A proposal for an advanced certification in software testing

This is a draft of a proposal to create a more advanced, more credible credential (certification) in software testing.

The core idea is a certification based on a multidimensional collection of evidence of education, experience, skill and good character.

  • I think it is important to develop a credential that is useful and informative.
    • I think we damage the reputation of the field if we create a certification that requires only a shallow knowledge of software testing.
    • I think we damage the value of the certification if we exaggerate how much knowledge or skill is required to obtain it.
  • I think it is important to find a way to tolerate different approaches to software testing, and different approaches to training software testers. This proposal is not based on any one favored “body of knowledge” and it is not tied to any one ideology or group of vendors.

The idea presented here is imperfect—as are the other certifications in our field. It can be gamed—as can the others. Someone who is intent on gaining a credential via cheating and fraud can probably get away with it for a while—but the others have security risks too. This certification does not assure that the certified person is competent—neither do the others. The certification does not subject the certified person to formal professional accountability for their work—neither do the others—and even though certificate holders say that they will follow a code of ethics, we have no mechanism for assuring that they do or punishing them if they don’t—and neither do the others.

With all these we-don’t-do-thises and we-don’t-promise-thats, you might think I’m kidding about this being a real proposal. I’m not.

Even if we agree that this proposed certification lacks the kinds of powers that could be bestowed by law or magic, I think it can provide useful information and that it can create incentives that favor higher ethics in job-seeking and, eventually, professional practice. It is not perfect, but I think it is far better than what we have now.

The Proposal

This credential is based on a collection of several different types of evidence that, taken together, indicate that the certificate holder has the knowledge and skill needed to competently perform the usual services provided by a software tester.

Here are the types of evidence. As you read this, imagine that the Certification Body hosts a website that will permanently post a publicly-viewable dossier (a collection of files) for every person certified by that body. The dossier would include everything submitted by an applicant for certification, plus some additional material. Here’s what we’d find in the file.

Authorization by the Applicant

As part of the application, the applicant for Certification would grant the Certification Board permission to publish all of the following materials. The applicant would also sign a legal waiver that would shield the Board from all types of legal action by the applicant / Certified Tester arising out of publication of the materials described below. The waiver will also authorize the Board to exercise its judgment in assessing the application and will shield the Board from legal action by the applicant if the Board decides, in its unfettered discretion, to reject the applicant’s application or to later cancel the applicant’s Certification.

Education (Academic)

The Certified Tester should have at least a minimum level of formal education. The baseline that I imagine is a bachelor’s-level degree in a field relevant to software testing.

  • Some fields, such as software engineering, are obviously relevant to software testing. But what about others like accounting, mathematics, philosophy, physics, psychology, or technical writing? We would resolve this by requiring the applicant for certification to explain in writing how and why her or his education has proved to be relevant to her or his experiences as a tester and why it should be seen as relevant education for someone in the field.
  • The requirement for formal education should be waived if the applicant requests waiver and justifies the request on the basis of a sufficient mix of practical education and professional achievement.

Education (Practical)

The Certified Tester should have successfully completed a significant amount of practical training in software testing. Most of this training would typically be course-based, typically commercial training. Some academic courses in software testing would also qualify. A non-negotiable requirement is successful completion of at least some courses that are considered advanced. “Successful” completion means that the student completed an exam or capstone project that a student who doesn’t know the material would not pass.

  • There is an obvious accreditation issue here. Someone has to decide which courses are suitable and which are advanced.
  • I think that many different types of courses and different topics might be suitable as part of the practical training. For example, suppose we required 100 classroom-hours of training (1 training day = 6 classroom hours). Perhaps 60 of those hours could be in related fields (programming, software metrics, software-related law, project accounting, etc.) but a core would have to be explicitly focused on testing.
  • I think the advanced course hours (24 classroom hours?) would have to be explicitly advanced software testing courses.
  • There is no requirement that these courses come from any particular vendor or that they follow any particular software testing or software development ideology.

Examination

The Certified Tester should have successfully completed a proctored, advanced, examination in software testing.

  • This requirement anticipates competing exams offered by several different groups that endorse different approaches to software testing. Our field does not have agreement on one approach or even one vocabulary. The appearance of agreement that shows up in industry “standards” is illusory. As a matter of practice (I think, often good practice), the standards are routinely ignored by practitioners. Examinations that adopt or endorse these standards should be welcome but not mandatory.

