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Journey - Professional Scrum Master (PSM)

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This is a professional designation I have had on my list for quite some time, but with Scrum not a focus in my current organization and role, it has remained on the bucket list as one of those long-lasting items.

Recently, there have been some role shifts for me, bumping the desire of attaining the Scrum designation to the top of the list.

Okay, great. So I have my motivation. Now what? Which Scrum designation - CSM or PSM? What is the difference? I won't go into the details, but in short, Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum, founded in 2009 as a global organization. Here are other distinguishing differences from an organizational perspective.

From a certification perspective:

CSM - It is required to take the 2-day class prior to sitting the exam. The cost for the course can be upward of $1200 USD. The exam, first two attempts, are included in that price. Subsequent attempts come with a cost. The exam is online, 35 questions, with no specified time limit - you don't need to finish the test in one sitting. You can stop and restart as many times as needed. You can also skip, go back, and bookmark questions for later review. A passing score is 24/35, which equates to 68%.

PSM - No course is required. Study materials are user chosen. The exam is based off the Scrum Guide. The exam is online through, 80 questions, with a time limit of 60 minutes. The passing score is 85%, or 69/80. The cost of the exam is $150 USD. You have one attempt per fee.

Which One - As far as which designation is respected more in the industry, seemingly it would be PSM, as the test is more difficult, structured, and based specifically on the core values of Scrum. But, I'm sure there are varying opinions.

Another consideration is cost. One can essentially get their PSM for the cost of the exam itself. That is an obvious factor, especially when you are paying out of pocket.

My experience - I was not interested in going the Scrum Alliance route, sitting a 2-day class, and applying for reimbursement. From my research, though the CSM is seemingly more widely attained, my impression and decision was that the PSM was in fact more distinguishable.

I found a class on Udemy - on sale for $10 USD, regularly $195 USD. Here is a link to the class. It is on sale again, and seems as though sales are frequent.

Post completion of the course, I paid for my PSM exam code, and began studying the course content, my notes, the Scrum Guide, and taking practice assessment exams - both the Open Assessment exams and from Mikhail Lapshin.  I continued my studies and practice assessments until I was consistently scoring 100% on each. At that point, I felt I was ready, and had a solid understanding of the material, and the manner in which the understanding was expected.

That's $160 USD compared to $1200 USD

Taking the actual exam - there were some similarities in the real exam compared to the open assessment, but many of the questions were more difficult, as expected, than the practice exams. So, studying and understanding the Scrum principles is core in passing the exam.

I bookmarked 4 questions. I finished my first pass at the questions with 10-minutes remaining. Then had an opportunity to review my bookmarked questions. I completed the exam with approximately 5 minutes left. My final score was 77/80, 96%! It was actually a bit harder than I had expected - I spent almost all the time!

Lessons Learned - I was happy with my preparation. I took a span of a couple weeks and dedicated myself to focusing and immersing myself into the content. Though purchasing the exam added to my motivation, it does not have an expiration. As far as content, the one thing I would do different, is take the Product Owner Open Assessment as there were questions on the actual exam related to PO where it seemed those open assessments might have helped - but that is simply conjecture.

Final Thoughts - The PSM is certainly not like the PMP as far as difficulty, breadth, and preparation time - but it is worth it if it relates to your current role, industry, or career path. I had a good experience and would recommend to others. If your organization is sponsoring employees to attend a Scrum Alliance training, then definitely take advantage of it! There is certainly something to be said for an on-site event with other professionals - both networking and the atmosphere that comes with a group event.

I am super happy to have achieved my PSM, and proud to showcase it.

Until next time!



Posted on: October 01, 2017 11:12 AM | Permalink

Comments (22)

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This is great insight, Andrew! You now have me wanting my own PSM!

Thanks Andrew. The CSM does seem to be more widespread, especially if you look at scrum job ads. However given the huge price difference and low passing score, PSM is bound to become more prevalent.

Great Summary Andrew. It helped me a lot understand many things.

I just have one question: I work in Construction and Real Estate Development so do you think PSM would be beneficial for me ? In other words, which industries do you think PSM serves best ?

Thank you, Stéphane and Sante. I'm happy it resonated with you.

Rami, As per the definition in the Scrum Guide -

Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

Scrum is not a process or a technique for building products; rather, it is a
framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and development practices so that you can improve.

- my answer would be it certainly can add value to your career and provide an opportunity for your initiatives and teams. I am not familiar with the Real Estate Development or Construction industries, but Scrum has been adopted across various industries outside of Software Development.

Read through the Scrum Guide - - and see where it may fit!

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

This is exactly what I was looking for Andrew! Thank you so much!!!

Andrew, when you researched scrum certifications, did you also come across the ASM (Agile Scrum Master) certification from Exin? You selected PSM over CSM and I selected ASM over CSM. Just wanted to know the real weighting and comparisons.

Sante, I had not heard of the ASM prior to your mention of it. Interestingly enough, looking at their comparison to others, they have not heard of the PSM : )
Regardless, based on what I read, I'd still have chosen the PSM. I'd be interested in hearing your story though!

Thanks Andrew, I will let you know more about it after I have been though it. Am looking at the PSM also. The ACP just seems way over the top to me.

This is very helpful information. I bought a Scrum audiobook the other day, and have been intently listening. As a Udemy user, I have wishlisted the course, and will buy it as soon as I can. Thank you.

Thanks Andrew! Summarizing the differences and which one to go for, couldn't have been better. Thank you for writing this article.

Thank you Andrew! Your description of how you secured your PSM is interesting and cost attractive, I may toll your path soon. Once again thanks.!!!

Thanks Andrew! It is very insightful.
how do you relate ACP with PSM & CSM.

Andrew -

thanks for this interesting read! And of course, congratulations on your achievement!
Since I do plan to go for ACP next year, I would also ask the question of Ram, what is your view on it?

Thanks for sharing your experience Andrew.

I attended a CSM 2day course in 2013 and you're totally right on your assumptions. It's quite expensive and the online test is almost irrelevant, but the networking, the exchange of experiences between people from different industries and backgrounds, and the entire dynamic of the course worth the price to me.

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

Thanks for this experience and congratulations

Thanks for sharing this helpful information and the link for the Udemy course. I found this post helpful too!

Thank you, Henry. So glad you found it useful.

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