PSM-III Exam and Certificate

Over the last I’ve been discussing the Scrum Master exams from Scrum.org. Today I’m going to look at the PSM-III, it’s the hardest and last of the scrum master exams. In their own words

PSM III certificate holders prove that they have a deep understanding of the application of Scrum, Scrum practices, the Scrum Values, and have the ability to apply Scrum in a variety of complex team and organizational situations.   

Scrum.org
The PSM-III is the highest ScrumMaster certificate at Scrum.org

According to Scrum.org’s own statistics at the time of writing less than 1000 people have passed this exam. That’s around 7% of the people who’ve taken the PSM-II and a staggering 0.2% of the people who have taken the PSM-I. In other words, PSM-III certificate holders are few and far between.

So what does the exam entail? As with all other scrum.org exams anyone can take them at any time, there’s no requirement to go on a particular course or buy certain books. The cost for this exam is $500, it’s expensive because real scrum experts mark it. The marks for earlier exams in the series are calculated automatically but the PSM-III asks the candidate to write answers to questions which are then marked. This obviously adds cost.

The exam itself is 30 questions and you have 2 hours 30 to finish it. The questions are a split of multiple choice and essay type answers. As with the PSM-II questions are much more focused around what you would do in a particular situation rather than asking you to give answers directly from the Scrum and Nexus guides. The pass mark is 85%.

Time is your big enemy in this exam (you know, other than the difficulty of the questions). You need to work quickly and make sure you’re covering all the points in each question. Particulary in the essay questions there are multiple points to address and you have to think and write quickly to ensure that you have enough time to finish the paper.

You should work quickly, not focusing too much on spelling and grammar but making sure you’re answering the entire question and what you have written is clear. You don’t lose points for typos but you will miss them if you get to the end of the time and haven’t answered all the questions. Work your way through the question and make sure you’re answering everything which is asked. In the multiple choice questions remember that more than one of them may be correct.

Not all questions are the same length so it’s not as easy as limiting yourself to 5 minutes per question. Some of the multiple choice questions may take ten seconds and the longer essays some significant time. Having said that, keep an eye on the clock and pick up the pace if you’re running behind.

When I clicked Submit at the end of the paper (with around 2 minutes to spare) I felt absolutely exhausted. But then the next trial begins. As I mentioned above the test is marked by scrum.org’s own experts so you won’t get your answer right away. You will get an email confirming they’ve got your answers but then you will have to wait, three weeks in my case and let me tell you it’s a very very long wait. At one point I even began to wonder whether the wait was part of the test and they’d see how I’d escalate or communicate with a third party supplier!

You don’t get the same category breakdown you do with the PSM-I and PSM-II but you do get a very helpful email with feedback, some questions to think through to further your learning, and hopefully some good news.

I found the entire process and exhausting and very rewarding experience and was delighted when my certificate came though.

What are your experiences of the PSM-III exam? What advice would you give to other people looking at taking it? Please drop me a comment below and let me know!

The PSM-II Exam and Certificate

Last week I wrote about scrum.org’s PSM-I exam. This week I’m going to discuss the next Scrum Master certification in the chain, the PSM-II.

The first thing to be aware of is that the PSM-II exam is harder, it’s described as Advanced rather than Intermediate. The second big difference is a LOT less people hold it than the PSM-I.

Significantly less people old the PSM-II than the PSM-I

At the time of writing only 3% of the people who tool the PSM-I went onto the next level. This means that every time I see a PSM-II certificate pop up in a CV it’s worth taking note. These aren’t handed out very often!

The exam lasts for 90 minutes and costs $250 USD, however there are only 30 questions. These are a combination of multiple choice and true/false answers. What distinguishes the two exams is the nature of the questions.

In the PSM-I you’re often asked questions about topics directly from the Scrum Guide. As well as this you’ll also need to be aware of extra areas covered in the recommended reading for me this included topics like scaling scrum but always refer to the website for the latest information.

The nature of the questions is also different. In the PSM-I exam you may be asked a question and you have to choose the right answer from four alternatives in the PSM-II you may have to select the best answer from a list of alternatives. Some options may not be incorrect, but may not be as good as the ideal answer. This ensures that anyone who passes the PSM-II understands not only the scrum framework, but can also apply it in given situations.

You get a very similar score breakdown with the PSM-II which lets you drill into areas you didn’t score as highly on to reinforce your knowledge.

Finally, assuming you hit the 85% pass mark you get the same shiny certificate and badge to share with your network!

What is your experience with the PSM-II? Have you done it? What advice would you give to someone planning on taking it?