Which exams are suitable and which are advanced?

There is an obvious accreditation issue here. Someone has to decide which exams are suitable and which are advanced.

I am inclined to tentatively define an advanced exam as one that requires as minimum prerequisites (a) successful completion of a specified prior exam and (b) additional education and experience. For example, ISTQB Foundations would not qualify but an ISTQB Advanced or Expert exam might. Similarly, BBST:Foundations would not qualify but BBST:Bug Advocacy might and BBST:Domain Testing definitely should.

An exam might be separate from a course or it might be a final exam in a sufficiently advanced course.

For an exam to be used by a Certified Tester, the organization that offers and grades the exam must provide the Certification Board with a copy of a sample exam. The organization must attest under penalty of perjury that they believe the sample is fairly representative of the scope and difficulty of the actual current exam. This sample will appear on the Certification Board’s website, and be accessible as a link from the Certified Tester’s dossier. (Thus, the dossier doesn’t show the Certified Tester’s actual exam but it does show an exam that is comparable to the actual one.)

What about the reliability and the validity of the exams?

Let me illustrate the problem with two contrasting examples:

  • I think it is fair to characterize ISTQB as an organization that is striving to create highly reliable exams. To achieve this, they are driven toward questions that have unambiguously correct answers. Even in sample essay questions I have seen for the Expert exam, the questions and the expected answers are well-grounded in a published, relatively short, body of knowledge. I think this is a reasonable and respectable approach to assessment and I think that exams written this way should be considered acceptable for this certification.
  • The BBST assessment philosophy emphasizes several other principles over reliability. We expect answers to be clearly written, tightly focused on the question that was asked, with a strong logical argument in favor of whatever position the examinee takes in her or his answer, that demonstrates relevant knowledge of the field. We expect a diversity of points of view. I think it gives the examiner greater insight into the creativity and depth of knowledge of the examinee. I think this is also a reasonable and respectable approach to assessment that we should also consider acceptable for this certification.

There is a tradeoff between these approaches. Approaches like ISTQB’s are focused on the reliability of the exam, especially on between-grader reliability. This is an important goal. The BBST exams are not focused on this. For certification purposes, we would expect to improve BBST reliability by using paired grading (two examiners) but this is imperfect. I would not expect the same level of reliability in BBST exams that ISTQB achieves. However, in my view of the assessment of cognitively complex skills, I believe the BBST approach achieves greater validity. Complicating the issue, there are problems in the measurement of both, reliability and validity, of education-related exams.

The difference here is not just a difference of examination style. I believe it reflects a difference in ideology.

Somehow, the Certification Board will have to find a way to accredit some exams as “sufficiently serious” tests of knowledge even though one is obviously more reliable than the other, one is obviously more tightly based on a published body of knowledge than the other, etc.

Somehow, the Certification Board will have to find a way to refuse to accredit some exams even though they have the superficial form of an exam. In general, I suspect that the Certification Board will cast a relatively broad net and that if groups like ASQ and QAI offer advanced exams, those exams will probably qualify. Similarly, I suspect that a final exam in a graduate-level university course that is an “advanced” software testing course (prerequisite being successful completion of an earlier graduate-level course in testing) would qualify.

Professional Achievement

Professional achievements include publications, honors (such as awards), and other things that indicate that the candidate did something at a professional level.

An applicant for certification does not have to include any professional achievements. However, if the applicant provides them, they will become part of the applicant’s dossier and will be publicly visible.

Some decisions will lie in the discretion of the Certification Board. For example, the Certification Board:

  • might or might not accept an applicant’s academic background as sufficiently relevant (or as sufficiently complete)
  • might or might not accept an applicant’s training-experience portfolio as sufficient or as containing enough courses that are sufficiently related to software testing

In such cases, the Certification Board will consider the applicant’s professional achievements as additional evidence of the applicant’s knowledge of the field.

References

The applicant will provide at least three letters of endorsement from other people who have stature in the field. These letters will be public, part of the Certified Tester’s dossier. An endorsement is a statement from a person that, in that person’s opinion, the applicant has the knowledge, skills and character needed to competently provide the services of a professional software tester. The letter should provide additional details that establish that the endorser knows the knowledge, skill and character of the applicant well enough to credibly make an endorsement.

