01 901 2014

Professional Scrum Master Exam Explained

Professional Scrum Master I Exam Explained

The Professional Scrum Master level I (PSM I) is a professional globally recognised certification for an Agile way of working. The exam is accredited by scrum.org and can only be taken online.

The exam can be challenging, with an 85% score required to pass, which is quite high. Also, time is limited because you have 60 minutes to answer 80 single answers, multiple answers, and true/false questions.

How to Study for this Exam

Review some online PSM courses. There are many to look at. Look for those which offer tutor support and a trial exam.

Download the free to use scrum guide. This represents all you need to know about Scrum and is easy to read and understand. It is an essential need to know guide.

The challenge will be interpreting the guide. The exam questions can be word sensitive, and thus you are required not only to fully understand the guide but also to get the reasoning that lies behind some of the concepts. Taking notes on the guide will help here.

All exam questions can be answered from the guide and the exam is open book, so it is vital that you can navigate it quickly during the exam.

Although the exam is about Scrum, it may feature some questions about ‘Scaled Scrum’. This is not covered in the guide but it is included in the StudyOnline material.

Another concept which is not in the guide is ‘Burn-down chart’. However, the final exam usually features several questions about them. Theses are included in the studyonline material.

I recommend that you get in as many assessments as you can, especially if they are free. Scrum.org provides a variety of open assessments, which will help you prepare for the actual exam. One very useful one is called ‘Scrum Open’.

A 30-question quiz to be completed in thirty minutes and is a recommended assessment for preparing the PSM1 certification. It can be taken as many times as you wish. At the end of the quiz, you can examine the result of each question, which will be very helpful in understanding your deficiencies.

This quiz assesses your knowledge of the Nexus Framework, which goes beyond the Scrum Guide needs, however it contains several questions about Scaled Scrum. I suggest running through it a couple of times.

Beside these assessments, there are some others you can try online if you feel you are still struggling. Try this link for more information.

The Questions

Read the question carefully before looking at the answers. Be wary of any ‘NOT’ questions. Some questions do not have definitive answers, so the most appropriate answer is correct. The reason for this is that Scrum is very much unscientific or some would say intuitive. Some answers are not specifically stated verbatim in the guide. You must interpret it.

Question example:

The Product Backlog is ordered by (choose one answer):

  1. a) Importance, where most important items are at the top and less important are at the bottom
  2. b) Size, where small items are at the top and large items are at the bottom
  3. c) Risk, where safer items are at the top, and riskier items are at the bottom
  4. d) Least valuable items at the top and most valuable at the bottom

Answer “d’ is easy to eliminate. Both ‘b’ and ‘c’ may appear to be correct, but they can’t be considered as the sole base for Product Backlog ordering. Also, this is a single-choice question. Thus, the best bet is ‘a’ which although is a general statement and this is the correct one.

Note that some of the open assessment questions will appear in the exam.

How the question is phrased can have a big influence on your answer. Here are some examples:

  1. Agile is Scrum – True or False?
  2. Scrum is Agile – True or False?


  1. Who can attend the daily scrum?
  2. Who participates in the daily scrum?

When reading a short question such as the above examples, take a second or two to let it sink in and ask yourself what are they asking me here? The distinction here is in the words attend and participate. They have a different meaning.

Exam Setting

Take the exam at home as most workplaces are not recommended as they usually have firewalls. Make sure you pick a quiet spot and turn off your phone.

Finally, check your connection: a speed test is recommended right before the exam. Do not panic if the Internet drops during the exam, usually you can restart from where you left off. And if you crash out, make a call to support, there is a good chance they will refund you.

Exam Day

You can access the exam by visiting this link.

Remember the exam is open book which means that you can use whatever resource you like during the exam. Use the Scrum Guide as a PDF on your PC if you can and use the word search options to get around it quickly. So have the following sources open:

  • Scrum Guide
  • Results of all the open assessments performed during the preparation
  • Any other resource you may have judged reliable

These will allow you to quickly search for answers if should you have doubts regarding some questions.

The exam interface is clean and easy to use and allows you to flag the questions where you are not sure. Use the ‘marked’ tab to get back to these questions speedily. A tip here is to aim to get the exam done in 50 minutes leaving you time to revert to your marked questions.

Time Keeping

You have 45 seconds per question, but many questions can be answered in less time which should give you time in the end to review marked questions. There is no negative marking so always pick an answer. It is important to keep moving at a good pace. Know what question you should be attempting on the half-hour mark.

Best of luck with it, from all at StudyOnline.