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 Scrum.org 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 Scrum.org, 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 Scrum.org 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!