ISTQB® Exam FAQs

You must successfully pass the exams organized by your National or Regional Board or ISTQB recognized Examination Provider.

There are 3 levels of certification:

  • Foundation level
  • Advanced level
  • Expert level

The Foundation level offers the following exams:

  • Foundation level core (1 syllabus )
  • Foundation level specialist(4 syllabi, two of them currently available, two of them undergoing development)
    • Agile Tester
    • Model-Based Tester
    • Usability Tester (in development)
    • Automotive Tester (in development)

The Advanced level offers 3 Core exams and will in the future offer additional Specialist exams; in particular:

  • Advanced level Core (3 syllabi)
    • Advanced Test Manager
    • Advanced Test Analyst
    • Advanced Technical Test Analyst
  • Advanced level Specialist (4 syllabi, currently undergoing development)
    • Security Tester (in development)
    • Test Automation (in development)
    • Agile Technical Testing (in development)
    • Agile Organizational Testing (in development)

The Expert level Core offers the following exams (no Expert level specialist exams are currently available):

  • Expert Test Manager
  • Expert Improving the Test Process

The Agile stream consists of a set of syllabi (foundation specialist and advanced specialist) dedicated to the professionals involved in Agile projects, which have the prerequisite of the Foundation level core certificate. The agile stream contains the following certifications (one of them already available, others undergoing development):

  • Foundation Level Specialist - Agile Tester
  • Agile Technical Testing (in development)
  • Agile Organizational Testing (in development)

A core certification is a certification that cover a topic in a broad, horizontal way, valid for any technology / methodology / application domain, and allowing for a common understanding.

A specialist certification is a certification that focuses on a specific topic / domain in a vertical way, using a drill down / deep-dive approach.

Each exam contains questions aimed at verifying the acquired professional knowledge of the candidate on the topics covered by the Learning Objectives for the relevant Foundation, Advanced, or Expert syllabus.

The Foundation Core exam only requires knowledge of the Foundation Core syllabus; all other exams, whether Core or Specialist, or whether Foundation Specialist, Advanced or Expert, assume that you have knowledge of the Foundation Core syllabus and may ask questions that are related to knowledge of the Foundation Core syllabus.

In addition, the Advanced Specialist exams require knowledge of any Foundation Specialist syllabus that has been defined as a pre-requisite, and the Expert exams require knowledge of any Advanced level syllabi that have been defined as a pre-requisite.

An Exam is an assessment intended to measure a candidate’s (test-taker's) knowledge, skill, and competence related to an ISTQB syllabus.
An Exam Question is an individual component of the examination that is used to assess the knowledge of a candidate’s understanding of the syllabus material and achievement of Learning Objectives.

Answers to any exam question may require the use of material based on more than one section of the syllabus being examined.

Learning Objectives are statements which describe what the student is expected to know or be able to do after mastering the syllabus content. Learning Objectives have been defined for each syllabus section.

Exam Questions are used to assess the candidate's achievement of Learning Objectives.

The Learning Objectives support the Business Outcomes.

A Business Outcome is a specific statement of what can be expected from a person who achieves certification in a particular subject area, e.g. an Advanced Test Manager, and will outline the benefits for companies who are considering the development of specific testing skills.

The Business Outcomes for each Foundation Specialist, Advanced and Expert syllabus are described in their respective Overview documents.

New topics emerge due to technology and methodology changes in the market. For this reason, Specialist syllabi are established to expand the ISTQB® program to incorporate new or updated knowledge on these topics.

The certification for Agile Tester stream is designed for professionals who are working within Agile environments and for professionals who are planning to start implementing Agile methods in the near future. The certification provides an advantage for those who would like to know the required Agile activities, roles, methods, and methodologies specific to their role.

Please ask your local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider if they are able to provide this option.
A specialist certificate will be issued only after passing both the Foundation Level Core exam and the Foundation Level Specialist exam.

Your local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider will issue the certificate using the usual format, identifying the specialization.

