ISTQBit or not ISTQBit? Preparing for Certification Test Manager Advanced Level

    ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) is an internationally recognized certification program for testing professionals. To obtain an ISTQB certificate, you must pass an exam organized by an authorized provider.
    Today, there are three levels of certification: basic (Foundation), advanced (Advanced) and expert (Expert), and the availability of the corresponding certificate of the previous level is one of the conditions for passing certification of the next level. The advanced level is divided into several modules, one of which will be discussed in this article - Test Manager.
    In order not to go far into offtopic, more details on the scheme of available qualifications can be found on the official website .

    Although there are many accredited and third-party training centers for preparing for ISTQB, passing the exam yourself is quite realistic, and the purpose of this article is to share your experience in this enterprise. And also a few words about the relevance of this certification in the Russian realities on the example of our company at the end.

    How is the exam

    The examination procedure differs little from the basic level - this is a test with the ability to select one or more answer options.

    When working on an international project, I didn’t have a question of choosing a language, since professional vocabulary in the English version is the most familiar and familiar to me, but you can also take it in Russian.

    The exam lasts 225 minutes, of which 45 are optional for those who pass the exam in a language other than their own. Bonus time comes in handy, because, unlike Foundation Level Exam, about 50 pages of text are waiting for you as questions, the reading of which will take most of the time allocated.

    For successful completion, it is enough to score 65% of points (not to be confused with the number of correct answers). Different categories of questions have their own weight, for example, situational questions, as a rule, give more points than direct questions on terminology and definitions.

    Actually, about the preparation

    Comprehensive training material I received from the book of ex-president of ISTQB Rex Black - Advanced Software Testing - volume II . There, at the end of each chapter, examples of questions are given, in addition to those given on the official website (Exam Documents section).

    The exam covers the following topics:
    Let us consider further what I would recommend to pay attention to within each block.

    Testing Process & Test Management

    These two closely related points account for about half of all points, so it makes sense to focus on them.
    Test questions generally follow a risk-based approach in testing. The concept of this approach is to distribute QA resources based on the probability of defects and the criticality of a particular functionality. Risk in this context means quality risk, which, if implemented, reduces the quality of the software, and the testing process is defined as a direct way to reduce risks.

    In addition to completely rational aspects and related advantages, the full adherence to this approach implies a relatively high level of process formalities. For example, identification and risk assessment involves special sessions with representatives of the technical and business parties. In conditions of flexible development (frequent changes in priorities and requirements) and / or limited resources, the effectiveness of this event may be mediocre. However, understanding this approach will allow you to direct your thoughts in the right direction when solving test questions.


    In QA terminology, a review is used to understand the form of static testing, but this section deals with management reviews and audits, in which, in some cases, a test manager is involved.
    The subject of such a review may be the status and progress in preparing the release, product risks and their rating, product requirements, if management is expected to implement them for implementation.
    Questions on this topic are related to the organization of various types of reviews: their goals, participants, metrics for assessing results.

    Defect management

    To answer the questions that came across to me, there was enough experience with the bug tracker and common sense.
    The questions relate to the defect's life cycle, its attributes, and the use of statistics to evaluate and improve the testing and development process. For example, information such as phases of introduction and detection, root cause, affected component, or functionality (to identify defect clusters) may be useful.

    Improving the Testing Process

    Within this section, it is proposed to study and remember concepts such as TMMi (Testing Maturity Model integration), TPI Next (Test Process Improvement Next), CTP (Critical Testing Processes), STEP (Systematic Test and Evaluation Process), as well as IDEAL model ( Initiate - Diagnose - Establish - Act - Learn) and some other abbreviations, their decipherments and principles. It's all industry standards or frameworks to improve the testing process.

    Test tools and automation

    Of primary interest are the basic principles of selecting and implementing tools for automated testing and other types of auxiliary utilities using abstract examples (without reference to specific products). For example, factors such as the cost of the tool itself, the cost of its use (including training employees), possible risks (among the most common are high expectations and underestimation of the necessary resources for the development and support of automated tests) are considered.

    People skills

    Although the human factor is one of the main aspects of a successful and productive team, the topic of building and motivating such a team in the materials of the ISTQB Test Manager module is covered very superficially.
    This fact simplifies preparation for the exam, but for personal development, it makes sense to turn to other sources (an example from your own preferences is leadership and motivational team management from Brian Tracy).
    Test questions on this topic involve evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the testing team at a fairly simple level in terms of the required skills, drawing up a plan to fill the gaps identified by training employees or expanding the team.

    Why all this?

    If you are thinking about taking an advanced exam, then most likely you already have the CTFL certificate, as well as the prevailing opinion about its advantages (or their absence). Therefore, without going into details, a couple of summarizing thoughts on the topic.

    The practical benefits of this certification can be compared to reading a good book on test management. The materials of the exam cover in detail the topics of planning, test monitoring, reporting, optimization of quality control processes at different stages of the SDLC in the concept of the author's risk-based approach, which, as a rule, is comparable with the responsibilities of QA senior / Lead specialists. In addition, the author of the book recommended above often uses his experience as a consultant in the field of software testing and quality assurance, providing an opportunity to get acquainted with alternative solutions to controversial issues using examples from the experience of foreign colleagues, which is also of certain interest. Although taking the exam itself is, of course, not necessary.

    According to my observations, wishes for the availability of appropriate certificates can often be found in the vacancies of European companies than in Russia. However, in our market there is a very specific application of this artifact. For example, Luxoft leads custom software development, and qualification verification requirements often come from customers. In this case, the exam is paid by the employer, and doubts to pass or not to pass are decided by themselves. Employee certificates are used to formulate a business proposal to the customer, as well as to participate in RFP and tenders. In addition, if the employee has set specific goals for professional growth, obtaining a certificate may affect his salary.
    In the context of the company's interest, it would be appropriate to have internal training courses for employees or the community to jointly prepare for certification, but we do not have this yet.

    As for the fairly widespread skepticism regarding ISTQB certification, I partially share it. In particular, when it comes to certification for the sake of certification. In my opinion, a relatively low passing score makes the exam feasible with minimal preparation. And whether the availability of a certificate will affect professional skills depends solely on personal priorities.

    Useful resources

    • - general information, syllabus, examples of questions;
    • - representative office of ISTQB in Russia;
    • Rex Black Advanced Software Testing - volume II, 2014 - a detailed guide to preparing for certification;
    • - online mock exam;
    • Rex Black Critical Testing Processes, 2003 - about organizing a risk-based testing process, is in translation;
    • Brian Tracy Full Engagement, 2011 - about employee motivation, is in translation.

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