About a year ago, we created a Scrum Product Owner test as a teaching tool to provide our Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) students a way to evaluate what they had learned in our course. We took this action because for as long as I have been a Certified Scrum Trainer®, the Scrum Alliance has talked about producing an official CSPO exam but never executed on this goal. So we figured, why not do it ourselves?
Using our Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) practice exam as our model, we divided our Product Owner test into seven broad areas, ranging from Scrum values to the various artifacts found in Scrum, to validate a student’s understanding of core concepts related to the Scrum Guide, the official definition of Scrum. One of the crucial decisions we made early in the design process of our CSPO exam was to make it freely available to anyone on the Internet.
Product Owner Test – The Big Picture
Interestingly, in some areas of our practice exam, Product Owners have a better understanding about Scrum fundamentals than ScrumMasters. For instance, Product Owners consistently score higher than ScrumMasters on questions related to product quality, the Product Backlog, Sprint Planning and the role of the ScrumMaster. One possible explanation for this difference, based on my experience working with and teaching Product Owners, is that many Product Owners have a better understanding of the importance of the Scrum fundamentals because the lack of good Scrum fundamentals specifically impacts their role.
In other areas of our practice exam, Product Owners struggle with core Scrum concepts. Specifically, Product Owners tend to have misunderstandings about Scrum events. For instance, of the people who took our Product Owner test, many struggled to differentiate between the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective. More than fifty percent of our test takers stumbled when asked to correctly identify which Agile principle are present during the Sprint Review or when asked to describe the scope of activities expected in a Sprint Review. In both cases, a majority of test takers selected answers consistent with the Sprint Retrospective rather than the Sprint Review. Like ScrumMasters, nearly forty percent of our test takers could not correctly identify the purpose of the Daily Scrum.
Surprising CSPO Exam Results
Digging deeper into the data yielded a number of surprises:
- Around 55% of CSPO test takers pass on the first try with an average score of 68%. This average falls eight points short of what we selected as a passing score of 76%. When compared to the results of the CSM practice test, on average Product Owners are passing less often and with lower average scores than ScrumMasters. As I noted in our analysis of our CSM practice exam results, if the Scrum Alliance were to establish an official CSPO exam, I suspect general knowledge about Scrum would not be sufficient to pass.
- Much like their ScrumMaster colleagues, forty-five percent of the people taking the CSPO exam confused user stories with Product Backlog items. This is not entirely surprising since user stories have become the default pattern for documenting Product Backlog items (PBI). However, there are a lot of bad habits people have adopted with respect to user stories. These bad habits overemphasize the completion of “tickets” and deprioritize the delivery of value, aka the build trap.
- Nearly fifty percent of people who took the CSPO practice exam could not correctly identify the components of a forecast. This is problematic because Product Owners have a responsibility to set, and communicate, expectations about what is going to be delivered in the product and when. If they cannot construct a forecast, that is a problem.
One more thing… About twenty percent of test takers felt they should be the single point-of-contact between the customers and the Developers. While I often teach that Product Owners are a conduit of information connecting customers with Developers, they are not the single point-of-contact. Perhaps these people are confusing single point-of-contact with the old (and out-dated) notion that the Product Owner is the “single wringable neck”?
Ready to take the test? Try our Product Owner exam today!