Why and How to Pass the PSPO Exam?

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09th Apr, 2021
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Why and How to Pass the PSPO Exam?

The role of the Product Owner is in high demand in the current market. It has consistently appeared among LinkedIn's most promising jobs. Agile and Scrum methodologies have overtaken the traditional methods of building software and managing projects, as they have been consistently proven to give better results than traditional project management methods.

Product owner structure

In this article, you will learn about PSPO, among the most sought-after Product Owner certifications around the world. PSPO stands for Professional Scrum Product Owner and this certification is offered by Scrum.org.  

Before jumping into the details, letget to know about the accreditation body, that is Scrum.org, that offers the PSPO certification. 

  • Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum, who founded Scrum.org in 2009 as a global organization, has been dedicating himself to improving best practices in the world of Scrum. 
  • Unlike other training and certification organizations, Scrum.org is focused on improving professionalism in complex product delivery and that drives everything they do. 
  • For getting the Professional Scrum Product Owner certification, you would be required to demonstrate your familiarity, understanding and capability to apply Scrum fundamentals in the real world. 
  • All training materials are collaboratively maintained and improved by the community of Scrum experts and the founder Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum.

Prove your Product Owner Knowledge

PSPO is offered in 3 levels—I, II, and III. Before signing up for the training and certification for any of the three levelsScrum.org gives you a chance to assess your readiness, and prove your knowledge, understanding and ability to apply Scrum in the real-world. This can be done with the free assessment offered by Scrum.org.  The assessments are available to anyone who wishes to validate their knowledge of the Scrum framework and ability to support value creation and delivery. 

Scrum.org has decoupled the certification assessments from the training. Although each Scrum.org training class includes a free attempt at a Scrum.org assessment, you would still need to prove your knowledge by passing the assessment test with a score of 85% or better to receive the associated Professional certification. Those who pass the assessment receive the industry recognized PSPO I, II and III Certification to demonstrate their mastery of the content. 

However, Scrum.org highly recommends that you should take a Professional Scrum Product Owner course. This is not mandatory, and participants can attempt any of the three certifications after self-study also.

Prepare for the assessment

To prepare for the certification assessment, you should be thorough with the multiple focus areas as defined by the Professional Scrum Competencies.

Here are the Professional Scrum competencies and the key terms that you should learn:

Understanding and Applying the Scrum FrameworkDeveloping People and TeamsManaging Products with AgilityDeveloping & Delivering Products ProfessionallyEvolving the Agile Organization
  • Empiricism
  • Scrum Values
  • Scrum Team
  • Events
  • Artifacts\Done
  • Scaling
  • Self-Managing Teams
  • Facilitation
  • Leadership Styles
  • Coaching & Mentoring
  • Teaching
  • Forecasting & Release Planning
  • Product Vision
  • Product Value
  • Product Backlog Management
  • Business Strategy
  • Stakeholders & Customers
  • Emergent Software Development
  • Managing Technical Risk
  • Continuous Quality
  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Optimizing Flow
  • Organizational Design & Culture
  • Portfolio Planning
  • Evidence Based Management

Details 

To navigate through the preparation, you should: 

Certification

Let’s understand the various levels of the PSPO certification. There are 3 levels:

Certification

Details are available at.

For this certification, there are steps and preparation that you should follow and this article will take you through all you need to be a PSPO.

Exam Fee, Passing Score, Time limit, Number of Questions, Exam Format, Difficulty and Language


Exam FeePassing ScoreTime limit# of QuestionsExam formatDifficultyLanguage
PSPO I Assessment$20085%1 hour80Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer and True/FalseIntermediateEnglish
PSPO II Assessment$25085%1 hour40Multiple Choice, Multiple AnswerAdvancedEnglish
PSPO III Assessment$50085%2 hours35Multiple Choice and essayExpertEnglish

Once you pay the exam fee for the respective assessment, you would receive the password for attempting the assessment in 1 business day. Assessment passwords do not expire and remain valid until used.  

PSPO Subject Areas 

To clear PSPO certification, you should have thorough understanding of the Subject areas. The Subject areas for PSPO are: 

  • Agile Product Management: 

The role of a Product Owner in Agile Product Management is to maximize the value of the product developed by the implementation team. From the certification point of view, you should understand the importance of the role of Product owner, which is an internal facing role and requires gathering technical requirements, grooming the product backlog, and detailing user stories. Additionally, while reading you should keep focussing on how a product owner envisions a product’s life in an agile environment. You should also learn the techniques of building a Business Model Canvas, writing a business case and creating the value proposition. Eventually, that will help you in defining the customer segments, value proposition, and major activities that you should perform during the agile product lifecycle. 

You should also understand the core responsibilities carried out by the Product Owner in the Agile product management as part of Product Strategy-understanding the customer needs, creating the product roadmap, prioritizing the features, understanding customer experiences and measuring the product success.

  • Value Driven Development 

The primary motto of Agile is to satisfy the customer needs through early and continuous delivery of software. The Product Owner should focus on delivering the maximum value at the earliest in Value driven development. You should have sound understanding about user stories and should follow the INVEST rule, that is user stories should be: 

  • I - Independent 
  • N - Negotiable 
  • V - Valuable 
  • E -Estimable 
  • S - Small 
  • T - Testable 

Each of the user stories should have a clear story point. You should also have an understanding of the business value so that Return of Investment can be calculated. The KPI i.e., Return of Investment helps the Product Owner to perform prioritization in the Value Driven Development.

