My Scrum Certifications from SCRUMstudy

My Scrum Certifications from SCRUMstudy

So I’ve been working on this challenge to get one new agile and Scrum certification per week in 2020, 52 total. In doing so, I’ve been somewhat opportunistic in combining the certifications I am passionate with along with those that I can get easily and at a decent price. The certifications from SCRUMstudy fall into the latter category.

Since the start of 2020, I’ve obtained 3 Scrum certifications from SCRUMstudy. There was the SFC, the SMC, and the SDC. This article summarizes my experience with the organization, the preparation process, and the actual certifications.

Executive Summary

SCRUMstudy and VMEdu have really jumped into the agile certification business with a broad offering of certifications by roles. The certifications are based on the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK Guide) which they authored. Unlike the concise description of the Scrum Framework in the Scrum Guide, the SBOK document is detailed, prescriptive and heavy like the PMBOK Guide from the Project Management Institute.

Overall my experience with SCRUMstudy was fine. I had low expectations based on things I had read online about the organization. The biggest difficulty for me was the SBOK itself as the basis for the certifications. The document includes a lot of new vocabulary, additional processes, and phases, and far more prescription than the Scrum Guide.

The cost of the certifications is a little higher compared to other agile certifications that consist of a test only. That said, SCRUMstudy does provide online self-paced training so that offsets the cost.

Who would most benefit from these SCRUMstudy certifications?

  • Anyone who has no existing knowledge of agile and Scrum may find the depth and specificity of coverage in the SBOK helpful.
  • Project managers who are comfortable with the PMBOK may also find the approach familiar and comfortable.
  • People who have spare time and want to learn on their own via videos and quizzes.

I would not recommend it for people who are practicing Scrum according to the Scrum Guide. I think it also suffers in that you don’t learn or hear stories from seasoned experts.

Full Disclosure: Vitality Chicago Inc. provides training and certifications from organizations that compete with SCRUMstudy including Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org and PMI.

The SCRUMStudy Experience

My experience with SCRUMStudy started with an offer from them for a free webinar and training class to prepare for their Scrum Fundamentals Certified (SFC) certification exam. Here is what is on their site:

SCRUMstudy conducts 1-hour free Scrum Webinar followed by 4-hour Free Virtual Instructor-led class to prepare students for the Scrum Fundamentals Certified (SFC™) certification exam. After attending this class, participants can take the SFC™ certification exam (which is a one hour un-proctored exam with forty multiple choice questions), and get the highly valued SFC™ credential.

So I signed up for the free webinar and online training. It came at a time that was convenient for me. And it was free. You can see my notes about my SFC experience below.

As noted above, my main complaint about the SCRUMstudy experience was the SBOK which I will get to in a moment. SCRUMstudy has a relatively robust website and lots of materials. They provide email support, though the person assigned to me worked India Standard Time (IST) and not US hours so any question went unanswered for a day.

Who Is SCRUMstudy?

SCRUMstudy is owned by VMEdu. Both of their websites contain sparse information about the actual people in the company. Interestingly, VMEdu is quick to point out that Sequoia Capital is a major investor.

Tridibesh Satpathy is listed as the founder of VMEdu. He is also listed as the lead author of the SBOK Guide and I suspect he is the founder of SCRUMstudy. According to the Satpathy’s LinkedIn page, VMEdu was founded in 2008. I don’t see a date for when SCRUMstudy was created but the first web presence was in mid-2012.

Broad Coverage of Certifications

SCRUMstudy is covering all the bases when it comes to certifications. There are currently 10 agile and Scrum related training and certification offerings:

  1. Scrum Fundamentals Certified (SFC)
  2. Scrum Developer Certified (SDC)
  3. Scrum Master Certified (SMC)
  4. SCRUMstudy Agile Master Certified (SAMC)
  5. Scrum Product Owner Certified (SPOC)
  6. Expert Scrum Master Certified (ESMC)
  7. SCRUMstudy Certified Trainer (SCT)
  8. SCRUMstudy Certified Agile Coach (SCAC)
  9. Certified Implementation Expert (CIE)
  10. Scaled Scrum Master Certified (SSMC)

You will notice that the names for many of these certifications are simply a tweak to the Scrum Alliance versions:

  • Certified Scrum Master => Scrum Master Certified
  • Certified Scrum Developer => Scrum Developer Certified

I don’t think it is a crime, after all, they have to be unique and Scrum.org did essentially the same thing starting in 2009.

