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Passing the ISTQB certification: steps and points to consider


Katya Ryabtseva


QA Engineer

6 min read

6 min read

If you are a Trainee QA specialist or an experienced test engineer, you probably have heard of the ISTQB exam. If not, I suggest you read this article. Here, I will share my experience and answer the most popular questions from my point of view.

Article content:

the ISTQB certification

What is the ISTQB certification?

The ISTQB certificate is one of the most widely recognized for software testing professionals. Being awarded an ISTQB certificate means that you have acquired the necessary testing knowledge and skills and successfully passed the exam.

There is a range of certifications depending on the level of testing specialist – from Foundation to Expert level, and specialization – such as Mobile Application testing, Performance testing, Security testing, etc.

However, acquiring an ISTQB Foundation level certificate is one of the main requirements before applying for any other certifications from the list.

ISTQB certifications

Image source ISTQB

What are the benefits?

Taking the ISTQB Foundation level exam definitely has its advantages.

  • Learning key definitions. First of all, those of you who have recently started a career in software testing will get familiar with the general vocabulary for testing and will never confuse verification with validation again.
  • Catching the basic concepts. Through the preparation for the exams, you will undoubtedly understand software testing fundamentals.
  • Putting theory into broader practice. The most significant thing here is that you’ll learn to use techniques for designing tests at all test levels.

See also: A story of software testing services at NERDZ LAB

Is it required to be ISTQB certified?

There is no one answer to this question as it strongly depends on each company’s view.

While the need for certification varies from company to company, most don’t require a testing specialist to be certified. For most companies, passing the ISTQB certification is optional and can be included as a goal in a specialist’s career roadmap. However, if you are still keen on getting certified, it would be an excellent addition to your CV.

So, it’s your decision rather than a necessity.

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When to take the exam?

In my opinion, it’s not the best idea to take the exam as soon as you land your first QA job. The same goes for applying for this certification to get a job at all. And there is a whole story behind this.

The first time I heard of the ISTQB certification was when I was taking a course in QA Engineering. I was getting ready to start my career in this sphere in those days. So, I decided to get the certificate as well.

I downloaded the syllabus from the official website and started reading it alongside my course. To be honest, I was bored. For a newbie, this book contains multiple new terms that may confuse you. So, at that time, I couldn’t process this information appropriately, and the reason for that was a lack of practical experience.

So, I have a couple of tips for you at this point:

  1. Don’t rush into taking the exam. It is recommended to apply for it after at least 6 months working as a QA engineer. When you have practice working on an actual project, it is much easier to comprehend the information you are learning for the exam, and the structure is based on your working experience.
  2. Read the syllabus a couple of times. Every time you go through it; you will understand better. In the end, you will get that feeling that everything fits together.

Which language to choose to do the exam in – English or your native one?

I suggest taking the exam in English. The main reason for that is the meaning of concepts can be lost in translation.

For example, terms might be translated improperly, and it might confuse you when you prepare for the exam by reading the syllabus in English.

Besides, it is a great way to pick up new working vocabulary and improve your communication skills if your English proficiency level needs enhancement.

how long does it take to prepare to ISTQB certification

How long does it take to prepare?

The duration of preparation for the exams depends on a few factors.

  • Time for learning in your schedule. You have to evaluate the time you are ready to spend preparing and your commitment to this.
  • Work out your preparation speed. Make up your mind on whether you are ready to burn the candle at both ends or you would like to take it at your own pace.
  • Decide on the intensity of elaboration. Will you look deeper into details or trust in luck? (Honestly, I do not recommend the second one).

The exam is not difficult, but you should not underestimate it because most questions are tricky, and you might answer them incorrectly. Besides, this is a paid exam, and if you fail, the payment is non-refundable.

So, in general, it takes from 1 to 2 months, but the main rule to follow is feeling confident that you have understood all concepts required.

See also: Automated testing as part of NERDZ LAB quality control plan

How can I prepare for the exam?

There are plentiful official resources to help you do just that:

  1. Visit the official website and download ISTQB CTFL Syllabus 2018 – that is your key knowledge resource.
  2. Use the site to look for mock tests. They usually reflect the exam structure, types of questions, and what is covered. Thus, you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect.
  3. Take advantage of the ISTQB online glossary —as many questions are based on those terms.
  4. Sort out all your knowledge. I took notes and highlighted the main points while reading the syllabus to structure all the information. In addition to each chapter, I created a list of main terms and their explanations that I took from the online glossary (necessary terms are outlined at the beginning of each chapter)—this list helped keep all my information together.
  5. Leverage the video part. The last but not least source of great help for me were these video lectures based on ISTQB syllabus chapters. As the syllabus gives little information on test techniques, these video lectures explain how to use them using real examples.

Of course, you can find plenty of other unofficial resources and mock tests to prepare you for the ISTQB exam. For me, that didn’t work. After reading some of them and completing mock tests from unofficial sources, I gave up as I found a lot of inaccuracies and ambiguities that proved them to be unreliable.

Can you prepare on your own?

I didn’t take a specialized course and I passed the exam— so it is possible to prepare on your own and pass. As all the materials are available online, you only need to be a motivated, organized, and enthusiastic learner. If you feel that you have some trouble managing your time or making yourself get around to studying, you can always opt for a course to help you focus.

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Final words

In conclusion, I would like to say that this is not a certificate that turns you into a great professional. Keep in mind that only your desire for constant learning and improvement of your professional competencies helps you become a mighty bug hunter.