In the world of Agile Scrum software development management, credentials are a thing. Some companies require them and some merely like to see them on your resume. There are lots of credentials out there, but the two leading organizations for scrum certification are Scrum.Org and ScrumAlliance.Org.
Both organizations (essentially two different variations on the concept of doing complex work with scrum) have certifications. ScrumAlliance.Org offers both Product Owner and Scrum Master certifications in three different grades (Certified, Advanced Certified and Certified Professional). Scrum.Org, like their competitor, has Professional Level I, Professional Level II and Professional Level III. Both also have certifications for developers, scrum at scale, and each has a few other certifications that may be of interest. I encourage you to explore both sites and see which best fits your needs.
Certified Scrum Master and Certified Product Owner
ScrumAlliance.Org’s certifications normally require a 16-hour course (2-day, normally) by a certified trainer. Once you’ve taken the course and mastered the material, your instructor will register you with ScrumAlliance.Org. You will receive an invitation (within the week, usually) to take the test and become certified. I took the Certified Scrum Master course in Las Vegas, NV, and my work paid for the course and subsequent test. I think the test is included in the cost of the course. I found the course informative and a great intro to the concepts of scrum, both why you would use it and the ceremonies, artifacts and roles within scrum. The test invitation arrived a week later, and was quick and painless. I took it in about 30 minutes and passed.
The test comprised 50 questions and you have an hour to take it. You don’t have to go anywhere to take it (like you do for the Project Management Professional – PMP exam). You can take it at home (or anywhere else you find that it’s quiet). If you fail (you need a passing grade of 74%) then you’ll need to take it again. If you fail again (or you wait until after 90 days from when you received the invite), then you’ll have to pay a fee of $25 (a “test attempt fee”). Every two years, you’ll have to retest to qualify again, and you must earn 40 SEUs (scrum education units). These SEUs are roughly equivalent to one SEU to one hour of training or activity. That, and $250 will get you renewed for another two years.
I studied the course material that was given out during my course to prepare for the test. I didn’t use any other material, and really had no problem with the test. It was a straight-forward test, and the course (and course materials) were quite good. Here’s a link to a practice test that could get you ready for the real test. Remember, though, that to qualify for certification, you do need to take an accredited 16-hour course.
CSM Practice Test
Professional Scrum Master and Professional Product Owner
Scrum.Org takes a slightly different approach to their certifications (and one that I personally prefer). It is recommended that you take a course to learn the content necessary to pass the test, but it’s not required. Many courses include the cost of the test in the course that you take. I was able to take a scrum master course by a qualified scrum trainer at my work, and the test cost was included. The nice part was, at least for us, if you took the test within 10 days of completing the course, and fail, you can take the test again, for free. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for the test yourself.
The test comprised 80 questions, again with one hour to take it. Again, you can take this online without having to go anywhere. The passing grade is 85%, and I found the test much more difficult. I failed my first attempt, took too long to take my second attempt, and had to pay the $150 to take my second attempt. This time I passed. The product owner exam was $200, and again comprised 80 questions with one hour to take it.
Many in the scrum community feel that the Scrum.Org certifications are superior to the ScrumAlliance.Org certifications. For one, the certification tests are much more rigorous, and thus fewer “certificate collectors” and “resume stuffers” pass through. For another, once you pass the test and get the certification, you are certified for life. As a bonus, you don’t have to take a course before you take the test. It’s a good idea, but if you feel you can pass without the course (because you know your scrum), then off you go! This is good for the certificate holder, as you don’t have to constantly be earning units to renew (I currently have to track Professional Development Units (PDUs) for my PMP and Scrum Education Units (SEUs) for my CSM). Once you have a certification from Scrum.Org, it’s yours for life. And they mean something, as they’re hard to get.
To study for the Professional Scrum Master I test, I took the course offered by my work. I then took the short practice exams offered at Scrum.Org. Once I consistently got 100% on those (they’re only 20 questions), then I went on to a harder practice exam from a different source. This test was 80 questions in an hour, and I was able work at those until I passed. Then, I took the certification test with the confidence from those practice tests, and was able to pass. I did the same thing for both my Professional Scrum Master I test, and my Professional Scrum Product Owner I test.
PSM I Practice Tests
PSPO I Practice Tests
If you’re practicing scrum at your work, then it’s a good idea to get certified. It not only looks good on your resume, but it makes your understanding of what you’re doing at work deeper. You’ll understand better what you’re doing, and you can prove that you know it. Plus, you can get a nifty little graphic badge that you can add to your email signature. It makes you look spiffy (if a little juvenile for collecting badges!) Best of luck in your scrum journey!