The SCRUMstudy Certification Hierarchy

The chart below shows the hierarchy for the various SCRUMstudy certifications and learning paths.

Scrumstudy certification hierarchy

I started with the SFC, and then took the SMC and finally the SDC which is out of the sequence shown above. More on each of those below.

Proctored Certification Exams

The certification exams were a little unusual in that they were proctored by a remote person. Whereas for the Scrum.org and Scrum Institute assessments, you get a password to use the assessments as soon as you pay, the SCRUMstudy exams have to be proctored by a person. So you generally will have to schedule it 2-3 days out and during normal business hours.

The proctor monitors your screen and your webcam via Webex during the timed exam, which is slightly unnerving but all in all it is not a major issue. There are a bunch of other restrictions when you take the test – no use of materials, no talking or music, etc. You can read more about those restrictions here.

I didn’t really mind the proctored exam except that I found it a little inconvenient that I could not simply buy the assessment and take it immediately like I could with other assessments.

Renewing Your Certifications

SCRUMstudy does require that you re-certify every 3 years. It is unclear from their website but it looks like you need to pay a fee (or take additional training) and take additional courses to earn Re-certification Units (RCUs) as shown in the chart below.

Certification RCUs

Before we dive into the specific certifications I took, we should spend a moment on the SBOK.

The SBOK from SCRUMstudy

Scrumstudy Scrumbok SBOK guide

You might be surprised to learn of the Scrum Body of Knowledge. The official title is “A Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge” (SBOK ™ GUIDE). If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, the author must have loved the PMBOK™ Guide because this is the closest thing I’ve seen to the PMBOK!

I first bumped into the SBOK about 6 years ago. I was at a client site and noticed a copy on a Scrum Masters desk. It was as if a whole other world had been revealed. I was so puzzled…who created the document and why? It turns out that the main author of the SBOK is  Tridibesh Satpathy who founded VMEdu and SCRUMstudy.

The SBOK is intended to be for Scrum what the PMBOK is for project management. The SBOK is given away freely but not for altruistic reasons.

The SBOK is polarizing. You can find many haters online including a thread on Scrum.org and Ken Schwabers Twitter feed. Most people feel it is a ripoff of the Scrum Guide and a disservice to the founders of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.

SCRUMstudy is not the only group in the ‘let’s make money from Scrum’ business. Just take a look at all the Scrum books that aren’t authored by Jeff Sutherland or Ken Schwaber. I am not sure how these books are any different than the SBOK.

scrum books

I personally prefer the lightweight description of the Scrum Framework in the Scrum Guide. Which, BTW is still co-authored and maintained by the two creators of Scrum. By comparison, while the SBOK is about 400 pages, the Scrum Guide is just 19 pages. The glossary of the SBOK alone is 38 pages.

What is weird to me about the SBOK is the amount of additions and changes to basic Scrum Framework concepts. I don’t have the time or energy to go through every detail. Suffice it to say that if you are familiar with the Scrum Guide, there are just enough things in the SBOK that were renamed to really irritate you. Here are a few examples:

  • The Product Backlog is the Prioritized Product Backlog.
  • Sprint Retrospective is the Retrospect Sprint Meeting

Then there are entirely new concepts which have been invented out of thin air:

  • The Six Scrum principles
  • The 19 Fundamental Scrum Processes, along with inputs and outputs
  • Scrum Scaling Processes
  • Scrum Guidance Body (which might be people or documents)
  • Portfolio and Program Product Owners
  • The Five Scrum Aspects (see below)

 

scrum aspects scrumbok guide scrumstudy

Worse, there are detailed phases and process guides added in here to give the document its 400+ page heft. Brevity and guidance out, specificity and top-down direction is in.

