How to Prepare for Professional Scrum Master (PSM) – I certification

How to Prepare for PSM-1 certification
How to Prepare for PSM-1 certification

BONUS: Check out my PSM-1 flashcards that can help you with the real certification exam.

It’s been a while since I passed PSM1 certification and many people have reached out to me on how to prepare for this certification. While there are no shortage of resources, I thought it will be a good addition to our community blog portal here at ReviewNPrep.com. This blog post talks about the entry level Scrum Master certification PSM1.

Background on Scrum Master Certifications

The PSM 1 exam is administered by a company guided by Ken Schwaber, who is one of the co-founders of Scrum. A lot of certification authorities have emerged in the last couple of years trying to certify people on Scrum Master. However, in my opinion the top three contenders are: 

1. CSM – Certified Scrum Master from ScrumAlliance.org

2. PSM I – Professional Scrum Master from Scrum.org.

3. PMI-ACP – PMI Agile Certified Practitioner from PMI.org

Being certified in CSM and PSM1, I would recommend PSM any day. My top reason is that you don’t have to pay for the expensive training from a ScrumAlliance coach that CSM certification needs. For PSM1 exam you can study from the official website and take the exam. Furthermore, in my opinion, if you have been working as a scrum master, and understand the scrum guide inside out it makes no sense to undergo the entry level scrum master training. 

Exam Topics

As suggested by Scrum.org the real exam covers the following subject areas

  • Scrum theory and principles
  • The Scrum Framework
  • The Definition of Done
  • Running a Scrum project
  • Working with people and teams
  • Scrum in your organization
  • The role of the Scrum Master

Important Exam Details

  • Fee: $150 USD per attempt
  • Passing score: 85%. Means you need to have 65 correct answers
  • Time limit: 60 minutes. Means you have 45 seconds to answer each question.
  • Number of Questions: 80 Multiple Choice and True/False

This is an entry level scrum master exam, so preparation for this exam is not as involved as advanced level scrum master certifications. That being said, there is no ready made formula for the PSM 1 assessment.

So, without further delay, here are the important preparation tips for the PSM1 exam: 

  • This is the most important tip. Download the scrum guide from this link and read it twice. The scrum guide will enrich your overall understanding of scrum.
  • Take the free practice tests on Scrum.org website to get a feel of the real exam. I would recommend taking all free exams (Product Owner, Nexus and Developer) and not just scrum master. Doing PSPO and PSD open assessments helps in terms of the reinforcing the roles of PO and Development Team for the PSM1 exam. You might see some questions in the real assessment as well. Important point to note here is that you should take these practice tests, until you get a perfect score. Here is the link for the practice tests.
  • Some organizations have the urge to deviate from the scrum guidelines as per their needs and that can be confusing when answering the questions. When answering the questions think about how Scrum guide wants you to answer, not necessarily what you do in your project or organizations. 
  • Don’t be fooled by the fact that the exam is open book and you would have enough time to google the answers. Think about the fact that you have 60 minutes to answer 80 questions. Bookmark the ones you are not sure about and move ahead. I was able to finish the exam in 45 minutes and I revisited around 20 bookmarked questions again at the end. 
  • There is no negative marking for a wrong answer. So, attempt all the answers. 
  • Some important topics not covered in scrum guide that you probably already know but good to revisit are – velocity, sprint burndown chart, technical debt, cone of uncertainty, empirical process. 
  • I didn’t buy any books or outside practice questions for this certification. Neither did I take any online courses. My core concepts became clear after playing the role of scrum master in the team and a lot of self study. Some folks have suggested Scrum: A Pocket Guide as well for the preparation. The pocket guide definitely increases your Scrum knowledge depth but not mandatory. As suggested earlier, the official Scrum guide was my primary source of preparation. I believe if you have been in scrum project and have experienced scrum practical examples in your projects, you should be able to ace this certification exam. 
  • Scrum forums are a good way to engage with the community and enhance your scrum knowledge. Here is the link
  • Be extra careful on the question patterns. Some questions ask, for example, “which of the following is NOT a characteristic of”, and many people forget about the “NOT”, and pick the wrong answer. 
  • You can take the exam from the comfort of your home. So, find a silent place with no distractions. 

The practical experience really comes in handy while answering the questions in real assessment. So these are my exam preparation tips!

Don’t forget to check out my PSM-1 flashcards on ReviewNPrep.com that can help you with the real certification exam. And yes, you will receive a confirmation email immediately after completion of the exam. 

Important Note

Students of Scrum.org courses are able to claim Project Management Institute (PMI) PDU credit: 14 PDUs after attending a two-day Professional Scrum Master (PSM).

Good luck on your certification exam. 

Author: Haman Sharma is an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler, founder of reviewNprep.com and a cloud enthusiast. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

How to Prepare for Professional Scrum Master (PSM) – I certification
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