Tips and tricks for passing the PSM I exam

  • Be careful with the words: sometimes you don’t pay enough attention to some of the words, and answer the simplest of questions incorrectly. Always read the question carefully, word by word. Also make sure you’ve read all the answer before choosing the desired one. Let me give you some examples:
    • Be careful with questions containing the word “NOT”: some questions ask, for example, “which of the following is NOT a characteristic of…”, and many people forget about the “NOT”, and pick the wrong answer. You won’t believe how common this is; so, be careful not to miss this keyword.
    • Be careful with multiple answer questions: some questions ask you to choose multiple answers, and some people just don’t pay enough attention and pick one answer. All multiple answer questions use check-boxes instead of radio-buttons; get used to paying attention to this to double check. It’s a good idea to spend a few minutes at the end of the exam, going through all the questions and only checking to see if you’ve picked multiple answers where you needed to.
    • Be careful with “should vs. could”: e.g., the sentence “Product Owner could attend the Daily Scrum” is true, while the sentence “Product Owner should attend the Daily Scrum” is false. It’s not complicated, and you surely understand it; just make sure you still pay attention to it under the exam pressure.
    • Be careful with “attend vs. participate”: e.g., the sentence “Product Owner can attend the Daily Scrum” is true, while the sentence “Product Owner can participate in the Daily Scrum” is false.
  • Forget your sinful past! If you have experience using Scrum, chances are high you’re not doing it perfectly. Scrum.org asks you many questions about the common wrong behaviors in Scrum projects, and that’s why you should use your knowledge instead of what you’ve seen in the projects. The following are some examples:
    • There’s no Sprint zero; also no hardening Sprint, integration Sprint, release Sprint, planning Sprint, etc. All Sprints are the same.
    • Only the developers participate in the Daily Scrums.
    • There are no baselines in Scrum.
    • There’s always only one Product Backlog and one Product Owner, no matter how many teams are working on the project.
    • There are no roles other than those three standard ones, and none of them manage the rest.
  • Be brave! Yes, you know that, for example, the team should be self-organized. But to what degree? For example, who should decide to exclude a developer from the team? The team itself, the Product Owner or Scrum Master, the hiring manager, another manager in the company? Trust what you’ve learned: the team should be self-organized, and this is only limited by the authorities given to the Product Owner and Scrum Master in the framework.
  • Don’t use miscellaneous sample Scrum questions: many of those questions are designed for other exams such as PMI-ACP and CSM, and they are not necessarily compatible with PSM I. If you want to use sample questions, only use those specifically designed for supporting the PSM I exam.
  • Be focused: being focused on the exam is probably as important as studying for it. How can you do this? It depends on you. If drinking coffee makes you nervous, don’t drink it; if you’re a coffee addict like me, drink it a lot; take the exam in your prime time (e.g., not in the morning when you’re not a morning person); take it in a quite place; eat appropriately before the exam; etc.
  • Manage your time: many people find the 60 minute duration enough for the exam, while some candidates cannot spend enough time on all questions. Spend your time appropriately on questions; e.g., instead of stressing yourself and spending a lot of time on a few hard questions at the beginning of the exam, just mark them for the end and spend your energy and time on what you can do best.
  • Answer all questions: there’s no penalty for wrong answers. Just answer everything.
  • Use at least two rounds: it’s much better if you review your answers at least once. You need to manage your time accordingly.
  • Don’t worry about changing your answers: many people keep saying you shouldn’t change your answers unless you’re really sure, and that your first answer is usually right. This is a myth, and proven wrong by scientific research. This “feeling” is caused by a cognitive bias, and you can safely change your answers as you like, based on your reasoning instead of your guts. Just remember to manage your time properly.
  • Look it up when needed: the exam is open book, remember? Finding the right answer to some questions is really time consuming, while if there’s a question like “what’s the duration of Sprint Retrospective in a one-month Sprint?”, and for some reason, you’re not sure if you remember it correctly, just look it up!
  • Don’t panic: the last thing you need is to panic. There’s a famous advice for musicians: practice as if you’re performing, and perform as if you’re practicing. Don’t think about the result in the middle of the exam, and don’t think about how many questions you’ve probably missed; just focus on one question at the time, and do your best. And by the way, if you are disconnected in the middle of the exam, you can just go to the exam page and continue. It has happened to me when I was taking my exam! I lost 15 minutes trying to solve my internet connection problem, but at least I could continue afterwards and pass the exam. Don’t worry about anything during the exam.

Alternative Certifications

  • CSM, far more expensive, much easier to pass
  • ASF, covers more generic aspects of Agile besides Scrum, a little more expensive, easier to pass, covers practices and techniques
  • PMI-ACP, covers more generic aspects of Agile besides Scrum, far more expensive
  • AgilePM, focused on the DSDM methodology instead of Scrum, more expensive
  • PRINCE2 Agile, covers more generic aspects of Agile besides Scrum, more expensive