Like I said, if you liked the PMBOK you will love the SBOK.

It is also weird that while the authors of the SBOK reference a short list of 11 works cited, the Scrum Guide is not among them. The HBR article, “The New New Product Development Game” is one of the sources cited. It is impossible to get the Scrum Framework from that HBR article, as the record shows that it was Sutherland and Schwaber who did the heavy lifting.

If you have never had any other exposure to Scrum, and you want detailed instructions for one way to implement Scrum, then the SBOK will work great for you. If you already know the Scrum Guide, don’t use this document or it may make your head explode.

head explosion

 

So let’s take a look at each of the 3 certifications I took from SCRUMstudy.

Getting the Scrum Fundamentals Certified (SFC) from SCRUMstudy

As noted above, my first exposure to SCRUMstudy was the Scrum Foundations Certified. I got an offer and signed up for the free 1-hour webinar followed by a 4-hour training class.

I started off weakly by missing the first hour due to a calendar snafu on my part. But then I joined the online training and started following along. The instructor (sorry I did not catch her name) was pretty good and faithfully followed the sections of the SBOK.

For each topic area, the instructor would walk through a few slides, then there was often a short video followed by a pop quiz. There was a chat feature but there was virtually no interaction between the students and instructor. In fact, I couldn’t even tell how many other students participated with me. And there were a few technical glitches and the instructor had at least 4 annoying occasions of “sorry I was talking on mute”. But overall, I would rate the experience of online training as passable.

After the training, I decided that even though I was barely conversant with the unique SBOK flavor of Scrum, I would take the online Exam. As noted above, the exam consisted of 40 questions and it there was no proctor. So I just went ahead and jumped in. After all, I had just invested 4 hours of my time in the online training.

Some of the questions were weirdly specific. What are the 3 aspects of collaboration in Scrum? I am sure that all of you Scrum practitioners know that they are awareness, articulation, and appropriation. Or that one of the non-core roles in Scrum that is responsible for Scrum Guidelines is the Scrum Guidance Body. And certainly, any CSM or PSM could name the 6 Scrum Principles, right?

  1. Empirical Process Control
  2. Self-Organization
  3. Collaboration
  4. Value-based Prioritization
  5. Time-boxing
  6. Iterative Development

See what I mean about weird? This all comes from the SBOK.

Even with all the differences between my experience of Scrum and my knowledge of the Scrum Guide, I was able to pass the Scrum Foundations Certified (SFC) exam. And so I got this certificate which I don’t think I will frame or paste on my wall.

scrum fundamentals certified scumstudy

Getting the Scrum Master Certified (SMC) from SCRUMstudy

Given my excellent performance on the SFC certification exam, I signed up for the Scrum Master Certified (SMC) examination. Unfortunately since it was proctored, I had to schedule it a few days out when a proctor was available.

The list price for the Scrum Master Certified certification is $450. However, after passing the SFC SCRUMstudy had sent me an email with discounted pricing which was about half that amount. I haggled back and forth to get a better price and was encouraged to become a ScrumStudy Training Partner which would entitle me to all the certifications plus other benefits. I decided not to do that.

The SCRUMstudy SMC certification is obtained by passing a 100-question, online proctored assessment. There are no experience requirements and you don’t even have to take a training class if you already understand Scrum as it is described in the SBOK (see my notes about the SBOK above).

No Training Required?:  Like PMI and Scrum.org, SCRUMstudy does not require a training class to prepare for the assessment. In fact, if you pay for the assessment you get the opportunity to self-study using the SCRUMstudy online training courses. That is great for people who may have more time than money.

Training is Highly Recommended:  Though no training course is required unless you are very familiar with the SBOK, you will find the questions on the exam pretty tough. And they will be doubly tough if your understanding of Scrum is based on the Scrum Guide which does not have the detail of the SBOK.

I actually did go through most of the online video training sessions that SCRUMstudy provides for the SMC. They are not bad if you want to learn the SBOK.