  • A person of stature is someone who is experienced in the field and respected. For example, the person might be (this is not a complete list)
    • personally known to the Certification Board
    • a Certified Tester
    • a Senior Member or Distinguished Member or Fellow of ACM, ASQ, or IEEE
  • If one of the endorsers withdraws his or her endorsement, that withdrawal will be published in the Certified Tester’s dossier along with the original endorsement (now marked “withdrawn”) and the Certified Tester will be required to get a new endorser.
  • If one of the apparent endorsers contacts the Certification Board and asserts that s/he did not write an endorsement for an applicant and that s/he does not endorse the applicant, and if the apparent endorser provides credible proof of identify, that letter will be published in the Certified Tester’s dossier along with the original letter (now marked “disputed”).

Professional Experience

The applicant will provide a detailed description of his or her professional history that includes at least N years of relevant experience.

  • The applicant must attest that this description is true and not materially incomplete. It will be published as part of the dossier. Potential future employers will be able to check the claims made here against the claims made in the applicant’s application for work with them.
  • The descriptions of relevant positions will include descriptions of the applicant’s role(s) and responsibilities, including typical tasks s/he performed in that position
  • The applicant’s years of relevant experience and years of formal education will interact: Someone with more formal education that is relevant to the field will be able to become certified with less relevant experience (but never less than K years of experience).

Continuing Education

The candidate must engage in professional activities, including ongoing study, to keep the certification.

Code of Ethics

The candidates must agree to abide by a specific Code of Ethics, such as the ACM code. We should foresee this as a prelude to creating an enforcement structure in which a Certified Tester might be censured or certification might be publicly canceled for unethical conduct.

Administrative Issues

Somehow, we have to form a Certification Board. The Board will have to charge a fee for application because the website, the accrediting activities, evaluation of applications, marketing of the certification, etc., will cost money.

Benefits

This collection of material does not guarantee competence, but it does present a multidimensional view of the capability of an experienced person in the field. It speaks to a level of education and professional involvement and to the credibility of self-assertions made when someone applies for a job, submits a paper for publication, etc. I think that the public association of the endorser with the people s/he endorses will encourage most possible endorsers to think carefully about who they want to be permanently publicly identified with. I think the existence of the dossier will discourage exaggeration and fraud by the Certified Tester.

It is not perfect, but I think it will be useful, and better than what I think we have now.

This is not a certification of a baseline of competence in the way that certifications (licenses) work in fields like law, engineering, plumbing, and cosmetology. Those are regulated professions in which the certified person is subject to penalties and civil litigation for conduct that falls below baseline. Software engineering (including software testing) is not a regulated profession, there is no such cause of action in the courts as “software engineering malpractice,” and there are no established penalties for incompetence. There is broad disagreement in the field about whether such regulations should exist (for example, the Association for Computing Machinery strongly opposes the licensing of software engineers while the IEEE seems inclined to support it) and the creation of this certification does not address the desirability of such regulation.

The Current Goal: A Constructive Discussion

This article is a call for discussion. It is not yet a call for action, though I expect we’ll get there soon.

This article follows up an article I wrote last May about credentialing systems. I identified several types of credentials in use in our field and suggested four criteria for a better credential:

  • reasonably attainable (people could affort to get the credential, and reasonably smart people who worked hard could earn it),
  • credible (intellectually and professionally supported by senior people in the field who have earned good reputations),
  • scalable (it is feasible to build an infrastructure to provide the relevant training and assessment to many people), and
  • commercially viable (sufficient income to support instructors, maintainers of the courseware and associated documentation, assessors (such as graders of the students and evaluators of the courses), some level of marketing (because a credential that no one knows about isn’t worth much), and in the case of this group, money left over for profit. Note that many dimensions of “commercial viability” come into play even if there is absolutely no profit motive—-the effort has to support itself, somehow).

I think the proposal in this article sketches a system that would meet those criteria.

A more detailed draft of this proposal was reviewed at the 2014 Workshop on Teaching Software Testing. We did not debate alternative proposals or attempt to reach consensus. The ideas in this paper are not the product of WTST. Nor are they the responsibility of any participant at WTST. However, I am here acknowledging the feedback I got at that meeting and thanking the participants: Scott Allman, Janaka Balasooriya, Rex Black, Jennifer Brock, Reetika Datta, Casey Doran, Rebecca L. Fiedler, Scott Fuller, Keith Gallagher, Dan Gold, Douglas Hoffman, Nawwar Kabbani, Chris Kenst, Michael Larsen, Jacek Okrojek, Carol Oliver, Rob Sabourin, Mike Sowers, and Andy Tinkham. Payson Hall has also questioned the reasoning and offered useful suggestions.

