What is the Difference Between PSM1 and PSM2?

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07th Jun, 2022
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20th Aug, 2018
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What is the Difference Between PSM1 and PSM2?

Many of our students want to take a recognized certification to show that they have the skills, knowledge, and experience to excel in the role of Scrum Master.   
 
A popular choice for people wanting Scrum certifications is Professional Scrum Master™. Certificate holders are entitled to use a logo to identify their achievement, along with the certification. If you’ve seen these, or you have colleagues who hold the certification, you might be wondering what the difference is between the two most common levels: PSM I and PSM II. Click here to know psm vs csm certification.   

In this article, we’ll explain the concept of PSM I vs PSM II so you can choose the right option for you at this point in your career.

What is PSM™?

PSM™ is Professional Scrum Master, a certification scheme maintained and managed by Scrum.org.

It is made up of 3 levels.

PSM stages

  • PSM I: for those who wish to demonstrate a fundamental level of Scrum mastery.
  • PSM II: for those who wish to prove their underlying knowledge of Scrum principles and show that they can apply these in the real world.
  • PSM III: for those who hold a deep understanding of Scrum practices and can apply them in a variety of complex organizational settings.

We’re focusing today on the first two levels as these are the most common. At the time of writing, there are nearly 160,000 PSM I holders and the number continues to grow. Figures from Scrum.org show that only around 1% of PSM I holders go on to take the PSM II assessment, which means this certification can really set you apart from the competition.

As more and more projects choose to use Agile and Scrum techniques, there is a growing demand for people skilled in these approaches and who understand the principles required for successful delivery.

Here is an article on CSM vs PSM.

Core Differences Between PSM I and PSM II

PSM I is perfect for people who want to understand the basics of Scrum thoroughly. The training and study required prior to the assessment make sure that you are comfortable using internationally recognized terminology for Scrum approaches.

The assessment tests your ability to understand the Scrum Guide and the concepts of applying Scrum. This level gives you the fundamentals in a way that you can evidence and use.

PSM II is the next step for people who want to take it further. It goes beyond being able to evidence that you understand Scrum, and shows that you can use it in the workplace.

PSM II holders have a deep knowledge and understanding of the Scrum principles and processes. They understand what sits behind the Scrum framework. And they can apply it all in a complex business context to help drive delivery.

Both certificates are industry-recognized and demonstrate your ability to act in the role of Scrum Master on a Scrum team.

PSM I focuses on the ‘material knowledge’, whereas PSM II focuses on the ‘practice and real-world situations’.

Differences Between PSM I and PSM II Subject Areas

As you’d expect the two certificates do cover different topics. PSM II covers more content and looks at additional areas for Scrum Masters.

The table below shows a summary of the categories tested in the assessment by PSM level.

CategoryCovered in PSM I AssessmentCovered in PSM II Assessment
Scrum frameworkYY
Scrum theory and principlesYY
Cross-Functional,self-Organizing TeamsYY
Coaching and FacilitationYY
Done and Undone
Y
Maximizing value
Y
Product backlog management
Y
Scaling fundamentals
Y


Here is some more information about each of these category areas.

Scrum Framework

This topic covers the foundational knowledge of Scrum theory and the major concepts like roles, rules, and time-boxing. This category draws heavily on the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters not only have to know these details, they also have to be able to explain them to others and facilitate their use on the Scrum team.

Scrum Theory and Principles

The questions in the assessment that relate to this topic will test your understanding of the theory of Scrum, principles, and values.

Teams

This topic goes in-depth into the working of cross-functional and self-organizing teams. Scrum Masters need to understand how to get the best out of team members through collaboration, cooperation and continuous reflection and development.

Coaching and Facilitation

You’ll learn how the role of the Scrum Master is fundamentally different to a project manager or team leader. Questions on this topic will test your understanding of how to coach and facilitate teams to help them do their best work.

Done and Undone (PSM II only)

This category tests your understanding of what it means to be ‘done’. This underpins the Scrum purpose of creating in increments.

Maximizing Value (PSM II only)
Questions on the assessment drawn from this category look at your knowledge of the role and responsibilities of the Product Owner. This person is responsible for maximizing value, and you can best serve him or her as a Scrum Master if you understand the principles of optimizing for value.

Product Backlog Management (PSM II only)

The product backlog is the source of work for a product and backlog management is an important aspect of the Scrum team’s responsibilities.

Scaling Fundamentals (PSM II only)

The questions in the assessment that link to scaling test your knowledge of how to scale Scrum in your environment while maintaining technical excellence.

Prerequisites for PSM I and PSM II

There are no prerequisites for candidates who wish to sit the PSM I online assessment. However, it makes sense for you to have done some Scrum Master training so that you have a solid understanding of the fundamentals and the terminology used.

PSM I is a prerequisite for taking the PSM II assessment. The second Professional Scrum Master level builds on what is assessed at Level 1, so you need to have successfully taken and passed the PSM I assessment before moving on to the PSM II exam.

PSM I and PSM II: Exam Differences

Unlike some Agile and Scrum courses, there is an online assessment – you can’t simply turn up to the training and walk away with a certificate. This is what makes the PSM certificates so valuable. Employers know that candidates who hold these certificates can use their Scrum knowledge and apply it in situations, and have achieved at least the minimum pass rate on an exam to test exactly that.

As we’ve seen, the two Professional Scrum Master certifications cover different topic areas in the assessments. There are other differences in the exams too.
The table below summarizes the differences and similarities between the PSM I and PSM II assessments.


PSM IPSM II
Passing score85%85%
Duration60 minutes60 minutes
Number of questions80 questions80 questions
Difficulty levelIntermediateIntermediate
Question formatMultiple choice;multiple answer;True/FalseMultiple choice;multiple answer;True/False
Exam format85%85%
Exam language85%85%

Summary: Scrum Master Certifications

PSM I and PSM II build on each other. While there are differences, they reflect the knowledge and understanding that you have to have at each level. As you’d expect, PSM II builds on what is assessed at the PSM I level. This makes both certificates complementary to each other and a perfect way to advance your career as a Scrum Master.

Both certificates have high industry value amongst employers, especially in the IT industry and the area of software delivery. If you work in these fields, and you operate in Scrum teams, having a Professional Scrum Master certification will show your employer that you are committed to professional development and to getting the best possible project results for your business.

Find local courses close to you in our online course catalog. You could soon be on your way to a new career as a certified Scrum Master.

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Elizabeth Harrin

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Elizabeth Harrin is the author of Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World, Social Media for Project Managers and Customer-Centric Project Management. She also writes the award-winning blog, Subscribe to Elizabeth's newsletter for more updates.