According to Knowledgehut, no more than one-third of Scrum Masters also work as Project Managers or have held this position. A Scrum Master and a PM are not the same sort of thing. In order to become a Scrum Master, you need to change your mindset, learn particular methods and techniques, and successfully apply them in your work. Certification is part of the process of learning and becoming a Scrum Master. And this part, although not mandatory, is highly desirable. We will analyze in this article how to choose a certificate, how to prepare for the exam, and how much it will cost.
Why you need certification at all
There are several reasons that can motivate both established Scrum Masters and candidates for this position to get certified.
1. Courses and certification from a reputable resource provide insight into what Scrum really is. Otherwise, there is a high risk of a selective approach; the “adjustment” of Scrum to the preferences of the customer (or manager, or team members) may begin. Sometimes what is passed off as Scrum is something that is not Scrum at all.
2. The certificate increases the credibility of the Scrum Master in the eyes of the customer. The opinion of a certified specialist is more often considered.
3. Having a certificate makes a specialist more competitive in the market. 83% of Scrum Masters are certified, so this is not just a useful achievement but rather a must-have.
4. Among highly-paid Scrum Masters, those with certificates prevail. The inverse dependence works as well.
US Scrum Master salary data
Popular Scrum and Agile certifications
Let’s consider the two most popular and reputable certificate providers that the majority of Scrum Masters and candidates choose. In addition, we will consider two Agile certificates that are equally useful for Scrum Masters, PMs, POs, and others.
The founders of Scrum Alliance stood at the origins of Scrum as a concept, on a par with the founders of Scrum.org. Scrum Alliance is the best option for those who need certification as soon as possible. There are several levels of certification – not only for Scrum Masters but also for POs, developers, and other professionals.
- a quick way to get a certificate;
- short but high-quality training;
- a relatively easy exam, but also a high percentage pass it.
- a rather high cost;
- renewal of the certificate every 2 years.
Another popular certificate provider founded by the creators of the Scrum movement. Its main difference from Scrum Alliance is the absence of mandatory training. If candidates need the training, they can find courses on Scrum.org, just like on Scrum Alliance. And those who like to prepare on their own or already possess the necessary knowledge have the opportunity to go directly to the exam, saving almost $1,000.
- preliminary training is optional, so one can save money;
- independent preparation planning (at a convenient time and pace);
- a smaller pool of those who passed the exam;
- the certificate is termless, so no need to renew it.
- a relatively difficult exam;
- retaking costs the same as a full exam.
A global Agile certification system for POs, BAs, DevOps Engineers, and other professionals. ICAgile poses itself as an educational training provider. There are no exams, and the client pays only for tuition.
PMI Agile Certified Professional
Agile certification with the highest requirements for participants and a challenging exam. It includes elements of various frameworks (Scrum, Kanban, etc.). The certificate needs to be renewed every 3 years.
How to prepare for the scrum.org certification exam
I chose a certificate from Scrum.org for myself. For me, the issue of cost was quite important – here PSM I from Scrum.org is the undisputed leader. At the same time, I don’t think self-preparation necessarily means loss of quality. The exam itself is quite difficult, the passing percentage is high, so one needs to prepare for it thoroughly. In addition, I was impressed by the fact that the pool of people who passed this exam is smaller than that of its competitors. This fact only increased my motivation.
This may sound trite, but preparation should start with reading. There are several resources you should start exploring first.
- The Scrum Guide. In the Scrum Guide, every sentence is full of meaning, so read it as attentively as possible. The first time, you can read in your native language for familiarization; the English version is important for passing the exam (read at least twice in English).
- Materials from scrum.org, especially the glossary. I believe everyone understands what a Scrum Board or Burn-down Chart is, but the glossary is worth mastering because even literal quotations from there may come up in the exam. It is important to be able to recognize some concepts in the Scrum Guide language.
- Books. For example, Scrum: A Pocket Guide: A Smart Travel Companion by Gunther Verheyen. Reading books will help you to once again perceive the information from the Scrum Guide, but in a more lively and free form, with examples.
Having mastered the theory, we move on to practice. There are no less than five qualitative simulators of a Scrum Master Certificate exam:
- A mock exam from scrum.org. 30 questions in 30 minutes. The questions there seem simpler than on the exam itself, but practice helps to become familiar with both the interface and the general style of the exam.
- Free simulator The Scrum Master. 20 questions in 15 minutes. These paraphrased questions from the scrum.org exam prevent you from getting used to specific phrasing and order of answers.
- A simulator by Mikhail Lapshin. 80 questions in 60 minutes; there is an option to try it without a timer. Here, it is possible to get comments on each answer with an analysis of your mistakes.
- Agile and Scrum Practice Test by KnowledgeHut as an example of a large number of small mock tests on the English-speaking Internet.
- A simulator from the “accredited” provider Management Plaza. 80 questions in 60 minutes. Costs around 30 euros.
In order to pass the exam with flying colors, you need to have a good level of English. A candidate needs to be able to quickly read and understand the questions and answer options – there will be no time to look up unknown words in the dictionary.
Here are some more obvious but important tips. Firstly, set aside a place and time for the exam so that no one distracts you. You will have 60 minutes and 80 questions – quite a lot of tasks in a relatively short period of time. Secondly, the exam interface doesn’t have the function of “scrap paper”, so the numbers of the questions to which you want to return later should be written down on a piece of paper. Thirdly, it is better to answer the maximum number of questions; wrong answers don’t decrease your score. Fourthly, you probably won’t have time to google questions, so prepare responsibly.
As a result of preparing and passing, you not only receive a certificate that appears on your CV and is added to your LinkedIn profile but also get systematic knowledge of what the perfect Scrum looks like. Get ready for the fact that reality is often far from this standard, but you will have a guide and answers to numerous questions like “Why?” and “What for?”
Oleksandra Riazantseva, PM/PO at Andersen