My Thoughts about Test Certification

It is a real Indian Summer in the Netherlands and while I’m ironing the laundry (Yes, I sometimes take my responsibility as modern man 😉 )and looking out on the garden, I’m thinking about the certification discussion on the Agile Testing Days in Berlin.

What is certification? According to the Oxford Dictionary:

That is a real good description and ends the discussion I think….;)  It does not say anyone is capable of doing something.When I translate this to ISTQB, somewhere in space, somewhere in time, you were able to answer the questions about how ISTQB thinks testing should be.

Anyone who saids (s)he is a good tester, because (s)he is certified is lying. (S)He could be a good tester and have a certification. It is comparable to a driver license, you are allowed to drive a car when you have license, you are not a good driver. To become a good driver you will need experience, a lot of experience.

I think it is good when a tester follows the training of ISTQB. The tester will, probably, learn new techniques, improve his techniques and is able to meet other testers. Discuss testing with other testers! The certification exam is not necessary, attending the training and discussing testers with other testers is already very valuable! We are doing agile for already six years and have developed our own agile approach, it works perfect for us. A lot of things you learn during a ISTQB training are not applicable to our approach. However, it makes you as a tester all round and more experienced.

I have to confess, we valued certification a lot in the past. We were wrong! Why, read the text above. Still, I think following the training is useful. However, instead of doing certification I will ask testers after the training  to write an article, blog, present something at a congress, etc.. By participating in the testing communicty, they will discuss their vision/approach with colleague testers. That is much more valuable then a certification!

People who are attending certification programs are investigating in their capabilities as a tester! That is the really good thing! I think certification it self is not the right approach. It is up to you to convince those people having a certification is not the right approach.

During the session of Markus Gärtner about Alternative Paths forSelf-Education in Software Testing, Micheal Bolton made a remark that the real certification comes from the community. If you are appreciated by the community by writing blogs, articles, giving sessions, you are “certified”. I agree with that remark. However, not everyone is able or has the capability to be active in the community. You could of course, follow blogs, read books and attend congresses. However, how do you get that explicit reward of the community? That is something that is still bothering me. I think feeling rewarded for your knowledge is important for professionals. Some of those professionals believe certification is such a reward, not! How do the testers that follow the community get rewarded for there experience? I don’t know… I hope someone will write a blog or acticle or point me to article that covers this issue.

I hope this blog helps you forming your opinion about certification and I hope your feedback will help me build my opinion.

Oh by the way, I used ISTQB in this article. You could read any organisation that is doing certification, not only ISTQB.

4 Comments on “My Thoughts about Test Certification

  1. I think it's a wonderful idea to ask testers to write an article or blog or do a presentation about what they've learned. That says a lot more about a tester's value than a certificate. Also, by sharing our knowledge with others, we learn even more ourselves.

    You raise an important question that I hadn't considered before. How do testers that follow the community get recognized for their skills and experience? Of course there are intrinsic rewards, but recognition is important too. I often meet testers or correspond with them online and find they know a great deal, because they've read extensively and tried out new ideas in practice, but they themselves aren't known to the community. This is something we all need to think about as we consider alternatives to “certification” programs.

  2. I agree with Lisa – that is a very good point. How can the community recognize testers for their skills and experience?

    Interesting thought to ponder…..

    Thanks for the post 🙂

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