I have attempted Professional Scrum Master (PSM) III for the first time on 14th June 2020. Essay questions are graded by a real person, so you will not receive your score right away.
After 3 days, I got my result through email with a congratulations message that I have passed and received feedback. I would like to share my journey in achieving this milestone.
PSM certified holders by levels as of June 1, 2020. Only 0.26 % are PSM III holders.
What Scrum.org says about PSM III
Previous Industry Experience
I have 17+ years of Software Engineering experience. I have used waterfall, RUP, XP, Scrum at my work.
I have been a software developer for most number of the years. My Scrum Master introduced me to Scrum.org certifications in 2017. We had very insightful discussions, which laid strong foundations for me to understand Scrum. A 2-day course on PSM II from Simon Kneafsey also helped me in my acceleration towards PSM III. Also I have taken a PSM III mock test, which is kindly, arranged by Simon Kneafsey, PST. I confirm none of the questions appeared in the real exam. Simon confirmed I am ready for PSM III after evaluating my answers just 4 weeks before PSM III.
Previous Essay Writing Experience
2001 — Masters exam at university.
2018 — National Chess Arbiter License from English Chess Federation.
2019 — FIDE Arbiter License from World Chess Federation.
It will be a struggle if the gap is too long in your essay writing experience to various questions/scenarios. So try to start answering the mock questions by typing in your preparation.
Books & Reading Material for PSM III
The following resources helped me in my path to Scrum Mastery.
- Official Scrum Guide & Scrum Glossary
- Scrum — A Pocket Guide : A Smart Travel Companion — By Gunther Verheyen
- Scrum Insights for Practitioners: The Scrum Guide Companion — By Hiren Doshi
- Mastering Professional Scrum: By Stephanie Ockerman and Simon Reindl
- Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership — By Geoff Watts (Also, I have also listened to this book on audible numerous times)
- Fixing Your Scrum — By Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller
- Scrum.org blogs by PSTs — https://www.scrum.org/resources
- https://medium.com/the-liberators By Barry Overeem and Christiaan Verwijs
- Serious Scrum articles especially about Road To Scrum Mastery and also some mock questions by Sjoerd Nijland. https://medium.com/serious-scrum
- Mock Questions:
- Scrum Tapas Videos on youtube especially by Ravi Verma and Stephanie Ockerman
- I got Medium subscription and for 10 weeks before PSM III, I read many articles about scrum. Medium sends a daily digest based on your reading choices. I read those every day in the morning.
- I have utilised lockdown period well and attended various meet ups and webinars on scrum which are free.
Group Study / Discussions
- I had 2 training partners and I have worked with them 1–1 where we have discussed, debated and challenged each other with our thoughts on various concepts and scenarios. I strongly recommend this approach.
- I have also practiced typing the answers by having a time limit of 4 minutes for every question. This is very important. You do not run a marathon just by turning up at the start line without any training. You need to train with short runs and slowly increasing the mileage. Same applies here.
- I have also contacted previous PSM III holders and PSTs for guidance and to know their experience. Also read their PSM III blogs.
Tips Before you start the PSM III exam.
- Make sure your laptop is fully charged and connected to power supply and have good Internet connection.
- Keep your phone in silent mode with face down to avoid distractions.
- Have water and make sure no one disturbs you.
- Try to do it when you are at your best during the day. I did at 10 am.
- Have a notepad and pen to note any unanswered questions.
Professional Scrum Master (PSM) III –Exam Format
This is a 2-hour exam. Before you start exam, a message will be displayed with number of questions you will be answering in the exam. I got 33 questions. I got 24 essay questions and 9 Multiple Choice questions. The details of how many essay type / Multiple Choice questions will not be displayed.
Questions may be split into 2–5 sub questions. So, having an equal time for each question may not help. Please manage your time extremely well. I was under tremendous pressure to think and put all the points touching the scrum language.
Make sure you answer all questions and do not miss any sub questions.
Tips for PSM III
- Make sure you use Scrum Language combined with Empiricism & Scrum values through out.
- ‘Development Team checks Sprint Backlog at Daily Scrum’ can be written as ‘DT inspects SB at DS’. Main point is inspects instead of checks. Scrum language is important.
- Use abbreviations where you can as this corrected by PSTs and they know well what you mean.
- Some abbreviations I have used — Development Team (DT), Scrum Master (SM), Product Owner (PO), Daily Scrum (DS), Definition of Done (DoD), Sprint Goal (SG). You must practise these while you are preparing for the exam so it becomes natural.
- I have approached the more familiar questions first followed by unfamiliar ones. I have also divided the whole exam into 4 quarters to check my progress against time.
- Anyone with Scrum experience can answer in a cool less pressurized situation. But PSM III is about to come up with answers in under 4 minutes per essay questions. I strongly recommend a mock exam(s) practice to uncover one’s weak points. I have seen a few PSM III aspirants going blank when they see the question. To compare, it is relatively easy to score a goal in football during training compared to in a World Cup Final. You need to have nerves and accuracy in the world cup final match. Same applies here. You achieve this with constant practice by typing the answers.
- Based on the number of sub questions, my answers varied from 95 words to 170 words per main question. Most important thing is you need to answer all questions to the point. Any supporting points/examples adds value.
- I have used line breaks (hitting enter key twice) for every point I typed. This enhances readability. This is purely my opinion.
- Text Area is provided to type your answer. you can expand it by dragging with mouse. There is no maximum limit for your answer. But make sure you need to answer all questions. So typing 1000 words for one question might give you a failure as you will not have time for other questions. There is a show word count link below the text area. On clicking that it shows how many words you have typed. I clicked only for short answers and long answers just to check the length.
- Do not worry about spelling and grammar mistakes. This is not an English test.
PSM III is one of the toughest certifications to achieve. With focus on study, commitment towards the exam, courage in accepting the result, openness in admitting the strong/weak points and respect towards the preparation you can become a PSM III.
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Author: Ravi Sandhu is an Agile enthusiast and full time Product Owner. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.