The PSM (Professional Scrum Master) Badge

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.

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:

  • 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!

Hands-on experience

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.

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!

The Execution

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.

Conclusion

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!

Agile Team Lead and Scrum Master. Software Engineer in a previous life.