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Scrum Certification Test

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On many occasions various members of the agile community have complained that the Scrum Certification is meaningless because almost everyone who takes the class gets a certificate. Michael James, of Danube technologies, writes as of Jan 1. 2009 that will no longer be the case.

At the Scrum Gathering in Stockholm this fall attendees (already CSM's and CST's) were asked to write a Beta version of the test. The current version is a multiple choice test whose goal is find out whether the testee has a minimal amount of knowledge about Scrum.  Simon Kirk took the test and found it to be fairly good - even testing his understanding of the Agile Manifesto. Tom Mellor, CST with State Farm, said that his score was 84/100 and that was the average for the trainers who took the test. In addition he noted the sigma was low and the highest score was 89.

Mike Dwyer, Agile Coach at BigVisible Solutions, would prefer a deeper test: "Take any topic in Scrum and require the student to list three valid arguments for and against it.  Then to describe their position and why. There should be no more than three questions answered and at least 10 questions asked. I do not want agreement here, I want well thought out responses  because we are all about emergence and learning." While Peter Stevens, of Scrum Breakfast, would like a role playing test. The testee would be given a series of situations or challenges like the Daily Scrum from Hell. Their score would relate to how well they handled the situation.

Tobias Mayer, of Agile Thinking, sees value in the test saying it:

...encourages participants of a CSM course to take time to read books, papers, blogs and join discussion groups in order to improve their academic understanding of Scrum, either prior to the training or subsequently (the test is to be taken online, after the training is completed). In other words, it encourages the potential CSMs to take responsibility for their own learning and not just expect to be spoon-fed a certificate after two days of sitting in a class.

Alistair Cockburn, author of  Agile Software Development, feels the underlying problem runs deeper than just a test. He says that people attend the CSM course looking for a Scrum Bootcamp and so certifying them as ready to be Scrum Masters is beside the point. He feels that "thousands of people have CSM certificates without possibly even knowing basic Scrum rules, the CSM course has become the defacto Scrum Bootcamp course". He suggests that it is in the interest of Scrum community to introduce a Scrum Bootcamp course that is targeted for most people and use that as the introduction to the Scrum Master course that will be of interest to only a few thousand people.

Finally Tom Mellor, a member of the Scrum Alliance Board, reminded us that:

Ken initially created the CSM as a bit of a thumb-of-the-nose to PMI.  He never intended the course to be about teaching people to be ScrumMasters; he wanted people to understand ("master") the concepts, principles, and rules of Scrum.  Of course, no one, including Ken, predicted Scrum would become so widely popular.  Based upon the immense growth of the CSM, it was the decision of the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors to put a level of credibility around the certification through a testing process - an element that was conspicuously missing.  That decision arose plainly and simply out of a recognition of demand by many organizations and people to put an element of integrity to the certification.

Previously on items on InfoQ that touch on related aspects of certifcation: We Vouch For and Martin Fowler on Avoiding Common Scrum Pitfalls

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