The SMC uses a Proctored Exam: The proctored exam approach for the SMC was a little different for me. Whereas for the Scrum.org assessments, you get a password to use the assessments as soon as you pay, the SCRUMstudy exams have to be proctored by a person. So you generally will have to schedule it 2-3 days out and during normal business hours. The proctor monitors your screen and your webcam via Webex during the timed exam, which is slightly unnerving but all in all it is not a major issue. I think for me it meant that I could not simply buy the assessment and take it right then like I could with the Scrum.org assessments.

Using the discounts to buy the assessment was a little odd. I was instructed to go to a specific page and input the code for the assessment you want. It is an open field, not even a dropdown. Then you put in the price you want to pay. The list price is $450 for the SMC but I received an email that instructed me to put $235 in the field. There are no checks or edits on the 2 fields. It seems almost like a bid – you put in the code you want (i.e. SMC) and then the amount you want to pay (i.e. $235). And then later you receive an email once a human reviews and approves the transaction. Odd.

Experience Required?  No experience is required to qualify to take the SMC assessment. It could help, but it could also hurt you to have real world experience. Your confidence in your real world experience may lead you to believe that you don’t need to ingest and regurgitate the exact concepts in the SBOK. So taking the SCRUMstudy courses might actually be best for those new to Agile and Scrum without prior experience and without a deep understanding of the Scrum Guide.

Taking the Assessment: The assessment is anything but straightforward unless you have memorized the SBOK which I think they expect you to do. (I actually thought it would be easier for people coming from a PMBOK or SAFe background to appreciate the SBOK than those who knew the Scrum Guide.)

The assessment is proctored online using Webex. With screen sharing and your webcam turned on. Which was slightly unnerving. I mean, I think best when I have just finished my first cup of coffee in the morning. But I don’t want people to see me in my pajamas.

The assessment is 100 questions. Questions were challenging – I’d sometimes find I could eliminate one or two answers but just as frequently I’d find that one or two answers would be WTF?

You get 2 hours to finish. And the assessment has the usual features like mark questions for review and then it allows you to go back at the end. I did not have the mental horsepower to go back. I went through it and gave every answer a first pass like it was a waterfall project. My time was about 45 minutes to finish the 100 questions.

Passing the SMC Exam:  Apparently I passed the exam pretty handily. SCRUMstudy says that the passing rate is 95% though so I am trying to decide if it was really that easy, or if perhaps you can miss a bunch of questions and still pass. In other words, is it easy and everyone passes or did I have all the right answers? I don’t want to spend my time and money to figure this out.

I don’t know what it takes to pass but I was seriously sweating a bit. I had only spent about 3 hours total going through the online training and questions were challenging. But my results seem to indicate I knew my stuff (SCRUMstudy reports passing rates of 95%).

Scrumstudy SMC exam results

Cost: The assessment costs $450 before discounts, and that allows you three attempts. I think that there is a $50 fee for rescheduling the proctor and I think this applies to taking the exam a second time.

Here is my certificate for the course. Like the SFC certificate, I have no plans to frame or plaster this on my office wall:

SMC Certificate from SCRUMstudy

Getting the Scrum Developer Certified (SDC) from SCRUMstudy

My success with the SMC encouraged me to go ahead with the SDC without any additional training. SCRUMstudy puts the SDC on the roadmap before the SMC so I thought perhaps I already knew what I needed to.

Cost of the SDC:  The list price of the SDC certification is $200. Using the discounts that were emailed to me, I was able to take it for $135. I would recommend that you ask for or look for discounts before making any commitments.

No Training Required?:  Like PMI and Scrum.org, SCRUMstudy does not require a training class to prepare for the certification exam. Just like the other SCRUMstudy certifications, SCRUMstudy provides online training for the SDC and that is included in the exam fee.

Training is Highly Recommended:  Though no training course is required unless you are very familiar with the SBOK, you will find the questions on the exam pretty tough.

I did not take any of the online training for the SDC. As I mentioned tough, prior to taking the SDC I completed most of the training for the SMC.

