Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Views on Testing certification : 2012

A reader of my blog "Arpan Sharma" writes "What’s your take on certifications these days? I see your wrote about this is 2008 which is almost 4 years ago. Do you think the landscape of certifications have changed in recent times?".

Arpan - Thanks for writing and reminding that my stand on certification on this blog is about 4 years old now. It is interesting that you are checking with me if I have changed views. Here is how I summarize my current thinking on certification.

1. First of all the person seeking certification should be absolutely clear what they are expecting the certification to give them - Knowledge, Skill, skill enhancement, Marketing value, a job, an interview

2. Certifications that do not observe and qualitatively grade a tester - in action "while doing testing" - can not guarantee a certain level of skill in testing. Employers, Recruiters, hiring managers - please take a note.

3. If you want to learn how to do good testing, how to gain skills in broad testing landscape - certification is not something you should look for.

4. If there is a certification that let us get a job in a given situation/context or gets you a interview shortlisting - you should consider taking that certification. But - be aware - once you get your job - you are on your own. You would then be required to display (depending on the type of organization and nature of job) skills on job. Certifications' role ceases there.

5. Be critical about certification material and tests tell you - question them. Form your own ideas and logic about how things work. Do not take everything that taught or you read as part of certification as "universal truth. Why this is important? Only being critical on what is certification course - can help you to decide what value intrinsically you gained from it and what already existed in you.

6. Reputation is everything in today's world. You gain professional reputation by demonstrating your work and skills to your employer and to out side world (through networking world). Building reputation takes time and real good work. People with confidence in their skills and reputation - do not require a third party to endorse their level of skill. In today's world - people with skill and reputation - don't need certification. What does that tell you about certification?

7. Take special note of qualifiers like "Advanced" when applied to certifications - check out what is advanced and how? More often that not - it is more "jargon-laden".

#4 and #5 specially apply to freshers looking for /some/ job and those 1-3 years experience folks who either had some software job or a lost a testing job.

In terms of landscape of certifications - I don't think there has been change. Prime motive for certification providers is to make money - fast and cheaper. That has only intensified with many job seekers. That is fine as a business objective - we the target audience of such business ventures need to be clear about what we want from certifications and how capable are these certifications to deliver on the promises.

I repeat what I said earlier - if you want to learn, acquire skills, enhance skills in testing - certifications are the things that you should avoid. There are better, cheaper ways of doing that.

Did I answer your question Arpan?



Santhosh Tuppad said...

Good one, Shrini. I hope more testers and testing aspirants read your blog post and know about certifications. Thanks for writing.

-- Santhosh Tuppad

Prasanna said...

I liked the last sentence, there are cheaper ways to enhance the testing skills like weekend testing, utest,99test(all free) than paying in dollars as certification fees.

Mihai said...

I'm planning on taking the ISTQB advanced this year. So I guess what you are saying is that it will good for my CV, but it won't improve my skills?

Shrini Kulkarni said...


Yes. Depending upon your target companies - ISTQB might look good - it will not do ANY good to your skills.

It is like taking a guitar class - theory and passing it with over 80% score. You can say you are certified guitar player. But can you give a guitar performance to an audience?

Testing skill is often similar to ability to "perform on stage (live project)". This requires practice of DOING testing. What likes ISTQB do is what a theoritical guitar test do for an aspiring guitar player.

Learn and Practice to (play) testing. That will take you longer and higher in your career.


Anuj Sharma said...

I don't completely agree with your statement that certification do not add to your skill.

It depends on how you see the certification. If you see the certification as a piece of paper, then yes it will not add to your skill set. I believe that this thinking has been derived from graduation degrees.

If you see the certification as a challenge, then you will definitely add something to your skill set. The reason being that the knowledge gained by studying for the exam values more to you than just adding one more line to your CV.

Thanks for the refresher Shrini.

--Anuj Sharma

Shrini Kulkarni said...


Thanks for disagreeing. Let me explain my stand here.

>>> If you see the certification as a piece of paper, then yes it will not add to your skill set.

No - I don't see certification as piece of paper. Never in my stand with respect to certifications - I expresses that line of thinking.

What I think about certification - especially likes of ISTQB - they will test your ability to memorize terms and respond in congruent with syllabus prescribed by ISTQB. This is some what similar to taking a theory guitar theory and passing the test.

At the end of getting certified in ISTQB - what you have achieved is familiarity in terminology, manners of speaking and testing philosophy of the ISTQB world. This has some value - as I mentioned in the post - say - might get you an interview call or potentially a job. Do not make a mistake of thinking that through the certification you have acquired new skill or enhanced your existing skill.

>>> If you see the certification as a challenge, then you will definitely add something to your skill set.

What kind of challenge? Memorizing set of terms and definitions? What else you can think can be challenging in passing certification?

Does it provide contraversial problems and ask you critically analyse the situation, take position?

Does it sharpen your critical thinking skills?

Does it teach you modeling, system thinking skills?

Does it enhance your math, statistical skills?

Does it introduce you to epistemology?

Does it teach you how to acquire knowledge like Feynman, Carl Segan?

Does it teach you strategy formulation as Chess, sudoko or any related games?

Does it teach you about cognitive skills, biases, logical fallacies?
Does it teach you to review a peice of code?

and so on....

You can learn all these things mentioned here - without taking certification. There are peer groups, passionate testers out there. You can REALLY enhance skills by doing things almost at free of cost by self learning - then why go for certification?

>>> The reason being that the knowledge gained by studying for the exam values more to you than just adding one more line to your CV.

It depends upon what kind of exam you are taking. Exams like IAS, GMAT, CAT (for MBA with IIM), JEE (for IIT's) will test your knowledge in respective subjects.

Passing CAT or IAS can be a statement of certain level of intelligence. The run up to passing such exams means something - you really slog.

Bottom line is I am not against certification - as long as you are aware of what it can do for you - you are fine. The problem starts the moment you shut down your critical thinking portion of brain and start glorifying it as skill enhancer.

That can be valuable.

Ilari said...

Hi Shrini
Thanks for your post. I like you putting emphasis on practical skill acquisition and working on your reputation by proving your skills. I think these are both key to become a good tester.

Arpan said...

Hi @ prasanna,

could you tell a little bit more about utest,99tests through this blog or u can email me

PMG India said...

You have described very nicely the entire concept of certification. Yeah as i have studied about this certification belongs to an individual person and for organization. It increases the value of both in terms of skill sets and goodwill too.