Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) Exam Preparation

21 Mar

In March 2012, I sat the Professional Scrum Master I assessment provided by Scrum.org.  I did not attend any formal training beforehand and relied only on my experience and exam preparation.  In this article, I tell you how to prepare for the Professional Scrum Master I assessment.

After 12 years as an agile practitioner, I decided that I’d like to formalise my Scrum knowledge and earn a recognised certificate for doing so. I researched the field and decided that the Professional Scrum Master certificate, provided by Scrum.org, met my needs.

One of the great things about the Professional Scrum Master I assessment is that it simply assesses your knowledge. You are not required to attend an official training course beforehand. (though it is recommended).

It costs $100 to sit the assessment so thorough preparation is recommended. I followed the advice given on the Scrum.org site to prepare for the Professional Scrum Master I assessment. I also took advice from colleagues that have sat, and passed, the assessment.

The best advice, by far, is to read and understand the Scrum Guide that is authored by Ken Schwaber (the founder of Scrum.org and co-creator of Scrum) and Jeff Sutherland (co-creator of Scrum).

Personally, I find the Scrum Guide to be an excellent document. It has condensed Scrum to only the vital elements that you MUST know to work with Scrum. At only 16 pages long, it’s easy to think that a quick 15 minute read will suffice but you’d be wrong. You’ll want to thoroughly understand the entire content of the document. Read it often.

Scrum.org also provide another hugely valuable resource by way of the free, online open assessment. You have an hour to answer 30 multiple choice questions. I strongly suggest that you do this open assessment as many times as you can until you consistently score 100%. You should also aim to complete it in less than 20 minutes.  This is to prepare you for the Professional Scrum Master I assessment which consists of 80 questions and a time limit of only one hour.

Some of the questions in the open assessment also appear in the Professional Scrum Master I assessment so, every time you take the open assessment it’s an investment in getting ready for the Professional Scrum Master I assessment.

There’s one final piece of advice I have. Find out as much as you can about burndown charts.  Though they’re no longer a part of the official Scrum Guide, I found that there were three or more questions in the assessment that required knowledge of them.  With a pass mark of 85%, and four questions carrying a potential 5% of the result, it pays to be as thoroughly prepared as you can.

Passing the Professional Scrum Master I assessment is not easy. Even with many years experience in agile and Scrum, I found there were gaps in my knowledge.  I spent considerable time on diligent research, the right preparation, revising and consistent effort.  It was worth it in the end because I passed the Professional Scrum Master assessment at the first attempt.

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110 Responses to “Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) Exam Preparation”

  1. Hennie 26 Dec 2012 at 4:55 am #

    Hello Derek,

    Thanks for your tips about the Burndown Chart. There were indeed 3 questions about Burndown Charts.

    I just passed the test with 94%, 75 of 80 questions correct. You have to interpret the Scrum Guide correctly and it sure helps if you’re already working in a Scrum team and environment.

    Thanks mate.

    PS. What bothered me the most during the assesment was the stability of my internet connection, here in the outback of Germany :-). It’s not always reliable.

    • Derek 31 Dec 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Hennie

      Congratulations on earning your PSM I certificate! If you’re interested in earning your PSM II certificate, keep an eye on the site as I’ll be writing about that soon, too.

  2. Hayri 31 Dec 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Hi Derek,

    Thank you for your post and “Scrum Cheet Sheet”, they helped me to pass PSM I with a 90% score.

    Fresh experience may help the ones who want to take this exam :

    - Took open assessment a few times and understand all answers. This will make you gain additional time (remember that there are 80 questions; but 60 minutes).
    - Know everything about 3 roles, 4 ceremonies, 3 artifacts. It is important to know answers of such questions “who is responsible, what is time-box of each, who makes, who updates, who removes etc…”
    - Some questions are tricky. For example, pay attention more to Product and Sprint backlog. The responsibles of them are different so do not click Product Owner option automatically.
    - I saw 3 questions about Burndown Charts. Know what it is and used for.

    What is next? Maybe it is better to gain more experience especially in practice. There are many valuable books on Scrum and other agile subjects that i can understand the subject deeper.

    By the way, Happy New Year!

    Thanks a lot.

    • Derek 31 Dec 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Happy New Year to you too, Hayri

      Congratulations on passing your PSM I assessment and thanks for keeping us all up-to-date with the current status of the assessment.

      If you’re interested in how to pass the PSM II assessment, keep an eye on the site as I’ll be reporting on that soon, too.

