Preparing for the PSM III Assessment

Last post 10:20 pm August 2, 2021
by Blake McMillan
4 replies
03:25 pm April 4, 2018

I finished taking my PSM III Assessment and I wanted to share my thoughts and some tips for preparing for the assessment while everything is still fresh in mind.  I waited to post this until I received my assessment results and I am happy to report that I passed…so hopefully this information will help you.

First I want to warn you that this assessment is very unforgiving if you do not have an absolutely solid understanding of the Scrum Guide.  You will need to be able to QUICKLY articulate why the roles, artifacts, and events of Scrum are used as you QUICKLY diagnose and comment on case study questions.  Did you notice that I used all caps on the word quickly twice?  That is because the time box for this assessment is one of the biggest challenges you will face as you balance between thorough answers and succinct responses.  In my estimation, the test is about 85% essay questions although it felt like 98%.  Every time I saw a multiple choice question it was like a cool breeze and a glass of ice cold lemonade on sweltering hot summer day in Texas.  I contrast that with the feeling of dread that would wash over me as I scanned an essay question and started counting the multiple question marks realizing I had to address every single question.  A friend of mine expressed concern about the fact that the PSM III is not taken at a testing location and that since it is open book the certificate isn’t as valuable.  All I can say is this: If you think you will be able to look up answers during this test, you had better be a world class speed reader and typist, because you are going to run out of time.  The entire duration of the test I felt like I was getting chased by a bear because of the time constraint.  When I completed my last question (Question #34…which of course was an essay question) I looked up and saw that I had 9 seconds left!  I had no time to go back and review any of the answers and I am grateful that the test didn’t allow me to skip questions because there were some really hard ones that I would have skipped to come back to later if I had the option.  Because of the difficulty level and expense of this assessment, I would not recommend that you even consider attempting PSM III without extensive preparations and understanding of Scrum well past a superficial level.

Scrum Guide & Training

Read the Scrum Guide a lot…find someone that you can talk to about the Scrum Guide…find someone that will ask you questions about the Scrum Guide.  It is a brief and succinct document, but you need to know the content past a memorization level, and understand it more at a philosophical level.  I said it before above but it bears repeating, you need to understand why we do what we do in Scrum and how it supports empiricism as you are faced with scenarios that you have to diagnose and provide solutions to situations QUICKLY.  Also…as a PSM III you should also be prepared to deal with questions that brush up against Nexus.  So make sure you have gone through the Nexus guide quite a bit too.

I would highly recommend that you take the 2-day Professional Scrum Master class…the interactive format is very beneficial and really helps solidify the concepts in a different way than just reading them.  I was also grateful to have my friend Ty Crockett facilitate my session…I am forever a fan of his.  Also the PSM workbook is useful and I’ll go into how I used it to practice later.


These are the books I read and would recommend:

Scrum – A Pocket Guide (Verheyen) – Highly Recommend reading this early on your list…great book that gets into the philosophy of why we use Scrum.

Software in 30 Days (Schwaber & Sutherland) – At the time of me writing…this is the most recent book that Ken & Jeff produced and this should be read more than once.

Scrum Mastery (Watts) – I purchased this as an audio book and I listened to it non-stop for weeks on my commute.  I am a huge fan of Geoff Watts…and grateful for how this book changed me.

The Harvard Business Review Articles – Although they are a bit dated at this point…it was good to see the influences that helped Ken & Jeff develop Scrum as well as what later emerged as Agile.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni) – I really like books that help you learn through telling you a story…this might also be a good candidate for an audiobook.  This was a really good book and I definitely recommend having it in a form where you can lend it to other people.

Agile Software Development with Scrum (Schwaber & Beedle) – This was my first book about Agile/Scrum that I read back in 2006.  I re-read this in preparation of PSMIII because I wanted to see how Scrum had adapted.

Agile Project Management with Scrum (Schwaber) – This was useful for the many case studies and to see how Ken approaches problems using Scrum…also good to see the differences between Scrum then and now.

Drive (Pink) – I’m going to admit I didn’t read this book, but I watched Dan’s videos whenever I needed a break from the relentless reading.  I’m going to end up getting Dan’s book though because I think he is spot on about what motivates people.


Additional Info

This article on was very helpful:

The good people at are actually kind enough to provide a sample PSM III essay question.  I would highly recommend that you use that as an example and not only answer it, but use it as a template for similar questions and think through how you would answer a question about other events and how they support empiricism.  Do that same thing thinking through the roles and artifacts of Scrum.

The final preparation tactic that I will share is how I used my workbook from the Professional Scrum Master course.  On the day I took the assessment, I went through the book and wrote essay answers for all of the case study questions…this was a great warm-up to get my mind in essay response mode.  It also helped me practice writing succinct answers QUICKLY though I had no idea at the time how it would feel to have the relentless assault of essay questions with the bear of time constraint hot on my heels.

I hope this helps you as you prepare…and please post feedback if you found this useful.


Blake McMillan - PSM III

03:45 pm August 9, 2019

Something that is new since I wrote this post is the Scrum Master Learning Path:

I have spent some time reviewing this content and have found it very helpful in my ongoing development.  I have also included this as part of a Scrum Master learning plan that I am working on.

04:05 pm August 9, 2019

@Blake McMillan, What was the experience for the PSPO II, How different was the preparation? Any suggestions on that?

09:55 pm August 12, 2019

Great post! Thanks!

10:20 pm August 2, 2021

The link I referenced in the original post under Additional Info is broken, but here is a link to a practice question: