The PRINCE2® certification exam is tricky to pass because of the style of objective testing and the number of questions you have to answer.
But PRINCE2 itself is not a difficult method to learn – and the official manual is actually pretty easy to follow and understand.
When I did my Foundation and Practitioner exams, I only used the two official PRINCE2 handbooks:
Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2
and the partner book:
To be honest, I didn’t think about buying any other books at the time, as those were enough alongside the course material from my training provider.
However, there a wide range of books available to help you understand the core themes, principles and processes of PRINCE2. If you are studying for your exam and wondering what to read to supplement your learning, here are my recommendations. Plus one book I do not recommend at all!
1. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2
I think you should read the original guidance. It’s written in a very accessible way. If your training provider does not provide it, it is worth investing in. Not least because Practitioner is an open book exam and you can tab and annotate your manual to help you in the test.
Make sure you get the 2017 (latest) version.
It is expensive – see if you can put it on your business expenses but is the best PRINCE2 book and you can pass the exam with just this one.
2. PRINCE2 Handbook
The PRINCE2 Handbook is another official AXELOS publication. It condenses the whole of the ‘proper’ manual into a smaller format and acts as your quick reference guide.
Be warned though, it is exactly that: a quick reference guide. It is useful as a memory jog and something to slip into your bag for exam revision on the go, but it is not a replacement for the full textbook.
Plus, it’s a lot cheaper!
3. PRINCE2 Study Guide (2017 Update) by David Hinde
If you are finding the PRINCE2 manual hard going or you are using the self-study route, then David Hinde’s book is for you.
It takes the official text and presents it in a way that is accessible. OK, it’s still not the most interesting content in the world, but it will help you pass the exams. There are sample questions at the end of each chapter and more questions in the appendices.
This is very much a study guide, and it focuses on helping you get through the test rather than on becoming the best project manager you can be. It is long. Might be better to get the ebook version if you are planning on carrying it around as a revision guide.
4. PRINCE2 Made Simple by Ian Lawton
This study guide is much shorter. It’s informally written and condenses a lot into the pages. There are no sample questions but it does a good job of explaining the different themes, principles and processes of PRINCE2.
It’s also reasonably priced!
However, I would use it as an introduction or as supplemental material for the Foundation exam. You might find it a bit light in some areas for Practitioner. If you have good course material from your training provider, you wouldn’t need this.
5. Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2
Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 is not an essential read for the exam, but it is super useful and provides a lot of background information about project context that is helpful.
This book is the partner book to Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 (as the name suggests). It’s aimed at senior managers and senior project leaders. It covers the kinds of things that you need to know as a project sponsor working in a PRINCE2 environment.
The book approaches the project world from the perspective of someone in a leadership role, so it’s not directly relevant to project managers doing the day-to-day work. However, being able to see what the project process looks like on the exec side is very helpful and gives you a rounded view.
That background info is useful for improving your practice and filling in some of the gaps in how the whole thing is supposed to work.
If your manager is happy to fund this one, get it!
6. PRINCE2 Agile
Are you taking the Agile version of PRINCE2? This is the book for you. It’s the official AXELOS handbook.
The book covers agile basics, PRINCE2 basics and has a useful section on what to fix and what to flex.
The second part of the book is the guidance, tailoring and techniques that are core for the exam. It looks at how to apply the principles, themes and processes in an agile way and explains how to manage product delivery.
Part 3 looks at areas of particular focus for PRINCE2 Agile like the Agilometer and how to manage communications, releases and contracts. There are plenty of diagrams and I found it OK to read, not too dry.
Keith Richards is one of the authors and that gives me immense confidence in the quality and applicability of the text. I’m sure the other authors are great too, but I don’t think I know any of them! I hadn’t realized that Keith was behind this book.
7. PRINCE2 Agile: An Implementation Pocket Guide
There are hardly any PRINCE2 Agile exam prep guides around.
This book by Jamie Lynn Cooke is available as an Audible ebook and on Kindle as well as in paperback format. However, it is not an exam prep book for the agile test. Instead, it is a guide to implementing PRINCE2 Agile in your own environment.
It covers the important things to know for agile success, how to switch from ‘ordinary’ PRINCE2 to the agile version, merging all the methods together and other topics that allow you to get agile going in your organization.
It’s something to read before you take a training course, to give you a bit of background on the terminology and context, especially if you already sat the ‘vanilla’ Practitioner exam and are now adding agile to your toolkit.
And here’s a book I do not recommend:
Passing Your PRINCE2 Exams
Passing Your PRINCE2 Exams is an AXELOS official text, but I’m honestly not convinced it is worth the money.
It provides an overview of the certifications and the syllabus for the Foundation and Practitioner exam. It talks about what routes you can use to sit the exam and how you can maintain your certification.
But if you are taking a PRINCE2 training course, then you would get that guidance from your training provider. And if you are self-studying, then your study materials or prep book would cover all this.
If you haven’t yet made the decision to take the exam, perhaps it would help you know what you are letting yourself in for. However, if you have the money to spare, I recommend you use it on a PRINCE2 exam simulator instead, as you’ll get more confidence and value from being exam-ready.
How to choose PRINCE2 books
The most important consideration, whatever PRINCE2 book (or books) you end up buying, is to make sure they are aligned to the latest version of the manual. There are still old versions of several books floating around out there, so double check that you aren’t getting the 2009 version by mistake.
Next, think about what other materials you are going to get as part of your training course. If you are self-studying, it’s more important to have the right reading material. However, too many books to read just gives you more to do, and I think that time is probably better spent doing practice exam questions.
Good luck with your test!