On September 16th 2019, I passed the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) certification, and some friends and colleagues asked me how I self prepared for it. I will share my own experience on this post as it may be helpful for others. Again, this is my experience and may or may not work for you the same way, in the end you know yourself better than anyone.
The Scrum.org online PSM I certification consists of 80 questions that you have to answer in 60 minutes. Its an open book exam, but the questions are not so easy to respond as they require you to analyse and think and to understand how the framework works, so there is no way of going around it, you need to study and feel that you understand it.
I had no formal training on Scrum before, I was implementing some of the tools Scrum offers but as the Scrum guide clearly states:
“…although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum. Scrum exists only in its entirety and functions well as a container for other techniques, methodologies, and practices.”
That being said, your main source of truth is the Scrum Guide which is accessible through the following link. This will be your ultimate study guide as it contains everything that will be asked on the exam.
Steps that worked for me
1 – The first thing I did was to take the following Udemy course. I paid USD 10 for it, so totally worth it. This course helped a lot as an introduction to Scrum, and gives you the basis of the Scrum Guide, it also compares the differences of Scrum vs Waterfall which you might be more familiar to. It will take you from 3 to 4 hours so prepare the time ahead, ideally without distractions so you can focus.
2 – Then, after taking the whole Udemy course, I went and did a free online assessment from the Scrum.org website. These are sets of 30 questions that look very similar to what you will be asked during the official online exam. The interface is almost identical on how the online official certification will look like, but the questions in the exam are more complex and longer.
This helped me understand where I was standing from a knowledge perspective. I got only 66% on my first assessment and you need 85% minimum to pass the online certification, so clearly I needed to study.
3 – I read the whole Scrum Guide, really focused on it and I took digital notes on a Google Doc, this way retention of the different sections worked better for me.
4 – Then I took the Scrum.org assessment again (the questions vary each time you take it) and I was able to see how after reading the Scrum Guide I was going up on the marks. I repeated several assessments studying my incorrect answers and re-reading the correct ones to solidify the knowledge of the correct ones.
5 – Then I bought this other Udemy course which consists of 5 mock tests of 80 questions each. Learn from your mistakes and take advantage of the explanations to reinforce knowledge on each of your incorrect answers, take notes if this helps you too. Before taking tests 4 and 5, read the Scrum Guide entirely again, with time and slowly to ensure you understand every single piece of it. On tests 4 and 5 I was starting to feel more comfortable and I was able to get higher marks.
6 – Then I went ahead and did a couple of more online assessments, and once I got 2 or 3 assessments with only one incorrect or incomplete answer, I felt confident enough to take the online certification.
7 – Then you can proceed and buy the online exam voucher, remember: 80 questions, 1 hour. Make sure you have water with you, that you wont be distracted with anything (mute your phone) and make sure you will be able to focus 100% on it, 1 hour may seem like a lot of time, but believe me it is not, and you will need every single minute of it. Take note of the number of the questions you wish to review so you can come back to them.
If you can take the test in a computer with dual screens or with a big enough screen so you can have the exam and the Scrum Guide side by side, that will be helpful as it will allow you to move fast across screens.
To buy the online code (which doesn’t expire) just click on this link and then click on Buy. It will cost you USD 150 for a one time shot for the exam, I only suggest you buy the voucher once you feel confident that you will pass it. Follow the steps on the website, you will receive a code over email where you can follow the instructions on it to start your online exam.
When you take an on-site 2 days training (which can cost from USD 1000 to 2000 depending on the country you take it), you will have included in the price 1 voucher for an exam, and if you fail you will get another voucher for free if you take the exam up to 14 days after your first try. When you buy the voucher online because you prepared on your own, you are buying just one change and thats it. If you dont pass, you will need to buy another voucher, so make sure you really study to make your money worth 😉
You will know if you passed immediately after submitting your online exam, and you will be able to see a badge in your Scrum.org profile where it indicates that you got that certification. Also you will be able to download the PDF with the certification from the website. Remember to add it to your CV, LinkedIn, etc.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this was my personal experience, and it can vary from person to person because not all of us learn the same way or feel comfortable learning in this way. My next step will be to try to do the Product Owner certification, which I feel is more in line with my role on projects as I engage a lot with the business and with dev teams for different projects.
Hope this post helps you prepare for the exam! Good luck!
If you have any other tips that might help others, please dont hesitate to share your experience below.
Update: November 2019: After passing the ScrumMaster certification, I went to Amsterdam and took a 2 day training for the Scrum Product Owner Certification which I also passed.
Note: I published this post originally on my profile on LinkedIn on September 16th 2019.