PSM — Say What?!
PSM I (Professional Scrum Master 1) is the first of three Scrum Master certifications awarded by scrum.org. The certifications are earned by passing exams of increased difficulty and complexity.
I passed my PSM I exam on October 29th, 2017 with a pass mark of 75/80 (or 93.8%). With two years of being a Scrum Master under my belt since then, I’m considering sitting the PSM II exam. Not necessarily because I need the certification, but to prove to myself that I do still have what it takes to be a Scrum Master and that I have actually improved in my role over the last two years. Also — every now and again I miss the panic of studying for an exam. Don’t judge me.
Whilst researching for the PSM II exam, I realised that many people have questions about the PSM I exam and I wanted to add my thoughts into the mix just in case someone found them useful! So here we go — Gwenno’s Guide to the PSM I Exam!
The Nitty Gritty
Further, detailed information about the PSM I exam can be found on the scrum.org website, but if you were after a recap:
- 80 Questions
- 1 Hour
- 85% Pass score
- Multiple Choice/Multiple Answer/True or False Questions
- $150USD for one attempt
To course — or not to course?
Some certifications will insist that you attend a course before sitting the certification exam, but that’s not the case with PSM I. However, there’s still plenty of courses out there that promise to prepare you for the exam. I didn’t go on a course — I couldn’t afford it personally and my employer at the time wouldn’t foot the bill so I didn’t have much choice. But, as you can see I didn’t need to go on the course anyway. That’s not to say that the exam was easy, but it’s doable!
When I sat my PSM I exam, I had been working in a Scrum Team in one form or another for almost four years, so you’d think that would have been a benefit right? Wrong. Unsurprisingly, none of the teams I had been working in were doing perfect, by the book Scrum. Therefore, during my preparation for the exam, I found myself answering some questions with what I’d experienced rather than what the Scrum Guide dictates. Be careful you don’t fall into that trap!
The Scrum Guide
I’m a believer that the only study material you need to pass the PSM I exam is the Scrum Guide. Whilst the answers might not be printed in there word for word, they are inferred if you spend enough time understanding the Scrum Guide.
Therefore, in preparation for the PSM I exam, I spent a few weeks reading, re-reading and re-re-reading the Scrum Guide. I also found an audio version of the Scrum Guide which I listened to on repeat on my way to and from work. I reached a point where I could dictate the Scrum Guide word for word. Do you need to be able to repeat it as if you were a parrot? Probably not. Do you need to be confident that you know and understand every word? Definitely.
Practice, practice, practice!
Whilst scrum.org doesn’t give you “past papers” that you can use to test yourself and ascertain your current level, they do give you access to the Scrum Open. This is a test consisting of 30 questions in which you have 30 minutes to answer. The Scrum Open was described to me as “a sub-set, of a sub-set of questions from the PSM I exam”. You may well come across a question or two from the Scrum Open in your PSM I exam, but it’s a very small piece of a much larger puzzle. A friend of mine told me that I shouldn’t even consider sitting the PSM I exam until I could repeatedly answer all 30 questions in the Scrum Open correctly in less than 5 minutes. I think my best time was just under 4 minutes. The more you sit the Scrum Open, the more you’ll notice the same questions pop up time, and time again. But if you can’t answer them all correctly without a second thought then you’ll end up wasting precious time and possibly points in the exam!
Another great resource I found was Mikhail Lapshin’s Scrum Quiz. Unlike the Scrum Open, this more accurately mimics the conditions of the PSM I exam in that you have 80 questions and one hour in which to answer them. Whilst the questions you come across here have been written by Mikhail, and therefore won’t be popping up in the PSM I exam they are compiled from a much broader subject area than the Scrum Open. I also believe that the Scrum Quiz exposes you to different ways of asking questions which should aid your preparation. I applied the same principle with the Quiz as I did the Open — I sat it over, and over and over again until I was consistently achieving 100% in 30 minutes or less.
Only when I could consistently achieve a perfect score on both the Quiz and the Open did I think I was ready to sit the PSM I exam.
Having been studying the Scrum Guide to death for a couple of weeks and occasionally sitting the Scrum Open, I set myself a target of passing the PSM I exam on Sunday the 29th of October 2017. I’m not lying or exaggerating when I say that I spent every waking hour on the Saturday and Sunday either sitting the Scrum Open, Scrum Quiz or reading the Scrum Guide trying to extract further understanding. It took me two days to be able to repeatedly score 100% in the shortest amount of time possible. What I found interesting was that I observed a sharp decline in my scores between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Even breaking for sleep had had an effect on the consistency of my scores and the speed in which I completed the quizzes. Whilst I was rather annoyed that a portion of my morning was spent getting back up to speed, it also cemented in my mind that I would have to sit the exam that evening to avoid repeating the process.
I sat the exam at around 4 pm, and I was shocked at how long I spent sitting the exam given my speediness in the practice! If I remember correctly, it took me around 50 minutes of the allowed 60 in which to complete!
And that’s it! That’s how I approached and passed the PSM I exam. If you’re considering sitting the exam I hope you’ve found this at least slightly useful. Feel free to ask me anything I might have missed or if you have any thoughts or any experiences please share! I’ll let you know how my attempts at the PSM II exam go!
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.