Experience Required?  No experience is required to qualify to take the SDC assessment. It could help, but it could also hurt you if you think you don’t need to ingest and regurgitate the exact concepts in the SBOK. So taking the SCRUMstudy courses might actually be best for those new to Agile and Scrum without prior experience and without a deep understanding of the Scrum Guide.

Taking the Assessment: The assessment is anything but straightforward unless you have memorized the SBOK which I think they expect you to do. (I actually thought it would be easier for people coming from a PMBOK or SAFe background to appreciate the SBOK than those who knew the Scrum Guide.)

The proctor monitors your screen and your webcam via Webex during the timed exam, which is slightly unnerving but all in all it is not a major issue. I think for me it meant that I could not simply buy the assessment and take it right then like I could with the Scrum.org assessments.

The SDC assessment is 75 questions and it must be completed in 2 hours. The questions were very challenging. And the assessment has the usual features like mark questions for review and then it allows you to go back at the end. I did not have the mental horsepower to go back through and check my answers so I went through it once and submitted it. I only spent 35 minutes on the 75 questions.

Content of the SDC Exam: I did not take the training for the SDC and was quite surprised by the content of the exam. I am not sure it is really needed to be a Scrum certified developer. Here are some examples of the topics covered on the exam:

  • Risk Management – at least 5 questions
  • Product Owner Hierarchies and Responsibilities – at least 4 questions
  • Lots of details on process inputs and outputs
  • At least 3 questions on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • Lots of questions about the business justification for projects, business case and even some on the financial measures like NPV and IRR
  • Several questions on the relationship between done criteria and acceptance criteria

I personally don’t think that the information is particularly useful to the average Scrum team member.

Passing the SDC Exam:  Apparently I passed the exam pretty handily (see below) as I did with the SMC. I suspect most people pass, no matter how they answer the questions. SCRUMstudy says that the passing rate is 95%. If I had more time and money I would take another one of the ScrumStudy certifications and just provide random responses to see if I passed. Here are my results:

Scrumstudy scrum developer certified

 

Summary for SCRUMstudy Certifications:

The main positive I have for SCRUMstudy is that the online training videos are actually pretty good.

Here are some scenarios where I think the SCRUMstudy certifications might be a good fit:

  • Those who have no hands-on experience with Scrum, no prior Scrum certifications and no knowledge of the Scrum Guide
  • Those PMPs who enjoyed the PMI process of memorizing the details from the PMBOK and then applying it on the PMP test will enjoy this approach
  • Those taking on a Scrum role for the first time with no other experience might appreciate the prescriptive nature of the SBOK

The negatives I see:

  • More expensive than equivalent Scrum.org certifications
  • Less immediate and flexible to schedule than the Scrum.org certifications
  • Based on the SBOK which is not recognized as an industry standard. The content of the SBOK is not consistent with the Scrum Guide and has extra materials that are not considered part of the Scrum Framework.

If you have experience with SCRUMstudy, I welcome your feedback.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tim Baffa

    Thank you Anthony for your willingness to do some of the “heavy lifting” on this topic. Much appreciated.

    1. Anthony Mersino

      Thanks Tim, great to hear from you. I hope to help others to find the certifications that are helpful to you and avoid some that may not be as credible/useful.
      Cheers!
      Anthony

  2. Nathaniel West

    Thank you so much for this thorough coverage on SCRUMstudy. This is a great article and excellent assessment that I believe is very fair and balanced. I only wished I had come across this article prior to paying for the SMC certification.

    1. Anthony Mersino

      Thank you Nathaniel for taking the time to comment. We identified agile certifications as a little bit of a money making racket. We hope that our agile certifications review site will help others to make good investments in this area rather than everyone learning by trial and error (see: https://agilecertificationreviews.com/).

      Please take a look at what we have posted on the review site. You can add your own ratings on the fly to any certifications you hold. And if you’d like to write a review about a certification you hold, that would be helpful to others. Just let me know.

      Thank you again for your comments!
      Anthony

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