By default, it is not possible to sit in an exam without owning the pre-conditions needed for it; sitting in an exam without owning the pre-conditions can happen only in very specific cases and with the written consent of the local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider. In any case, the certificate will be issued only after passing also the exam that are listed as pre-requisite.

Foundation Level and Advanced level exams are based on Multiple Choice questions.
Each Multiple Choice question consists of a problem and a list of suggested solutions (options) and can be either single-answer or multiple-answer (Pick-N).

A single-answer type question has 4 suggested solutions, of which 1 and only 1 is correct.

For a Pick-N type question, the candidate is presented with a list of options, and instructions on how many correct items to select from the list. For example:

  • If there are 5 options presented, there will be no more than 2 correct options to be selected.
  • If there are 7 options presented, there will be no more than 3 correct options to be selected.

Advance level exams may require the candidate to consider a scenario and several questions in the exam may be based on this scenario.

Expert level exams contain both Multiple Choice questions and Essay questions. An Essay question requires the candidate to consider a scenario or problem statement and respond with a detailed written response.

The number of exam questions per Learning Objective is defined in the ISTQB® "Exam Structure and Rules" document for the relevant syllabus (available on the ISTQB® website); the distribution of exam questions per syllabus section is roughly proportional to the learning time indicated in the syllabus.

Each question is classified according to the cognitive level, the K-level (also known as level of knowledge).

The Foundation exams cover 4 different K-levels (K1 to K4):

  • K1 (Remember): The candidate should remember or recognize a term or a concept.
  • K2 (Understand): The candidate should select an explanation for a statement related to the question topic.
  • K3 (Apply): The candidate should select the correct application of a concept or technique and apply it to a given context.
  • K4 (Analyze): The candidate can separate information related to a procedure or technique into its constituent parts for better understanding and can distinguish between facts and inferences.

The Advanced exams cover 3 different K-levels (K2 to K4).

The Expert level exams cover 5 different K-levels (K2 to K6). K5 and K6 only appear in Expert level exams:

  • K5 (Evaluate): The candidate may make judgments based on criteria and standards. She/he detects inconsistencies or fallacies within a process or product, determines whether a process or product has internal consistency and detects the effectiveness of a procedure as it is being implemented.
  • K6 (Create): The candidate puts elements together to form coherent or functional whole. Typical application is to reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure, devise a procedure for accomplishing some task or invent a product.
  • Foundation Level exams award 1 mark to each correctly answered question.
  • For Advanced Level exams a K2 question is allocated 1 mark, while a K3 question may score 1, 2 or 3 marks, and K4 questions may score either 2 or 3 marks, depending on the difficulty of the question.
  • For Expert Level exams a K2 question is allocated 1 mark, while a K3 is allocated 1, 2 or 3 marks, and K4 questions may score either 2 or 3 marks. The marks for Multiple Choice (MC) questions represent between 24 and 36 percent of the total points. Essay questions (K5 and K6) are allocated the number of points defined in the scoring guideline.
  • For pick-N questions (where there is more than 1 correct answer) a partial mark is awarded if most of the answers selected by the candidate were correct.

Incorrect, or null responses receive zero points. For Pick-N questions, if the candidate selects a number of answers different to what the question asks for, the question will receive zero points.

The Foundation Level exam comprises 40 multiple-choice questions, with a scoring of 1 point for each correct answer, a pass mark of at least 65% (26 or more points) and a duration of 60 minutes (or 75 minutes for candidates who have been allowed an extension of time for disability or language reasons – contact your National or Regional Board for additional information).

The following K-levels are addressed: K1, K2, K3, K4. The breakdown of the exam questions per K-level is done according to the ISTQB® Foundation Exam Structure and Rules document.

The Foundation Level Agile Tester and Model-Based Tester Specialist exams have the same number of questions, the same scoring, pass mark and duration as the Foundation Level core exam. The following K-levels are addressed: K1, K2, K3.

Questions in the Advanced Level exams can be awarded 1, 2 or 3 marks depending on difficulty. The distribution of marks is defined individually for each Advanced Level exam, as is the number of questions, the total marks available in an exam, and the exam duration.

