Recently, the projects that we work with require competency in Agile Development frameworks such as Scrum. To bid for these projects, having internationally accepted skill certifications will establish credibility as a potential provider.
I realized, after Googling “best agile certification”, that there are many organizations who are offering Agile/Scrum certifications on different roles. Having read several blog entries and forums, I decided to take the Professional Scrum Master from Scrum.org. Aside from being the “Home of Scrum” where the Scrum Guide and original authors promote, it is also cheaper. Professional Scrum Master Certifications do not require formal training and regular certification renewal. To compare different Scrum/Agile certifications, please check the blog entries Scrum Master Certification Comparison and Top 5 Agile Certifications in 2017.
The Professional Scrum Master (PSM) has 3 levels,
- Professional Scrum Master I: demonstrate fundamental level of Scrum Mastery
- Professional Scrum Master II: demonstrate advanced level of Scrum Mastery
- Professional Scrum Master III: demonstrate a distinguished level of Scrum mastery
The PSM I has 80 questions to be taken in 1 hour. The passing rate is 85%. If you are aiming to be a Professional Scrum Master Trainer, you need at least 95%. The exam fee as of this writing is $150.00. The exam can be taken anytime and anywhere with Internet connection.
Here are some tips in preparing for the certification:
1. Read Scrum Guide and Nexus Guide
The Scrum Guide is the main reference of Scrum Framework authored by the originators of Scrum, Mr. Ken Schwaber and Mr. Jeff Sutherland. You may need to read this guide 2-3 times. The PSM I will test correct understanding of Scrum Rules, Scrum Roles, Scrum Events, and Scrum Artifacts.
The Nexus Guide is for scaling Scrum to multiple teams working on a single product. Knowledge on this guide will increase your understanding of Scrum as applied to multiple teams. There are questions relating to multiple teams.
2. Join/register to Scrum.org community
To take the exam, you will need an account in Scrum.org site. The site offers resources to learn about Scrum such as blog entries, videos about Scrum. The Scrum community forum discusses several Scrum concepts applied to real-world scenarios. There is a discussion about Study Tips for the PSM I that you might find useful on your review.
3. Enroll in a Scrum Master course (Online or from a Professional Scrum Trainer)
Accredited training courses are not required in taking PSM I certification. If you are serious about your PSM journey, it is highly recommended that you enroll in an accredited course conducted by a Professional Scrum Trainer. You can find a course through their course finder. In the Philippines, this is conducted by RCG Consulting. You can contact Shirley Santiago for PSM Course options for your company. Exam fee is included in the course with free re-take within 14 days. The trainee is also entitled to a PSM II exam discount.
Accredited training courses require some investment. For cheaper alternative, you may get Scrum introductory courses online. However, these courses only focus on understanding the Scrum Guide and tips on passing the exam. I enrolled in course from Udemy during their cyber Monday sale for only Php 575.00.
4. Take Scrum.org open assessment
Scrum.org provides Open Assessment to gauge your basic knowledge on Scrum. Try to take all 4 assessments: Scrum Open (for Scrum Master), Nexus Open (Understanding of Scaled Scrum), Product Owner Open, and Developer Open.
Some of the exam questions do appear on the actual exam. Try to retake the Scrum Open until you get 95%, while taking the other exams until you get at least a passing rate (85%). Each exam has 30 questions to be completed within 30 minutes.
5. Take free mock exams available on the Internet
Practice makes perfect. Below are some sites you can visit for free/sample mock exams on PSM I. Some sites require registration and may have outdated questions based on latest Scrum Guide.
6. Be mindful of the exam questions
Some questions are designed to confuse you, please be watchful of the following:
- Multiple Choice Questions
- Multiple answers: some questions will ask for more than 1 answer. Make sure you note how many answers are needed. Choosing only 1 when asked for 2, even when the chosen option is partially correct, will constitute an incorrect answer.
- If you know more than on answer is correct, check if there is an “all of the above” choice.
- If “all of the above” is not included, or not the correct choice, select the BEST answer.
- Negative clauses, when the word “NOT” is not highlighted or capitalized, it is easy to miss. You may answer the opposite of the correct answer.
- Absolutes and Qualifiers like “never,” “always,” “every,” “must,” mean that the statement must be true all of the time. Usually these types of qualifiers lead to a false answer for a true/false question.
- For true or false questions, when any part of the question is false, then the entire statement is false.
- When you are unsure of your answer, mark the question (there is a checkbox for this). You can come back to the questions you marked when you have enough time.
One hour is more than enough for the exam especially when you took several mock exams. Use the time to review your marked answers.
Good luck! Please do share your experiences in the comments section.
Fundamental questions for PSM 1 and PSPO(Professional Scrum Product Owner) 1 are overlapping. You can prepare for the PSM exam by practicing available PSPO exams. Please see an exam set I made for PSPO : PSPO Level 1: Mock Exam 1