August 2, 2022

Licensed Professional Scrum Trainers give tips to pass the PSM 1 certification assessment

Robb: Hey, Greg. We get a lot of questions about how to pass the PSM I assessment. And we do all we can in our classes to actually help people do that. How do you handle that one? What do you tell people on tips to pass this thing?

Greg: Well, first off, the Scrum Guide is your friend and you've got to study, but I know that's oversimplified. How do people study, I think, is where they kind of get stuck because you can read the Scrum Guide and get a little lost. The Open Assessment that Scrum.org offers is definitely a good way to get started just getting familiar with the types of questions. Do you suggest your students do that in your class, Robb?

Robb: Oh yeah, the open assessment is a good place to start. I'd have them take it a couple of times, but not to a point where they're memorizing it. Because then they'd seem to get an inflated sense of confidence that, "Oh, I can get 100% on the practice assessment. That means I'm going to pass!" No, it just means you memorized 30 questions. So I've seen that happen where they don't actually understand what it is that they're talking about, yet they can memorize a test and pass it.

There's two major categories in Scrum that you need to understand. One: Empiricism and how that is woven into the framework. So, artifacts create transparency. In each event, we inspect and adapt something. And if you don't see how that all works, you're going to get tricked by a lot of questions.

Then the other one is around self-management. So, self-management is huge, which means you don't have a project manager managing you, you don't have a boss managing you, you manage yourselves as a Scrum Team. And if you don't really grok that, there's a lot of questions that you will fail to answer correctly, because they'll sometimes trick you. Because there's answers that make it look like the project manager does that work. Or the Scrum Master is really a new version of a project manager. But what else do you got?

Greg: I think the other thing that I'll see students miss is the rules within the Scrum framework because you can literally go to the web-based version of the Scrum Guide and find those rules. Like, do a Command-F on a Mac or Ctrl-F on a Windows machine and search for the words like “must”. Did you know “must” shows up eleven times in the Scrum Guide?

Robb: Eleven times?

Greg: That's probably a rule. Or, other words like “only”. I think that shows up maybe like nine times. Or “never”. I mean, you start looking for those things that put absolute parameters around items within the Scrum framework, or elements within the Scrum framework, and those are your defined rules. Everything else is a suggestion, or just potentially like an open environment in which you can decide as a team how to do your work. But the rules, there's actually not as many as you might think. And so, I point people to look at the Scrum Guide and check out those absolutes. One that I think is common is the number of people on a Scrum Team. People think the rule is: ten -- no more. But it's a suggestion. And that's just an example. So if they can get some of those absolutes sorted out, that'll save them a lot of pain on probably 10% of those questions on their test.

Robb: Yep, so definitely on the difference between the rules and the guidance in the Scrum Guide because there's still quite a bit of guidance. But you bring up a good point: Read the Scrum Guide! I often tease my students. I'm like, "Alright here's the deal, if you want to fail the assessment don't even open the Scrum Guide. Just don't even look at it, forget it's there. That's your best way to fail." And it usually gets a little bit of a chuckle, but I'm serious. There's so many answers to test questions in the Scrum Guide that if you haven't read through it at least once, you'll miss some really obvious stuff.

Greg: I think the other one you already covered with the open assessment issue, but if you're reading the Scrum Guide with knowledge only and don't understand why that works, that's problematic. Which loops right back to empiricism once again. I think you gave a tip in one of your classes I was watching, and I loved it! You used the acronym T-I-A. "Tia"

Robb: Tía: your aunt in Spanish.

Greg: Yeah, your aunt in Spanish! And so then I've used that, I completely ripped it off. And I said if "Aunt Tia" isn't at every Scrum event, I promise you Scrum is broken. So invite her. Make sure she's there. And everyone's like, "Oh, that's funny. I get it!" So if Aunt Tia isn't at every event in Scrum, something's broken. And if your Scrum Master can't sniff that out, well, I don't know who's going to. So, I like that one!

Robb: Yeah, that's a good one. And if you go to one of our classes, there's some added benefits, right? We've got extra study material we give students. We have that helps them understand the Scrum Guide better.

Greg: Oh! I forgot the biggest tip! Students better not use Google to find their answers during the test because they will likely find the wrong answers. That has probably been the number one tip from past students that are like, "Well, I thought I had plenty of time and I Googled all my answers." And they're getting answers from the 2017 Scrum Guide, or earlier, or just people who said this worked for my company and it's completely off. So stay away from Googling your answers. That's practical, but it's probably my number one tip from students that either failed the first time and then finally passed. But yeah, I forgot to mention that one. That's kind of a big deal.

Robb: Alright. Good luck on the assessments, whoever is watching this!

Greg: Yeah, good luck. You’ve got this!