In my first Scrum.org post, I thought I'd share my PSM I experience. I have no professional experience with Scrum (though obviously excited to start its application!), and did not take a Scrum Master course. After going back and forth between CSM vs PSM, I settled on the latter because it was harder.
I passed my exam on the first try with an overall score of 96.3% [Framework: 97.5%; Theory/Principles: 90%; Cross-functional/Self-organizing: 100%; Coaching/Facilitation: 100%]. I finished in 35 minutes, rechecked my bookmarks, changed 0-1 answers, and submitted with ~15 minutes to spare.
Overall, I spent about 2 weeks preparing, so what was my study process? Here are the roughly ordered steps (as I recall), interspersed with a lot of Googling PSM-specific exam prep, and synthesizing knowledge from other people’s similar looking lists. I also referred back to the Scrum Guide for every question that I had with 3rd party material (not all of the answers are there, but the vast majority are.)
1) About 2 months ago I read the very short book “Scrum Basics: A very quick guide to Agile project management” published by Tycho press. I never opened it after that first read, but it started the Agile principles & Scrum framework percolating in my mind. Life got in the way for awhile, and I didn’t think about Agile/Scrum for 2 months other than the occasional Google search to weight CSM/PSM. [Study value: moderate]
2) Took the open exam cold to establish a baseline. Result: 63.3%. [Study value: low]
3) Reviewed my incorrect answers & immediately took it again. Result: 76.7%. [Study value: moderate]
4) Read the Scrum Guide. Some people say it’s a quick read. If it is, I humbly submit you’re reading it wrong. My first read of those 16 pages took me 2+ hours because I took the time to understand the value behind: Every. Single. Sentence. [Study value: highest]
5) Took the open exam again the next day. Result: 96.7%
6) A week before the exam I took a CSPO course from Scrum Alliance. While fantastic for learning about the role of actually being a Product Owner, especially for a beginner like me, it had little practical exam benefit. [Study value: low]
7) Read the Scrum Guide. Faster read this time, but I definitely picked up more.
8) Took the open developer, scaled and PO exams. Realized my developer knowledge (I’m not a dev guy!) and found my scaled Scrum experience was seriously lacking.
9) Read the Nexus Guide. Read a lot of forum chat about scaling scrum in the real world, and also how it’s tested on the exam. Topic for another thread, but I don’t like the Nexus Guide. You still need to read it. I read it through once (with difficulty), and later used it for reference to check exam practice questions, and validate (or invalidate) what was said on forums. That was helpful. [Study value: begrudgingly, moderately high]
10) Started nailing the all of the open exams on Scrum.org with consistent 100%. Great confidence booster. Note that if I had stopped here, I believe I would have scored in the low 80s & failed. [Study value: high].
11) Re-read the second half of the Scrum Guide, on the belief I likely suffered from fatigue by that point in my first two readings. [Study value: moderate].
12) Sought out other open assessments listed on these forums/3rd party material and tests. A couple of Mike Cohen’s videos provided good tidbits for the exam. [I’d also add that ALL of his material that I reviewed has extremely high real-world application!] [Study value: moderate].
13) Read Rad & Turley’s/ Management Plaza’s “The Scrum Master Training Manual”. Found myself quibbling with some of their material. Also used/disagreed with some other googled 3rd party material. Sought clarification from The Scrum Guide/the forums. [Study value: low].
14) Obsessed over the open questions from the Classmarker links on these forums, using process of elimination to get 100% on every exam where they don’t provide you with results beyond your score. This also really helped me get in the mindset of ‘don’t miss-click, don’t screw up is/is NOT etc., choose THREE’. It also helped with scaled scrum, probably more than the Nexus guide. [Study value: extremely high]
15) Reviewed & mined everyone else’s exam prep lists for the ‘5% items’ (e.g. burndown charts, Scrum.org’s view of ‘scrum of scrums’), and various misc. exam rules/rules of thumb (e.g. ‘Sprint 0 is always wrong’, default to ‘whichever path leads to a "done", releasable, increment’). [Study value: moderate]
16) Did another round of the open exams on Scrum.org ensuring I hadn't 'unlearned' anything.
17) An hour before the exam I watched Ken & Jeff’s 2016 video about recent additions to the Scrum guide. For people new to Scrum, I recommend doing this last. If you find yourself nodding and laughing with them, you’re in good shape. It’s also a nice way to get in the exam mindset.
18) Relaxed for a few minutes, drank some water, had a snack, checked for threats to stable internet (e.g. serious summer thunderstorms!) sat for the exam.
DID NOT USE: paid scrum master courses, paid assessments, paid Management Plaza material, SBOK, Scrum Alliance focused material.
How did I know I was ready to take the exam?
--> I could confidently pick out the ‘errors’, in third-party material with respect to answering Scrum.org’s core-scrum exam approach.
--> I was confident I understood the difference between what’s required by Scrum, permissible by Scrum, and prohibited by Scrum. Having no prior background with Scrum was a huge advantage here.
--> Consistently getting 100% on every open practice exam, including those for scaled scrum, product owner, and developer. I advise using the various links in these forums to find practice questions. Be warned, some third party material is wrong. A number of the open exams will not tell you which questions you’re getting wrong, so I used process of elimination & trial/error to identify the 1-2 I was getting wrong. 1-2 questions isn’t much, but it made me MUCH more confident in all of my other answers. That positive reinforcement was one of the most valuable things; I never second guessed myself on the exam.
--> My mindset actually changed to WWKD [What Would Ken Do?] for every Scrum discussion/debate/question I came across.
I read someone else on a forum say ‘the difference between amateurs and professionals is that amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. Take this to heart.