January 4, 2018

How to Pass the Professional Scrum Master Level II (PSM II)

Post by: Core's Strategic Services Team

The Professional Scrum Master Level II is the intermediate level Scrum Master certification available through Scrum.org. Originally, the PSM II was an essay-based test that was extremely challenging in the time limits provided and designed to gauge effectiveness as a trainer and coach of Scrum.

The original PSM II was rebranded as the PSM III, and a new certification was introduced at the PSM II level between the foundation and expert levels. The new PSM II is a practitioner-level test designed to gauge your understanding of how to apply Scrum principals to challenging situations you could face on teams, projects, and within your organization. The closest equivalent certification offered by Scrum Alliance would be the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), but there are some significant differences in that the CSP does not require any test and is based on reported experience and learning credits only. 

psm scrum certification

What’s in the PSM II Test?

To pass the PSM II, you have to get a 85% score or higher on a 30 multiple choice (and multiple answer) question test within 90 minutes. The PSM I questions are primarily about the Scrum framework, rules, and values. However, the PSM II questions are almost all challenging situational questions where you evaluate what is going on in the situation, determine possible courses of action based on the rules, principles, and values of Scrum, and understand the potential repercussions of those actions. This means you not only need to know the Scrum framework very well, you also need experience as a Scrum Master in many of those situations.

I was one of the pilot takers of the PSM II and got a 90% score on my first attempt. However, I know there were a couple questions that got modified out of the pilot because there was an issue with the wording being confusing. I had several years of experience as a Scrum Master and product owner, had attended several training courses, and passed the PSM I with a 100% score. Moreover, I had studied and read extensively before taking the test. If you want to take the test, I suggest the following to help you pass on the first attempt:

Practical Tips to Help You Pass the PSM II on Your First Try

  1. Participate in the in-depth Professional Scrum Master (PSM) courses because they go through many situations and exercises like you will see on the PSM II. If you have already taken the PSM or the PSF course, then definitely review your notes and handouts from the class.
  2. Review any notes from the PSM I test, especially any areas you had trouble with. You need to be very confident with the PSM I material before taking the PSM II test. As a reminder, the PSM I is heavily based on the official scrum guide. Re-read through this several times! 
  3. Review my PSM I study suggestions. 
  4. Take ALL the open assessments (not just the Scrum open) as practice tests multiple times before taking the PSM test. I suggest taking these until you can get 100% on each of them. Knowing some of these questions very well will help buy you a couple extra minutes as you are taking the actual test. If you miss a question, go back and look at the Scrum guide, or visit the Scrum.org forums to make sure you understand it. Remember that the PSM II is application- and situational-based so you will have to take the knowledge you have and apply it.    
  5. Read the excellent books and articles on the scrum.org resources page. I have read most of these and recommend “Scrum A Pocket Guide” by Gunther Verheyen if you are looking for the best bang for your buck. Many of the other books would be very helpful to hone your ability as a Scrum Master but probably aren’t as necessary in preparing for the PSM I assessment. 
  6. Follow these suggestions when taking the test:
    1. Read each question and answers fully before selecting an answer because the questions are usually asking for the best answer, not a partially correct one or the “perfect” answer. 
    2. Some of the questions will ask that you select the best “two” or “three” answers. So watch for this and make sure you select enough answers on these questions. 
    3. If you spend more than a couple minutes on any one question, pick your best guess and then bookmark the question so you can come back to it after you have gone through the rest of the questions. Better to have an answer for all of the questions and time to go back and double-check hard questions than to run out of time partway through the test. 
    4. Remember to go back and check questions you bookmarked.
  7. Check out the excellent suggestions on these sites: 
    1. http://www.scrumcrazy.com/Scrum.org+PSM+I+Study+Tips
    2. http://scrumorakel.de/blog/index.php?/archives/30-How-to-prepare-for-the-Professional-Scrum-assessments.html
    3. http://webgate.ltd.uk/how-to-pass-the-professional-scrum-master-i-psm-i-assessment/

Now that you know what it takes, what are you waiting for? Start your path to the PSM I by taking the open assessment, signing up for a training class, and asking questions on the forum.

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