How to Pass the ISTQB Certification Exam


ISTQB is the International Software Testing Qualifications Board and the syllabi is globally recognized as the de facto industry reference for the software testing profession.  It is one of the most sought after certifications in the software testing industry.  Personally, I was looking to grow my skills and enhance my competency in the field and certification is one of many ways to do this.

I set the goal to study for and pass the the Certified Tester Foundation Level exam within a month.  There are accredited training providers all over the country and typically the courses are a week long and cost between $2000-$3000 plus travel and lodging.  My goal was to self study and sit the exam at a local community college. These are the steps I took and it worked for me so my hope is that it may help anyone else looking to take the exam.

Step 1: Register for the exam in advance

I didn’t want to let my training and preparation drag on for months (it easily could), so I scheduled the exam one month out at a local community college.  The exam cost $250 and there was a fee to reschedule it so this was all the motivation I needed to remain focused!  In the USA, you register through this site:

Step 2: Read the syllabus twice

The syllabus forms the basis for the the exam and breaks down the material into the following learning objectives:

  • K1: Remember
  • K2: Understand
  • K3: Apply
  • K4: Analyze

It is not intended to be thorough and can be quite vague in some areas.  The course content is thoroughly covered in the book Foundation of Software Testing: ISTQB Certification by Rex Black and Dorothy Graham.  I did not purchase nor read this book but I did spend the time looking up topics from the syllabus where I felt I needed more information.  The exam questions are distributed as follows:

Source:  ISTQB exam structure –

Based on this, I focused my efforts on Chapters 1, 4, and 5.  To pass the exam, you have to score 65% or higher.  No one ever asks what you scored on the exam.  It really only matters that you pass and become certified.

Step 3: Watch this Udemy course twice

I found this course on Udemy to be invaluable in attaining the knowledge necessary to pass the exam:

The instructor has a bit of an accent but it wasn’t really an issue for me and I felt he covered the material really thoroughly and provided all the instruction necessary to take and pass the exam.  Some of the concepts were new for me and the instructor recommends that everyone watch the course from beginning to end twice.  I felt that was good advice and I did much better on the practice tests after the second run through.

Step 4: Use a cheatsheet for review

There are a number of CTFL cheatsheets available on the web.  I found this one to be the most helpful:

Software Testing Foundation – Topic Cheat Sheet – ISTQB-ISEB

I learned this content well enough that I could be quizzed on it and felt it helped me through a number of questions in the exam.

Step 5: Take Practice Exams

I cannot stress strongly enough how important taking the practice exams are.  There are a number of practice exams on the istqb website:

I took all of these.  In addition, I took each of the exams in this Udemy course:

Taking these exams really solidified my understanding of the course content and if I missed any questions, I took the time to review those areas in the syllabus and the udemy course.  If you want to pass the exam, do not skip this step.  It is probably the most important.

Take the exam

On exam day, I arrived early and had to provide numerous forms of identification and put all my belongings in a locker including my watch.  I was shown to a computer in a glass room with security and cameras.  The exam was 40 multiple choice questions and had to be completed within 60 minutes.  I was able to go back and review/change any questions as needed.  On submitting the exam, I received the results immediately and was delighted to have passed!  I received my certificate and welcome letter a few weeks later and my name is listed on the ISTQB Successful Candidate Register.

All in all, I was very happy with the knowledge I gained preparing for the certification and was able to apply numerous principles and techniques in my every day work.  I’m planning to follow a similar set of steps for the Agile Tester certification exam shortly.  If this post helps you in any way, please leave a comment and let me know.  Good luck!

One Response to “How to Pass the ISTQB Certification Exam”

  1. Dave Avidman May 6, 2019 at 4:43 pm #

    Not bad. Hope this guide still applies for 2019

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