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How to get certified as a professional scrum master, the fast and the slow way

perigk profile image Periklis Gkolias ・5 min read

A few months ago, I got the Professional Scrum Master Certification (PSM I).

As this is a trending certification nowadays, because most companies operate in some kind of agile methodologies, I would share some tips that helped me get 98% on the first try.

I will provide a fast and a slow track.

I would urge you to lean more towards the slow track, as the fast track, most of the time, will give you just enough knowledge to pass the certification; but this is totally not enough to solve business day to day team problems with scrum, which is what a big part of what a scrum master does.

Though, some people just care for the certificate itself, for their own reasons (eg company KPIs), so let's go.

Fast track

The fast track should take at most 25-30 hours of preparation.

Read the scrum guide at least five times and internalize the concepts

Almost all of the questions in the PSM I exam are derived from details of the scrum guide text. Most of the time there are nexus questions too, but it is not that hard if you have conquered the scrum guide.

Learning by heart is not the solution here, though you might need to do it to remember minor details you will never encounter again in your scrum master journey (which I believe is the case with most certifications) :-)

While doing this step, you should totally understand a) the processes of scrum methodology b) the why behind the processes.

For example:

  • Why the daily scrum (or standup as most people know it) last for 15 minutes and not 20?
  • Why is it a bad idea for the CEO to join the sprint retro?
  • Why sprint ceremonies are not a chance to micromanage people?

I believe if you read it thoroughly and mindfully 5-6 times, you are good to go.

Embrace the scrum.org fora

In there you will "meet" people from the scrum trenches. People who make a living, maybe many years in a row, from scrum oriented activities and know what works and what not.

I have to admit that reading the scrum.org fora, helped me understand a lot "the why" behind the scrum guide.

Do the official open assessments

The official open assessments will test your understanding of the scrum guide and make you familiar with the actual exam environment. They are great practice for PSM I.

I think a good portion of the questions that you will encounter in the open assessment will be similar to the ones in the exam.

I would suggest you take the open assessments many times. The more the merrier.

A popular stop criterion is when you have achieved a 100% score for five or six consecutive times.

Do the mock tests from Mikhail Lapshin

Mikhail Laphsin is a software architect and he's very passionate about scrum as well.

As part of that, he had created one of the best simulation tests out there, which is following 100% the scrum guide.

There are no multiple versions of the test, at least that was the case at the time I was taking it, but doing it and checking the explanation of your wrong answers, will supercharge your probabilities towards the actual exam.

The slow track

This track will keep you busy for about 3 months. You can stretch it as much or little you want. I assume you have gone through the fast track as well, before starting the slow.

Don't forget to check the official reading guide too, when on the slow track and add any resource you find interesting in my suggestions.

Reflect on your current scrum experience

You can get the scrum master certification even if you have totally no experience with scrum before. Though it will make your life way easier if you do.

So if you are one of the lucky ones, while you are reading the material think what you are doing correct and what you are doing wrong in the scrum team you are part of.

There are a lot of opinionated people around, regarding scrum. Mostly it comes from ignorant people that usually believe the scrum guide is a web framework or a book with pasta recipes. Let them do their thing, and stick to your plan to become a great scrum master.

When you do, you can be opinionated as hell. Till then, I suggest you focus on the collective experience of the community.

If you are on the unlucky part, a great free resource for a pretty good and interesting introduction is Scrum Training Series.

Blogs

Similar to the scrum.org fora, blogs can give you a great perspective from the view of a working scrum master / agile coach.

Some articles might be an overkill for a new scrum master, don't get discouraged if you don't get some of those.

My other favorite one is Serious Scrum.

Books

Do you think you would escape? :) Here are some of the best scrum books I have found out there and I would suggest you to read.

Other assessments

If time allows and you are not burned out yet :-P , doing the nexus, scrum developer and product owner open assessments will help you get a wider picture of the framework, from various angles.

Of course, you don't need to take consistently perfect scores, a couple of runs with "pass" is more than sufficient in my opinion.

Book a class

This is a bit overkill if you ask me and I would never take a class for PSM I (PSM II or III are more eligible for that kind of training). But I don't want to influence your personal style of learning.

You can find all the trainers here. If there is no one in your country or you don't want physical presence due to the pandemic, maybe you could request Skype/Hangouts courses.

I don't know anyone who has done it, so if you have any interesting feedback to share, please do, I would be glad to hear it!

Conclusion

Thank you for reading this article. If you are new to the field, I wish you all the best in your journey as a scrum master. If you are more seasoned I would appreciate any feedback on the resources. Enjoy your study in any case!!!

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perigk profile

Periklis Gkolias

@perigk

In love with Python, but I admire all the stacks that offer solutions without testing my patience. Avid productivityist, great-food worshipper, always-smiling.

Discussion

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Thanks Periklis! I've decided to start studying for the PSM-I and these tips are very helpful. :)

 

Oh what a great timing.Glad to help :)