Everything you need to know about PSM certification

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This article was originally published on the KnowledgeHut blog.

Everything you need to know about PSM certification

I) Introduction to Professional Scrum Master

Who is Professional Scrum Master (PSM)?

We partially give some elements in a previous article on our blog: “ How To Choose A Scrum Master? “. On top of that, it is important to highlight that the Professional Scrum Master wear different hats according to the context: s/he is a coach, facilitator, enabler, problem- solver, proxy. His/Her main characteristic is to embody Servant Leadership. And basically, as the first promoter of Agile in the organization, s/he truly has the Agile mindset and is more than willing to share it.

Role and Responsibilities of PSM in the team

Because the position of Scrum Master depends so much on the context, you will find multiple potential roles and responsibilities description by searching on the Internet. However, here are the basics:

  • Coaching the organization, especially the Scrum Team, to get an Agile mindset
  • Increasing the quality of deliverables and reducing time to deliver
  • Helping the Dev Team to become self-organized and self-empowered
  • Building culture of trust, transparency, feedback and “fast failure to learn fast”
  • Advocating in favor of the more appropriated framework to make the Dev Team performant – it can be something else than Scrum!
  • Ensuring that this framework is properly implemented to fit with the Scrum Team needs
  • Removing any impediment and blocker that prevent the Scrum Team to perform

Roles and Responsibilities of the PSM

Requirements to become a PSM

Officially, there is no specific requirement: everyone is a potential candidate to become a Professional Scrum Master (PSM).

Why become a PSM and what do I need to become a PSM

Do you live and breathe Agile? Ok, that sounds too much. Nevertheless, have in mind that learning theory and training to open assessments is one sufficient thing to get certified but acting as a good Scrum Master requires a true behavior and belief in Agile philosophy coupled with large experience, ideally in organizations that have succeeded in their transformation.

Like other jobs at “vocation”, you feel a true desire to become Scrum Master when working or at least meeting with one of them. When you meet a great Scrum Master, at some point you could become aware that you do want to do the same job: because you help people working better, feeling better at work, you participate to a radical transformation in the workplace for a better organization.

 

II) What’s the importance of a PSM certificate?

Getting a PSM certificate demonstrates the capacity to know, understand and apply Scrum in real-world situations.

 

III) PSM Certification Training

How to become a PSM?

Although it is highly recommended, taking a training is optional. However, taking the official exam is mandatory to get certified. Scrum.org is the official provider.

Syllabus of Professional Scrum Master

A core of knowledge about Scrum remains the Scrum Guide from Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland.

Spend time and train seriously on the Scrum Open Assessment: this is the most realistic assessment you can train on!

Next very useful resources are available with the Scrum Master Learning Path: this is a set of Professional Scrum Competencies which each contain a number of focus areas.

Scrum.org recommends strongly these books:

Scrum.org offers also:

  • A very complete glossary
  • Forums populated by threads of quality, written by contributors with solid experience in Scrum
  • A popular blog regularly updated with highly valuable posts, again made by writers shortlisted by Scrum.org

Other Open Assessments might be relevant to gain additional perspective on the other roles of a Scrum Team: check the Scrum Developer Open Assessment and the Product Owner Open Assessment.

What is the eligibility to become a PSM trainer?

Eligibility to become a PSM trainer requires three conditions. First, candidates must have at least four years of intense experience as Scrum Master in software development. Second, candidates must have conducted real-world training and have delivered coaching using Scrum. On top of that, candidates passed their PSM 1 assessment with at least a 95% score.

After PSM training within how many days do I need to take the certification?

After PSM training, there is no minimum duration to take the certification. As soon as candidates feel they are ready, they can schedule an online assessment.

 

IV) Exam and Certification Information

Who provides the certification?

Scrum.org courses. A list of Scrum.org official sessions is available online. As stated on their website:

Professional Scrum Master™ (PSM) is a 2-day course that covers the principles and (empirical) process theory underpinning the Scrum framework and the role of the Scrum Master in it. This course is a combination of instruction and team-based exercises and teaches what is at the heart of the Scrum and Agile movement. The course also includes a free attempt at the globally recognized Professional Scrum Master I certification exam (PSM I).

It is also important to know that taking a Scrum.org official training offers candidates a free attempt at the assessment.

What is the process for applying for the certification?

