Passing the PSM I
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
I recently got my PSM I (Professional Scrum Master I) certification, and I wanted to give my perspective on it as a student and prospective Game Producer. This article is primarily intended to help people who are either interested in taking the PSM I exam. I'll try to avoid spending too much time talking about things you can find on scrum.org (specifically https://www.scrum.org/professional-scrum-master-i-certification ), instead I'll just be focusing on giving my perspective, and giving you resources and advice to help you pass. As someone who passed with limited experience applying Scrum, I'd love to be a resource for anyone else attempting to do something similar, feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!
Who should get PSM I certified?
My perspective is that the PSM I is valuable for anyone who wants to be in a leadership or management role on a team that uses Scrum. In my case, I'm a student who wants to be able to better apply Scrum to my academic and future professional projects, and I think studying for and passing this exam absolutely helped with that goal.
How to Pass the PSM I
You'll need to study Scrum as much as possible, pay $150 for an online attempt, and take an 80 question open book test in 60 minutes. For more information on the test itself, you should check Scrum.org. If your only goal is to pass the exam quickly, you could consider one of the Scrum.org PSM I classes, but I wouldn't say it's necessary at all, and I didn't take one. First I'll be talking about options for studying for the test, then I'll be moving on to actually taking it. If you're really planning on taking the exam, I'd start taking notes for resources or advice you want to use.
The Scrum Guide
This will be your best friend. If you don't know all of the information contained in here, this is 100% the place to start. I'd also recommend the Scrum Guide Reordered, it's largely up to preference, but I'd personally start with the regular guide and then switch to the reordered version when refreshing yourself on specific topics.
There are a TON of articles, just like this one, about preparing for this exam. There's also tons of resources for learning the topics, I'd personally recommend https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/. Any articles or information about Scrum you can find will likely help you in your exam though!
Practice Tests (Including the Scrum Open)
Practice tests will be the fastest way to improve your abilities at taking this kind of a test. I completed the Scrum Open ( https://www.classmarker.com/online-test/start/?quiz=vek54a6ec10658ef ) so many times that I've memorized all of the questions in the pool it draws from, and I quickly got to the point where I was just getting 100 after 100. However, this is not a good indicator that you're ready for the PSM I. The Scrum Open is limited and not as difficult, in my opinion. Before risking your $150 on an attempt, you should be able to get a 95+ without using the internet or any resources on all of these linked practice tests. I would recommend never using the internet on the practice tests, and expect the internet to become much less useful in the real test, because of both limited time and difficulty finding exact PSM I questions/answers.
Why 95+ without internet? The bar is only 85, right? Every practice test I've seen, in my opinion, is easier to pass than the PSM I. I passed the PSM I by a wide margin, but I still remember being surprised at how hard it was, it felt like the practice tests were all baby-mode compared to the real test. Even after all of these practice tests, the real test really made me think, and it only gave me 45 seconds per question. By the time I took the exam, I could confidently get above a 95 on most of these tests closed-book, but there is 0 chance I would have gotten above a 95 on the PSM I if it was closed-book.
To be clear, JUST getting above a 95 on these practice tests isn't enough unless it's your first time taking them. If you just memorize the questions on these practice tests and don't really understand the concepts, you will fail. A huge portion of the PSM I was completely new questions for me, even though I took every practice test I could find. You should also save some practice tests for the day of the exam as a warm-up, feel free to find your own on google and/or use these.
Reading books about Scrum can be one of the best ways to solidify the ideas in your mind, it isn't necessarily time-efficient if your single-minded goal is STRICTLY to pass the exam and move on with your life, but if you truly want to gain as much knowledge on the subject as possible, these are incredibly valuable.
If you're a game developer like me, I'd highly recommend the book "Agile Game Development with Scrum" by Clinton Keith. It's a very solid resource, although it does tend to focus much more on games that are released to the public once, as opposed to the common games-as-a-service model that has become more popular since the book's release.
I'd also highly recommend "Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time" by Jeff Sutherland. The main value in this book, in my opinion, is to solidify the WHY of Scrum. The book contains a ton of stories about how Scrum was developed, how it has been used, and why all of the parts of it were implemented and remain important.
I'm sure plenty of people could recommend similar books, and a quick google search will yield plenty of results.
Finally, Taking The Test
The PSM I isn't TOO hard, but honestly, it's significantly harder than I expected. If the exam wasn't open-book, I probably would have been concerned about my results. You should have the Scrum Guide, Scrum Guide Reordered, and any other resources you intend to use readily accessible. You should have online versions of these resources so you can quickly search through them, printing them out is useless in a test where time is such a factor. You should also be expecting to have to Google at least a few questions, truthfully.
You will only have 60 minutes to answer 80 questions. That is not enough time to sit there and google your way through the whole thing. Google doesn't provide direct answers a surprising amount of the time, as people aren't allowed to post EXACT questions from the exam. This can make it difficult to find answers, and if you've been forced to google, it'll be hard to find the answer in under 45 seconds, which needs to be your pace. You should keep in mind that you'll need to answer 13-14 questions every 10 minutes, and try to keep ahead of that pace without focusing too much on it or stressing yourself out.
I really hope this helps someone pass their PSM I, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, and good luck!