PSM III Restrospective

Last post 02:40 pm June 16, 2020
by Emerson Ramkaran
2 replies
07:59 pm August 28, 2019

Hello all,

I committed some time ago to switching my Scrum certifications to, and I decided to begin with the PSM I/II/III series. As a background, I was fortunate to work with a organization in 1999 that was an early adopter of Agile principles and methodologies. Much of my early experience was focused heavily on Product Ownership, but in 2010 I decided to focus more on consulting in a Scrum Master (or occasionally "Agile Coach") role and spent my day job broadening my knowledge of software technology outside of my niche expertise and web development. This experience was helpful in some ways but also presented many challenges, particularly in the PSM III. That being said, I'd like to add to the knowledge that others have provided on this forum on successfully passing the PSM I/II/III for people that have existing experience in Scrum.

The PSM I was straightforward, and I was able to pass it on the first try after taking the open assessment and doing a quick skim of the Scrum Guide. A lot of the training that I've had focused on common practices and what Scrum IS, but the PSM I had the extra layer of enforcing what Scrum ISN'T: this is evident in the open assessment. For example, the majority of projects that I worked on chose a Sprint length of two weeks just because that's what they were told. But understanding what a Sprint length aims to accomplish at a theoretical level in terms of activity alignment/risk/complexity was much more important (and is much more valuable in application!) on the exam. Fortunately it is all in the Scrum Guide, with ample backup from the community blog.

The PSM II required not only a knowledge of theory, but practical application. There were many pick-the-best-answer(s) questions that on the surface all seemed reasonable, but it sometimes required reading them a few times to pick up potential 'bad smells' that rendered answers, though not incorrect, less desirable than others. I don't think I would have been able to pass it without a good bit of practical experience or with a great deal of reading. Here is where my experience came in handy (unlike what was about to occur in the PSM III), and I was able to pass it on the first attempt with a another read through of the Scrum Guide. In the absence of any particular reading to offer for the PSM II in particular, I will say that "Coaching Agile Teams" by Lyssa Adkins has been very helpful to me in keeping me in a coaching mindset and remaining analytical rather than prescriptive.

The PSM III was miles ahead of the PSM II in terms of difficulty due in no small part to the fact that almost all of the questions were situational and essay format. I was unable to complete the first attempt with several questions left in the last 10 minutes. I also quickly realized that experience, as important as it is to pass the exam, was often my biggest hindrance. Every time I came along a situational question in the format of "Person X does ____, and now the Development Team _____. What do you do as Scrum Master?" I would go back to the nearest situation that I personally had dealt with (and all of the contextual baggage that came along with it) and try to formulate a comparable answer in order to get a timely answer typed out... all while trying to return to the roles, artifacts, events in the Scrum Guide without over-explaining them, and staying in a coaching mindset. In order to prepare for round 2, I took every situation that I had experienced and tried to put them in a PSM III -like format. Then, a few days later, I would try to answer the questions in a 3-minute time period. I then did the same with questions on the forum: write myself a question, answer the question, refer to the Scrum Guide and the reading that I have, and then grade myself. This allowed me to pass on the second try, and I even had a few minutes left to review my answers.


One of the interesting things is that the certifications closely aligned with my own path in Scrum: I learn and memorized the theory (PSM I), practiced the theory and was confident in its application (PSM II), and then realized how "difficult to master" Scrum actually is (PSM III). All in all the PSM series has been one of the most useful certifications I've ever gotten in terms of learning while preparing and taking the exams, and I'll look forward to returning to the PSM III to gauge my progress if I decide to join's PST community. I'll also be encouraging the community that I've been a part of over the years to look into PSM.


On to the PSPO series!

02:43 am June 15, 2020

Lauren Goff 

Thank you for sharing about PSMIII
it will be very helpful for my PSMIII preparation

02:40 pm June 16, 2020

Lauren Goff, Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with aspiring PSM III professionals.