  3. Srini 2 Jan 2013 at 4:12 am #

    Hello Derek

    Thanks a lot for your articles and your suggestions. It helped me pass the PSM – I with 94%. It was a slightly tougher than the Scrum Open Assessment. The mocks in testtakeronline were good as well and helped in the preparation.

    Let me see if I can carry on this momentum and take up the PSM – II exam as well sometime soon. I will keep an eye on the website!.

    Happy New Year!!!

    Cheers
    Srini

    • Derek 8 Jan 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Srini

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for coming on and letting everyone know how you got on.

  4. Joe 9 Jan 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you for this useful information. I have passed the test! I found several questions about multiple scrum teams, and I didn’t have enough information or experience in this subject. I will keep applying agile in my organization and learn more with experience.

    Joe
    @cafedejoe

  5. Jean 9 Jan 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Hi Derek,

    I read through many of your posts on Monday regarding the certification test preparation. I had been studying but heard the test was difficult. I applied what you and others had posted and I passed the test today!! Thank you all.

  6. Tomislav Dedus 4 Mar 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Hi Derek,

    thanks for your excellent Scrum sheet. Today I’ve passed the PSM I assessment with a score of 96%.

    Kind regards,

    Tom

    • Derek 5 Mar 2013 at 8:53 am #

      Hi Tom

      That’s excellent news! Congratulations and welcome to the community of Professional Scrum Masters :)

  7. murali_l1 11 Mar 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Hi Derek,

    The assessment welcome letter recommends reading the book “Software in 30 Days” by Ken Schwaber. is it necessary to pass the PSM 1 assessment?

    Thanks
    Murali

    • Derek 11 Mar 2013 at 9:03 am #

      Hi Murali

      It’s been almost a year since I sat the exam (how time flies!) and Ken and Jeff’s book, ‘Software in 30 Days’ has been released since then. It’s realistic to expect that it will contain information that will help candidates.

      I’d recommend reading the book in any case. It’s an easy read and well worth the effort.


      Derek

  8. Ashish 13 Mar 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Hi Derek,

    After reading the book “Agile project management with Scrum” from Ken Schwabar, I took the open assessment but only managed to get 67%.

    Plz could you suggest any reference material, book to prepare before taking up next open assessment so that I manage to score 100%.

    • Derek 13 Mar 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Hi

      I would avoid the book “Agile project management with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber for the simple reason that some if it has been superceded by the current version of the Scrum Guide. For example, the book says that a ScrumMaster can cancel a Sprint but the latest version of the Scrum Guide says that only a Product Owner can do this.

      Your best read, without doubt, is the official Scrum Guide by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. It’s a small document, easy to read and free of charge. Know the content of this guide really well and you’ll sail through the Open Assessment and have an excellent foundation for the real assessment.

      Good luck!

      • Ashish 14 Mar 2013 at 6:43 am #

        Thanks Derek for your feedback. I have started reading scrum guide and hope to score better in next open assessment.

        Regards,
        Ashish

        • Ashish 20 Mar 2013 at 1:06 pm #

          HI Derek,

          I have attempted OA 4 times and have observed that majority of the questions are repeated with only couple (max) are added new in each test.

          My scoring has been as follows;

          OA – 1 => 67%
          OA – 2 => 97%
          OA – 3 => 97%
          OA – 4 => 100%
          OA – 5 => 100%
          OA – 6 => 100%

          Is this good enough preparation for me to go for final assessment or I need to refer to any more reference books to be totally prepared for the final test? Plz suggest.

          Many thanks for your support

          – Ashish

  9. murali_l1 16 Mar 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Derek,

    I cleared PSM1 today with 86%. I must say I found the questions tricky which can make you go wrong even if you know the concepts well.

    I really appreciate your assistance through this site. You Rock!!!!

    Thanks
    Murali

  10. RK 9 Apr 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Passed the PSM I today!!! The tips on this site were very useful. Thank you!

    There were some questions from the open assessment, but also several tricky ones that I had never seen before. Reading the Scrum guide and taking the open assessment should be sufficient preparation. It would help if you’ve had the chance to implement Scrum in the past.

    Reviewing other Scrum material and learning from different sources will also be useful (there are tons of material out there).

  11. Jenny Aldrin 18 Jun 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Have a few of questions regarding roles…
    If a new team member is not working out in a scrum team, who is responsible for taking him/her out – the dev team, the SM or HR?
    What is a tester’s role in scrum besides finding bugs?
    Who decides how to organize Daily scrums when some team members are in different locations?
    Does the Product manager decide on the estimate on PBIs in a product backlog?

