Test wording ambiguity

Last post 07:47 pm November 30, 2016
by Craig Conrad
3 replies
05:31 pm November 30, 2016


I've completed PSM I, PSPO I, PSD I and SPS, and will shortly (today?) take the PSM II test. I think the tests are reasonable in scope and content, but the questions (and sometimes the choices) are sometimes ambiguous. And, if their meaning is such, then selecting the correct answer is a roll of the dice.

Without giving away any specific questions, I will model one example: "A Scrum Team is only allowed to meet with <specified group> during <specified event>". The choices, of course, are True or False.

The ambiguity may be somewhat due to peculiarities of English, further exacerbated by my programmer's need for precision, but the possible interpretations are:
1. A Scrum Team, as a whole, is only allowed to meet with ...
2. No member of a Scrum Team is allowed to meet with ...

In other words, what if the Scrum Team, as a whole, is NOT allowed to have meetings with this group outside of the specific Scrum event, but yet, one of the roles (e.g. SM or PO) of a Scrum Team *does* regularly meet this group outside of that event -- how should the question be answered?

This is just one example. Of course, many can say I'm being too picky, or that vagueness is real life, but in real life, one has opportunity to ask for clarification in order to give the proper response. I am fairly certain that the test is meant to test real knowledge, not trying to offer ambiguity.

There are others like that.

My personal frustration is that when I see I missed a question in a certain topic area, I don't know if it was this (where I believe I clearly understand the real facts) or some other one (where I actually need more insight). Fortunately, I haven't (yet) had to re-take any exam, as I wouldn't know how to learn from my error if this is one I missed.

06:03 pm November 30, 2016

In the example you give, I think it would be the Scrum Team as a whole. This is because:

- no constituent member or role is identical to the Scrum Team, and
- no arrangements have been made for such a member or role to represent the team or otherwise provide its services.

Note that the question is introducing a constraint: "A Scrum Team is only allowed...". Whatever follows *might* be true, but it would be unusual. The Scrum Framework is more likely to frame the best use of roles, artifacts, and events than to introduce implementation constraints.

Sometimes you do need to approach these questions with a programmer's precision, as the language is (on the whole) quite carefully selected and rigorously applied.

06:19 pm November 30, 2016

You're probably correct, and then that would be one of the two questions I missed on that particular exam. I'd prefer that they change the wording, but I'll follow this approach on my next one. Thanks for your commitment of time in responding to so many questions on the forums!

07:47 pm November 30, 2016

I just completed the PSM II exam in 31 minutes (there are a generous 90 minutes allowed), only missing one question (97%). I didn't find any of the questions to have the sort of ambiguity I noted above.