Richard Taylor, one of our trainers and an active software test management consultant, shares his thoughts in the short article about ISTQB certification and training courses necessity for testers. With his rich professional experience, he is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars in both continental Europe and the UK.
Besides that he has written and presented papers on several aspects of testing and test management, including use of metrics for test management and for Agile testing (in which he has particular interest). Richard Taylor has been an IT practitioner for more than 40 years, during which he has done most of the jobs that it has to offer from programming and systems / business analysis through to project management.
One of the early members of the software testing Subject Board in the British Computer Society’s Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB), Richard helped to develop the UK’s Foundation and Practitioner Certificates in Software Testing. Since then, he has contributed to its ISTQB replacement and to the Glossary of Software Testing Terms that accompanies it. He has contributed numerous improvements to accredited training materials used for all of the ISTQB Advanced Level syllabi, and has written a complete training course for the ISTQB Foundation Level Agile Extension certificate.
Do ISTQB Certificates prove that someone can test?
RT: No, of course, they prove only that you can pass an exam. Becoming an effective tester depends on making the most of and then building upon the things that you learn when you study for the exam.
What is their real purpose then?
RT: To provide a theoretical basis for becoming an effective tester, and to provide in a common way all over the world so that testers can understand each other no matter where they come from or where they are working.
Are certification courses like ISTQB necessary in testing career and if so, to what extent?
RT: By the strictest definition of “necessary”, well, only to the extent that some companies use them as an employment criterion. Things that aren’t strictly necessary can still be worth having, though.
Are these certificates really of value to my career and should I put any effort into acquiring the more advanced levels?
RT: Yes, they are valuable. Firstly, they demonstrate to your current and any potential employer that you take your career as a tester seriously. Secondly, they may improve your salary and promotion prospects, if your employer also values them. Thirdly, they will increase your credibility and, by extension, that of the testing done in your company in the eyes of other IT staff. Most importantly, the things that you will learn when you are studying for them will help you to become the best tester that you can be, if you make the most of them. Advanced level certifications are more valuable and useful than Foundation level, because they go into more detail about the practical aspects of everyday testing and test management.
Based on your experience, what is/are “the thing/s” with which students are struggling the most in ISTQB courses?
RT: As a trainer I’m not allowed to know what happens in the exams, so I can’t comment on pass/fail results against individual topics. What I observe in the training is that the courses are so full of essential material that there is little time for the kind of interactive, workshop-style sessions that some delegates would prefer. I also see that, in order to provide a complete model of testing, the syllabi cover details which won’t all be relevant to everybody – although, of course, what is relevant varies between individuals, and everything is relevant to somebody. Non-native speakers of English are obviously at a disadvantage at Advanced level, where English language exams are not available, and this is worse when they did Foundation level in their own language; the ISTQB is, however, aware of this and is committed to writing future versions of the syllabi and exam questions in simpler English.