A candidate must score at least 65% to pass an Advanced Level exam.

  • Test Manager: 65 multiple-choice questions, duration of 180 minutes (or 225 minutes for candidates who have been allowed an extension of time for disability or language reasons – contact your National or Regional Board for additional information), total marks = 115, passing score = at least 75 points.
  • Test Analyst: 60 multiple-choice questions, duration of 180 minutes (or 225 minutes for candidates who have been allowed an extension of time for disability or language reasons – contact your National or Regional Board for additional information), total marks = 120, passing score = at least 78 points.
  • Technical Test Analyst: 45 multiple-choice questions, duration of 120 minutes (or 150 minutes for candidates who have been allowed an extension of time for disability or language reasons – contact your National or Regional Board for additional information), total marks = 80, passing score = at least 52 points.

The following K-levels are addressed: K2, K3, K4. The breakdown of the exam questions per K-level is done according to international guidelines to ensure consistency worldwide.

The structure of Security Testing and Test Automation advanced level exams will be detailed when they are released in 2016.

The structure of Agile technical and Agile Organizational advanced level exams will be detailed when they are released in 2017 and 2018.

Each Expert Level module constitutes a separate syllabus that may comprise 1 or more parts. Expert Level examinations will be based on the relevant, approved syllabus parts. Therefore, if a syllabus comprises multiple parts, a candidate will be required to pass multiple examinations in order to achieve full certification on that expert level module.

The following syllabi of 2 Expert Level Modules are currently available:

  • Test Process Improvement comprises 2 parts: Assessing Test Processes and Implementing Test Process Improvement.
  • Test Manager comprises 3 parts: Strategic Test Management, Operational Test Management, Managing the Test Team.

Answers to exam questions may require the use of additional material based on more than 1 part of the syllabus being examined.

Each Expert Level part exam has a duration of 135 minutes, with an additional 34 minutes granted to candidates who have been allowed an extension of time for disability or language reasons – contact your National or Regional Board for additional information. Each exam consists of 2 sections:

  • Multiple-choice section, with a variable number of multiple-choice questions (made up of K2, K3 and K4 level questions) depending on the Expert module/part. The target duration of the multiple-choice section is 45 minutes.
  • Essay-style section, comprising 3 essay questions of which 2 must be answered. The essay questions require the candidate to consider a scenario or problem statement, and respond with a detailed written response. Each question shall address at least 2 Learning Objectives at K5 and/or K6 level and may also cover other learning objectives at any lower K-Level. The target duration of the essay section (reading and answering) is 90 minutes.

 

The marks for MC questions should not exceed 36% of the total marks for the exam but MC questions will be at least 24% of the total marks for the exam.

Candidates must score at least 65% overall to pass the exam.

It is not mandatory for exam participants to answer exam sections in a particular order.

There is no mandatory time limit assigned to each section of the exam. The durations given above for the Multiple Choice and Essay components are guidelines. If, for example, a candidate completes the MC exam component in 35 minutes, they will have 100 minutes for completion of the essay component.

For additional information on the structure of Expert Level exams, go to the document "Expert Level Exam Structure and Rules".

If you wish to look at sample questions, you can download sets of questions from the ISTQB® website.

The following are available for free download:

  • Foundation Level Sample Exam
  • Agile Foundation Level Sample Exam
  • Model-Based Tester Sample Exam
  • Advanced Level Sample Question Sets (Test Manager, Test Analyst, Technical Test Analyst)
  • Expert Level Test Manager Sample Exam.
  • Expert Level Improving the Test Process (Part I) Sample Exam

Your local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider will provide you with your result. Please ask local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider for more information.

Your local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider will post or e-mail the certificate to you.

Exams are offered by the ISTQB® local Member Boards and Exam Providers. Please contact them for information on exam dates, applicable fees and booking information.

The exams are available in paper-based or computer-based electronic formats.

Not all ISTQB® Member Boards and Exam Providers provide both alternatives. Please ask your local ISTQB® Member Board or your Exam Provider which alternatives they offer for the different exam levels.