The PSM-I Exam and Certificate

I’ve spent the last few weeks writing about sections from The Scrum Guide, before continuing on with that I wanted to touch on some of the certifications out there. I discussed in a previous post the differences between Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. Personally I have done most of my certification with Scrum.org. This is because you can attempt their exams without having to attend a training course (meaning you can self study which reduces cost), but also because there certificates don’t expire. However, several of my friends and colleagues have gone down the Scrum Alliance route and have found their approach very valuable too.

Over the next three weeks I’m going to talk about the PSM exams, what they entail and what to expect.

The Professional Scrum Master 1 (or PSM-I for short) is the intermediate level exam from Scrum.org (there isn’t a foundation one). You take it by buying a token through their website for $150 USD (or provided I believe if you attend one of their Training Courses).

If you pass the exam you are allowed to display the badge on your website

The exam consists of 80 True/False and Multiple Choice questions and you have an hour to complete it. You’ll probably use most of the time, especially if you check your answersbut shouldn’t feel the seconds ticking down on you.

In terms of content almost all of the questions are based on your knowledge and understanding of the scrum guide. Before you take the exam you should read it thoroughly (multiple times) and make sure you understand the concepts there.

I would also highly recommend looking at the Learning Path and Open Exam. Make sure you consistently get 100% on the open exam before you sit the test, it really is a very good resource.

The pass mark is 85% and you will almost always get your result immediately. You will also get a score breakdown which shows which areas you did very well in and which areas you may want to study further (guess what I revised before moving onto PSM-II).

The breakdown from my PSM-I

You also get the option to download badges (as above) and certificates (as below) and a link for anyone to validate your achievement.

Scrum.org keep a count of how many people have passed their certification and as you can see it’s a very popular exam. Definitely a nice one to have on your CV if you work with scrum teams.

I do hope this has been of some help, please do get in touch if you have any questions or leave a message below if you have any advice for anyone thinking of taking the exam.

Scrum Alliance or Scrum.org?

This is a question I get a lot, what are Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org and which is “best”? The truth is there is no best, both have different certifications and a different business model. In this post I want to explain the differences between the two and help you decide which to choose.

Scrum.org & Scrum Alliance Compared - TheScrumMaster.co.uk

Let’s start with what they do. Both Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance offer training courses and certifications for Scrum Masters and Agile Professionals. Both offer a variety of courses for Product Owners, Engineers, and other professions but in this post I’ll focus purely on the scrum masters.

You can think of these organisations like Exam Boards, if you pass their exam you get a certificate which you can present to any employer and it will prove that you have a certain level of scrum knowledge. You can also show the badges off to your friends and family but personally I’d recommend against that. I spent half an hour explaining to my mum that a Scrum Master had nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons…

Both organisations offer three levels of Scrum Master certification. For Scrum Alliance these are the Certified Scrum Master (CSM), the Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM), and Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (or CSP-SM). Scrum.org offers the Professional Scrum Master levels 1, 2, and 3 (more commonly known as PSM-I, PSM-II, and PSM-III).

Personally I hold the CSM from Scrum Alliance as well as the PSM-I and PSM-II from Scrum.org.

Where these organisations differ is in how they go about granting the certificates. Scrum Alliance require you to attend a training course organised by a certified trainer. The prices of these vary depending on whether they are being held remotely or in person, which country they are being held in, and the level of the course. Typically in the UK you will pay around £700 for a remote course and £2000 for an in person one. Obviously the trainer then pays a fee onto Scrum Alliance. Once you have completed the course you will be sent a link to take the exam on Scrum Alliance’s website. If you pass (the pass mark is 37/50 questions) you’ll be awarded your certificate.

Scrum.org also offer training courses. However, their courses are not a prerequisite to taking the exam. Personally I have never done a Scrum.org course, I simply logged onto the website and purchased the exam token. These vary slightly depending on level but the PSM-I exam is $150 dollars.

It is also worth noting that Scrum Alliance certificates expire and you will either need to attend another course or pay (about £30 I believe) to renew it every couple of years. Scrum.org certificates do not expire.

The next most obvious question is which is easier!? There is a general feeling that the Scrum.org exams are a little more challenging, however I’ve never seen any data to back this up. Personally I scored a couple of percent higher on the Scrum.org exam than the Scrum Alliance one however not enough to state clearly. If you’re looking for a simple answer on which one would be easier to achieve or which holds more market value then I can’t give that. I would say however that the PSM-II (and I assume the A-CSM) covers significantly more ground than the PSM-I and asks questions based drawn from personal knowledge rather than simply knowing the subject matter. There is a distinct step up in difficulty and, although I’ve never taken it I wouldn’t be surprised if the PSM-III was far more challenging again.

So there you have it, all the differences that I’m aware of between the two organisations. If you’re looking for a taught course with a certificate at the end then Scrum Alliance may be for you. If you’re interested in self study and funding then Scrum.org may be the better alternative however I’ve found that both are extremely high quality certificates.