. What is important to understand here is that these certifications are not competing with each other for producing the best project manager. These certifications are mutually exclusive and should be picked by an aspirant after having an unclouded understanding of what each of them offers. In many cases, these certifications complement each other and if pursued together, can widen your horizon as a project manager. Project management methodology and project management approach are two aspects under which, the differences between the three certifications can be best understood.

Project Management Methodology
The threshold on which these three certifications operate in the industry is of project management methodologies.

In simple terms, project management methodology is a model which organizations adopt for the design, planning, implementation and fulfillment of project objectives. It depends on the industry or business domains as to what project methodology should be adopted for a particular project.

PMP® & ACP®: PMP® follows a knowledge-based approach to projects encompassing 10 knowledge areas. Based on a comprehensive understanding of the knowledge areas, one has to take the right decisions and drive the project to its logical outcome. The emphasis here is on what you should know as a project manager and then take decisions based on the knowledge experience pool.

PRINCE2®: This follows a process-based approach which is directive and sets out clear processes defining what you should do. This certification provides set templates and references for the action required.

Project Management approach

Project management approach is the framework for handling the different factors of a project and achieving successful project completion.

PMP®: Under this approach, the project is completed in a sequential manner. Scope, time and cost are three factors that are finalized even before the commencement of the project. However, the customer does not have the liberty to alter these factors in the course of the project.

PRINCE2® : In terms of the scope, time and cost, even in case of PRINCE2® these factors are finalized before the commencement of the project, but the project is not completed in a sequential manner and follows an iterative approach.

PMI-ACP®: This approach has an open-ended scope. The agile approach defines the time and the cost of the project, but the scope of the project is more of an outcome after detailed reviews and inputs from team members at every stage of the project. Iterative steps can be taken to enhance the scope of the project. Simply put, change is an integral part of this approach.

Industry/Geography wise relevance of certifications

Now that we have established clear differences between the three certifications, let us discover the industry-specific or geographical prominence of these three certifications.

PMP® is required across all major industries ranging from IT & telecom, automobile, banking, consulting, healthcare, human resources, aerospace, defense and construction industry among others. PMP® certification is majorly recognized across India, USA, Canada, Middle East, South East Asia and Australia.

PRINCE2® is majorly mandated across industries like  construction, engineering, IT, business and financial services. However, the requirement of PRINCE2® certification is primarily across the IT industry. It is prominent is India, UK, the European Union and Australia.

PMI-ACP® was developed in 1989 and although rapidly growing, it is still at a nascent stage. A 2010 survey by Forrester states that agile is massively going mainstream. A total of 35% of surveyed organizations described their primary development method as agile. PMI-ACP® is recognized across the globe.

Certification exam details and how to tackle it

Each of these certifications have differences in their exam formats and prerequisites.


PMP® exam requires the candidate to have at least three years of valid experience and 35 contact hours that can be attained through classroom training or through virtual training with a Registered Education Provider (REP).

PMI-ACP® requires the candidate to have minimum of two years of experience and mandatory 1500 hours of agile project management experience. It is important to note that even if the candidate is the junior most member of an agile project management team, that experience would still be valid.

PRINCE2® does not require the candidate to have any experience as, already discussed, this certification in itself is directive and there are templates and recommendations to direct the candidate towards the right direction while facing a project situation.

Exam format

Being well acquainted with the exam format is the first step to cracking it.

PMP® certification is based on PMBOK® guide but is not limited to it. 30-35% of the questions assess the general skills of the candidate and might not be necessary covered in the PMBOK® guide. In a span of  four hours, the candidate will have to answer 200 multiple choice questions. There is no predefined passing percentage for this exam and the results are based on psychometric analysis. An effective preparation cycle of 8-10 weeks is enough to be well equipped for the PMP® exam.

For PMI-ACP®, there is a list of reference material which when covered well by the candidate, can help him/her sail through the exam successfully. In three hours, the candidate will have to answer 120 multiple choice questions. Similar to the PMP® certification, even PMI-ACP® certification does not have a disclosed passing percentage and the results are based on psychometric analysis.

PRINCE2® has Practitioner and Foundation certification. While the passing percentage for both the exams is 50-55%, Practitioner is a scenario-based subjective exam and Foundation is based on 75 abstract multiple choice questions to be completed in one hour.

Got a question for us? Please mention it in the comments section and we will get back to you.

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