Super-Hard ScrumMaster Quiz – Test Yourself!

For a little while last year I was using a quiz in my Certified ScrumMaster courses that was deliberately designed to be super hard.  Why?  Because if anyone could answer it correctly before the end of the class, I would give them their certification early and allow them to leave.  Not a single person out of several hundred was able to do it.

So… want to give it a try?  I’ve got two files here.  One is the quiz without answers.  The other is the answer key.  Let me know if you have any questions!!!

CSM Class Test – Super Hard! (PDF, 1 page)

(Please, give it a try before you even download this next piece!!!)

CSM Class Test – Answer Key (PDF, 1 page)

This test was first created by me and one of my close colleagues, Julien Mazloum from Outsofting.  We were trying to make the CSM class something that the Chinese audience would really appreciate culturally.  It worked well, up to a point.  The main problem was that some of the questions were too subtle for people for whom English was their second language.  That said, when I used it in my North American courses, still no one passed it!  In fact, the best score I ever saw was 25 correct out of 30.

Have fun!

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Announcing Summer of Scrum Toronto 2014 Pre-Registration

One of our big plans this summer is to have a selection of advanced Scrum and Agile – related training courses.  We are delivering some of them ourselves, but we are also bring in outside experts for others.

Here is the course list at a high level:

- a 1-day “Advanced ScrumMaster” course
- a 1-day “Advanced Product Owner” course
- a 1-day “Managing for Success” course
- a 1-day “Enterprise Agile” course
- a 2-day “Agile Engineering Practices” course
- a 2-day “Agile Coach Training” course

Our schedule for these events will be finalized in the next few weeks.  If you are interested in any of these courses, please pre-register here.  Pre-registration will give you a guaranteed spot and a discount of 10% above and beyond the early-bird registration price.

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Certified ScrumMaster one of the top paying certifications of 2014

Interesting list here on Global Knowledge (a certification and training vendor (just like Berteig Consulting :-) ) ).  CSM is #6 in pay at $107,396 (is it really 6 significant figures of accuracy?  Wow!).  Anyway, it is cool to see the CSM cert on such a list since I’m one of a small number of Certified Scrum Trainers.  If you’re interested in coming to one of my classes and getting this certification for yourself, please check out my course listings in the sidebar on the right here on Agile Advice.  There’s many in Canada, there’s some in the US and there’s some in China.  Hopefully see you at one of them sometime soon!

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Announcing our winter 2012 course schedule

Hi Everyone!

We have delayed announcing our winter 2012 schedule until now because we have been working on a new platform for listing our courses and creating a community environment for people who have taken our courses.  So, without further ado, I would like to offer to you: World Mindware!

Since we are agile ourselves, this site is still very basic.  We have our list of courses and you are able to register for courses.  However, we welcome feedback of all kinds including bug reports, suggestions for improvements or requests for assistance.  Please contact operations@berteigconsulting.com if you have any feedback about the site.

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Upcoming Scrum/Kanban/OpenAgile Seminar in Waterloo – May 4-6

Just a quick note to let people know that there are spots available in the course we are delivering next week in Waterloo. Details can be found here.

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Toronto and Ottawa Courses have Spots Available

Our agile methods seminar with Certified ScrumMaster, OpenAgile Team Member and Kanban next week in Toronto and our Certified ScrumMaster seminar the following week in Ottawa both have spots available. Just a reminder that these seminars are a great choice if you are thinking about getting training, need PDUs for the PMI, or if your organization is struggling with using agile effectively.

Hope to see you at one of these!

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Quick Note on Scrum Training

We have wrapped up our Summer Special. There are still a few classes scheduled this year that have the discount price, but others have reverted to our normal price. I encourage you to take a look at our course schedule at http://www.berteigconsulting.com/ to see what is still available.

Also, all our future Certified ScrumMaster courses will have a knowledge test as part of the certification process. Please see the Scrum Alliance website for more information at http://www.scrumalliance.org/.