As passing the certification does not require to attend to the official course, candidates can directly apply on the Scrum.org website. They will receive a personal password (with no expiration date) and then they can connect to a specific page and take the exam.

Cost of the Professional Scrum Master certification

The cost is $150 per attempt. If you attend a Scrum.org training class, fees include a free attempt.

The structure of the exam

The exam is exclusively online. It consists of 80 Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer and True/False questions. 60 minutes maximum are allowed to perform the full exam, and only English language is available.

Topics covered in the PSM exam

  • Scrum Framework: this is foundational knowledge for every Scrum Team member. It covers Scrum theory as described in the Scrum Guide.
  • Scrum Theory and Principles: this topic is more about understanding Scrum theory: empirical process, principles, and values of Scrum.
  • Cross-Functional, Self-Organizing Teams. Questions here cover how Scrum Teams are different from traditional development teams: cross-functional, self-empowered and self-organizing people promote flexibility, creativity, and productivity.
  • Coaching and Facilitation. Questions here are about how mindset and behavior of Scrum Master are different from traditional Project Manager: by acting as a Servant Leader, the Scrum Master facilitates and coaches full organizations in understanding and using Scrum.

Sample questions of PSM exam

Here are three potential questions at the PSM exam.

Question 1: When many Development Teams are working on a single product, what best describes the definition of “done”?

  1. Each Development Team defines and uses its own. The differences are discussed and reconciled during a hardening Sprint.
  2. Each Development Team uses its own but must make their definition clear to all other Teams so the differences are known.
  3. All development Teams must have a definition of “done” that makes their combined work potentially releasable.
  4. It depends

Correct answer is: 3

 

Question 2: The three pillars of empirical process control are:

  1. Inspection, Transparency, Adaptation
  2. Transparency, Eliminating Waste, Kaizen
  3. Planning, Inspection, Adaptation
  4. Respect For People, Kaizen, Eliminating Waste
  5. Planning, Demonstration, Retrospective

Correct answer is: 1

 

Question 3: The maximum length of the Sprint Review (its time-box) is:

  1. 4 hours for a monthly Sprint. For shorter Sprints, it is usually shorter.
  2. As long as needed.
  3. 2 hours
  4. 1 day
  5. 4 hours and longer as needed

Correct answer is: 1

 

Tips to pass PSM

The best way to be well prepared for the PSM official exam is to work on the Scrum Open Assessment. You can consider that you are ready once you get 100% at every attempt.

Salary of the Professional Scrum Master

Salaries of the PSM can vary a lot according to level of experience, industry, company size and location. Here is a table with most common figures:

Salary of the Professional Scrum Master

 

Difference between Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Professional Scrum Master (PSM) exam

Here are main differences between the two majors certifications in Scrum: CSM by Scrum Alliance and PSM by Scrum.org.

V) Is the PSM I certification worth investing?

The first goal at Scrum.org is to make candidates understanding how to get valuable software thanks to a high level of maturity in Agile using Scrum. In order to achieve that, Scrum.org deliver assessments to examine, improve and certify candidates’ knowledge of Scrum. On top of that, the Scrum Guide and the Nexus Guide serve as the main background for all Scrum.org assessments.

Individuals that are successful at the PSM 1 certification demonstrate a fundamental level of Scrum mastery: they understand Scrum as described in the Scrum Guide and the concepts of applying Scrum. The PSM 1 certification is considered significantly more valuable than other options for Scrum.

What next after PSM?

People who follow Scrum.org courses can claim Project Management Institute (PMI) Professional Development Units credit: 14 PDUs after attending a two-day Professional Scrum Master (PSM). Keep in mind that PMI PDUs are earned for course attendance and not for passing a Scrum.org assessment.

How much should I pay to renew PSM certification?

There is no need to renew PSM certification: Scrum.org certificates are lifelong and do not require any additional payments or renewals.

Career benefits of PSM certified

“Why Agile is eating the world” states Steve Denning in this (must-read) article.

Consequently, becoming now a certified and experienced professional in Agile expertise seems to be an interesting option to stay at least “employable” and marketable. Still being realistic, professionals in Agile will be directly requested either to perform the Agile transformation in many big (old) organizations or to build the Agile culture from scratch in new companies and startups. Attractive and valuable challenges are in perspective.

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