This article is originally stored as a github gist.
Some people ask me about Scrum.org certifications: what to study, how to apply for the exam and advice for taking it. So I decided to write a guide for those interested in preparing and taking PSM I (Professional Scrum Master) without spending a fortune with training. With discipline, in around a month (or two), you should be ready to take the test.
The advice compiled here came from experienced agile coaches. Worked very well for me and I hope they will also help those who are seeking directions.
Table of Contents
- 1. PSM I exam format
- 2. Is it mandatory to take a course?
- 3. What you need to study for the PSM I
- 4. How to practice for the PSM I
- 5. How to pay and take the PSM I test
- 6. Advice for the test
- 7. What does it mean to be certified?
1. PSM I exam format
- Price: $150 (US dollars) per attempt.
- Online (details below in “How to pay and take the test”)
- Type of questions you will find:
- Multiple choice (choose the only correct alternative)
- Multiple answers (choose the N correct alternatives)
- Language: English
- Number of questions: 80
- Minimum score: 85% (64 correct questions at least)
- Time limit: 60 minutes
- That means an average of 45 seconds per question
More information: https://www.scrum.org/professional-scrum-master-i-certification
As the test is in English, prefer to study the material in the same language.
To take the test in another language, you may use the Google Translate extension in the Google Chrome browser, at your risk.
More information: https://www.scrum.org/support/using-google-translate-plug-take-assessments.
2. Is it mandatory to attend a course?
No. You have the option to study by yourself and only do the certification exam.
3. What you need to study for the PSM I
The material below will expose you to 100% of the content required.
3.1. Scrum Guide
Read it at least three times, alternating with other readings and exercises.
- PDF Download: https://www.scrumguides.org/download.html
- Read online: https://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html
- Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8jE3pGfGZE
3.2. Scrum Glossary
Read it at least three times, alternating with other readings and exercises.
- Read online: https://www.scrum.org/Resources/Scrum-Glossary
3.3. Book: Scrum Insights for Practitioners by Hiren Doshi
Optional, but it is a short book and contributes a lot to the studies. Clarifies (but does not replace) the Scrum Guide.
3.4. More material
There is a plethora of additional literature on the topic. Still, through the reading above and exercises recommended below, you will be exposed to everything one should expect from a PSM I Certified Scrum Master to know. Just read carefully and practice thoroughly.
Anyways, you will find links for more related (and valuable) content at:
- Suggested PSM readings by Scrum.org: https://www.scrum.org/resources/suggested-reading-professional-scrum-master
- Scrum Master learning path: https://www.scrum.org/pathway/scrum-master
4. How to practice for the PSM I certification
There are mock tests with exercises similar (and some identical) to those you will see in the certification exam. Take all the mock tests repeatedly, until you are always getting a 100% score without delay to answer. During the real test, you will have an average of 45 seconds per question, being that some have longer statements and may take 30 seconds just to read through. So, every question that you manage to take out of your way fast will make a difference.
In addition to that, these mock exams explain the questions and serve as study material as well.
4.1. Study Product Owner mock tests as well
Study the mock tests for Product Owner (links provided below) too, since the PSPO and PSM certifications have some questions in common.
4.2. Open tests from Scrum.Org
- Scrum Open: https://www.scrum.org/open-assessments/scrum-open
- Product Owner Open: https://www.scrum.org/open-assessments/product-owner-open
Scrum.org ones are short. Take them on various spare moments:
- During breakfast
- Waiting for food delivery
- Public transport
- Toilet 💩
4.3. Scrum Quizzes by Mikhail Lapshin
4.3.1. Learning mode
Learning mode has no time limit, and questions are explained straight after answering.
- Professional Scrum Master: https://mlapshin.com/index.php/scrum-quizzes/sm-learning-mode/
- Professional Scrum Product Owner: https://mlapshin.com/index.php/scrum-quizzes/po-learning-mode/
4.3.2. Real mode
The real mode imitates the certification test (in terms of time and number of questions).
