Test anxiety is a real thing. I faced it taking the SAT, and I had six tense months preparing for the exam to become a certified Project Management Professional. So when I took the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) class, the certification test was my biggest concern — what was the Scrum Master certification exam going to be like?
Well, take a deep breath folks — it’s not a proctored exam like the SAT or PMP. Nor is it like the PMP, where you are tested on an entire body of knowledge, some of which you’ll never use in your daily work. Instead, the CSM test is about confirming the specific knowledge you have already gained in the two-day workshop. Think of the CSM exam as the start of a journey, rather than the PMP, which is more of a milestone saying, “Hey, you’re a veteran of project management.”
Everything you need to pass the test you were taught in the workshop, or you will have access to because it’s an open book test. So take that deep breath and read on to learn some tips to ace your Scrum Master test.
How to Prepare for the Scrum Master Certification Exam
Here are the facts you need to know to qualify for the test and about the test itself, as of 2020.
Workshop Attendance Required
To be eligible you must be present and complete the two-day in person workshop. Your instructor will notify the Scrum Alliance of your eligibility based on your attendance.
CSM Exam Cost
The cost of your test is $50 and this is normally included in the cost of your workshop.
CSM Exam Questions
There are 50 multiple choice questions. To see what the questions might look like, take our Scrum Master Practice Exam.
You need a score of 74% or higher to pass, which is 37 correct out of the 50 questions. You will get your results immediately on completing the test.
What is the Test Based On
The test is based on the current edition of the Scrum Guide and the latest version of the Scrum Alliance learning objectives. The test is weighted based on the learning objectives. To see the weighting and get an idea of how many questions on each focus area you may see, check out this helpful PDF.
The test is open book. See the tips below for our recommendations on what resources to use.
How Long Does It Take?
You have one hour to take the test. You cannot pause the timer, so be sure to have the time set aside and the ability to focus. Answers are saved, so if you lose your connection, you can pick back up where you left off.
When Can I Take It?
You will generally get an email from the Scrum Alliance with the link to take the test within 48 hours of completing the class. It is not uncommon to receive the email the same day you completed the class. You have 90 days to take the test from the day you get the link. If you fail to take the test in that time, you will have to take the CSM class again.
What If I fail?
If you don’t pass on your first attempt, you’ll have one free retry. You’ll be told which questions you didn’t get right. The retry must be completed within 90 days of taking the class. If you do not pass on the 2nd attempt, you can take the test again for a $25 fee.
What Do I Do After I Pass?
After you pass, return to ScrumAlliance.org to create your profile and accept the Scrum Alliance licensing agreement (Settings/ Certification Dashboard). Once you accept the license, your certificate is available for you to download as a PDF.
How Long Is My Certification Valid?
Your certification is good for two years from the date you accept the license agreement. It then must be renewed annually after that. This Scrum Alliance page on renewing your certifications has the complete details.
What Comes Next?
When you are ready, after the CSM certification, the next step in your Agile journey is the Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) certification. Applied Frameworks has you covered there, we offer an accredited, completely on-line program to obtain your A-CSM.
Tips for Passing the Scrum Master Certification Exam
The following is a mix of practical test taking advice regarding multiple choice test generally, and specific tips regarding the Scrum Master certification exam.
Basic Multiple Choice Tips
- Read the last sentence of the question first: You’ll know what information you need from the rest of the question and will be less likely to get thrown by tricky wording.
- Answer the question before looking at the choices: You just took the class and studied. You probably know the answer already. Now look at the choices.
- Read all the answers before selecting one: This keeps you from picking an answer that is close to the correct one.
- Read the multiple choice questions from the bottom up. This hijacks the brain’s bias towards the first reasonable answer.
- Eliminate wrong answers first: Some wrong answers will be obvious. For example, any answer in multiples of months is wrong for any time box related Scrum question.
- Be careful of words like all, always, none, and never: A choice with always means that there is never ever in the whole wide world a case where it is not so. Choices with these words are often red herrings.
- Go back and review your answers: Before you submit the test, double check all your answers. When I took my PMP I changed at least ten answers and I probably passed my PMP because I did.
- Web search “tips for multiple choice tests” for even more suggestions.
Tips Specific to the CSM Test
- If you are reading this before you attend a class, be sure to choose your class and instructor wisely. All the material you need to pass the test should be up to date and covered in your workshop. Read our blog on “How to Hire a Certified Scrum Trainer” if you think you need help.
- Take the Scrum Master Practice Exam created by Applied Frameworks: Our free practice exam is up to date and our CSTs who created it were part of the Scrum Alliance design team that set the learning objectives for all Scrum Alliance certification courses.
- Use the online version of the “The Scrum Guide” as the official source material. Stay away from any other online resources. The online version has a table of contents that is hyperlinked to make it easier to find the material you need. Sixty minutes can pass quickly if you’re flipping through a print out or a PDF. There is absolutely zero need to pay any money for exam preparation.
- Flag questions for review: If you’re stuck on a question, flag it for review and come back to it later.
Relax, you got this!
Remember, becoming a Certified ScrumMaster is the start of your Agile journey. It’s meant to be the first step along a path of constant learning. The CSM test reflects this. It’s not scary, and it’s not difficult if you paid attention in class, took notes and have the Scrum Guide handy. You’ll do just fine.
Note: This article was updated in November 2021.