    • Derek 19 Jun 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Hi Jenny

      Some interesting questions. I note you supplied some answers in a follow-up question as well but I’ll answer without referring to them.

      1. This is an interesting question. An important element of Scrum is that a Scrum Team should be self-managing. That said, it’s very unlikely that the team would have the authority to fire or move a team member. Any solution then, is going to depend on someone that does have the authority. This would likely involve a manager and/or HR. So, the route to moving a team member is for the Scrum Team to agree that the team member needs to be removed and then involving those that have the authority to effect that removal.

      But that said, I firmly believe that any discussion regarding the removal of a team member should involve the team member under consideration. It should never come as a surprise to a team-member that they are under-performing or that they are under consideration for removal from the team. Recall that Transparency is one of the pillars of Scrum. If we follow this advice then it’s very likely that a team member will either improve or volunteer themselves for relocation. This is definitely a preferred solution for the team-member and the Scrum Team.

      2. In Scrum, all team members are responsible for delivering regardless of their specialisation. While testers are a natural fit for testing, they’re also well skilled for drawing up Acceptance Criteria for Product Backlog Items, for example. But there’s no need to stop there. If the tester has other skills that the team can use, and those skills are needed to deliver, then make best use of them.

      3. The Scrum Team decide how to organize their daily scrums

      4. Scrum doesn’t use Product managers. They have a role of Product Owner. That said, the only people that provide estimates on the PBIs are the people that will be doing the work. In Scrum terms, it’s a collective activity by the Development Team.

  12. Stephen Turner 20 Jun 2013 at 9:31 am #

    I see a few questions in the practice exam about scaling Scrum to cases where several Scrum teams are cooperating to build one product. But I don’t think that’s covered in the Scrum Guide. Are there questions on that topic in the real exam? And where could I learn more about it?

    Thank you.

    • Derek 20 Jun 2013 at 10:23 am #

      Hi Stephen

      You’re quite right, the Scrum Guide says nothing about scaling Scrum. The most usual method of scaling Scrum is the Scrum of Scrums approach. Here’s what one of the authors of the Scrum Guide, Ken Schwaber, says about Scrum of Scrums Search for the term “Scrum of Scrums” for more references.

  13. Jenny Aldrin 24 Jun 2013 at 12:46 am #

    Thank you so much, Derek for answering all of my questions so sincerely. It gives me the courage to ask you a few more:
    1)When is Sprint 0 used and is it a time boxed event?
    2)Can multiple teams having a single product backlog run their particular sprints at different times? Shouldn’t all the events (planning, review, retrospective) be held together? Maybe a separate retrospective again per team afterwards?
    3)What happens if all engineering tools/infrastructure is not ready before a sprint? Do you change the PBIs in the sprint until everything is in place or play it as you go?

    P.S. In the previous lot, I had mistakenly typed in product manager instead of product owner! Oops!

    • Derek 25 Jun 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Hi Jenny

      You’re welcome. In answer to your questions:

      1. There is no such thing as Sprint 0. As a result, time-boxing does not apply.
      2. Yes, multiple teams with a single product backlog can run their sprints at different times and, on occasion, it is beneficial to do so. Scrum events should be kept unique to each team. If you have more than one Scrum Team working on a project, consider the ‘Scrum of Scrums’ approach to Scaling Scrum, and the use of ‘Communities of Practice’ to keep technologists aware of what’s happening across teams.
      3. Good question. My advice is to start with what you have and amend the ‘Definition of Done’ as the engineering tools and infrastructure become ready.

      Hope that helps.

      • Aaron Collett 30 Jun 2013 at 9:36 pm #

        Hello,

        Sorry Derek I would disagree with number 3.

        The aspect of developing potentially shippable products cannot be achieved if the infrastructure is not correctly in place.

        In Scrum to counteract this you would firstly aim to get your environments and tools up to scratch whether its a case of delaying building the products and running sprints to bring everything up to par but as you do not want to inherently build in a degree of technical debt and potentially non-shippable products (it’s like building a house on weak foundations).

        The “definition of done” should never be flexed to allow for poor practice and ineffective quality review.

        Another aspect is transparency and making the product owner aware of the situation and why this is being done.

        • Derek 2 Jul 2013 at 8:23 am #

          Hi Aaron

          I’d say that depends on what elements of the infrastructure are absent.

          Examples:

          1. The intention is to deliver a working solution to the cloud. However, the target location isn’t available but we can deploy and test the application locally.

