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  • Writer's pictureChris Belknap

How to Prepare for the PSM I Exam

Professional Scrum Master Certification PSM I

Have you made it your new year's resolution to pass the PSM I exam? If so then here's my advice on how to prepare for it.

One of many things I have always appreciated about, lead by Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum,

is that they separate certifications from training. This means that if you have enough knowledge, either through self-study or experience, you don't need to pay for and take a 2-day course.

You may also be interested in reading more details on the difference between other Scrum Master certifications, such the PSM vs CSM.

Preparation Steps

If you're not in a position to take a PSM course, the most effective ways to study for this assessment are the following:

  • Read the Scrum Guide! Read the Scrum Glossary. Be able to clearly describe the purpose of the roles, artifacts, and events. Understand what empiricism is and how the elements of Scrum leverage empiricism. Understand the rules found in the Scrum Guide, such as the time-boxes for the 5 Scrum events. Understand the accountabilities of the three Scrum roles. Know about the Scrum values.

  • Know which agile practices you may have seen or used that are NOT part of the Scrum framework (e.g. user stories, story points, definition of "Ready", planning poker are not part of Scrum).

  • Take the free Open Assessment until you are confident with all of the questions. The PSM I exam will be more challenging, but this will build you confidence.

  • Download (free) and read the Scrum Guide Re-ordered by Stefan Wolpers, PST. The Scrum Guide Reordered is based on about 90 percent of the text of the 2017 Scrum Guide, extending its original structure by adding additional categories.

  • You may also find it valuable to take the Product Owner Open Assessment and the Scrum Developer Open Assessment and the as a way to gain additional perspective on the other roles of a Scrum Team.

  • Review the Scrum Master Learning Path for any topics you are not sure of.

  • Here are even more resources here to help you prepare.

  • If you've taken the PSM I course, review the course reference guide and your notes from class, including group discussions and team exercises.

Suggested Books

There are many great books on Scrum. Reading both of these will give you a great chance at passing the exam.

Scrum Insights for Practitioners, by Hiren Doshi
Scrum Insights for Practitioners, by Hiren Doshi

Scrum Pocket Guide, by Gunther Verheyen

When taking the PSM I assessment, remember these tips

  • Get a good night's sleep before the exam.

  • Don't take it from a location where a firewall might kick you out of the assessment.Ensure you will have an hour of uninterrupted time.

  • A tip from Charles Bradley, PST: Assume that there are no “perfect” answers, only “best” answers — when wearing your “Scrum Principles Wizard” hat. Answer as if you were the author of the Scrum Guide yourself.

Warning: There are 3rd party companies (i.e. outside of that provide practice tests and test preparations for this assessment. In our experience, while they are mildly helpful, many of these sites will steer you so wrong on the understanding of Scrum sometimes. Therefore we recommend against considering them. We recommend you definitely don’t use them to prepare.

Why You May Want to Consider a PSM I Course

In my opinion your best chance at passing the PSM I is to take a Professional Scrum Master I course. Each Professional Scrum Master I course comes with up to two free attempts at passing the PSM I exam. If you attempt the Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) certification assessment within 14 days and do not score at least 85%, you will be granted a 2nd attempt at no further cost. Note: the second attempt does not have to be taken within 14 days, and the second password will not expire if you don't use it.

However, the PSM I course goes much, much deeper than the exam. It comes down to whether you are you motivated to simply collect a certification, or if you want to begin your journey of mastering Scrum? As someone who has passed the PSM I, II and III with scores of 95 or better on all three exams, I credit the PSM I course for this.

I run several PSM I courses each quarter in the New England area, and would love to have you in a course. I don't teach to the exam, and the course is not an exam-cram course, but this course will put you in the right path to Scrum Mastery! So consider it.

Good luck with the exam, and Scrum on!

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