Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II) Study
It’s great to see that you’re interested in taking your Scrum Mastery to the next level. The purpose of this post is to give you all of the information you need to know, and even some tips for how to study and pass the test.
Why should you be interested in this certification?
The job of being a Scrum Master has been around for over a decade, but large organisations still haven’t got to grips with career progression for this accountability. Sure there are some poor, good and great Scrum Masters, but how do you show that you are different? Whether you agree or not, many people are driven by job title, salary and responsibility and earning those can be tough without a measurable way to show you’ve improved and developed. The PSM II can help here. Compared to ~400,000 PSM I holders, there are only ~13,000 PSM II holders. Achieving the next step puts you in an elite group the top 3% of Scrum Masters. Sure, you don’t need certifications to be an amazing Scrum Master, but it certainly helps to have one way to prove it, right?
The certification will test not just your knowledge of the Scrum framework, but also its application. Simply knowing the rules isn’t enough, you need to have actually been a Scrum Master to have a chance with this assessment.
Importantly, you don’t need to take an expensive class like other certification routes, although we portantly, you don’t need to take an expensive class like other certification routes, although we definitely recommend it. PSM II 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 aren’t interested in taking a class, you can purchase an assessment code for $250 directly from scrum.org here. If you attended a PSM I class, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for a 40% discount code on this price. Oh and if you pass, it will never expire.
What does the assessment look like?
It is a 90 minute time-boxed, multiple choice assessment that contains 30 questions – that’s 1 question every 3 minutes to maintain your pace. You might think that is plenty of time, but the questions are much more nuanced and detailed than with the PSM I. The answers often require a ‘best fit’ approach, as in real-life there often isn’t a perfect solution. The questions take a variety of forms; true/false, multiple choice, select all that apply, multi-select, and you will likely 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 email@example.com 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 14 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 II – in this case, the candidate dropped some marks in two areas.
How can you prepare? Top 10 tips.
There are many things that you can do to prepare for this assessment:
- Attend an accredited scrum.org Professional Scrum Master II class. It will cover all of the content you will need to apply in the exam.
- Complete the learning path offered for free by scrum.org here. This is particularly targeted at PSM I students, however contains detailed information to help you with the PSM II as well.
- 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. The important part is that you consider real-life scenarios and how you would approach them as a Scrum Master by leveraging the framework.
- Read Mastering Professional Scrum by Stephanie Ockerman and Simon Reindl. It is concise and clear and will prepare you well. It is also strongly recommended as part of studying for the PSM III too if you decide to challenge yourself with the toughest Scrum assessment in the world.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Complete the Scrum Open mock assessment offered for free by scrum.org here…but with a twist. Shrink your screen so you can’t see the answers. Try to answer every question with the most precise ‘Scrum Guide’ approved answer. Think deeply and don’t rush. Take questions you struggle with to meet-ups and ask other people how they’d respond.
- 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!
These questions are not created or endorsed by scrum.org, but are written by us to give you an idea of the complexity and challenge that the PSM II will offer.
The CEO sends you, the Scrum Master an email. He is furious that the Scrum Team are behind on the delivery dates he set for them. He isn’t happy with the Product Owner as he feels she is slowing down the development to ‘gold-plate’ solutions. As the Scrum Master, what would you do?
Select the best two answers:
a) Suggest that the CEO should begin attending the Sprint Reviews if he isn’t happy with the progress, as this is an opportunity for key stakeholders to inspect the increments produced and offer feedback.
b) Encourage him to set more realistic delivery dates as the Scrum Team aren’t meeting them.
c) Suggest he attends the next Sprint Retrospective so that he can support the Scrum Team by removing any impediments they raise.
d) Facilitate a discussion between the Product Owner and the CEO to help resolve the conflict and improve the transparency.
e) Coach the Product Owner on how he can gain make the Product Backlog more transparent so that the CEO can better understand the delivery timescales.
Which of the following facts are true about the Product Backlog?
- The Product Backlog is an ordered list of requirements that exists for as long as the Product does.
- The Product Backlog is managed by the Product Owner and therefore he/she is accountable for everything contained within it.
- The Product Backlog is an artefact in Scrum. It is typically updated during the Sprint Review to address changing market conditions.
Select the best answer.
b) 2 & 3
c) 1 & 3
d) All of the above
e) None of the above
The Product Owner has unexpectedly taken two weeks of annual leave at the end of the Sprint. The Developers are in chaos, as they needed information from him to clarify some Product Backlog Items. As the Scrum Master, what actions do you take?
Select the best answer.
a) Facilitate an urgent meeting so that the Developers can decide how to proceed.
b) Encourage the Developers to talk to the stakeholders and clarify the Product Backlog Items. Once clarified, suggest they make empirical assumptions that they can validate during the Sprint Review.
c) Allow the Developers to self-manage the situation without you. They are a self-managing team and are still accountable for producing a Done increment at the end of the Sprint.
d) Work with the Developers to decide how to change the scope of the Sprint to remove the poorly clarified Product Backlog Items.
e) None of the above.
There you have it. Everything there is to know about the PSM II. If you still have questions, comment on this post and I’ll add them in. Similarly if you find other questions on another website and are confused by the answers, post them below for others to see and we’ll give you our opinion on them.
If you’d simply like a conversation about the assessment, please feel free to email us – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answers: A & E | D | B (if you disagree, comment below!)
Question 1 – A & E demonstrate activities where the Scrum Master serves the team in a supportive capacity. A Scrum Master doesn’t help a self-managing team if he/she acts as a manager, and resolves behaviours and activities that the Scrum Team could address themselves. This is particularly the case with D – there is no evidence in the question that the CEO has spoken to the Product Owner, and therefore we should avoid answers that jump straight to solving and behaving managerially.
Question 2 – All of these statements are true. Even if the refinement and management of the Product Backlog is delegated to the Developers, for example, the Product Owner will always be accountable for expressing the work within it. With C, the Product Backlog is typically updated in the Sprint Review – the question doesn’t state that it is only updated there, as that would make it untrue.
Question 3 – Being empirical and making assumptions is acceptable when we have gathered evidence to support our reasoning. In the absence of the Product Owner, the Developers can do the next best thing which is to engage the stakeholders to get help with clarification. If they hadn’t been successful in getting that clarification and were making guesses without evidence, this wouldn’t have been correct.