          2. We want to produce a solution using Microsoft ASP.NET MVC 4 but we currently only have MVC 3 available.

          3. We will get extra testing capability, and speed, using a new test application being produced by a third party.

          In the circumstances above, I think we can manage successfully without those elements having to be in place on day one.

          I completely agree that we don’t want to incur technical debt and we don’t want to build on weak foundations but, in the circumstances I’ve described above, I don’t think they’re issues. Also, with regard to the Definition of Done, it’s an evolutionary artifact. It’s appropriate that it reflects what can be done when you start, rather than what might be possible in the future if some infrastructure becomes available.

          One of my favourite sayings in Scrum is that “You can only work with what you know today.” If today consists of local infrastructure, MVC 3 and current testing technology, that’s what we build our DoD on. After all, Cloud infrastructure, MVC 4 and the new testing app may never happen. If, and when, they do, we adapt the DoD accordingly.

  14. Jenny Aldrin 24 Jun 2013 at 1:05 am #

    And one more, if I may…
    I felt the PO’s job is mainly to get the product backlog in order but I read a post by Ken Schwaber where he’s not happy how the PO’s role has been reduced to that of ‘requirements engineer’.
    So how does one define the role of the PO? A person who adds value to the product, a liaison between customer and developer?

    • Derek 25 Jun 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Hello Again :)

      A PO is much, much more than a requirements engineer. In my view, they have the most important job on the Scrum Team. As well as being the owner of the Product Backlog, they’re responsible for the ROI and TCO of the work that the team does. They’re like a mini-CEO for a Scrum Team! Powerful stuff.

  15. Jenny Aldrin 1 Jul 2013 at 5:25 am #

    Hey Derek!

    I got my PSM 1 certification a couple of days ago. Besides all your useful tips, I also went through the set of videos at http://www.scrumtrainingseries.com. They are easy viewing and I believe I did get a couple of questions based on what I learnt there.
    Bottom line though, the scrum guide should be the key reference you turn to again and again. It should be understood thoroughly and not just studied by rote. I loved the questions. Some of them really made me think.

    My only 2 grouses are that (a) the questions are not numbered when you want to go back and reread, recheck. It takes up precious time when you need to wade through all of it looking for what you want.
    And (b), I wish they’d point out which questions you got wrong at least to those who cleared the test. The correct answers don’t have to be revealed. Sigh!

    Anyways, thank you for your help and encouragement, Derek!
    - From a newly certified scrum master! :-)

  16. Rajarshi Ray 13 Jul 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Took the PSM 1 certification exam today and passed. Didn’t spend more than a couple of days preparing possibly because I have had previous experience with scrum in 2 medium-term scrum projects. Nevertheless, thank you for this post and the cheat sheet that you posted. They still helped immensely.

  17. Hans-Erik Stegeby 8 Aug 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    So I loved the information on this blog. I took the PSM I assessment and passed with a 88%. I read the Scrum guide multiple times. Utilized the Scrum Cheat Sheet sent to me, videos and more. I have not had the opportunity to practice scrum yet as I took this to get my feet into possible positions where Scrum can be implemented. But I am very excited. My PM skills will now turn into Scrum skills.

    Anyway. Thanks for all of this helpful information. Also if there are any pointers you have for breaking into the scrum world I would love it!

    Cheers!

    • Derek 9 Aug 2013 at 7:05 am #

      Congratulations Hans-Erik!

      To break in to the Scrum world, I’d strongly advise starting work as a ScrumMaster at a company that already has ScrumMasters on-board. Even better if they have Agile coaches too.

      Starting out as a ScrumMaster is not easy, especially if you’re used to a waterfall or ‘command and control’ environment. Having experienced colleagues around means you not only have someone to refer to for help, but also a group of peers that can advise you if they see you heading in the wrong direction.

      Good luck!

      • Tanvir Ahmed 5 Sep 2013 at 8:22 pm #

        Hello Derek,
        I have read most of your responses on this thread. I have been a practicing Scrum for the past few years.

        I would like to be a Scrum Trainer. To that end, I took a test for PSM1 and scored 90%, I understand, I need to score 95% that could enable me to apply for the scrum trainer.
        I requested Scrum.org few times to let me know the knowledge area, I need to improve upon but am still waiting.

        I would appreciate if you could forward to my email the “Scrum Aide-Memoire” or any other suggestion that you feel could help me towards scoring 95% for PSM1 as well as PSM2. I have already subscribed to your website.
        Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.
        Regards,
        Tanvir

        • Derek 6 Sep 2013 at 7:56 am #

          Hi Tanvir

          Scrum.org should come back to you shortly. While they won’t tell you exactly which questions you got wrong, they will tell you which areas would benefit from extra study. Perhaps drop them another email if you feel you’ve been waiting a long time?

