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I recently asked this question on a less active exchange and as a result didn't get the range of opinions I was after so am repeating it here.

I've been working as a tester for the last 6 months (in the UK) and I have just been asked by my employer to work towards the ISEB Certified Tester Foundation Level ( http://www.bcs.org/category/6942 ). My main source material is the following book http://www.bcs.org/category/14012.

I was hoping that I could get some input from people who have completed this certification in the past. Do you have any sage advice that I should stick to? or any best practices I should adopt while learning the material?

I realise that this certification is unlikely to make me a better tester but it is something the company wants our testers to pursue, so in essence I would appreciate opinions on how to pass the test as quickly as possible.

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Just learning the syllabus that is on the ISTQB website should be enough. As long as you understand it, you are safe. You just need common sense and knowledge of the terminology to pass the exam. –  Homewrecker May 4 '11 at 10:59
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It seems like I'm the only person answering who's actually done the ISEB, so far.

Don't waste money on a course - for the cost of attending a training course, you could sit the exam in one of the Prometric test centres 5 times over. The book and syllabus is more than enough, IMHO. I attended a course, but it really wasn't necessary to pass the exam. (Annoyingly, I'd already agreed with my manager that I didn't need it and we'd spend the money on something more useful, when we discovered that HR had booked it anyway).

It's actually a disadvantage to know too much about testing when you do the exam - the advice I got going for the exam was to forget everything I knew about testing, and just memorise the "ISEB" answer - on no account should I try to work it out from my existing experience or knowledge. I know really good talented testers who've failed the ISEB. You really do have to just learn stuff by rote. Get some past papers and practice with those to get the hang of how ISEB word their questions.

If you're working in an Agile environment, the advice about forgetting what you know and do at work goes double - ISEB contains very little about Agile, and what it does have often won't make sense. If you want to learn about Agile testing, you won't get it from the ISEB syllabus.

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I am indeed working in an Agile environment, thanks for pointing that out .. exactly the sort of tips I'm looking for :) –  Craig Pilgrim May 5 '11 at 8:03
    
Glad it's useful :). I'm curious though - why is your company keen for you to do the cert? Seems odd that an Agile co is asking you to do a cert that is very much of an entirely different school of testing. (Enough so that I tend to assume when I see a job ad including both Agile and ISEB, that they are probably doing fake Agile). –  testerab May 6 '11 at 19:56
    
Its difficult to say. I guess because all our dev's are doing Microsoft Partnership work they felt that the Testers should have some sort of certification as well. Like I said previously ive only been doing this for 6 months (with no previous experience testing) and while I agree much of the ISEB is trivial at best I dare say it has refreshed my mind to at least a couple of definitions if nothing else. The move to a more Agile approach was actually something that has only recently happened (last couple of months) so it is still in the process of being full adopted. –  Craig Pilgrim May 7 '11 at 0:55
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Seems odd that they're just chucking money at training for the sake of it. They'd be better off putting you through the AST's BBST courses associationforsoftwaretesting.org/training/courses - those are a lot more relevant to an Agile environment, and a heck of a lot meatier in terms of what they demand of students. –  testerab May 7 '11 at 1:30
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Other training courses that would be suitable for testers adapting to an Agile environment: Rapid Software Testing rst5-eorg.eventbrite.com or skillsmatter.com/course/agile-testing/… –  testerab May 7 '11 at 1:33
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If your employer is telling you to do the qualification, could you ask them for some training? The ISEB Foundation course is relatively easy to pass, and with instruction I think a 2-3 day intensive course would be enough to learn the syllabus.

Training providers are abundant and can be found through all good search engines.

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While I think this is a good idea I also think it might be slight overkill at least for the foundation level (considering the price). I can't imagine the test being too difficult to pass but I just don't want to pick up any bad practices along the way (ISEB doesn't seem to follow a very Agile approach like my company does). –  Craig Pilgrim May 4 '11 at 14:59
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Full disclosure: I've not completed the ISEB certification, however prior to moving to development I managed a QA/Test team of 5, two of who had completed the foundation certification.

My suggestions are:

  • Remember, this is similar to every other qualification that you've ever done so the same basic principles hold true:

    • Plan: Put together a study plan so you know what you should be studying and when. You need to ensure that this is achievable in the time you have available
    • Organise: Keep yourself organised. If you're a lists person, write lists. If you like using your Outlook calendar to organise yourself, put all your study periods into that.
    • Keep Notes: Lists, brainstorms, bullet points, paragraphs, flowcharts; whatever works for you to act as a quick reference that helps you refresh your memory.
    • Balance: This does tie back to "Plan" to an extent. Don't over work yourself. This isn't school, college, or university, you're holding down a full time job and studying. Make sure you strike the right balance because if you don't, studying for ISEB will make you miserable. That isn't likely to result in a good grade.
  • As far as the ISEB is concerned, it has been known to be called a little, errr, "dry". Persvere though, it does add value to your day to day working skillset.

    • Can you find opportunities to introduce things you're learning into your day-to-day role? There's no better way to reinforce theory than practice (If you can't, why are you studying towards it?).
    • Do you have any colleagues who're certified (ISEB that is, not the other certified! =) and can act as a sounding board for ideas or to help you grasp concepts you may struggle with?
    • Don't forget, now that sqa.stackexchange exists, there'll (hopefully!) be a lot of people here that you can apply my prior point to.

Whilst none of this is particularly specific to ISEB, hopefully it'll be of some help to you in your studies!

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Sound advice Rob; most of which I'm already following, being fresh out of uni so most of this revision stuff is still in my head. I suppose I am really interested in people that have already done it and any surprises they might have come across along the way. –  Craig Pilgrim May 4 '11 at 15:02
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