The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.

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The CSM Exam

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Discussion

Very soon, the Scrum Alliance will introduce a new process to certify ScrumMasters. Previously, certification has been awarded to anyone who attends a two-day, Scrum Alliance-certified ScrumMaster Certification course. But beginning October 1, course participants will also be required to pass an exam within 90 days of attending training. Certification will be good for two years. At the end of two years, individuals will need to re-certify for CSM status. This costs $150, including Scrum Alliance membership fees, and lasts two years.

In some ways, this marks an improvement because it endeavors to ensure that a CSM fully understands the tenets of Scrum. Certainly, this is better than simply awarding an individual ScrumMaster certification based on sitting through a two-day class. That is, while CSM courses are incredibly beneficial for most participants, they do not guarantee that an attendee will necessarily absorb or apply everything he or she has learned. Of course, the flipside is that an exam will only test attendees on certain aspects of the Scrum framework in a format that does not necessarily promote a deep understanding of Scrum’s values.

What do you think? Is this an improvement over the existing certification process or an unhelpful amendment to a process that was working fine? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

You will do better on the CSM or PSM exam by keeping your Scrum Reference Card handy.

The Scrum Reference Card

The Scrum Reference Card

If you need to practice for the CSM exam (or others), try the free practice test towards the end of the Introduction to Scrum.
Scrum Quiz

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Reader's Comments

  1. Christine Eckert |

    Over the years, I have resisted getting my PMP certification for 2 reasons: (1) the annual cost to maintain it was too high for an independent consultant to afford and (2) it was never demonstrated, to my satisfaction, that getting the certification actually made a difference in a person’s ability to successfully manage a project.

    Today’s method of SM certification is affordable but it also has the problem noted in #2 above. So the movement to change the certification is definitely warranted. I must admit that it was surprising to me that I was “certified” after taking the 2 day course. I kind of chuckled when I described myself as a “certified” ScrumMaster to my friends after completing the course.

    Certifications appear to be what is needed in today’s marketplace so I agree with the direction of trying to give the certification more meaning. And like all the other certifications, there is the problem of needing to test for both the basic knowledge components of Scrum, as well as for the knowledge gained through experience. To me, the essence of a ScrumMaster is their ability to facilitate and good facilitation is a way of being not what a person does. The problem becomes how does one design a test for a “way of being”. The questions would be more subjective and not suitable for an e-learning module. To me, they would be like an essay questions that would require a person to review it and pass their subjective opinion on (no clear right or wrong answer).

    A ScrumMaster is an agent of change – a role that is not prescriptive. Each situation and scenario has some common components but how the components are combined and prioritized is unique to each. This is the true measure of a successful ScrumMaster. I hope the certification exam can somehow capture this critical aspect.

  2. txras |

    I think we should be able to take a test to be certified without having to take a class. I’ve been using Scrum for years and have perform as both Scrum Master and Product Owner roles. With out a test but with forced classes, certification becomes “write us a check and your certified.”

  3. Lakshmi S |

    Can someone provide website of where we can register for the SCRUM Exam?

  4. Dele Oluwole, MBCS |

    “A ScrumMaster is an agent of change – a role that is not prescriptive.” This is the best all encompassing definition of ScrumMaster. Christine Eckert, thanks for this.

  5. admin |

    You’ve got to attend a certification class before you can sit for the exam (at least for the ScrumAlliance certification). Check here for a list of public classes.

  6. Neil Murphy |

    Certifications are a waste of space and prove virtually nothing. They just add to one’s CV and makes it less likely you will be excluded on the first pass of a buzzword-driven recruitment agent’s search.

    The notion that in two days you will be certified as a scrum master, without having to have any actual experience is a joke.

  7. admin |

    Certainly there is a lot of controversy and discussion about this. We saw it in spades at Agile 2011 in Salt Lake. I think/hope you’d agree that a CSM course done well is at least a reasonable introduction to Scrum. I think the Certified Scrum Practitioner class is more meaty. At the end of the day, its all about the experience of the individual, not the list of certifications. Having a CSM under your belt will put you in position to get that experience.

  8. Dan |

    The problem with Neil’s comment is that it makes an assumption that someone who gains a CSM certification believes that they are ‘buying’ or short-cutting experience. I don’t think anyone who undertakes a certification really believes this. My fellow students on the CSM course were serious about deepening their knowledge around Scrum and many had no intentions of actually becoming Scrum Masters, but wanted to be Scrum-aware team-members.

    I have done numerous certifications over the years and I can honestly say I am better off because of them. This is not because of the certificate itself opening doors, but the knowledge gained in attaining the certificate. Indirectly I have improved my marketability and my contract-rate because of this effort.

    Dan

  9. Mark |

    I’ve been in 5 different scrum teams over the last 4 years, and have been the scrum master for a project using both scrum and kanban. The notion of sitting through a 2 day class is a waste. Just let me cut a check, take the exam, and get certified. Hell charge me the same amount as the class costs – I just want my CSM for my resume. Tired of seeing those with no practical Agile experience being CSM, over those who actually are currently practicing Agile.

  10. Jay |

    Although I don’t have practical experience, at least I took the initative to take the training to help me better understand what Scrum was all about, especially when my employer has no intention incorporating it anytime in the near future. You all gripe about people taking the course and getting certified just so that they can put it on their resume. Well, I took it bc I wanted to understand it, not to say that I’m “certified”. It’s frustrating encountering those who have this ego attitude of ‘you have a cert but have no experience’. You come across as arrogant and closed-minded and I wouldn’t want to work for people like yourselves. Who cares. At least I get the premise of what it’s all about and if an employer sees that as being an asset later on, then I’m ahead of the game. So, don’t knock those who try to gain some knowledge and hope for exposure, even it is from training. At least there was some initiative there.

  11. ewok_bbq |

    Thanks Jay for your thoughts. Great point of view. Whom did you take your class with? Cheers

  12. Venkat |

    Hi
    Please could someone tell me what is the course fee for CSM?
    After taking the course,do I also need to pay for the CSM certification test?

    thanks for your inputs
    Venkat G

  13. MJ |

    Venkat, the fees are set by the individual trainers and generally include the ScrumAlliance CSM license fee. Rates in the US are about twice what they are in India and China last time I checked.

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