Saturday, 5 February 2011

Part 1. Certification is evil?

Certification is evil?

This is a 3-part blog (because it ended up rather longer than I anticipated when I started).

1: My reaction to “certification is evil”

2: A bit of history about ISTQB certification

3: The criticism that current schemes do not assess tester skill

I enjoyed reading the Software Testing Club's publication "A Tester is for Life, not just for Christmas" ( which consists of interviews with a number of people, all of whom answered the same questions.

But I was quite shocked at the strength of feeling shown by quite a few against certification. The question asked was "What are your views on Testing Certification Schemes?" Although there are a few older testing qualifications from the US, it seems that most people assumed the ISTQB qualifications were being asked about.

A couple of people called the ISTQB scheme a "scam", one person said it was "downright dangerous", and someone said it was "the devil in disguise" and talked about the "evil axis" of certification institutes, training providers and HR departments. Some mentioned "profit" and "money-making". Several criticized any exam based on memorizing, saying that current exams are too easy, even "trivial"; one said the exam "has no value".

The basis of this criticism (if there is a rational basis) seems to be that current schemes do not assess tester skills, i.e. how well you can actually do testing. (I will return to this point at the end of this blog.)

(On the other hand, many said that the current schemes were a good starting point for people new to testing, that it gave knowledge of basic terminology, helped them get their first job, and can demonstrate that you are serious enough about testing to take an exam.)

I was not surprised to find people who didn't like the ISTQB certification schemes - I have been to conferences over the past few years where this has become clear. But some of the "opposition" to certification is, I believe, based on a false premise about what it was intended to be, and this I feel is somewhat unfair.

Just to state my own position: I am not involved in any certification scheme at the moment. I no longer provide accredited ISTQB training courses in software testing. However, I was involved in writing the initial Foundation Syllabus, and I am currently in the process of updating our book that supports the ISTQB Foundation Syllabus.

It seems to me that people have lost sight of (or perhaps were never aware of) the origins and purpose of the current certification scheme, at least the ISTQB Foundation (which is the one I am most familiar with).

I have been involved in software testing all my working life, for over 40 years. The situation before the current ISTQB certification began was very different to what testing is like today!

See my next entry for a bit of history about ISTQB.


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