December 21, 2017

How to Pass the Professional Scrum Product Owner Level I (PSPO I)

The Professional Scrum Product Owner Level I is the foundation level product owner certification available through The PSPO I is positioned similarly to the CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner) offered by Scrum Alliance.

Even though I have tons of them, I completely agree that no certification can prove effectiveness in a role (too many other factors to consider there). Still, the PSPO I does a good job of validating knowledge of the Scrum framework and product ownership which is foundational to success as a product owner or product manager in a Scrum or agile team. I enjoyed the CSPO class I took, but there is no test to validate understanding, so everyone who attended the class got the CSPO certification regardless of how well they knew the material. 

Tips on Passing the PSPO I on Your First Attempt

To pass the PSPO I, you have to get an 85% score or higher on an 80 question time test in 60 minutes. This means you need to know the Scrum framework very well and have experience as a product owner and/or understanding of how to be effective in the role.

I passed the PSPO I with a 98% score on my first attempt, but I had many years of experience as a Scrum master and product owner, already had my CSPO certification, and had read extensively before taking the test. If you are looking to take the test, I would suggest the following to help you pass on the first attempt:

  1. The PSPO I test is based very heavily on the official Scrum guide. Studying the official Scrum guide is critical to passing the test. Read through this several times!
  2. Participating in a Professional Scrum Foundations (PSF), or the in-depth Professional Scrum Product Owner courses (especially if you are new to Scrum), is highly recommended and will set you up very well to pass the PSPO I…but this is not required to take the test.
  3. Take the Scrum open and product owner open practice tests multiple times before taking the PSPO test itself. I took both enough times that I could get 100% right in about 5 minutes. 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 forums to make sure you understand it. Remember, the PSPO I assessment is harder than the open assessment.  
  4. Understand some of the complementary practices that many Scrum teams use. Including:
    1. Poker Planning
    2. Burn down charts 
    3. Burn up charts
  5. Consider reading the Evidence-Based Management Guide from to better understand some of the areas that you might want to measure value in as a product owner.  
  6. Unlearn what you have learned! Here are a couple key concepts to remember that might be different from what you may have learned or heard elsewhere:
    • The Scrum guide does not define a pre-planning stage (iteration 0), and the goal of the first sprint is a potentially releasable product. Many agile teams across industries include these, but they are not part of the official Scrum framework. 
    • Understand the underlying empirical control process that is the basis for all Agile processes. Empiricism exercises control through focusing on Transparency, Inspection, and Adaption in a similar model to the Scientific method.
    • Scrum Guide defines a Sprint Goal and only allows canceling the sprint if the goal becomes obsolete, which is determined by the product owner.
    • The Scrum Guide includes heavy emphasis on structured autonomy of the Scrum team. The people doing the development understand best what is involved in needing to build a quality, potentially releasable product every sprint. 
    • The product owner is responsible for maximizing value of the work the Scrum team completes. While the product owner is responsible for the product backlog and its “ordering”, they do not have to do all the work to accomplish this. They can work with and rely on the Scrum team to do so.
    • A good product owner does not control all the flow of information to/from the team, but helps connect the team with whoever is needed (stakeholders, users, technical leads, other business representatives, etc.) so they can get the most direct answer possible with minimal lag time or handoff loss. 
  7. Follow these suggestions when taking the test itself:
    • Fully read each question and its answers before selecting an answer because the questions usually are asking for the best answer, not a partially correct one or the “perfect” answer. 
    • Some of the questions will ask that you select the best “two” or “three” answers. Watch for this and make sure you select enough answers on these questions. 
    • 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 the questions in time to go back and double-check hard questions than to run out of time part way through the test. 
    • Remember to go back and check questions you bookmarked.

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

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