Thoughts on the new PSM II assessment

Last post 02:28 pm September 3, 2020
by Sean Hoegaarden
58 replies
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06:57 am August 17, 2016

I just took the new PSM II assessment and thought I'd write down my thoughts while still fresh in memory.
As you may know scrum.org changed the assessments recently so what was previously PSM II is now PSM III and PSM II is an all new 30 question assessment with multiple choice, multiple answers, true/false questions just like PSM I.

Questions are quite long and often relate to real life scenarios. Typical question is "situation X exists, how would you act in this situation?" There are usually several answers that may seem right, and few alternatives that can be quickly ruled out as an incorrect answer. Some questions relate to scaling scrum so taking the open assessment for Nexus and some reading on scaling scrum is a good idea.
I think I had only one true/false question and most are multiple choice or multiple answers (about 50/50 I'd say). There are no/few questions like "what is the time-box for the daily scrum" that are clearly defined in the scrum guide. You have to reason to get to the right answer more than using the muscle-memory you may get from taking the open assessments. The total time allowed is 90 minutes for the 30 questions. I had time to answer and go through and double-check my answers but no more.

The good
I think this assessment is a good fit between PSM I and III. You can pass PSM I by just reading (and understanding) the scrum guide. PSM II requires some real life experience and more in-depth knowledge. I haven't taken the PSM III but by just reading about it and seeing how few that passed indicate that there's a huge difference in knowledge, both theoretical and practical required, from PSM I to III.

The bad
Some questions are unnecessarily complex. The essence of the questions could in many questions be phrased a lot shorter.
The language used could be simplified and on a few questions I think there are even grammatical errors. Although I am not a native English speaker I consider myself to be able to read and understand English well but I still had problems understanding some questions. This should not be a factor for being able to pass the test.
It would be valuable to be informed what questions that was answered incorrectly. If only for my own curiosity. You are informed about in what area you missed, but not what specific questions that were answered incorrectly.

04:42 pm June 14, 2019

I have not noticed the linguistic problems you mentioned.

"Demanding questions are fine. But please phrase them clear and straigtforward."

Unfortunately, unclear and not straightforward questions could reflect the reality Scrum Masters need to face :/

02:06 pm November 21, 2019

Hello all,

I just succeeded to PSM1 exam, without having any practical and consistent experience as a PM or other role in project management environment. Just reading the materials from SCRUM.ORG and doing some tests and quiz found on the internet.

I read some articles and I understood that , in the conditions mentioned above, it would be real difficult to obtain PSM2 as the PSM2 exam is based on practical situations and the candidate has to have important practical experience.

Can someone confirm please ? or, at contrary, giving me more details / study materials?

Thank you in advance for your help

01:00 pm November 22, 2019

Hi Robert, 

        Congratulations on acquiring your PSM I certification. As I understand it,

- PSM I is more about the 'theory' and PSM II is all about the 'practical' aspects of Scrum.

I have used Scrum for about 6 years and have been an sm for 3 of those but I have to say, when I took the mock test on the www.thescrummaster.co.uk site, the questions do make you pause and reconsider what the best answers should be. (I too am planning to take the PSM II) 

PSM II will likely need more knowledge of 'real' situations where/how Scrum is applied and its challenges and resolutions, so it might be a good idea to get some practical experience under your belt before you attempt it.

 

All the best!

 

03:38 am January 2, 2020

I passed my PSM II yesterday. I don't want to say anything that would violate Scrum.org's policies so I'll keep it brief and general.

* Expect to take the test more than once. The format and difficulty on II are far different from the I. Use the SCRUM pillars of inspect, adapt, and transparency to get better each time.

* Read Scrum.org's study suggestions *very carefully*. Examine every word that could have multiple meanings. For example, when the guide says that you should "understand" a concept, think about what that word means to you at that moment and what it could mean and in as many different ways. What do you understand about _x_ competency? It's benefits? The Scrum rules? Do you understand it from a Scrum Master's perspective or from other roles? In addition to the benefits, do you understand the risks and consequences of not following specific rules for that competency? I also suggest reading and carefully inspecting every word on the test the same way. 

* In my opinion, the most valuable learning source outside the scrum guide, nexus guide, EBM guides was THIS FORUM. Check here for your question/curiosity before reading a new blog post. If you do read a blog post, come back here to re-inspect. 

* Scrum is a "framework". I strongly suggest finding your own way to "re-frame" the work of the framework. I cut out 3 copies of the scrum guide and cut/taped rules bound to other parts of the guide. I ended up with 5 giant taped together sections of the Scrum guide (overview, empiricism & values, roles, events, artifacts) with relevant, cut out content taped to other binding areas in the guide. I also came up with color-coding and symbols to explain the relationships of different rules to different components. Physically binding everything together and seeing it re-framed was a really helpful exercise.

Best of luck and don't give up. I am already working toward the III and look forward to the challenge. 

 

06:47 pm June 21, 2020

I got an 80 on the first try.  Ill be back for another shot.

