This is the second part of tester and uTest Enterprise Test Team Lead Lucas Dargis’ journey on becoming ISTQB-certified. Be sure to check out Part One from yesterday.
After about 3 minutes, I realized just how ridiculous the test was. Some of the questions were so obvious it was insulting, some were so irrelevant they were infuriating, and others were so ambiguous all you could do was guess.
Interestingly, testers with experience in context-driven testing will actually be at a disadvantage on this test. When you understand that the context of a question influences the answer, you realize that many of the questions couldn’t possibly have only one correct answer, because no context was specified.
You are allotted 60 minutes to complete the test, but I was done and out of the building in 27 minutes. That I finished quickly wasn’t because I knew all the answers — it was rather the exact opposite. Most of the questions were so silly, that all I could do was select answers randomly. Here are two examples:
“Who should lead a walkthrough review?” – Really? I was expected to memorize all the participants of all the different types of meetings, most of which I’ve never seen any team actually utilize?
“Test cases are designed during which testing phase?” – Umm…new tests and test cases should be identified and designed at all phases of the project as things change and your understanding develops.
According to the syllabus, there are “right” answers to all the questions, but most thinking testers, those not bound by the rigidness of “best practices,” will struggle because you know there is no right answer.
Despite guessing on many questions, I ended up passing the exam, but that really wasn’t a surprise. The test only requires a 65% to pass, so a person could probably pass with minimal preparation, simply making educated guesses. I left the test in a pretty grumpy mood.
For the next few days, I was annoyed. I felt like I had completely wasted my time. But then I started thinking about why I took the test in the first place, and what that certification really meant. As a tester striving to become an expert, I wanted to know for myself what certifications were about. Well — now I have first-hand experience with the process. I’m able to talk about certifications more intelligently because my opinions and views about them are my own, not borrowed from others.
Former tennis great Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” I think this sums up certifications well. For me, there was no value in the destination (passing the exam). I’m not proud of it, and I don’t think it adds to or detracts from my value as a tester. However, I felt there was value in the journey.
Through my studying, I actually did learn a thing our two about testing. I was able to build some structure around the basic testing concepts. I learned some new testing terms that I have used to help explain concepts such as tester independence. Studying gave me practice analyzing and questioning the “instructional” writing of others (some of which I found inaccurate, misleading or simply worthless). The whole process gave me insight into what is being taught, which helps me better understand why some testers and test managers believe and behave the way they do.
But more importantly, I became aware of the way I formulate opinions and of how susceptible I am to the teachings of confident and powerful people.
The lessons I learned from testing leaders early in my career freed me from the constraints of the traditional ways of thinking about testing, but in return, I took on the binds associated with more modern testing thinking. Ultimately, I came to a conclusion similar to that of many wise testers before me, but I did so on my terms, in a way that I’m satisfied with.
One day, I hope to have a conversation with some of the more boisterous certification opponents and say, “I decided to get certified, in part, because you were so adamantly against it. I don’t do it out of defiance, but rather out of a quest for deeper understanding.”
If you made it this far, I thank you for sharing this journey with me. Make a mention that you finished the story in the Comments below, and I’ll send you a pony.