Gaining Scrum Master certification is becoming increasingly important for IT professionals and project leaders, as Agile and Scrum methodologies continue to be the gold standard in software development.
The most popular Agile framework is Scrum, which means there is a high demand for Scrum Master certification. However, there are various Scrum credentials available, and it can be difficult to determine which one is the best fit.
This article examines the two main certifications: Professional Scrum Master™ (PSM) and Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM).
We will delve into each certification’s definition, differences, benefits, certification process, and exam complexity. To start, we’ll examine the most widely known of the two options: Certified Scrum Master certification.
What is CSM?
The CSM, or Certified ScrumMaster certification, is the initial and most well-known Scrum Master credential.
Offered by the Scrum Alliance, it demonstrates that candidates who have completed the required training possess the knowledge to maximize the performance of their Scrum teams.
The certification reflects a comprehensive understanding of the Scrum framework, including its principles and practices, and enables the holder to effectively navigate the Scrum team’s events, roles, and artifacts.
Moreover, CSM certified professionals are equipped to identify and manage internal and external distractions that may impact their Scrum teams.
What is PSM?
The Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification is a more advanced Scrum Master credential for those seeking to improve their skills and coach Scrum teams.
PSM-certified professionals have a deep understanding of the empirical process theories and principles of the Scrum Framework, as well as the role of the Scrum Master.
They are able to boost their team’s efficiency and effectiveness, and facilitate the servant-leadership dynamic and behavioral changes. PSM certification is divided into two levels: PSM I and PSM II.
PSM vs CSM: The Differences
1. Accrediting Bodies
The Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) is accredited by Scrum Alliance®, a non-profit organization promoting Agile practices, principles and values. Meanwhile, the Professional Scrum Master (PSM™) is offered by Scrum.org, a global organization founded by Ken Schwaber, co-creator of Scrum, aimed at enhancing the professionalism of Scrum training.
2. Duration of Training
Both the CSM and PSM training programs are conducted over a period of 2 days (14-16 hours). The CSM course is led by a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®), while the PSM course is led by a Professional Scrum TrainerTM (PST).
3. Levels of Training
CSM only has one level, while PSM is available in two levels, PSM I and PSM II.
4. Learning Outcomes
CSM certification prepares you to support Scrum teams in achieving their maximum potential, removing obstacles, and guiding them through the Scrum framework.
The certified professionals are considered servant leaders, who lead by example and facilitate the team to succeed in their projects.
PSM I certification signifies a strong foundation in Scrum knowledge and fluency in Scrum terminology and methodology. PSM II, on the other hand, demonstrates a deeper understanding of Scrum principles and the ability to effectively apply Scrum in complex situations.
PSM vs CSM: Certification Process
1. The CSM® Certification Process
The certification process for the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) credential involves attending a 2-day live online or in-person course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST®) or being coached by a Certified Agile Coach (CAC).
After completing the training, you will be required to take a 50-question CSM exam, where you must answer 37 out of the 50 questions correctly within 1 hour to receive a passing score.
Upon passing the exam, you must accept the CSM License Agreement and complete your Scrum Alliance membership profile, which will last for 2 years.
2. PSM Certification Process
The PSM certification process is not mandatory and can be self-assessed by those with the necessary knowledge of Scrum.
However, taking a course offered by a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) is highly recommended to prepare for the exam and increase the chances of success.
To obtain the PSM I certification, individuals must take and pass the PSM I Assessment which consists of 80 questions that must be answered within 1 hour. If the assessment is passed, the individual will receive the PSM I certification and a logo.
The Passing Grade
To earn the CSM certification, a minimum score of 37 out of 50 on the CSM exam is required. The PSM I assessment, on the other hand, is considered more challenging with a passing criteria of 85% or higher on the 80 question exam (as defined by Scrum.org).
The format of the CSM exam includes only multiple-choice questions. However, the PSM exams include a combination of multiple-choice, multiple-answer, and true/false questions, with a focus on testing both factual knowledge and practical application through scenario-based questions, particularly in PSM I.
PSM vs CSM: Head to Head Comparison
|Accreditated By||The Scrum Alliance||Scrum.org|
|Prerequisites||Attending a CSM®️ course taught by a Scrum Alliance’s Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)®️||None|
|Training||Mandatory training by Certified Scrum Trainers before the test.||Training is not mandatory. But certification training by Professional Scrum Trainers is helpful in acing the test.|
|Exam Pattern and Question Formats||Questions – 50 MCQs
Time – 1 hour
|Questions – 80 MCQs and true/false questions.
Time – 1 hour.
|Passing Score||37 out of 50||68 out of 80|
|Renewal||Renews every two years.
Renewal Fee – $100 SEUs (Scrum Educational Units) – 20
|Valid for a lifetime;
Renewal not required
|What is Next?||Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Advanced
CSM Certified Scrum Professional
Scrum Master Certified Team Coach or Certified Enterprise Coach or Certified Scrum Trainer
|Professional Scrum Master I
Professional Scrum Master II
Professional Scrum Master III
Professional Scrum Master Trainer (Train-the-trainer certification)
Difficulty Level of Exam
1. Certified Scrum Master Difficulty Level
When it comes to scrum certification, the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) test is often considered to be relatively easier in comparison to the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) 1 and PSM 2 assessments.
In order to take the CSM exam, attending a mandatory 2-day training session is required. During this training, students will learn about the basics of scrum and receive comprehensive preparation for the exam.
They will be introduced to the fundamental concepts and practices of scrum, and will have the opportunity to work through real-world scenarios and practice their skills.
This type of hands-on learning is beneficial in helping students prepare for the exam and achieve a passing score.
2. PSM Certification Difficulty Level
On the other hand, the PSM certification does not have a mandatory training requirement, which can make preparation for the exam a bit more challenging.
While attending a training session is not required, many students who have not taken a training course have found that their preparation was inadequate for the PSM 1 and PSM 2 assessments.
These exams contain a mix of multiple-choice questions, multiple-answer questions, and true/false questions, and test students on the facts of scrum as well as scenario-based questions.
It is important to note that the PSM 1 passing criteria are quite tough, as students must answer 80 questions correctly and achieve a minimum score of 85% (which is not accurately defined by Scrum.org) in order to receive the PSM I certification and logo.
How Much Does It Cost?
The fee structure for the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) exam is different from that of the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) exam. The cost of the CSM exam varies, as it is usually included in the fee for the mandatory 2-day training course.
The course fee typically ranges from $1000 to $1400, which covers the cost of the exam as well.
However, for the PSM exam, there is a set fee of $150 USD per attempt. The benefit of joining a PSM training course is that your first exam attempt is offered for free.
The training program is designed to prepare you thoroughly for the PSM exam and increase your chances of passing the assessment.