 

 

08:44 pm August 31, 2020

I am happy to share that today I passed PSM II assessment with a 100% score. While I am delighted to have the PSM II certification, the journey was more pleasant and I had a lot of learning along the way. There’s a lot more to learn, explore and apply on the job. I am sharing my experience and opinions. Hope this helps PSM II aspirants. Thanks for reading! Here goes -

Exam Format : 30 Questions ; 90 Minutes maximum. Pass Score : 85%.

  • Multiple Choice – Choose best answer or Choose two/three correct answers.
  • True/False
  • Difficulty Level – Medium, in my opinion. The actual exam is more difficult than open assessments. One needs to use learning and on-the-job experience to get to the correct answer(s) as opposed to remembering the answer from Scrum guide or a coursework or any other resource.

Prerequisites – None. Preferable to have taken PSM I (not mandatory). Experience in Scrum Master role is very helpful.

My Preparation :

PSM II Course - I attended a virtual training from Nagesh Sharma , PST - a great trainer and mentor! It was an immersive experience with a lot to learn from other participants’ experience and thoughts. The course is really good and insightful. It helped clarify myths around Scrum, had group and individual exercises that helped not only in preparing for the exam but many of them can be used directly on the job.

Scrum Guide - I read it at least three times – once from start to end, then different sections and then randomly. It’s a simple document but it is the basis of all scrum.org exams and there are so many ways to expand on top of the basic framework this guide has laid out. I am a fan of this document – it really exemplifies the “simplicity” of Scrum. As you (re)-read, interpret, analyze, think about yours and others’ experiences in the real world, it opens up a pandora’s box – and then you remember reading the first page of the Scrum guide that tells you Scrum is lightweight, simple to understand and difficult to master!

PSM II Subject Areas - Link Here I acquainted myself with these subject areas.

Readings

There is a lot of information in PSM I and II suggested readings. While reading thru it will definitely be a value add, I will explain what worked for me.

  1. PSM I suggested Reading Link Here . I read All articles under Scrum Values and Scrum Roles. The ones I found particularly interesting an useful are -

    1. The most important reference from here for me was the white paper by Barry Overeem : 8-stances-scrum-master . I read and re-read it. In this paper, Barry explains what stances a SM really needs to take and how; as opposed to some misunderstood stances. I found this a very interesting read and a very useful resource from PSM II assessment perspective.
    2. 17 Common Scrum Myths  I read thru and analyzed most the articles here (there are 17 as the header suggests. Again, very insightful and helpful for PSM II.
    3. I read Scrum: A Pocket Guide by Gunther Verheyen
    4. I read Scrum Insights for Practitioners: The Scrum Guide Companion by Hiren Doshi  -
    5. I went thru The Sketchy Guide To Scrum  - salute to Gunther V. !
  2. PSM II Suggested Readings from Scrum.org Link Here
    1. Read thru all blogs and articles
    2. I read Scrum Mastery by Geoff Watts – This is a gem! I loved reading it. You can read it start to end, or just pick up a chapter at a time. I am pretty sure I will come back to this book for reference many, many times in future.
    3. I partially read Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins. Great book, I hope to come back to it and complete it.

Practice Tests/Questions

I took the Scrum Open Assessment and Product Owner Open Assessment multiple times, until I felt confident (score of 100%).

Apart from the above open assessments provided by scrum.org, the only good resources I found were

  1. https://scrumpractice.org/about.html - There is a PSM II practice test which I thought was more difficult than the actual test. I failed this one when I took it for the first time. Passed it in second attempt. I did read thru the explanations of answers which made sense. Great resource overall!
  2. https://mlapshin.com/index.php/scrum-quizzes/  To be honest, this website is more helpful for PSM I. I still found it useful to come back into “exam mode” after all the reading.

In my opinion, any other free resource available on the internet is a no-no. I tried a few but they ended up confusing me or were not even correctly framed (let alone answered). So, I would stay away from these.

My experience with the actual exam

I found most of the questions experience/scenario based where your experience as SM and the readings definitely help. To me, the difficulty level was medium. Many questions had confusing choices (I had to read thru the questions twice and the answer choices more than twice in some cases).

As far as the answer choices : I did the usual - when in doubt, remember Scrum guide(!); Pay attention to the NOTs; Use rejection criteria; Think of the 8 stances of the SM; Think of the roles; events and artifacts; Think of the keywords (and non-keywords) from the scrum guide and all the learning the readings instilled into you! I did not have to rush trough the questions. I did have at least 30 minutes after I was done answering all the questions first time. I did go back and change at least two of my responses.

Good Luck! Happy learning and Scrum On ……  

~Thanks! Sachin

 

12:02 pm September 3, 2020

Thanks Sachin for a great overview

 

Hopefully will be following in your footsteps shortly with PSMII

 

02:28 pm September 3, 2020

Well, actually this is Ken Schwaber's and Jeff Sutherland's fault. As the guide says:

"The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including: [...]

- Understanding and practicing agility;[..]"

Somebody while creating a PSM II practice test got this literally. What is the Scrum Master doing? Understanding and practicing agility. 

Now, if you are laughing, you are very disrespectful, but if you are not, you have no sense of humour...