- Professional Scrum Master: https://mlapshin.com/index.php/scrum-quizzes/sm-real-mode/
- Professional Scrum Product Owner: https://mlapshin.com/index.php/scrum-quizzes/po-real-mode/
5. How to pay and take the PSM I test
5.1. Create a Scrum.org account
5.2. Pay the exam
- On the PSM I Certification page (scrum.org/professional-scrum-master-i-certification), click Buy PSM I assessment.
- Complete the purchase. The previous step will take you directly to the shopping cart, but just in case the link is https://store.scrum.org/cart.
- You will receive an email with the subject PSM I Assessment Password for YOUR NAME. It has a 42 characters code which has no expiration date.
5.3. Take the exam
To take the exam, go to the PSM I Certification page (scrum.org/professional-scrum-master-i-certification), click Start assessment. Paste the code received by email in the Assessment Password field and click Start.
- Assessment Password is not your password to access the Scrum.org website. It is a sequence of 42 letters, numbers and hyphens, sent to you by email after making the payment.
Once you start the test, you won’t be able to pause the timer
6. Advice for the test
6.1. Get sharp before you go for it
Do not take the test until you are scoring 100% in all open tests, repeatedly and without delay to answer. No matter how exaggerated it sounds.
6.2. The day before the test
Reread the Scrum Guide and make a ~clue~ summary of key points. There will be no time enough to spend flipping through the Scrum Guide during the exam.
- Put on your ~clue~ summary straight and direct lists (roles, artefacts, events, timeboxes, who participates in each event, what is the purpose of each one, what is input to what, scrum values, etc.).
- The mock tests will give you a good idea of what to include.
6.3. The day of the test
Read the Scrum Glossary and your ~clue~ summary.
6.4. During the exam
6.4.1. Focus is essential
- Explain to colleagues/family that you are going to take a test and will be unavailable for 1 hour. Isolate yourself if you can.
- Get rid of your mobile, smartwatch and any other distractions.
- Have on your computer only the exam window and nothing else. Close social networks, messengers, etc.
- Once you start the test, you won’t be able to pause the timer. You have to do it all in one go.
6.4.2. Do not change tab or window
The website will detect that you have done this, and you will also waste valuable time. Remember: 45 seconds per question, every second count.
6.4.3. Maximise the result
- For each question, first eliminate the alternatives that you know are wrong, then validate what is left.
- Keep a list of questions to revisit at the end of the test. The exam has a bookmark feature, but I still prefer to categorise and prioritise as below:
- Skipped: If you are stuck, write down the question number, skip and revisit at the end. It may be that a further question gives you a hint.
- Uncertain: If you are not comfortable with what you answered, write down the number to revisit after the skipped questions.
- From mock tests: Some questions are identical to the open tests on Scrum.org, but some are just similar (tricky). Answer these quickly, but take note of their number to revisit after the uncertain ones.
- Do not take a break. If you think you will want coffee, tea or water during the test, arrange it beforehand.
- Have a snack and go to the toilet before you start, these are time-consuming.
- If you finish early, use the remaining time anyways. Review as much as you can.
- Aim for a 100% score.
7. What does it mean to be certified?
By having a Scrum.org certification, you are validating your knowledge for the market. It means that more than a badge to show off, the certification establishes a base of knowledge, communication and work.
A certification is only the validation of knowledge acquired. Experience is still essential. Getting certified is not the end of the journey, but the very beginning.
7.1. Should I get certifications from other institutions?
To what concerns the Scrum framework, my suggestion is to focus on Scrum.org certifications. They are the creators of it. They provide for the most affordable price ever, credentials that are solid, respected, and not easy to take. Scrum.org can point you to optional training options, leaving you free to study as you prefer.
There are indeed institutions that offer various other Agile certifications which are valuable and solid, around topics not offered by Scrum.org. Beware, though, of expensive certifications that resemble Scrum.org ones, with no validation in the end.