The Foundation Level Core exam has no pre-requisites. Preparation on the syllabus topics (obtained either through attending a course provided by an accredited Training Provider, and/or through self-study) is recommended.

To take a specialist exam, as well as the Foundation Level Agile Tester exam, the candidate must hold a Foundation Level Core certificate, obtained by passing the Foundation Level Core exam. The possession of the Foundation Level Core Certificate may have to be proven by the candidate. Your local ISTQB® Member Board, or Exam Provider may allow you to take the Foundation Level Core exam on the same day as the specialist exam. Please talk to your local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider to find out if they offer this option.

To take an Advanced Level exam (Core or Specialist), the candidate must hold the relevant Foundation Level Certificate (Core or Specialist) obtained by passing the relevant Foundation Level exam. The possession of the Foundation Level Certificate may have to be proven by the candidate. ISTQB® also recommends practical experience before taking any advanced exam.

To take the Expert Level exam, the candidate must hold the appropriate Advanced Level Certificate as stated for that specific Expert Level exam. For the currently released Expert syllabi ("Improving the test process" and "Test Manager") the Advanced Level Test Manager certificate is required. Required certificates for Expert Level are shown in the "Expert Level Module Overview" document. ISTQB® also recommends at least 7 years of practical experience.

Each exam is supervised by an authorized proctor (invigilator), who will distribute printed material (for paper-based examination) or make material available electronically (computer-based).

The candidate cannot use any study material or use electronic devices (including mobile phones) not supplied by the Exam Provider. Only plain paper and simple non-programmable calculators are allowed. An official translation of terms (not of their definitions) from the ISTQB® Glossary to the local language is allowed. Candidates taking exams that are not in their native language may use a paper-based translation dictionary.

Candidates must return all notes and papers to the proctor before leaving the exam room.

A breach of the above rules, as well as copying or other types of cheating, obliges the proctor to invalidate the exam, resulting in an immediate failure. Breaches of the rules or cheating may lead to other actions.

You may display the paper or electronic certificate that has been delivered to you. In addition, if available and if you authorize it, your name may be included on your ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider on-line List of Certificate Holders.

You may also use the ISTQB® Certified Tester logo in your CV / Résumé, with indication of

  • "CTFL" for Certified Tester Foundation Level
  • "CTFL-AT" or "CTFL-MB"” for Agile Tester or Model-Based Tester specialist certificates
  • "CTAL-TM" and/or "CTAL-TA" and/or "CTAL-TTA" and/or "CTAL-Full" for Certified Tester Advanced Level (Test Manager, Test Analyst, Technical Test Analyst); "CTAL-Full" requires that all 3 Advanced exams are passed
  • "CTEL-TM” and/or “CTEL-ITP” for Certified Tester Expert Level (Test Manager, Improving the Test Process), which both require that all their part exams are passed.

Foundation Level and Advanced Level ISTQB® certificates, including Specialist ones, are valid for life.

Expert Level ISTQB® certificates are valid for 5 years and may be renewed either by examination or by completing 200 Certification Extension Credits (CEC). CECs may be achieved in a number of ways, including (e.g.):

  • Perform a professional testing activity
  • Take a relevant testing course
  • Attend a testing conference
  • Present at a testing conference
  • Teach a relevant testing course
  • Write a testing book or article
  • Actively participate in a Working Group such as NB (Northen Blades) SIGIST (Specialist Group in SW Testing), ISTQB®

The Certification Extension Process provides details of testing activities and the credits that you can acquire for each activity.

You can take the exams as many times as necessary to pass them. The fees for re-taking the exams are defined by the local ISTQB® Member Boards and Exam Providers.

Check with your local ISTQB® Member Board or Exam Provider for the applicable fees and any rules on the minimum time interval allowed between exams.

The relevant ISTQB® Syllabus and Glossary should be used as a minimum. Other suggested preparation material (books etc.) may be found in the "Reference" chapter of each syllabus or in the References section of the ISTQB® Website.

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