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Lessons from a PST on Preparing for the PSPO III Exam - Spoiler Alert, I Failed the First Time

March 29, 2023

There are over 360 PSTs worldwide aligned to and this is an amazing community to be a part of. I have had two very different experiences on my journey to becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST). I did my Professional Scrum Master PST in 2017 and then in 2020 started the process to become a PSPO PST. One journey took me 6 months, the other over 2 years. I'm the same candidate and have been a Product Manager for over 10 years, so I didn't understand how I could get through the PSM process with ease, yet struggled to gain my PSPO PST certification. To become a PST is a privilege and it should rightly be a difficult process to ensure the quality of trainers is maintained. Here are my learnings from the experience, and my tips for preparing for the PSPO PST Journey and PSPO III exam. 

My PSM PST Journey

For my Professional Scrum Master (PSM) Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) qualification, my process was pretty fast as I was through the process within 6 months. It was a very positive and encouraging experience. I did a face to face (F2F) PSM Train the Trainer (TTT) in another country and got to have a great experience with candidates from different backgrounds and contexts of work. We were all passionate about Scrum and helping people solve complex issues. Once through the TTT I did the PSM II and PSM III exams, got great feedback from the peer interview and was licensed to teach PSM. Whilst my main course delivery was PSM and PAL-E, over the past 5 years however I have had a few clients ask for PSPO training. I would normally refer them to another PST who delivered that course but in 2020, I decided to add this qualification to my course delivery repertoire as I have been a product Manager in large organisations for the past 15 years. 

My PSPO PST Journey  

In contrast to my PSM PST experience, gaining my PSPO PST qualification was very different. It was a long, hard and frustrating 18 month journey where I learnt a lot about myself, learning perspectives and the need to pay attention to your exam technique. This time I did a TTT but it was virtual (during the pandemic) and in an opposite time zone. My PST presentation was conducted at the equivalent of 2am in my time zone. I attempted the PSPO I exam 2 times before getting the required PST passing grade. I think I rushed my preparation and was a bit complacent as i was already a PSM PST. I did far more reading for the PSPO II exam and passed first time. It was PSPO III where I struggled. In my first attempt, I found my time management an issue for the written exam and struggled to finish all the questions within the timebox. Essentially there is 3 mins to answer each question. Once I submitted the exam it took 8 weeks to get the results as the exam. When i got the results, I hadn't passed. I was devastated as I had studied, felt i knew the material well as had been doing this role for many years. So, I asked for written feedback. 

The mentor gave me more specific feedback and it became really obvious very quickly where I was going wrong. Yes, my time management on written exams and spelling were probably an issue but fundamentally it was my exam technique.  I finally passed the exam and am now a PSPO PST. Woo!

PST Journey

Here are my tips for preparing for the PSPO III exam: 

  • You have 3 mins per question so make sure you use bullet points as you need to be concise in the answers
  • Always link the answers back to the elements of the Scrum framework and Scrum values. 
  • Be specific about which artifact, which event, which commitment, which role is in play for that question and what you are inspecting and adapting?
  • You will be asked for examples, make sure they are relevant and reinforce your understanding and ability to apply the Scrum framework in your context.
  • Some questions have 3 to 4 parts. It's not going to help if you answer the first part well and forget to give the 3 examples they ask for (this is points you leave on the table).
  • Read the blogs, read the suggested reading, look at the learning pathways. It's about applying the knowledge  
  • Be patient, as it will take 6 weeks before you get your results and feedback
  • Understand the process and seek help or mentorship from existing PSTs.
  • If you were a trainer in a class, you probably only have about 2 mins to verbally answer a question and get the learning across as applied to the Scrum framework so be succinct in your written answers as well

Special shout out to PST mentor Rob Apmann who very patiently helped me on this learning journey and encouraged me to write this post.

Want to see the full artice and get more tips check out my blog post

Want to learn more - check out my blog on How a Product owner needs to go beyond Scrum

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