February 26, 2019

The Best Order to Get all Scrum.org Certifications

Questions about agile certifications (especially those from Scrum.org) are an integral part of my routine. People always come to me saying that they are going to act as a Scrum Master / Product Owner / Developer on an agile project and they want to know what to study and what's the best first certification. At the same time, other people also talk to me saying that they already have the [insert one or two Scrum.org certification here] certification and ask which next certification I could recommend.

For this reason, I decided to write this guide with all professional certification from Scrum.org, including the newest Professional Scrum with Kanban and Professional Agile Leadership. The idea here is to register a suggestion of one of the possible paths to obtain all certifications from Scrum.org using as criteria the difficulty of each assessment and the required amount of content and the time of experience in the role.

For those willing to get all certifications this guide will support a journey with the least effort and time required to do so (even knowing it`s a long journey nevertheless). For example, the effort required to obtain both the SPS and PSM-II certifications is the same to obtain the PSPO-II certification, even when the three are classified in the same difficulty tier by Scrum.org. And there is a simple reason for that: there is a superposition of almost 80% in the contents for the first two that does not occur for the PSPO-II assessment.

Also, even for those that act solely as a Scrum Master / Product Owner / Developer and have interest in achieving only the certifications required for your current role, this guide can be helpful, by supporting your learning (showing what to expect in each exam) and by providing a sense of the real difficulty behind each assessment.

Therefore, taking into account the previously mentioned criteria, the suggested order for taking the assessments is:

PSM-I > PSPO-I > PSD > SPS PSM-II > PAL-I > PSK-I > PSPO-II > PSM-III

 

The rationale to establish the difficulty level started with the classification Scrum.org uses. Each certification is part of one of the three possible difficulty tiers: beginner, intermediate and mastery. The first recommendation here is to pass in all exams from one level before going to the next one, since inside a certain level the type of the questions is similar.

Certifications that are part of the beginner tier are PSM-I, PSPO-I and PSD. They demand little (or none) practical experience and it’s theoretical content is significantly smaller than of the other assessments.

The intermediate tier is the biggest one, with four different certifications. It is composed by the exams SPS, PSM-II, PAL-I and PSK-I and it presents a bigger challenge in terms of quantity of theoretical and practice content assessed. Also, this exam uses many study cases and real-world situations to test the practical knowledge of the candidate. It is common for the questions in this tier to have more than one correct answer, demanding that the candidate choose the best option accordingly with the situation at hand.

Finally, the advanced tier currently has two certifications: PSPO-II and PSM-III. Both have the biggest exam time (2 hours each) because of the disassortative questions they present in addition to the same complex multiple-choice questions that are present in the intermediate tier.

That being said, the complete analysis about the order of the execution for the exams is as follows:

  • PSM-I: it’s the first exam in the list because it basically only asks about what’s on the Scrum Guide. With a good reading (and understating) of the Guide and its main concepts, and practice with the Open Assesments of Scrum.org it’s possible to be approved after a few weeks of study.
  • PSPO-I: comes right after PSM-I because it uses it as a basis and asks for a few additional concepts. To fulfill this gap books like “Software in 30 days” are just enough.
  • PSD-I: the hardest exam in the beginner tier, the PSD-I uses a much broader set of concepts than its predecessors (still, it is a much simpler exam than those on the intermediate tier). Its contents uses concepts like Continuous Integration and Test Automation that are very present in other assesments, like  PSM-II and PSK-I, for example.
  • SPS: this exam introduces the Nexus Framework and concepts necessary to apply scrum in scaled projects. In the intermediate tier, this is the exam that is less demanding about applying concepts in the real world (although it is still an existing requirement). This exam also introduces many important themes, including the synchronization of the work between several teams, which appears in virtually all certifications from now on.
  • PSM-II: it comes right after SPS for a very good reason: it basically tests the experience of a Scrum Master in scaled projects, so, the reuse of the theory is significant, even with the PSM-II demanding the study of more contents and the reading of more books. Also, PSM-II should also come before PAL-I and PSL-I because it asks for less theoretical contents than these two.
  • PAL-I: both PAL-I and PSM-II have very similar demands about theoretical content. However, this s where the similarities stop: PSM-II tests the knowledge of a Scrum as a coach in a scaled Scrum project. PAL-I, on the other side, tests the experience of executives and leaders that use agile to bring more value to its businesses, which represents a very different context for both roles.  
  • PSK-I: the last exam in the intermediate tier, this assessment asks for na entirely different set of content, focused on the new Kanban Guide. This exam asks a lot about product management and specific metrics in this domain. It also introduces many of the concepts that are later asked in the PSPO-II exam.
  • PSPO-II: first assessment of the mastery tier, it is much easier than the PSM-III because it has less dissertative questions. It focuses on the practical tools and practices a Product Owner needs to work in a product backlog, often in scaled Scrum projects.
  • PSM-III: the hardest and most challenging exam of Scrum.org. It’s the last assessment in the list because it has the biggest set of content and it also demands a great deal of experience from anyone attempting to achieve it.

Are you planning to take all assessments? Comment your experience below! Do you have other suggestion of path to get them all? Share it with us.