Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Take on CSTE

Yes I am certified. There was a time I said I will never take this test. I put it off for about 4 years. Then finally gave in and said why not get certification in software testing since I don't plan on leaving this industry anytime soon. I mean no harm in trying something at least once. I started preparing in the summer of '09 and decided to write at the end of the year. I wrote the exam Nov 09 (right after thanksgiving) and got my results Feb 2010.

Some things that helped me
  1. Group studies - bunch of us from work decided to study together and it helped a lot. It was easier to discuss and understand the content (software testing and testing management as defined in the book) instead of sitting alone and trying to figure it on your own.
  2. Index Cards - I wrote almost everything important down on index cards. This was almost everything in the book. Sorted them by chapter and would have them with me at all times. I would go over them when I got a few minutes.  Then every week I would sort them into separate bundles - easy, hard, not sure. Pretty close to the exam the easy bundle was small and hard was small but the not sure pile sure was high.
  3. CBOK Made Easy - We think we know testing but the definitions and explanation here in the book are really based on testing as we knew in 80s, 90s and some from the current decade. But remember to pass in this exam you really have to write their definition and also choose multiple choice answers based of the content of the book. We may or may not agree to it but then we are not being tested for agreement, the test is all about how much you know about testing in terms of the CBOK. Found a link to a book which made the CBOK easy. If you google you can find several different versions of this book. It basically defines the CBOK and also makes it easy to understand. I read both the books in parallel and it helped a great deal. When you start studying, you really have to unlearn what you know and learn their definitions at least for the test.
  4. My strategy
    • Start with chapter 2. If you start with 1 you will loose the motivation to continue. Chapter 1 is the largest, hardest and confusing chapter. So start from 2 and go to 10 then come back to 1.
    • Read all chapters at least twice. First round take your own time, write the index cards. Second time do it faster and also use index cards to refresh some definitions, etc.
    • The days before the exam only use your notes and index card and go back to the book if you need some examples or are looking for something specific.
    • The days before get rid of everything. Get good nights sleep and leave the rest to what you already know. No use trying to get more confused.
  5. Actual exam
    • For essay questions - write the key words. Don't waste time explaining it all. The computer doesn't care.
    • For multiple choices - try to eliminate as many answers as you can and work on the ones that you think fit the most.
Now that the I have the certificate what did I really learn?
  1. CSTE is a good refresher - It really is a refresher. There are things you forget over time and studying for this exam gives you an opportunity to refresh your knowledge. 
  2. Common language for co-workers - A lot of times we get into discussions with co-workers and having this common language from one book helps reach conclusions. We just grab the latest version of the CBOK and look up topics that we want to discuss.
  3. Similar foundation - This really gives a the team a similar foundation. People come from different background, different education level, different experiences, so this really ties them all into one category (good or bad).
  4. Substantiate your knowledge - It sometimes help to read about software testing and testing management to substantiate what you already know.
  5. Certification - Its now an addition to my resume, my profile, my experience. No one can take it from me.
  6. Learn something new - There are things about testing that we either didn't know or knew vaguely. This book really gives us information in various areas that we may not have experience with example I have never worked on mobile application or done security testing. Reading those chapters really gave me some new knowledge.
  7. Recertification - for recertification you either take the exam again every 3 years or you read/attend seminars, etc. I think this is good a motivation for education, attending seminars, learning something new etc. I don't think I want to write the test again so I will be focusing on the latter which adds more value and experience than retaking the test.


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