Interested in taking the industry standard Professional Scrum Master I assessment? Hopefully in this post we’ll provide everything you need to know, and even some tips for how to study and pass the test.

Why should you be interested in this certification?

Certification is one method to validate knowledge and experience. Many of us feel impostor syndrome in our jobs and passing a tough assessment can help prove to yourself that your skills and understanding are worthy of ‘being’ a Scrum Master. Alongside this, it is a demonstration of a basic understanding of the Scrum framework that will help you when applying for jobs. At a minimum, holding either the PSM I from scrum.org or the CSM from Scrum Alliance is often needed prior to an application. If the financials drive you, Glassdoor.com currently reports that the average Scrum Master salary in the USA is just under $98k (2021) – not bad, right?

Importantly, you don’t need to take an expensive class like other certification routes, although we definitely recommend it. PSM I classes are offered by accredited Professional Scrum Trainers who pass rigorous selection criteria before being allowed to deliver the courseware – they are at the top of their game. If you’re interested in taking a class, please look at our upcoming offerings here. If you aren’t interested in taking a class, you can purchase an assessment code for $150 directly from scrum.org here. Oh and if you pass, it will never expire.

What does the assessment look like?

It is a 1 hour time-boxed, multiple choice assessment that contains 80 questions – that’s 1 question every 45 seconds to maintain your pace. The questions take a variety of forms; true/false, multiple choice, select all that apply, multi-select, and you will get all of these types at some point during the assessment.

Once you start you can’t pause it, although if you have any significant technical problems, reach out to support@scrum.org and let them know – they may be able to help.

The passing grade is 85% and you will find out your result immediately after submitting your answers. You can bookmark questions you struggle with to go back and check before clicking submit. To protect the rigour of the exam, you will get a topic breakdown of your answers but not a question by question breakdown.

What will I be assessed on?

There are 13 knowledge areas and you will be assessed on all of them. You can find more information on each in the Scrum Master Learning Path offered by scrum.org here. You can see the example feedback below from a recent attempt at PSM I – in this case, the candidate dropped some marks in two areas.

How can you prepare? Top 10 tips.

There are many things you can do in preparation for the assessment.

  1. Attend an accredited scrum.org Professional Scrum Master I class. It will cover all of the content you will need to apply in the exam. Our upcoming classes can be found here.
  2. Complete the learning path offered for free by scrum.org here.
  3. Complete the Scrum Open mock assessment offered for free by scrum.org here. These are real, representative questions, so complete it multiple times until you can score 100% consistently.
  4. Read and annotate the Scrum Guide. Pay close attention to the terminology used and the underlying reasoning behind it. Consider creating a study group to quiz each other on the framework.
  5. Read Mastering Professional Scrum by Stephanie Ockerman and Simon Reindl. It is concise and clear and will even prepare you well for the next two advanced certifications (PSM II and PSM III).
  6. Reach out to Scrum Masters in your professional network for a conversation about Scrum. Practice talking about the Scrum Guide with them and deepen your understanding.
  7. Attend a Scrum Lake workshop to deepen your real life experiences and hear stories from experienced Scrum Masters. Find out about upcoming workshops here. This workshop is not created or endorsed by scrum.org but is very helpful for improving your understanding.
  8. Create short videos on the Scrum Framework. Practicing concise explanations and sharing information will help you to embed your learning. You don’t even need to share the videos! The process will still help you.
  9. Avoid websites offering banks of Scrum questions either for free or for money. Typically they use incorrect and imprecise terminology and refer to old versions of the Scrum Guide. Watch out for references to ‘Development Team’, ‘Stand-ups’ and ‘Project Managers’ – if you see these in the questions, run away! Even if you do find some good questions, they are likely infringing the copyright of scrum.org. Using them does not uphold the values we expect as Scrum Masters. The only accredited practice questions are from the Scrum Open referred to earlier.
  10. Try it. Scrum is an empirical framework meaning we gather evidence and adapt. Don’t feel like you need to over-study. If you think you’re ready, give the assessment a go; you might surprise yourself!

There you have it. Everything there is to know about the PSM I. If you still have questions, comment on this post and I’ll add them in. If you’d like a conversation about the assessment or one of our classes, please feel free to email us – enquiries@optilearn.co.uk.

Good luck!

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