Why We Created a Free Product Owner Exam
Students in our Certified Scrum Product Owner courses often ask us why there is no exam requirement to become certified by the Scrum Alliance. We have some theories, but ultimately we decided the marketplace needed a free, independent self-assessment for Product Owners — even if there is no official requirement.
So, to be clear, this Scrum Product Owner Exam is not required to become a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), and is not associated with the Scrum Alliance. Nor is it associated with Scrum.org’s Professional Scrum Product Owner assessment. But it was created by Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainers with decades of experience in product management.
How We Chose the Questions
When designing this exam, the main challenge we had to overcome was how to respond to the legitimate critique that any Product Owner test had to accept the wide variability of product management practice across domains, markets and technologies. After a lot of debate, the answer was clear — follow the pattern set by the CSM exam. For the CSM exam, the Scrum Alliance’s position is to only test concepts that can be found in the Scrum Guide, most recently updated in late 2020. If a practice or technique is not found in the Scrum Guide, it does not have a place in the CSM exam, so we followed that model for our simulated CSPO exam.
Another choice we made was to model our Product Owner assessment using the format of the official CSM test administered by the Scrum Alliance. Our position is that Product Owners should demonstrate their understanding of the same fundamental Scrum and Agile concepts – Scrum theory, values, events, artifacts and the roles – in the same ways as a ScrumMaster. This means that 80% of the CSPO exam content would be similar to what could be found on a CSM exam. We feel this makes our exam more realistic and consistent with the current CSM exam.
Where we diverged with the CSM exam is where one would expect, in the area of Product Owner practice. In that case, our exam is based on the last version of the CSPO learning objectives provided by the Scrum Alliance. This is only 20% of the exam content.
These constraints simplified the design process for our test since most of what are considered product management best practices do not appear in the Scrum Guide. As a result, writing the exam questions was a fairly straightforward process because we could focus on core Scrum and eliminate distractions related to tools, techniques and frameworks.