          If you’ve subscribed to the site, you will have received a link to download the Scrum Aide-Memoire. Check your email (especially the junk folder) and see if it’s there. If not, contact me, giving me your email address and I’ll send you the link.

          What I found helped me when studying for the assessment was concentrating wholly on the Scrum Guide. If you know the contents of that really well, you’ll be fine. In my experience, most people that have problems with the exam are either drawing on personal experience of Scrum (which is often flawed) or reading old publications about Scrum (Scrum evolves, so you have to stay up-to-date).

          I hope that helps and good luck with your goal of becoming a PST!

  18. Esau 21 Sep 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    Dear Derek,

    I have found this thread because I am very eager to learn more about scrum as I have taken the PSM1 assessment today and I failed it. I have always been a developer but recently I have changed jobs and am now in charge of managing software development projects. I got to know about scrum only a year ago and did not give it much attention untill two months ago. The material I used to prepare, Scrum Guide, Scrum reference card, Burndown charts, checklist for scrummasters, online scrum training and the open assessment. This all helped me a lot and felt very confident but there were some questions on the PSM1 that I just couldn’t answer with confidence. Now I saw this thread and the posts from Jenny and it all makes more sense now. Have I only found this thread earlier, I might have have passed the assessment as I scored 84% today. So I just wanted to thank you for this great information you are sharing here, I feel that this will fill in the gaps I need to pass the PSM1. Will update my results here for sure as I am going to take a second try in two weeks.

  19. Jannie 11 Oct 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Hey Derek

    Thanks for this great thread, I nearly made a grave mistake when considering the scrum institute online certification. I was concerned when I noted that there certification is 10% of any other prices. I did some research around them and found the general sentiment is that it is a scam. I have now followed your advice and had my first attempt at the OA without any guides or reading. I only scored 59% which was not surprising but gives me a great foundation to work forward. I will give feedback here on my progress.

    • Derek 11 Oct 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Hi Jannie

      I’m delighted to have helped and thanks for letting me know. I look forward to hearing back on how you progress.

  20. Kaustubh 17 Oct 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    Hi Derek,

    Thanks for your wonderful post. I started with an open assessment (without reading anything) and failed miserably. Then I read the scrum guide over and over and took the open test multiple times until I score 100% consistently.

    Finally took the PSM I assessment and scored a 95% :-)

    Regards,
    Kaustubh

  21. Marcos Moura 8 Nov 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    HI Derek,
    I am project manager and I never worked with Scrum before, but I am interest in use the Scrum in some kind of projects. I took the open test multiple times until I score 100% consistently, but in this evening I failed in the exam, I am so disapointed with my score 84%, only one more question to pass !! I didn´t have time to review some questions and I am afraid to spend another $100.

    Regards,
    Marcos Moura

    • admin 9 Nov 2013 at 9:11 am #

      Hi Marcos

      Thanks for feeding back and letting us know how you got on. Being able to pass the Open test with 100% doesn’t guarantee a pass on the PSM I, I’m afraid, as you have discovered.

      I suggest reading through the article above again. Pay special attention to the advice to read the Scrum Guide (the 2013 edition now) every day for a number of days prior to taking the assessment.

      Also, if you write to Scrum.org, they will tell you which areas of Scrum you need to concentrate on so that you focus your efforts.

      Good luck!

  22. Duc Dinh 14 Nov 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Hi Derek,

    I’ve passed the PSM1 based on your valuable advices on the first try. I have also tried to read more stuff to understand more deeply about the Scrum Guide.

    Thank you so much. Keep up your great work!

    T.D

  23. Venkat 7 Dec 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Derek,

    I am preparing to take PSM I exam in December 2013. I am have gone through some of the initial posts of the thread above and noted a few points to be considered for the exam.

    Could you provide some suggestions on how to prepare and which areas of Scrum you need to concentrate?

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Venkat

    • admin 9 Dec 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Hi Venkat

      All the information you need is included in the above article.

      Good luck!


      Derek

  24. Luke 27 Jan 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Many thanks for the guide and the aide memoir. I followed the advice by reading the guide daily for nearly a week along with some additional research on burn down charts and took the open assessment a number of times until I got 100% each and every time. I took the PSM I assessment a few days ago and achieved 94% on my first try. I’m a Business Analyst with no prior experience of scrum.

    • dd 27 Jan 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      Hi Luke

      Congratulations! Scrum on.

      Derek

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