To this point, we have been discussing whether these ideas are worthwhile in principle. That’s important and that discussion should continue.

We have not yet begun to tackle the governance and implementation issues raised by this proposal. It is probably time to start thinking about that.

  • I’m positively impressed by (what I know of) the governance model of ISTQB and wonder whether we should follow that model.
  • I would expect to be an active supporter/contributor to the governance of this project (for example an active member of the governing Board). However—just as I helped found AST but steadfastly refused to run for President of AST—I believe we can find a better choice than me for chief executive of the project.

Comments?

11 Responses to “A proposal for an advanced certification in software testing”

  1. Greg Mooney says:

    When I was in audio engineering school, our final exam was troubleshooting an active loudspeaker system. My instructor would cause some kind of issue in the system. It wasn’t so important that the student find the issue, rather the student used critical thinking and took the appropriate steps in troubleshooting an already fragile (and potentially dangerous) system. For instance, powering on a system when the gain was all the way up and the loudspeakers were switched to on, would be a serious deduction in grade since this effectively degrades the system and possibly degrades the students (and audience’s) hearing.

    The reason the exam was hands-on is that my instructor realized that although some students may have answered an open ended or multiple choice question correctly about how to troubleshoot and maintain an audio system, those same students may actually fail to do so in a real-life situation. Time pressure and the fact that the instructor was watching a student’s every move was nerve racking, therefore some students would ultimately break under pressure and end up getting a failing grade.

    Although software testing has it’s differences, the concept should be the same. I feel software testing requires the same kind of hands-on exam. Logging hours in software testing, as you suggested, is a great way to become a better software tester, but when that person is placed in a real-world scenario with time pressure and serious implications, will it make them or break them?

    This is mostly the reason why I’ve never been too keen on certifications, but you make some serious attempts to alleviate those issues with this proposal. I particularly like the idea of having to continue some form of relevant education after receiving certification in order to keep certification. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jim Hazen says:

    Cem,

    Admittedly I didn’t read the whole proposal, but within the first few sentences I thought of the original process for the CSTE (Certified Software Test Engineer from QAI). It was a petition and experience based review of one’s work and knowledge of Software Testing (and only testing, not Quality Assurance). I whole heartedly agree with this method of ‘certification’. I was an original CSTE (1997) when it was petition based and was dismayed when QAI turned it into an exam based one. They jumped on the certification mill model (make money) and degraded the standing of the certification in the industry.

    Okay, said my peace. I see this type of ‘certification’ (what you propose) as a ‘qualification’ process, proving ones experience and knowledge in a real world situation. Yes, it might be gamed. But for people who are really serious about this type of work they will put forth the honest effort to show what they know.

    Regards,

    Jim Hazen

  3. Hi Cem

    I will start by saying I have a great amount of respect for you and the work you have done in pushing the boundaries of testing. You are one of a few people who I admire and look up to in the career in which I am working. I am not against what you are proposing to a certain degree. I do question is there a need for something like this, what is the driving force as to why this is needed?

    My own experiences with the current schemes in place are that they appear to be wrapped in secrecy and not accountable to anyone. It is like an ‘old boy’s network’ where the people at the bottom have to foot the bill or they cannot get in the door. I will state that the views and observations I make here are my own and not tied to any particular school of testing. What about those who do not wish to be certified in this manner, will they be, as happens now, excluded from certain roles because
    What is the motivation behind this proposal? It does come across as another money making scheme for the training providers for which some may not for whatever the reason be able to get on board with.

    At the start if this article you make many caveats as to why it is flawed, if this is the case what is the benefit of this proposal? Some other questions I have are:

    Who is this targeted at and why?
    Is industry asking for this?
    Who will benefit from this proposal? The people paying or the people providing the training and exams?

