Tips for Scrum Alliance's CSP Exam

The CSP Certification was on my radar for a long time but it was just one of these things I kept delaying, until I read about the changes to the certification process after January/2014


What has changed?

From 31st January/2014 onwards in order to apply for the CSP Exam you will need to have years of experience PLUS a set of SEU, continuous education units that you accumulate through attendance to Scrum-related conferences, presentations you give, blogs you write etc. The conferences and trainings will need to be endorsed by the Scrum Alliance for you to be able to claim units. Basically it means it is going to involve a lot more work.

 

The Exam

As I recall there were quite a few questions related to Ceremonies (specifically Retrospective, it’s phases, scope, goals, etc), Scrum Roles, Refactoring, TDD, Spikes, purposes of CI, ideal team structure, Acceptance Tests and how they are used in Agile, team Estimation, team structure, PDCA (plan-do-check-act), intentional and emergent design, "what would yo do if your team is failing to commit or under-delivering" (would you increase the sprint? make it short? and so on), about the variables involved in calculating ROI, ...

I found the exam tiring. It was not only about waking up 5am, driving for almost 4h from London to Whiterby and having to go through a 3h exam with 150 questions.. the questions are tricky. You are always left not knowing if you have chosen the right option although you are sure you did :-) Many of the questions are along the lines of "find what is THE BEST option among the ones bellow" and this is the catch. The options are all technically right but to find the BEST one...

I guess most books tend to repeat a lot of the same stuff, from all the reading material recommended by Scrum Alliance (25 books!) these are the ones you should read if you have the time:

1) Essential Scrum – Kenneth S. Rubin

2) Succeeding With Agile - Mike Cohn

3) Agile Estimating and Planning - Mike Cohn

4) User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn

5) Agile Software Development - Alistair Cockburn

6) Agile Software Development with Scrum - Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle

7) Agile Product Management with Scrum - Roman Pichler

8) Extreme Programming - Kent Beck

9) Agile Retrospectives, Making Good Teams Great

10) DoBetterScrum-v2

11) Scrum Papers

12) Scrum Primer

13) CSP Preparation PDF

 

Strategy

I read only 2 books and the rest was be based on PDF's and Exam Simulations. I also complemented that with a lot of simulation tests.

I was a bit concerned about my strategy but at the end it worked so I guess I can share my notes and what I read. I believe previous professional experience really helps with the questions.

I have read the following books:

If you could bother I would also add another one to this list:

I have also gone through the following PDFs:

For questions and test simulation I used the free version of the following sites:

https://www.scrum.org/Assessments/Professional-Scrum-Master-Assessments

http://www.testtakeronline.com/welcome.htm

https://www.scrum.org/Assessments/Open-Assessments

http://www.scalestudy.com/features/

http://www.agileexams.com/sample/

 

Some of these sites randomly select the questions so you can do these as many times you want, until you are satisfied with the results. I would definitely recommend Scale Study and since is quite affordable would advise you to seriously consider paying for it. Their questions resemble a lot what I saw in the exam.

When your time comes, don't spend hours in a single question, there are 150. Answer them as you go and flag the ones you are unsure. In my case I did all the test in 2h and spend the last hour checking the ones I flagged. Funnyly enough I had flagged 40% of them :-)

 

Personal Notes

I created a few documents containing study notes from the books and PDFs I have readand also the best questions I have seem while taking the mock exams. I am also making available my Ebooks and Agile files.

Public root folder

Personal PDF Notes

A digest of the few PDFs I have read. I am yet to write a big one that merges all this information.

Personal Study Notes

Study notes from books and other readings a a full list of questions about the Agile world.

Ebooks

All books mentioned in this post and much more.

 

Additional Reference

Right from the start I've joined the Scrum Alliance CSP Exam Prep Study Group in Linkedin and went checking the notes of people who have done the test and were sharing their tips, notes and reading links. Among the ones worth having a look I would mention:

24 pages of notes from Vejay.

PDF Ebooks provided by Vijay

Saravana Bharathi's site, Agile Karma, contains a useful Reading List and also some more tips and useful links.

I would also recommend checking other Linkedin Agile/Scrum Groups since they always have a lot of useful information as well as already stablished blogs and websites such as

Scrum.org

Scrum Alliance

Scrum Training Series

Manifesto or Agile Software Development

Agile Management Blog

Dan NorthWard CunninghamRon Jeffries XP Site, Mike Cohn's Mountain Goat Software, ...

Agile best practices Collection

Scrum Alliance’s Agile Atlas contains many articles from top contributors

Scrum Training Series, with loads of videos

Source Making, Great info on Design Patterns, Refactoring, …

 

Team Dynamics

Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development

 

Pair Programming

How Important is Pair Programming

Pair Programming Research misses the most important point

 

Kanban

Kanban in a Nutshell

Introducig Kanban through its values

Learning together Kanban and the 12 Principles of Agile Software

5 Right Reasons to Apply Kanban

5 Wrong Reasons to Apply Kanban

Kanban vs Scrum

Why we dropped Scrum for Kanban

 

Scrum Alliance Recommended Bibliography

Title: Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum

Author(s): Mike Cohn

 

Title: Agile Estimating and Planning Author(s): Mike Cohn

Publisher: Prentice Hall

 

Title: Agile Product Management with Scrum Author(s): Roman Pichler

Publisher: Addison Wesley

 

Title: Agile Retrospectives

Author(s): Esther Derby and Diana Larsen Publisher: Pragmatic Programmers Publication Date: 2006

 

Title: Agile Software Development with Scrum

Author(s): Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle Publisher: Prentice Hall

 

Title: Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams

Author(s): Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory Publisher: Addison-Wesley

 

Title: Clean Code

Author(s): Martin Publisher

 

Title: Continuous Integration

Author(s): Paul Duvall

 

Title: Extreme Programming Explained

Author(s): Kent Beck

 

Title: Extreme Programming Installed

Author(s): Jeffries, Anderson, and Hendrickson

 

Title: How Do We Know When We Are Done?

Author(s): Mitch Lacey

 

Title: Implementing Lean Software Development

Author(s): Mary Poppendieck, Tom Poppendieck

 

Title: Planning Extreme Programming

Author(s): Kent Beck, Martin Fowler

 

Title: Pragmatic Project Automation

Author(s): Clark

 

Title: Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews

Author(s): Norman L. Kerth

 

Title: Promiscuous Pairing and Beginner’s Mind: Embrace Inexperience

Author(s): Arlo Belshee

 

Title: Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code

Author(s): Fowler

 

Title: Retrospectives – The Missing Practice

Author(s): Tim Mackinnon

 

Title: Scrum Primer

Author(s): Pete Deemer, Gabrielle Benefield, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde

 

Title: Test Driven Development By Example

Author(s): Kent Beck

 

Title: The Art of Agile Development

Author(s): James Shore

 

Title: User Stories Applied

Author(s): Mike Cohn

 

Title: What is Definition of Done (DoD)?

Author(s): Dhaval Panchal

 

Title: Which End of the Horse

Author(s): Jeffries

 

Title: Selling Agile – How to Respond to Concerns from Management, the Business, and the Team

Author(s): Michelle Sliger and Stacia Broderick