Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) foundation and practitioner exams

Arif Harbott
Arif Harbott

This week I have had an intensive training course to prepare me for my MSP practitioner exams. To start with I had 15 hours of pre-work to complete which included reading the MSP manual, practicing some mock exam questions and reading the syllabus. As the manual is over 290 pages needless to say this took more than 15 hours.

Day 1

We found out that we are one of the first groups to be taking the MSP 2011 syllabus so in some regards we are guinea pigs. The first few hours were very slow and were designed for people who had not bothered to do the pre-reading. As I had done the pre-read it was simply a refresh for me.

The MSP content is broadly split into two parts: governance themes and programme processes, this is further subdivided into programme management and business change activities.  Throughout the day we covered:

  • Identifying a programme
  • Programme organisation and roles
  • Vision
  • Blueprint design and deliver (very linked to enterprise architecture)
  • Leadership and stakeholder engagement

Day 2

We had been told that we would have 2 hours of reading and questions for homework. Luckily that was not the case and we only had about 30 example foundation test questions. It seemed to me that they had taken all the hard questions and put them into one paper as it was a hard paper and a bit of a wake-up call.

Today was the longest day and we covered:

  • Managing the tranches
  • Business case
  • Risk and issue management
  • Quality management
  • Benefit realisation
  • Realising the benefits

Day 3

The morning was spent going through the remainder of the syllabus:

  • Delivering the capability
  • Planning and control (the biggest section of the syllabus)
  • Closing a programme

After lunch we did some recap and prepared for the foundation exam.

We sat the foundation exam at 3pm. It was an hour paper with 75 questions (5 of which are under trial and do not count however you do not know which ones they are) and you need to get 35 to pass.  The papers are marked immediately and everyone in my class passed. I got 61 out of 70 so I was very pleased with myself.

Day 4

We spent the whole session just going through the sample practitioner paper. We worked on a few questions at a time to get used to the different question types and styles. I found the best way to learn was to go through the sample rationale answers, I actually found the reasons for the wrong answers a lot more useful than the right answer.

Day 5

The practitioner exam started at 9am and lasted 2.5 hours. It is a scenario based exam which is usually around 10 pages and then there is extra detailed information that some questions refer to. My exam technique was to skim read the scenario for the context and totally ignore the extra information pages. If the extra information was directly referenced in a question then I simple read the relevant page.

The paper is 80 questions and you need 40 questions to pass. The results are posted to you within 10 working days, so fingers crossed!


I have had some experience of managing programmes so I had some context for this course. That being said the MSP framework does seem very pragmatic and once you tailor it to your organisation I can see it adding great value if you do not have a formal way of managing programmes.

Most of the content was engaging and strategic, there is an element of death-by-powerpoint but less so than some other courses such as Prince 2.

Overall I would recommend MSP to any existing or aspiring programme managers as I think there is a lot of value to be had from the course.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) foundation and practitioner exams
Scroll to top