    A way around this is to make the material, training and exams FREE, this may not be possible but it makes everything transparent and open. I will be a little bit more comfortable if we make the whole of this proposal FREE/Non Profit with that I reckon we could have something. Times have changed and community is the way forward.
    Elisabeth Hendrickson had a trial system running in which people could endorse each other, which is part of what you propose. My concern here is the limited choice of references; it appears to be self-serving. I have many people who I am in communication with and who have watched me present or work alongside them who could vouch for my skills, experiences and knowledge. Unless they fulfil your proposed criteria then they would be excluded from endorsing me. That seems wrong to me these are great and wonderful people who I have a lot of respect for and now they would be discounted

    I would prefer something that is of a vocational nature similar to the Cisco certification scheme where you prove by doing. Exams by their nature are flawed as a way of assessing people and their knowledge and skills. The current education system across the world is broken and failing the next generation by being exam based. Their focus is on teaching to pass an exam rather than to be free thinkers. This has its roots in Taylorism, which for the current and next generation will not work. Sir Ken Robinson speaks a great deal about this and something I think should be seriously looked at for your proposal. You do state that this proposal will not confirm someone is competent, this I feel would be a chance missed, we should find ways to provide this by means of vocational approaches and I feel this is missing within your proposal. Instead of this proposal I would suggest we look even more into the future and examine how we can get testing on to the curriculum of every school and as degree courses at universities worldwide and not just isolated pockets.

    The key in what you propose is the small section on Continuous education; this IMO is vital and should be expanded. To remain current and relevant is crucial in our industry and sadly I see a lot of this missing.

    Here are some of my other concerns with this current proposal.

    Entry criteria: Why exclude those who are not academic? What about those who do not have the opportunity to gain a degree but want to get into testing. This to me seems like a way to exclude people who are not and could be viewed as discriminatory.

    When you say vendor neutral does this mean someone who has attended RST which does not have certification can apply? What about all those people who have been involved in the STEP program? Are they excluded as well?

    A quote springs to mind “Who will watch the watchers?” How visible will the effectiveness of the exams be made? Is this going to be a closed shop? I have my own ethics and morals and some of the vendors you list with how they promote and advertise certificates , remains highly questionable to me and I feel does more harm than good for testers.

    Exams need to follow the AST approach, yes there are issues with repeatability and being consistent but it allows freedom of thought and not just doctrine to one way of thinking.

    I like what Greg said in the previous comments the exam needs to be more practical than examination (vocational) prove by doing. Also within rugby league coaching to qualify you need to keep a diary for a year of what you have done as a coach and have this assessed by the examiner, this would be great to implement. Expand this further and use the model for those in medicine, you cannot keep your license unless you have evidence to state you are keeping up to date with current trends and practices.

    Sorry if this appears to rant or waffle a little I have lots of thoughts in my head and trying to write it down in a coherent way is not easy. As I stated at the start I think what you are trying to do have some value but at the moment I am unsure of what benefit it will bring, first to me and to those within testing. I do not think we need yet another certification scheme in which people line their pockets based upon a sheep mentality and being forced to follow this one option. I wish I could say I have a solution for you on this but the great thing is you have made it public and we can debate it. This is refreshing for me considering some of the closed door tactics used for other ‘standard bodies’

    Look forward to hearing from you again soon.

    John:
    Thanks for your thoughts. You are raising a broad set of good points. I think the best way to address them is with a few blog posts that each focus on a small set of issues. I’ll probably write those in the next few weeks. If I miss any points you consider important, please comment again.

    — Cem

    • John, you make some interesting points.

      One that I disagree with is about making the exam FREE. If this certification is to gain respect across the industry and within government agencies, then there needs to be some kind of barrier to entry. I like Cem’s suggestion of making a sample exam available to the public for evaluation, but I don’t believe the actual exam should be published or free.

      In particular, I have the [CAN-USA] cross-border question in mind of: “What qualifies you to do what you do?” (or something like that) I don’t believe a university degree [alone] is sufficient to demonstrate this and that’s what they ask for. This advanced certification proposal above is certainly more meaningful. I would rather be asked at the border if I have this certification than whether I have a university degree. As a Software Testing consultant, trainer and coach, I would also feel good about asking for this kind of credential. As a professional, I am prepared to invest in demonstrating my technical and ethical commitment to the field. If the exam is free, I don’t believe for a moment that anyone will take it seriously.

      Cheers. Paul.

      • Paul I think we may be thinking along the same lines and maybe my original comment was not too clear. In your comment below you state the exam should be practical based, if this is the case then yes I agree with you there will need to be a cost to cover this.