  • Scrum Theory and Empiricism 

The Scrum Values are the foundation for behaviour and practices in Scrum. They are closely related to the theory and first principles of Scrum and support teams in their work.  The Scrum Team can always fall back on these essentials.  

The Product Owner should demonstrate following attributes: 

  1. Courage: Product Owner should help in encouraging the scrum team members to do the right thing and work on tough problems. 
  2. Focus: Product Owner should ensure that scrum members focus on the work of the Sprint and goals of the Scrum team. 
  3. Commitment: Product Owner should create the environment where Scrum team members should personally commit to achieve the goals of the Scrum team. 
  4. Respect: Team members in the Scrum team should respect each other. 
  5. Openness: Team members in the Scrum team and the stakeholders should be open about the work and associated challenges.
  • Scrum Framework 

As a Product Owner, you should have a great understanding of the Scrum framework and the constituting team members--Developers and Scrum Master.  

You should also understand about the artifacts used in the Scrum framework such as Product Backlog, Sprint backlog and Increments. 

Various events take place in Scrum like Sprint, Sprint planning, Daily scrum, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective meetings. An understanding of the entire framework is highly recommended for the prospective Product Owners and for this certification.

  • Product Backlog Management 

You should have decent understanding about product backlog management. While you prepare the backlog, you should keep the following in mind: 

  1. Your backlog should be the single source for delivery of valuable items 
  2. It should possess transparency to the scrum team and stakeholders 
  3. It should follow the prioritization and should be ordered based on the value, dependencies, and risk 
  4. You should always keep an eye on the estimates for the product backlog items 
  5. Your product backlog should be a point for starting conversations with the team members 
  6. Ensure that the items in your product backlog contain specifications, mock-ups, architecture models, user acceptance criteria etc 
  • Release Management 

Product Owners can follow different release strategies. 

The releases can be Major, Minor or functional releases.  

A major release can contain many large changes. They should be infrequent as they are often aligned with the organization timelines. While a major release is in progress, other works should be frozen, as a major release incurs high customer absorption costs and high business risks. 

A minor release can contain broad changes. They should be pre-scheduled as they often align with the sprint boundaries. Minor release should contain bug fixes and patches. 

A functional release can contain individual functionalities. Functional releases offer immediate value to the stakeholders. They incur low customer absorption costs and have minimal or no business risks.

Required Course 

There are various courses available online for undertaking product owner certifications. You should pick the course based on your needs and the level of expertise you expect to achieve.  

Recommended Course: PSPO 

PSPO (Professional Scrum Product Owner) from Scrum.org is one of the recommended certification courses for Product Owners because it gives following benefits: 

  • PSPO assessment from Scrum.org requires you to have a good knowledge of Scrum and the passing score is high i.e., 85%, ensuring that your level of understanding is sound  
  • It is not required to renew the certification once you have passed it, as it has a lifetime validity 
  • Once you have cleared the certification, your name would be added to the Scrum.org website and anyone can verify your credentials

Ways to learn more to help you prepare 

Here are the tips that you can follow to clear the PSPO certification: 

1. Ensure that you give equal importance to all the subject areas as questions would arise from all of them. However, the weightage varies roughly as below. Please note these are based on the inputs taken from various PSPO takers: 

  • Agile Product Management: 20% 
  • Value Driven Development: 20% 
  • Scrum Theory and Empiricism: 15% 
  • Scrum Framework: 15% 
  • Product Backlog Management: 15% 
  • Release Management: 10% 
  • Miscellaneous from Open Assessment in Scrum.org: 5% 

2. Make sure you are alert and focused when you are taking the exam. Take the exam according to your convenience, at a time that suits you.  When you are taking the exam, move to a silent place so that you are uninterrupted. 

3. Read the questions carefully and then answer. They may trick you by asking questions which contain ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘not’ or ‘which of the following cannot be available optionSo, pay extra attention to the keywords in the questions. 

4. There are multiple choice questions as well in the exam, make sure you have read all of the options and then answer. 

5. Be very attentive about the questions related to specific subject areas. 

Conclusion   

PSPO is among the more difficult certification exams for Product Owners. Ensure that you have given yourself sufficient time to prepare, around 4-6 weeks.  Remember, that PSPO is very valuable certification in the Product Owner profession and as of January 2021, there are only 97,208 PSPO 1, 1906 PSPO II and 347 PSPO III certified holders around the globe. This certification can be a great way for you to be noticed by potential recruiters. Also, this is a great way to validate your skills and knowledge of Product Owner responsibilities and demonstrate your expertise to your employer.

Profile

Shashank Jain

Author

Shashank is a Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) with over 10 years of experience in IT and over 7.5 years of experience in Business Analysis. He has built his expertise in various domains. A proficient Business Analyst with a flair for adapting quickly to dynamic business environments, Shashank is an effective communicator with the capability to relate to people at any level of business, and a passion to teach. 

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