To earn a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) credential from the Scrum Alliance, you need to take an exam. Here’s what I did to prepare for, and pass, that exam.
There’s little doubt that the most recognized name in Scrum certification is the Scrum Alliance. Their Certified Scrum Master certificate is well recognized and accepted by many Agile organizations looking to add experienced Scrum members to their Scrum teams. It’s not without it’s problems, as I mention in a separate article where I provide a review of the CSM Test but, it’s certainly the best known.
The instructor on the CSM course I attended was equally clear on the value of the certificate. He advised delegates that if they wanted to hire a Scrum Master, the minimum qualification that they should look for is the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP). It’s a sentiment that I understand and so I decided to formalise my knowledge and earn the qualification.
At the time of writing, the eligibility criteria for applying for the CSP credential were:
- Hold a current Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), or Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) credential
- Have a minimum of 2000 hours of Scrum-related work in the past two years
- Hold a current Scrum Alliance membership
Booking Your Test
Once you apply, the Scrum Alliance will check the details and invite you to pay to take the CSP Exam. The cost is $300. Once you have paid, the company that administer the exam (Castle Worldwide) contact you and ask you to select a location, date and time to sit your exam. The exam is proctored so you have to travel to the site to sit the exam. The Scrum Alliance strongly encourage candidates to take the exam within 90 days of booking it.
So much for the administration. But what about the knowledge that is being tested? The Scrum Alliance sends all candidates a document titled “Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) Certification Examination Candidate Handbook”. This document contains a lot of valuable information including five sample examination questions. Upon reading these, it’s evident that a CSP candidate will be expected to have knowledge of Extreme Programming (XP) and Refactoring as well as Scrum.
The Scrum Alliance also provides exam information for CSP delegates on their website. It includes information on how to access a list of 35 sample questions at a cost is $20. I highly recommend taking this test to assess your level of knowledge.
Research shows that a number of prospective candidates have taken this test and been put off by the difficulty of the questions. Commentary on one blog shows users reporting scores on the CSP Practice test of 40% and 52%. One respondent on this blog reports achieving a score of 40%.
As well as giving you an overall score, the CSP Practice test also shows you how you scored on each question and on each section. The great thing about this is that it helps to direct your learning effort and, given the large list of recommended reading material, this is hugely useful.
The Scrum Alliance supplies applicants a list of suggested reading material. This consists of 25 publications, many of which are mighty tomes in their own right. There’s no way that I could hold all that much information in my head and so, using guidance from the practice test, I decided to concentrate on just a few of them and trust that the newly found knowledge, and my own experience, would be sufficient to earn the credential.
These are the books I bought especially to prepare for the exam:
- Succeeding with Agile. Software Development Using Scrum, by Mike Cohn
- Agile Estimating and Planning, by Mike Cohn
- Agile Product Management with Scrum. Creating Products that Customers Love, by Roman Pichler
These are the books I already have in my library, knowledge of which proved useful:
- User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, by Mike Cohn
- Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins
- Refactoring. Improving the Design of Existing Code, by Martin Fowler
- Test-Driven Development by Example, by Kent Beck
These are the books that I wish I had read:
- Agile Retrospectives. Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby, Diana Larsen and Ken Schwaber
- An as yet unidentified publication that addresses the ‘Sharing the Product’ element of the test
I also read (daily, during my exam prep phase) the Scrum Guide, by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland.
My years of experience with both XP and Scrum proved very useful, especially for the technical questions.
Taking the CSP Exam
The instructions that you receive from Castle Worldwide are clear and explicit. Note that you won’t be able to take anything in to your exam room (including the obvious items like books, phones, cameras etc and also the not-so-obvious things like paper and pens) so do plan for this. I left my phone and revision material at my hotel before going to the test centre though they had a locker available that I could have used, free of charge. You may wish to contact your test centre to see what facilities they have.
The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice and a 3-hour time limit. I used every available minute. I think that the greater majority of the questions are intelligently phrased and presented. As opposed to asking a question and giving four options, only one of which is right, you’ll often be presented with a question that has multiple correct answers and you’ll be invited to select the ‘best’ answer.
This caused me to really think through my answers. I have little doubt that some of the questions will give rise to fierce debate on what the ‘best’ answer is. But, for a multiple choice question exam, I think it’s a job well done.
In the end, I was delighted to pass the exam and I feel I’ve truly earned my Certified Scrum Professional credential. On considering the preparation I did for the exam, the reading material I selected was hugely useful but, I’m in no doubt that my years of experience with XP / Scrum (including time as a software developer) and recent work as a contract Agile Coach were greatly beneficial.
Please note that since this article was written, the Scrum Alliance have announced a change in the way that candidates can apply to become CSP’s. The final date by which candidates can apply to sit the CSP examination is 15 Feb 2013. For more information, visit the Scrum Alliance page on How to Become a CSP.
Have you taken the CSP Exam? Have any comments or tips? I’d love to hear from you. Why not write a comment below?