Reflecting on the PSMII Experience, Part 1

Recently I completed a personal and professional goal of mine, obtaining my PSM II Certification. It was a very proud moment for me, and further confirmation that my career change to Scrum Master five years ago was the right one. Achieving this goal has sparked a lot of questions from my Scrum Master peers, so I thought it might be helpful to share my experiences with a wider audience. In this first part, I’ll cover my experiences with the certification exam itself. Obviously, I can’t share anything specific regarding the questions, but this is my “roadmap” for how to study.

It’s all about the Scrum Guide

As you’ll hear from anyone who has taken a exam, the most important thing you need is a comprehensive knowledge of the Scrum Guide. I would go so far as to say, if the Scrum Guide is the only thing you study, you will probably pass with at least the minimum requirement. Having said that, you won’t find any “memorization” questions on this test. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets by saying you won’t have to name the Scrum Values or the three pillars of empiricism. The PSM II is all about Scrum theory and putting the Scrum Guide into practice. Your collective experience as a Scrum Master will factor heavily into your answers.

Beware of absolutes

Over time the word “commitment” has been de-emphasized in the Scrum Guide. Words that speak in absolutes, such as commitment, always, and never, are often in direct conflict with empiricism. Keep this in mind and pay close attention to questions that deal with absolutes.

What the Scrum Guide says…and what it doesn’t

As my extremely wise instructor said, the Scrum Guide often speaks louder about what it doesn’t say than what it does. It is intentionally vague when it comes to methods and specific practices, and also in the theory, it assigns. It is called the Scrum Guide for a reason. There are certain immutable aspects to Scrum, such as self-organization, ownership, and delivering value, but it rarely prescribes ways to accomplish these things. Therefore questions about tools should be carefully considered.

Final thoughts on the exam

The PSM II exam is challenging and thought-provoking. I found most of the questions to be based in common sense application of Scrum. Certainly, my years as a Scrum Master played into my experience taking the test, so I don’t recommend it to anyone who is trying to pick up certifications simply to dress up their CV. Passing the exam requires a combination of thorough knowledge of the Scrum Guide and practical experience with a Scrum Team.

Achieving my Certification was a great milestone for me, but it wasn’t the best part of the entire PSM II experience. In the next part of my PSM II Reflections post, I’ll talk about the two days of training I attended, and how it reset all of my expectations for the role.

Scrum Master, PSM II, unabashedly committed to transparency and team autonomy. I also write on Medium for Serious Scrum.

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