        My concern is that it with follow the current trend of learning by rota and having a written exam in which you must conform to the way of thinking of the organisation setting the exam, as you make clear in your comments.

        I am not sure if they could be a middle ground in which those involved in this certification proposal are doing it because they want to improve testing and not to make profits that do not go back into the system to benefit the people participating. Once money gets involved, ethics are the first thing that gets thrown away in my experiences of certification schemes. Maybe I am too much of a hippy :o)

        regards

        John

  4. Hi Cem, I think this is a good start.

    I agree with mostly everything described so far but do see it as incomplete. For me, professional recognition should include some demonstration of skills as some of the others have indicated in the comments above. Especially for an “advanced” certification. The Cisco certification is a good example of this. Otherwise, I don’t see this proposal offering much benefit over some of the certification programs currently available. I have seen many people skilled in memorization, essay writing and exam taking achieve certifications easily and who couldn’t carry a practical conversation about the topics afterwards. These people scare me.

    I feel this topic of practical demonstration will certainly make for interesting discussion and exploration. In the last 16 years of continuing education, only one program along my journey meant enough to me to obtain a certification — one with a practical component. (a dastardly simple and fiendishly difficult practical component.)

    I am intrigued by the labelling of this as an Advanced Certification in Software Testing. In that way, it doesn’t replace some of the easier-to-obtain QAI or ISTQB certifications which serve a different purpose. Many people who get these certifications are required to get them as conditions of employment, and not all of them want to pursue a career in the Testing field.

    This certification would be an acknowledgement of peers and recognition by the community. That’s meaningful beyond simply getting a document in the mail with an issue number on it that you can put up on your office wall.

    I look forward to hearing more about this as it develops. Thanks for getting the ball rolling.

    Cheers! Paul.

  5. JCD says:

    In thinking about this proposal, there seems to be a few things that are unclear.

    Academic Ed

    First of all, based upon an informal survey of people my boss hired, roughly 1 in 4 did not have degrees and even those with degrees, many were unrelated such as English Lit, Teaching, Business and Political Science). That would make the odds closer to 1 in 3. It seems like a lot of work to be able to establish education and its relationship to testing. Do you really intend on trying to weed through 1 in 3 candidates or are you specifically trying to exclude those who do not have degrees? What value do you have in that filter?

    Practical Ed & Exams

    On the practical education side, what about self-learning? Our industry tends towards self learning. If I submitted a open source project with tests or bugs I wrote up on an open source project, would that be considered education? Does the fact that it was in conjunction with Bug Advocacy make it magically education but on my own not? Some of us are constantly attempting to self-learn and have found that the more structured education is less useful (I for example am watching your lectures on Test Design, but not taking a course). So should that effort not be rewarded without me paying someone to ‘certify’ my learning? Furthermore, what if I took a class that doesn’t agree with this organization’s style and thus refuses to cooperate with you (a group who might feel certification isn’t useful for example)? Will that learning be ignored?

    References

    This isn’t unlike Linked In, except that it is managed by a board. The feature set is perhaps slightly different, but what does this give that Linked In does not? If someone withdrawals their recommendation to me, am I to lose my certification, assuming I only had the minimum to start with? Is a person who was certified but then removes themselves or is removed lose all of their recommendations?

    Professional Experience

    What do those who have not gotten N years of experience do when companies start requiring that. We already know HR institutions have in the past required certifications. If that is a requirement and N years of experience are also required it may make it harder to be a beginner in the field. While that maybe good for me in the sense of less competition, is that the intention? Again, this feels a lot like Linked In, except with a board behind it and a few additional requirements.

    Benefits

    I am not saying there are no benefits to this, nor that it can’t work, but this seems a little like Linked In but with someone checking to make sure that what is written in the profile is true. Is that in fact what you are attempting to do? If not, can you explain to me what the other benefits? What will I gain by this sort of certification? What will I and the community as a whole gain from this sort of certification?

  6. Hello, Cem,

    I think the idea for an advanced and well documented Advanced Certification as a software tester is a good idea.

    The requirements for certification, presented here are powerful, but perhaps overly restrictive in that they are all detailed requirements. I believe the Board should have more latitude in deciding which requirements are applicable in a given situation. For instance, the requirement for continued education, in my instance, may be unnecessarily restrictive, though I, in this age of electronic media, still buy books and study them.

