Open Certification at ACM SIGCSE

Tim Coulter and I presented a poster session at the ACM SIGCSE conference.

Here is our poster (page 1) and (page 2)

Here is our paper: Creating an Open Certification Process

I was glad to see the Agile Alliance’s position on certification.

It’s unfortunate that several of the groups who present themselves as professional associations for software testers or software quality workers (e.g. American Society for Quality, British Computer Society, International Institute for Software Testing, Quality Assurance Institute) are selling certifications rather than warning people off of them as Agile Alliance is doing.

We created the Open Certification as an alternative approach. It still doesn’t measure skill. But it does offer four advantages:

  1. The large pool of questions will be public, with references. They will form a study guide.
  2. The pool is not derived from a single (antiquated) view of software testing. Different people with different viewpoints can add their own questions to the pool. If they have well-documented questions/answers, the questions will be accepted and can be included in a customizable exam.
  3. The exam can be run any time, anywhere. Instead of relying on a certificate, an employer can ask a candidate to retake the test and then discuss the candidate’s answers with her. The discussion will be more informative than any number of multiple-false answers.
  4. The exam is free.

The open certification is a bridge between the current certifications and the skill-based evaluations that interviewers should create for themselves or that might someday be available as exams (but are not available today).

The open certification exam isn’t available yet. We’re close to being finished the Question Server (see the paper), which is one of the key components. We’ll start work on the next piece at the Second Workshop on Open Certification, which will be right after CAST 2007. (More on both soon…)

In the meantime, my recommendation is simple:

  • If you are a job candidate considering becoming certified, save your money. Take courses that teach you about the practice of testing rather than about how to pass an exam. (If you want a free course, go to
  • If you are an employer considering what qualifications that testing candidates should have, my article on recruiting might help. If you can’t live with that and must use an examination, the following probably has as much validity as the certifications–and it has a high failure rate, so it must demonstrate high standards, right?
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2 Responses to “Open Certification at ACM SIGCSE”

  1. sachin says:

    what is this certification exam game all about in which I always win. I could not understand it.

    Note from Cem Kaner — Congratulations on always winning. Depending on what name you enter, you might win or you might lose. If you win, I declare you “Certified.” If you lose, I declare you “not certified.” I you think this is ridiculous, that this is no basis for deciding that you should be certified or not, then I agree with you. It is as ridiculous as ISTQB–but much less expensive.

  2. Anuj Magazine says:

    Dear Dr. Kaner,
    I am thrilled that an initiative such as Open Certification is underway and i can foresee that (with the kind of work/efforts that has been put in) its going to solve some of the grave issues with current testing certifications. I know about these issues because i too am certified tester from certain Certification providers. I have always maintained that these certifications are more about passing the exams rather than actually checking the knowledge and skill and most of these calls for cramming up the concepts mentioned in so-called Body of Knowledge.
    When i appeared for the examinations, it surprised me to a great extent when i saw the same question(s) being repeated in different examinations (you need to pass different exams to get certified). Then, it seemed to me like that the people who “preach” testing through certifications forgot to apply the concepts in their own question papers. There are many such instances which i have been through that makes me question the credibility of such authorities.
    One of the primary reasons, i think, people are going for these certifications is that they see these as a means to getting recognized in the industry. I somehow feel that’s a narrow view but this is the trend that has started after many organizations started putting these certifications as a part of “Desirable” or “Required” qualifications for a certain testing jobs. And the testers in order to catch up with the “Job market” started going for these certifications. Though i wonder if organizations who put up such a requirement really had the first hand information on what these certifications are all about.
    One thing that i liked about these certifications (not everything is bad after all!) is the concept of recertification based on some criteria. A tester is required to collect Credit points based on work done in the industry and submit them for approval. This is something that has helped me immensely as a tester. It made me think about certain areas in Software testing that i can contribute more and proved to be a good way to broaden the horizons. Though this is also something that can be manipulated but if done honestly, can prove beneficial.
    Appreciate the efforts that you and your team has been putting in to deal with current Certification situation.

    Anuj Magazine