ISTQB® Exam FAQs

You must successfully pass the exams offered 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 (8 syllabi, five of them currently available and one of them in Beta Test)
    • Agile Tester
    • Model-Based Tester
    • Usability Testing
    • Acceptance Testing
    • Automotive Software Tester
    • Performance Testing
    • Mobile Application Tester
    • Gambling Industry Tester (in Beta Test)

The Advanced level offers 3 Core exams and 3 additional Specialist exams:

  • Advanced Level Core (3 syllabi)
    • Test Manager
    • Test Analyst
    • Technical Test Analyst
  • Advanced Level Specialist (3 syllabi)
    • Security Tester
    • Test Automation Engineer
    • Agile Technical Testing (in development)

To receive Advanced Level certification, candidates must hold the Foundation Certificate.

Some National or Regional Board may require that candidates have sufficient practical experience to be considered qualified at an Advanced Level. Refer to your relevant Board to understand their specific practical experience criteria.

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 and Advanced level) dedicated to professionals involved in Agile projects, which have the pre-requisite of the Foundation Level core certificate. The Agile Stream contains the following certifications:

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

A Core Certification is a certification that covers 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.

New topics emerge due to technology and methodology changes in the market. For this reason, Specialist syllabi have been developed to expand the ISTQB® product portfolio to incorporate new or updated knowledge on these topics.

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 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.

It is also expected that the terms defined in the ISTQB® Glossary are known.

An Exam is an assessment intended to measure a candidate’s knowledge, skills 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 candidate is expected to know or be able to do after mastering the syllabus content. Learning Objectives are defined for each syllabus section.

Each Learning Objective shall reference one K-Level.

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 Foundation Core and each Foundation Specialist, Advanced and Expert syllabus are described in their respective Overview documents.

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.

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

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

For a Pick-N type question, the candidate is presented with 5 suggested options, with 2 correct options to be selected.

Advance Level exams may require the candidate to consider scenarios, and several questions in the exam may be based on one 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.

Each Learning Objective (and 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 in 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.
  • o 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 point for each correctly answered question.
  • For Advanced Level exams, a K2 question is allocated 1 point, while a K3 question may score 1, 2 or 3 points, and K4 questions may score either 2 or 3 points, depending on the difficulty of the question.
  • For Expert Level exams, a K2 question is allocated 1 point, while a K3 is allocated 1, 2 or 3 points, and K4 questions may score either 2 or 3 points. The points 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.

Incorrect, or null responses receive zero points. For Pick-N questions, if the candidate selects a number of answers which differs from what the question requires, 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 a time extension for disability or language reasons – contact your National or Regional Board for additional information).

For the 2018 Version:

The following K-Levels are addressed: K1, K2 and K3. The breakdown of the exam questions per K-Level is done according to the ISTQB – Certified Tester Foundation Level V. 2018 Exam Structure and Rules document.

For the 2011 Version:

The following K-Levels are addressed: K1, K2, K3 and K4. The breakdown of the exam questions per K-Level is done according to the ISTQB – Foundation Level Exam Structure and Rules Version 1.2 document.

The Agile Tester, Usability Testing, Performance Testing, Automotive Software Tester and Model-Based Tester Foundation Level 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 and K3.

The structure of Gambling Industry Tester, Mobile Application Tester and Acceptance Testing Foundation level exams will be detailed when they are released.

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

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

  Number of multiple-choice questions Exam duration (minutes) Total points available Passing score (minimum points)
Test Manager 65 180 (or 225*) 115 75
Test Analyst 60 180 (or 225*) 120 78
Technical Test Analyst 45 120 (or 150*) 80 52
Test Automation Engineer 40 90 (or 113*) 75 49
Security Tester 45 120 (or 150*) 80 52
*   for candidates who have been allowed an extension of time for disability or language reasons

The following K-Levels are addressed: K2, K3, K4. The breakdown of the exam questions per K-Level is done according to:

The structure of the Agile Technical Advanced Level exam will be detailed when it is released.

Contact your National or Regional Board for additional information.

Each Expert Level module constitutes a separate syllabus that may comprise one 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 syllabi of the following two Expert Level Modules are currently available:

  • Test Process Improvement comprises two parts: Assessing Test Processes and Implementing Test Process Improvement.
  • Test Manager comprises three 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 one 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 two 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 points for MC questions should not exceed 36% of the total points for the exam but MC questions will be at least 24% of the total points 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 ISTQB - Expert Level Exam Structure and Rules Version 2.32

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

Please contact the Member Board or the Exam Provider who issued your certificate. You may need to pay for a new copy.

 

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 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 or Model-Based 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 Testing 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 and smartwatches) 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" for Agile Tester Foundation Level Specialist
  • "CTFL-MBT" for Model-Based Tester Specialist
  • "CTFL-PT" for Performance Tester Specialist
  • "CTFL-US" for Usability Tester Specialist
  • "CTFL-AuT" for Automotive Software Tester Specialist
  • "CTAL-TAE" for Test Automation Tester Specialist
  • "CTAL-SEC" for Security Tester Specialist
  • "CTAL-ATS" for Acceptance Tester Specialist
  • "CTAL-MAT" for Mobile Application Tester Specialist
  • "CTAL-TM" for Certified Tester Advanced Level - Test Manager
  • "CTAL-TA" for Certified Tester Advanced Level - Test Analyst
  • "CTAL-TTA" for Certified Tester Advanced Level - Technical Test Analyst
  • "CTAL-Full" which requires that all 3 Advanced exams (TM, TA and TTA) are passed
  • "CTEL-TM" for Certified Tester Expert Level - Test Manager
  • "CTEL-ITP" for Certified Tester Expert Level - Improving the Test Process

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

 

Foundation Level and Advanced Level ISTQB® certificates, including the 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 (Northern 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.

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.

By default, it is not possible to sit in an exam without achieving the pre-conditions needed for it; sitting an exam without having already achieved 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 only be issued after passing the exam that is listed as a pre-requisite).

 

The ISTQB® Successful Candidate Register recognizes the achievement of candidates who have been awarded an ISTQB® certificate and who have given permission for their information to be included.

You can search for information about yourself:

  • Your name;
  • Your certificate level (e.g. CTFL);
  • Certification date;
  • Certification body;
  • Country of issue;
  • Certificate number (this will be partially masked for security purposes);
  • Expiry date (if applicable).

The register also allows for the validation of certificates. As an example, employers and recruiters can check certificate validity by inputting the full certificate number and matching the information provided by the certificate holder.

The register is updated regularly, but please allow some time for your details to appear - if you have any concerns, please contact the Member Board who issued the certificate.

Individuals holding an ISTQB® certificate before the launch of the Successful Candidate Register may not yet be listed, so please contact the Member Board who issued your certificate for information on how to be added (Note: terms and conditions may vary by Board).

 

If you would like to withdraw or amend your information on the SCR register, please contact the Member Board or the Exam Provider who issued your certificate.