Wednesday, 2 April 2014

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


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:

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 read and also the best questions I have seem while taking the mock exams. I am also making available my Ebooks and Agile files.

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

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

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:

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 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

Pair Programming


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

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