January 2, 2018

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

The Professional Scrum Product Owner Level II is the highest level of scrum product owner certification available through Scrum.org.  The test is positioned similarly to the Professional Scrum Master III and is an extremely challenging test designed to gauge effectiveness in solving complex problems regarding product ownership and development in the real world as well as ability to explain or teach these concepts. 

As a comparison, Scrum Alliance offers The Certified Scrum Professional – Product Owner (CSP-PO) which I also hold. The CSP-PO however does not require any test, only experience and education credits. You can view the total count of PSPO certifications here, but as of authoring this article there were under 200 worldwide.

What’s in the PSPO II Test?

To pass the PSPO II you have to get a 85% score or higher (95%+ to be a trainer candidate) on a variable number of questions test within 120 minutes.  When I took the test I got about 37 questions with about an even split of essay and multiple choice. If you do the math you have just about 2 min for each multiple answer question and 4-5 min for each essay question. 

Therefore, to pass the PSPO II, you not only need to know the scrum framework like the back of your hand, you also need significant experience as a product owner, scrum master and possibly coach or trainer.  I probably wouldn’t recommend anyone to take it unless they have had 3 years experience in agile product development, taken a PSPO class to make sure they are spot on with their understanding/terminology.

Experience Needed to Take the Test

I took the PSPO II after attending a PSPO Train-the-Trainer class, having 13 years’ experience in software development and project management, and having 5 years’ experience as a Scrum Master, product owner, agile coach and trainer. I had created and given multiple training classes while at Boeing, including creating and co-training our own version of the Scrum Master class. I had passed the PSM I (100%), PSM II (90% during pilot for the test), PSM III (95%), and PSPO I (98%). I got a 95% on my first try and found the test easier than the PSM III, but I have a much better idea of what to expect at this point.

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

  1. Go back over my PSPO I study suggestions.
  2. Participate in the in-depth Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) courses. Though it’s not technically required, I don’t see how you would be able to pass without it because the grading is very particular on terminology and perspective to Scrum.org. If you want to become a trainer with Scrum.org, you must attend one of the specific Train the Trainer courses.
  3. Review all the examples from the PSPO class material and practice writing out short paragraph answers for the best way to solve its situations. I found this to be invaluable when taking the PSM III test.
  4. Review any notes you have from the PSPO I test – especially any areas you had trouble with. 
  5. If you haven’t read extensively on Scrum and agile, you probably haven’t made it this far. Before taking the test I re-read “Scrum A Pocket Guide” by Gunther Verheyen as well as “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. “Lean Startup” is not really a requirement here, but it is an excellent read about how to get yourself into the value validation mindset.  
  6. Follow these suggestions when taking the test itself:
    1. Use a 4-minute timer to keep yourself on task so you can at least partially answer each question.
    2. Re-read each question twice as they are complex.
    3. Identify the core issue(s) present and type up as concise of an answer to these as you can while being very clear on terminology. When I asked Scrum.org about the test as compared to the PSM III, they said they were looking for more completeness on the PSPO II as compared to conciseness. Make sure to cover as many angles of the problem as you can. 
    4. I don’t have exact notes, but I only remember having multiple longer answers (3-4 paragraphs) as compared to the PSM III. Several of the answers included bulleted lists of either possible effects of a situation, ways to approach a problem, etc.
    5. Bookmark or note any questions you are unsure how to answer or didn’t feel like your answer flowed well. When you are done with an initial answer to all questions, go back and spent any remaining time polishing your answers. In the PSM III, I ran out of time when working on polishing my answers, but I was able to finish the PSPO with about 15 minutes to spare and didn’t think I needed to expand any answers further.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay informed on the latest technology news and trends

Relevant Insights

Should You Disrupt Yourself to Accelerate Digital Transformation?

It has been interesting to watch Microsoft transition from a company that makes its money via licensing to one that...

Cybersecurity Myth Busted: Tools Are the Solution

When thinking about security, people often gravitate towards implementing various security tools, solutions, or products. If you bring up a...

Time to Reconsider MP-BGP EVPN for Your Datacenter Network?

VxLAN was defined in 2014 by RFC 7348 and has been used as a component in several SDN (software defined...