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50% Discount on ScrumMaster Training – Only 76 Spots Left

Our summer special is proving to be very popular!  We started with 100 spots at our 50% discount price of CAD995.00.  We’re down to 76 spots.  Check out our course listing page – every CSM course we have scheduled in Canada is available at this fantastic price (Toronto, Waterloo, Edmonton, Ottawa).

Even without the discount, our course is a better value than many out there.  It’s a three day course instead of the normal two.  This gives you a chance to really dig into the concepts and practices of Scrum and Agile Project Management.  Our course is really designed for project managers, team leads and other managers, instead of being for anyone interested in Scrum.  Of course, if you are interested in a leadership role, but aren’t there yet, you are still welcome to come!

Not only that, we don’t run courses in locations where it is not easy for use to support you after you take the course.  We run our business in Canada, and our consulting and coaching work is there to help you if you want further assistance with doing agile in your organization.  Even if you aren’t in Canada, maybe your organization has a group in Canada or you have professional contacts in Canada – if so, let them know about this fantastic opportunity.

Find our list of scheduled courses here.

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Scrum Gathering – Orlando Florida – Beta CSM Exam

This afternoon I took the Beta version of the knowledge exam for the Certified ScrumMaster credential.  I’m not allowed to provide any details on the questions, but I will provide my impressions.

I’ll start with a story.

Microsoft Certified Application Developer

About six years ago, near the end of my career as a technical contributor, the company I was working for, Solution Architects (who still have my profile on their “people” page), decided that I should become a Microsoft Certified Application Developer.  At the time, I was doing .NET development and I had a long background in Java and Objective-C development.  The approach we decided on was for me to go to a “Boot Camp” where I would be immersed in all things .NET and after nine days of solid training, write the Microsoft exam.

I arrived at the Boot Camp (which was very much a outdoorsy camp environment) quite excited.  I got a room for myself, and it looked like I would be treated very well.  One the first day of classes, the instructor gave us some strong advice: come to class, and then in all your spare time, do the practice exams and study them hard.  I was a bit baffled by this.  We were also given the huge Microsoft Press books to study for the exam (I kept them for a few years, but recently got rid of them).  My first night I studied the books and my notes from class.  To be frank, the instructor spent most of the time going over exactly what was in the books and giving us all a little time on computers to do the “exercises” in the books.  Instruction was really limited to rote recital of the book content.  Any time someone would ask a question that was in any way deep, the instructor would simply redirect with another reminder to study the practice exams.

The second night I decided I would try the practice exam since the first of three real exams was in the afternoon of the third day.  It was fairly simple multiple choice test questions.  I went through all the questions, made sure I found the answers for ones I didn’t know in the books or in my notes, and then after I had done a once-through, I did a quick second pass.

And then, the next day, I took the real exam.  I was utterly, completely shocked.  The real exam was exactly like the sample exam.  The only difference was that the word problems change the names of the fictional people and companies used in the problems.  The structure of the questions was identical.  The answers – including the ordering of the multiple choice answers – were exactly the same.  And of course, it was a breeze.  Anyone could have passed.  In fact, it was completely unnecessary to attend the classroom training part.  I was extremely dis-illusioned.

Why do I mention this experience with a certification exam?  Simple: it has made me extremely sceptical of exams.  They simply cannot measure any level of competency.  They simple measure people’s ability to pass exams.  And since there are many fair and unfair ways to do that, exams are not relevent.

Now I will say that I have changed my mind just a wee bit about this… but that’s a topic for a completely different blog post.

So, when I heard that the Scrum Alliance was going to add an exam to the CSM certification, I felt that it was a waste of time, and probably would encourage all sorts of bad behaviors.  I still think that.

The Beta CSM Exam

Okay.  A few facts about the exam.  It was administered in a room in the convention center here in Orlando.  There was a registration desk and when you sign in you are given a password.  You then go to a workstation which has Internet Explorer running pointed at the exam site.  The exam has bookends: at the start an experience self-assessment that is used to help interpret the exam results, and at the end a satisfaction survey.  Throughout the course of the exam, you are able to comment on the questions.  These bookends and the feedback along the way are a great way to help improve the exam and I really like that.

