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Thoughts on Becoming ISTQB Certified…

I was speaking to a customer yesterday regarding the benefits of becoming ISTQB certified.  It was an excellent and thought-provoking conversation, so I decided to summarize the key points in this blog post. 

The bottom line is that having your ISTQB Foundation (or CTFL) certification alone is enough to help you stand out from the crowd.  Only about 110,000 people currently hold the ISTQB Foundation certification worldwide, which might sound like a lot but when you consider the number of software testers in the world today, on a percentage basis this number is tiny.

That said, if you REALLY want to differentiate yourself, consider going all the way and earning your full ISTQB Advanced level certification.  Whereas the ISTQB Foundation level focuses on theory, the Advanced level focuses on the practical application of this theory.  Before you can take the Advanced level exam, you must already have your ISTQB Foundation level certification, as well as at least 2 years of practical experience.

The Advanced level is split into 3 modules: test analyst, technical test analyst, and test manager.   Each module handles a different aspect of software testing.  For example, the test analyst module is concerned with reviews, black box techniques, process flows, and similar things.  Technical test analyst focuses on unit tests, testing tools, and white box tactics, among other things.  Finally, the test manager module focuses on the overall preparation, planning and management of various testing processes.     

There are 3 different Advanced level exams to pass – one for each module. Each exam costs $200, and you will generally have the choice of either taking the exam at a physical location, or online.  You must take each one separately. They are multiple-choice exams, the pass rate is 65%, and you’ll have 3 hours to finish each one.  You must prepare for each exam by studying and learning the information contained within the official 114-page ISTQB Advanced level syllabus.

So, there you have it.  If you have at least 2 years of practical software testing experience, you should strongly consider becoming ISTQB certified – at both the Foundation and Advanced levels.  Yes, it will take several weeks of study to prepare for each exam, not to mention the costs associated with the study materials as well as the exams themselves.  However, consider it an investment of time and money, one that will surely pay career dividends for years to come.

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