Exam Prep Training versus Outcome Based Learning

What is the best way of teaching youth project management skills?

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon an online post on LinkedIn, where a project management training provider[1] conducted a CAPM® certification preparation class to high school students. This post brought a short debate with the instructor, who posted the original message. I had also started a discussion online, which has generated many responses.

Also, this debate brought up a few points, which we will discuss below.

PM For Youth Introduction

Before we go on and discuss the issues or challenges, I must say that the point is not about teaching ‘high school students’ project management skills. I am all for it, and we have done it. I know project management training for youth, even at an elementary school, have been done in many places around the world.

  • I had a PMI colleague leading a mentoring program in Brazil for high school students at risk.
  • I also have a colleague in Singapore who does project management skills training for youth age 12 to 17.
  • I know of a program in Italy at the elementary school (not sure if it is still going).
  • I will not talk about what I, or SUKAD, has been doing here; maybe another time.

The point is – project management is all for all aspects of life, and we believe it is of great value for all ages, in all industries, and for all functions. This blog is about certification training in high school, and who knows where next, maybe intermediate school.

To repeat – read this article thinking of:

  1. Project management skills training, or
  2. Project management certification training.

The Class

From the picture posted with the message, there were about 6 or 7 students and they appeared to be 14 and 15 years old. If this is the case, it brings in a challenge and a question. Why would the students, or school, or whoever else was behind this, give students preparation for an exam they cannot take until 2 or 3 years later; after graduation?

After a few exchanges with the instructor, she came out to say “they were all graduates.” That was not stated in the original message, and the picture lead me to believe they were younger than graduates but let us accept that they have already graduated.

The above raise many questions:

  1. Why would high school graduates (or students) pursue CAPM certification? It is most likely that these guys would be going on to college and not the workplace?
  2. If we were to teaching project management skills, is CAPM exam preparation training the best way?

What do you think?

The Online Discussion

After I saw the original post, I could not help it, and I posted a discussion on LinkedIn group, “The Project Manager Network – #1 Group for Project Managers”. Click here for the discussion. That post generated a great deal of response, which you can read by going to the discussion thread on the LinkedIn group. In the first three days of the debates, I could summarize the following points:

  1. I think most of those posting agree that helping high school students acquire new skills, soft skills, project management skills, etc. is quite useful.
  2. I also think that the majority of responders, although they agree with the previous point, do not agree with exam and certification training in high school.
  3. Many of the comments are about general education, and certification are valuable but do not make you a good project manager.

There are many other points but the above are the key messages, and I hope I did not miss any point.

The CAPM Requirements

In this section, I would like to shift the discussion from the class and debate to seek your views on the CAPM requirements.

The PMI has established the following as the pre-qualification requirements for the CAPM.

  1. High school diploma …. And
  2. 1500 hours of work experience or 23 hours class.

The above will allow the candidate to sit for the exam, and if she passes, she will become CAPM.

The question here is: to prequalify, is a high school diploma and the equivalent of a 3-day workshop enough to sit for the exam? I am not talking whether enough for people to study and pass; I am talking about PMI setting the pre-qualification at this low level? I used to think that the CAPM requires at least a college degree, but it is not the case.

In comparison, IPMA Level D certificate, the lowest for IPMA, does not specify educational level but the preference is for a college education. AACE International, require four years’ experience in the domain, or 4 years college for their primary certificate.

What do you think?


I close with posing and reposing some of the questions that we have raised already.

  1. Is CAPM or other project management certification training the way to go with high school?
  2. Is the certification route the best approach to help bring extremely valuable skills to youth?
  3. Is high school even enough for CAPM certification?
  4. Why would high school graduates pursue certification if they are going to college?
  5. Do not you think – having high school students’ study PMBOK will be a turn-off when they have to prepare for college admission and other exams?
  6. I believe in teaching youth – even below high school – project management by having them learn how to follow a project life cycle from idea to closure. Do you think this approach is better than exam-based training or not?

Please feel free to add more questions and answer these questions.

The next image, can summarize a key point about the difference between exam based training versus outcome based learning.

Exam Prep Training versus Outcome Based LearningUntil next time, keep learning!

[1] To be transparent, the provider is a competitor but this article is not about competition.