As I mentioned, I am not allowed to discuss the details of the questions.  I will make some general comments about the questions.  Some questions are about Agile, some are about Scrum principles and some are about Scrum practices.  Some are fairly standard fact-based kinds of question like: what are the roles in Scrum, while others are more scenario-based question like: you are the ScrumMaster and X-bad-behavior is happening… what do you do?

There were 99 questions in total and I was told that it would take approximately one hour to go through the questions.  Now, just so you know, I normally do _really_ _really_ well on multiple choice exams, and I normally complete them extremely quickly.  I read fast, and my mind seems to be able to eliminate incorrect options almost subconsciously.  So, for this exam, I completed it in 35 minutes including the time it took me to comment on about a third of the questions.  If I hadn’t been commenting as I went, I estimate it would have taken me about 20 minutes.

How Did I Score?

Well, I got 84%.  Not bad.  The summary page of the exam said this was a “mastery” level.  I should explain why I didn’t score higher (after all, Certified Scrum Trainer (TM) Mishkin Berteig should be able to do 100%!!!).

I decided before I even started, that I would answer the questions as if I was a “perfect” student of my own training.  In other words, I would deliberately get things wrong if I taught them differently than the “right way” that the question implied.  As well, if I didn’t cover a topic in my training, I would do a best guess putting myself in the shoes of someone who had attended my class.  There were two broad topic areas that I don’t teach about that showed up: Product Vision and Release Planning.  As well, there were a few topics that I teach slightly differently: Scrum Team membership, burndown charts, and Sprint Planning/Sprint Backlog Tasks.

Apparently, despite these differences, a student of my class would do pretty well on the exam.

The Problem

When I first became a Certified Scrum Trainer (no TM, this was before the existance of the Scrum Alliance), Ken Schwaber had a clear policy that as a trainer I was encouraged to integrate into my training materials and approach things that I had discovered through actual practice about Scrum.  I loved this.  It meant that Scrum was not a Canonized Body of Knowledge, but rather a living framework for doing excellent work.  When we put in place an exam like this, it changes the nature of Scrum.  Is this good or bad?  I think it has aspects of both.  The clear down side is that it will have the tendency of freezing Scrum which might make it less relevent.

Another problem is more personal: as a trainer, there will be clear pressure for me to teach to the exam.  If a student of mine goes and does the exam, and fails because (in part) I have taught things differently than what is on the exam, then does that mean this person can blame me?  Sure!  Why not?!  So then I am faced with a problem: do I teach what I know works or do I teach what I know will be tested?

Solution

There is a simple way to avoid this second problem and in fact to mitigate the first problem at the same time: the exam should be taken before taking the CSM course.  The exam is clearly based on the reading materials: Agile Software Development with Scrum and Agile Project Management with Scrum.  Then, if people don’t pass the exam, they can blame only themselves for not studying these excellent books deeply enough.  And, it will simplify training since as trainers we will know that people coming into the class are already _knowledgeable_ about Scrum.  We can then teach our variations, see the dynamic of people in the class, and offer Certification based on that.

This solves the trainer’s dilema easily and obviously.  What is not so obvious is that it also helps prevent Scrum from ossifying.  The Certification becomes based on living interaction with an experienced Scrum trainer rather than an exam.  The long term effect of this is that people will place less importance on the exam (rightly) and more importance on making a good showing in the course (rightly) and then we have a relationship-based Certification.  Since it is based on a relationship, it can live more easily as an organically changing framework rather than a defined (simple) methodology.

After all: Individuals and Interations are valued over Processes and Tools (Agile Manifesto).

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3-Day Scrum & Agile Course Announcement (Toronto)

This course offers ScrumMaster Certification in Toronto. The training is hands on, interactive and highly effective. By the end of the course participants will receive a professional certification in Agile Software Project Management. The dates of the course are January 16 – 18, 2008.

Click here to sign up!

The complete winter and spring course list is available here.

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