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My Journey To PSM III

Recently when I posted news about my successful Professional Scrum Master- PSM III certification, many people asked me for some tips for the exam. However, many didn’t know that I had a failed attempt as well. This article is a summary of my experience of my failed attempt as well as the successful attempt.

About PSM III

My personal take and summary – ‘Tough, Not-Impossible, Great Learning Experience’

Tough, Not-Impossible, Great Learning Experience

Scrum.org says

PSM-III holders show a deep understanding of application and practice of Scrum and Scrum Values in variety of complex team and organisation enviornment.

‘Deep Understanding’ means expectations are very high and this raises the difficulty level of the exam.

As of April 2020- there are only 808 PSM III holders which is much less than PSM I and PSM II holders.


My Journey

I took 2 attempts at PSM III. One failed and other successful. In the rest of the article, I will share my experience with both attempts.


Failed Attempt

  1. Before Exam

One of the challenges about PSM III is that there is not much content or mock questions that can make you to confidently answer the question ‘Am I Ready ?’

I read the Scrum Guide many times. I read many books, a few key ones are below

I also read Scrum.org blogs and forum questions.

After so much reading of blogs & books and practicing newly learned concepts & techniques at my workplace, I was still not confident. I was scared, I would fail. But one night, I just decided to take the test and do what Scrum says ‘Inspect & Adapt’.

2. During Exam

I made a terrible mistake to take the exam when I was super tired. I just finished a book at 2 am and was reading continuously for the past 3 hours. I thought knowledge is fresh, let’s take it. BIG MISTAKE.

The exam is of 2 hours and had 34 questions and 5–6 multiple choice questions and rest all scenario-based essay type questions.

So if you calculate you got almost 3 mins per question. Many questions had multiple parts. To get full marks, you have to answer all the parts of the question.

I made many mistakes, big ones are below

  • I was tired so felt less focused
  • No Timebox Per Question- I couldn’t answer 2 questions so my chances of getting 85% reduced there itself
  • Grammarly: I had Grammarly on my laptop and it kept telling me my spelling and grammar mistakes. I was correcting those while writing answers. I lost valuable time there.

Scrum.org don’t check your grammar or spellings.

  • Lack of Clarity: I was writing sentences and answers were getting longer. Again time lost and the main key points of my answers were hidden in those sentences resulting in a lack of clarity.

3. Result

After a week, I got my undesired result and I got 83%, below the required 85%.

Scrum.org provides very detailed feedback and areas where you need to work.


Second Attempt

  1. Before Exam- Preparation

The best thing my failed attempt did was ‘Inspection’ that allowed ‘Adaptation’. Now I knew the importance of time and clarity, and what subject areas I need to focus on.

I changed my strategy.

  • I practiced writing my answers in bullet points. This reduced the answers’ length and also brought clarity.
  • I read almost all Scrum.org blogs. My few favorites were that I read multiple numbers of times.
  • Serious Scrum– I found articles of this publication great, very insightful, and thought-provoking. I also started writing. Not only, this improved my writing ability but it also improved my knowledge a lot. I had many conversations with editors and readers. This cleared many misunderstandings and deepened my understanding.
  • Master Professional Scrum- I love this book by Stephanie Ockerman and Simon Reindl and would highly recommend it. This cleared many concepts and provided useful practical techniques.
  • Stances of Scrum Master- White Paper by Barry Overeem was a great eye-opener for me. It is a great resource to understand various stances of a Scrum Master, something quite key for PSM III exam.
  • Community: This time sought help from communities such as local agile communities in the UK, serious scrum, Scrum community of practice at my workplace, etc. Wherever I felt I am confused, I asked others. This led to many great conversations and debates.

2. Just Before Exam- A Little Warm-Up

Even after, all the above work for the next 2 months, I wasn’t sure that I am ready as every day I was still learning something new. After discussing my situation in communities, I learned that it is normal. The best is to just set a preparation goal and once that goal is achieved, take the exam.

3 days before the exam, I starting practicing answering questions in 2.5 min timebox. I was very strict on this, and this ensured my answers were brief, which is very important during the exam.

Just before taking the exam, I did the above exercise again for 20 mins.

As I learned from the previous failed attempt, I made sure that I am not tired and decided to take the exam during my most productive hours in the morning.

I would advise taking this exam in a relaxed environment is important.

3. During Exam

Thank God. I didn’t make the same mistake as I did last time.

The number of questions was the same as the last attempt, except this time I was able to finish all questions in time. Only a few questions were common and the number of multiple-choice questions was the same as well.

  • I used a time box of 2.5 mins. This left me time, in the end, to come back to the questions where I was less confident and write better answers.
  • All answers were in bullet points
  • I was not correcting any grammar and spelling mistakes. I even removed Grammarly for few hours 😀
  • I finished just in time.

4. Result

I got an email the next morning with the result. With a lot of nervousness, I opened the email and found wonderful news. I passed the exam with 96.8%.

Conclusive Thoughts

The right preparation is key for this exam. It not only tests your Scrum knowledge but also its application in the real world. Don’t do the mistakes that I did in my first attempt.

  • Sleep Well
  • Don’t worry about grammar, it is not a test of your English ability
  • Practice giving brief answers
  • Give your answers in bullet points, it helps giving short answers

Remember, it is a tough exam. Even if you not successful, consider this as an opportunity to Inspect & Adapt. Be empirical in your approach. Enjoy the beautiful journey of learning, discussing, debating, and having wonderful conversations. Good Luck.

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