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ISTQB: How to become a certified QA tester in two weeks

Company’s decision to have certified testers

Almost every software development company eventually creates a QA department. Software tester's role is to validate whether the product meets both business and technical requirements, but also that it works and looks as expected. Yes, a company can do just fine with no testing experts, and make their developers take care of that part. However, if you crave an effective, automated testing process, you need real pros in your team.

Having established workflows and knowledge how to make things done, a question about increasing qualifications and certifying the workers arises. Undeniably, product quality is one of the main targets in each development cycle both for the software development company and the client. It's obviously not just a QA's job to provide that, but having a professional quality assurance tester increases your chances of success.

We decided to broaden our skills and acquire ISTQB certifications for 2 main reasons:

  • We wanted to be able to ensure proper quality of our internal and external projects;
  • We wanted to be familiar with good practices in order to improve client’s satisfaction with project quality.

During the investigation of the software quality certification market, we came across different options: ISEB119, IIST65, QAI and ISTQB. After analyzing them, we came to the conclusion that the ISTQB certificate satisfies us the most: it is universal, well known, and covers a big volume of testing area.

What is an ISTQB exam?

ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) is a system for certifying software testers, QA Engineers and all other people related to the quality of a product.  It has 3 levels: basic, advanced and expert. 

Let's talk a bit more about the first one. The program from the basic level includes:

  • Basics of software testing
  • Lifecycle of testing
  • Dynamic testing
  • Static testing
  • Management of testing
  • Testing tools

All the information, necessary for successfully passing the exam and getting an Agile tester certificate is presented in the syllabus, which is provided by the authors of the ISTQB.

ISTQB certificate syllabus

Different ways to prepare for the exam

When you start thinking about preparation, the examiner’s website suggests two options:

  • Preparation in groups (which takes a long time, is expensive and the time  didn't suit everybody);
  • Preparation on your own, by learning the syllabus by heart.

If you have enough time and are ready for additional expenses it may be a good decision to prepare in groups. In such groups, information is mostly given in easy to understand forms, and taking an active part in classes will provide you with a necessary level of knowledge to pass the exam.

After we spent a bit more time on research, we found that a lot of the QA resources recommend to prepare for the exam with a book “Foundations of Software Testing ISTQB Certification” written by Rex Black, one of the ISTQB authors.

We continued our research and found two other options:

* Learning the software testing terminology by cards;

* Getting ready by working with mock tests and solving recommended sample question papers.

How I got ISTQB certified in 2 weeks.

After analyzing and trying all the suggested options, I chose the following path: reading syllabus, focusing on cards with testing terminology and solving the sample question papers.

Step 1

So! Let’s start with the syllabus. You can download it from the official webpage. The book is difficult to read, but I finally managed to read it in one week and I got familiar with the main concepts.

Step 2

At the same time, I started to work with testing terminology cards. I chose cram.com as the main resource. All the information there is nicely sorted by chapters, which helped me not to get overwhelmed with so much information :)

Step 3

After I finished reading the theory, it was time to use my knowledge in practice.

I found some resources with interactive forms, but with very few questions. Later, I found a great website with 34 mock tests.

I decided to solve all of them.

Questions were not unique in any way, but the total amount of them is almost 1500 questions (40 questions per set). Solving them one by one I was marking the questions I had doubts about and those which I thought I was answering incorrectly. After checking the list, I  read the background and wrote down a solution for every such question.

Because questions were repeating, solving lists one after another helped me to understand and remember almost every question.

I also suggest to pay additional attention to such things as statement/decision coverage. It’s explained really well and simply on istqb.guru webpage. After understanding how to count “coverages”, you won’t need to learn answers by heart, but you’ll be ready to solve any task on this topic.

Exam

Two weeks passed in a couple of shakes, and now it was time for the moment of truth. Everyone found their places and laptops. Short instructions, filling out the questionnaire with a delivery address for the certificate, and... the test has started!

The test took 60 minutes for native speakers and 75 for others. Questions on my exam list were common and some even the same as in the mock lists. To successfully pass the test, you have to reach 65% (26 right answers). My chosen method has let me pass it easily :)

We're now qualified software testers!

Just after you press the “submit” button, you get the notification with your result: passed/not passed, the percentage, and the topics you answered correctly and incorrectly (only topics, not precise questions). A few days later I received an email with my results and a request for confirmation of a delivery address.

In 35 days all QA team members and I were already the happy owners of our cherished, printed ISTQB certificates!

It was a very satisfying process which brought volumes of knowledge to our team. After all, it's not just about the paper. The purpose of getting certified was to improve our work and be better QA specialists. Mission accomplished! 

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