    I’m also thinking that “Lifetime Achievement in Testing” is another category to be considered in balance with the others. This category should include contributions to testing technology. I can think of a few names as I am sure that you can as well. Perhaps the “Professional Achievement” section could include this idea.

    You are suggesting that certification should not be determined by a single type, context, or methodology of testing. For instance, I have been working and developing procedures and training for “White Box Testing”.

    And I have issues with the idea of “Bug Advocacy”. I contend that no symptom is adequately indicative of the seriousness of the defect that caused the particular symptom in question. I further contend that the most cost effective method of determining the seriousness of a defect is to identify the defect itself. Then, perhaps, a test (perhaps white box) could be developed to illustrate the seriousness, if it turns out that the fix is expensive. I bring this up because I would consider a question on a certification exam about bug advocacy to be irrelevant to my qualifications. Can an exam be created that clearly determines competency that avoids contentious issues? If not, then the exam, and the associated certification, reflects some bias that I believe should not be present in any new “advanced certification.”

    I agree with Paul. There will be more respect for the certification if it cost something. I fix my (generally computer illiterate) senior neighbor’s computers and I ask for $10 or I barter. In one case it was two large bunches of green bananas. I’m suggesting a similar plan for Advanced Testing Certification Examination fees.

    Further, I think the “Board” (the Certification Body) should be a not for profit organization and encourage donations form successful and certifiable software testers and companies supporting and employing certified (advanced) testers.

    I am interested in this idea and I’m putting my oar in the water.

    Regards to all, and especially you and Rebecca, Cem

    Alan

  7. Cem,

    I neither support nor oppose this proposal mostly because I don’t understand the *purpose* of the proposal.

    Why is an “advanced certification in software testing” needed? What is the reason, use, function, intention? What problem does it solve?

    Some commenters have already asked similar questions. John Stevenson asks, “I do question is there a need for something like this, what is the driving force as to why this is needed? Who is this targeted at and why? Who will benefit from this proposal?”. JCD also asks, “What will I and the community as a whole gain from this sort of certification?”

    The answers to those questions will help me better consider the proposal as a whole, and the individual criteria/evidence.

    I looked for statements of purpose in the proposal itself. It begins, “This is a draft of a proposal to create a more advanced, more credible credential (certification) in software testing.” Under “Benefits” it says, “This is not a certification of a baseline of competence in the way that certifications (licenses) work in fields like law, engineering, plumbing, and cosmetology.”. This describes what the certification “is not”, but not what “it is”.

    The closest answers I found within the proposal itself was, [the advanced certification in software testing] “can provide useful information and that it can create incentives that favor higher ethics in job-seeking and, eventually, professional practice” and “indicate that the certificate holder has the knowledge and skill needed to competently perform the usual services provided by a software tester.”

    Some commenters also make statements that might be considered “a purpose”. Jim Hazen suggests, “I see this type of ‘certification’ (what you propose) as a ‘qualification’ process, proving ones experience and knowledge in a real world situation”. Paul Carvalho adds, “This certification would be an acknowledgement of peers and recognition by the community”, and JCD submits, “this seems a little like Linked In but with someone checking to make sure that what is written in the profile is true”

    Looking for something similar to this proposed certification, I searched for “What is a professional engineer” and “Why become a professional engineer”, and found nspe.org which had these answers:
    What – http://www.nspe.org/resources/licensure/what-pe
    Why – http://www.nspe.org/resources/licensure/why-get-licensed

    Is the *purpose* of this certification something similar?

    I apologize if I’m the only guy in the room that doesn’t get it. But usually, if there’s one guy that doesn’t get it, there’s more.

    Thanks for your time…!

    -Damian Synadinos

  8. Hi Cem, I know how big a fan you are of standards ;) and I just stumbled upon a reference to ISO/IEC 17024 while reading an article.

    The WP overview is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO/IEC_17024

    I like the line that says “Examination must be a valid test of competence … where competency is typically described as “the demonstrated ability to apply knowledge, skills and attributes”.” Demonstrating competence in software testing will make for some great debate. I can’t wait to see what that looks like and how it will evolve.

    I haven’t read the standard yet but the 2012 version appears to offer some guidance on forming the body that provides certification. I’m a fan of reading guidance offered and then deciding whether or not it’s useful. There might be something helpful in there so I thought I’d mention it in case you hadn’t seen it yet.

    Cheers. Paul.

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