Are you interested in an ISTQB certificate? Everything you need to know.
ISTQB software testing certification is easy to obtain. See our guide.
ISTQB is the world’s leading certification system in the field of software testing. In 2021, ISTQB administered more than 1,1 million tests and issued more than 806 000 certificates in more than 130 countries. Thanks to an extensive network of accredited training providers, board members and test providers, ISQBT is one of the biggest and most established professional certificate programs in the world, additionally being neutral toward suppliers.
The term ISTQB is recognized in the industry as the de facto language in software testing and unites professionals worldwide. The system of certified testers and portfolio certificates is constantly evolving based on the knowledge of experts and industry leaders from all over the world, as well as on the basis of market research and trends.
ISTQB strives to ensure that the system and portfolio continue to serve the testing community by:
- ensuring high quality outputs;
- constantly adapting to keep the system relevant by providing targeted, in-depth learning with specialised certificates;
- providing a globally available comprehensive portfolio;
- making available resources, such as syllabi, test samples and glossary;
- taking into account valid international standards and their eventual harmonisation;
- maintaining focus on software testing while adapting to changing quality characteristics and task responsibilities;
- maintaining validity of already obtained certificates.
Why the ISTQB certificate?
- A high-quality developed syllabus: All syllabi is developed and examined by leading testing experts from the academic community and industry.
- Global recognition: Certificates are globally recognised thanks to the consistent application of policies and procedures by ISTQB board members.
- A common language: The ISTQB glossary provides a common vocabulary for this profession.
- Objectivity: The assessment of testers’ skills is conducted independently by ISTQB providing an objective verification of competence.
- Support for the adherence of the Code of Ethics: All ISTQB certified testers are encouraged to adhere to the Code of Ethics defined by ISTQB.
- Public availability: The ISTQB vocabulary and syllabi are freely available on the ISTQB website as well as the website of board members in the local languages
- Openness: ISTQB materials are developed on a voluntary basis and open to contributions from anyone who is interested in joining ISTQB work groups.
- Independence: The non-profit nature of ISTQB ensures that it is not limited by specific methodologies or technologies and can make use of reliable procedures from a wide range of resources.
- Constant improvement: Syllabi and other documents are constantly being improved in order to meet the needs of business organisations and keep pace with the evolution of the profession.
- Professional position: Certification provides individuals and organisations benefits in that it ensures that testing experts meet the high standards set by the ISTQB.
Levels and Modules:
ISTQB Certified Tester, basic level (CTFL)
The basic level is aimed at anyone who is involved in software testing. This includes those who are expected to go on to more advanced certification, such as testers – test analysts, test engineers, test consultants, test managers, UAT testers and software developers. The basic level is divided into three parts: Core, Agile and Specialist.
The ISTQB Certified Tester of the basic level is the entry level module to the ISTQB certification scheme and successful completion is a necessary requirement in order to continue to other modules and levels.
Individual modules are divided into three groups:
- CORE – basic modules which specialise in a specific type of testing or specific approach to software delivery (sequential/agile).
- AGILE – a set of modules aimed at the agile approach to software delivery.
- SPECIALIST – specialised modules which cover a specific thematic area of testing.
Submodules in CORE and AGILE levels are divided into three, respectively two levels from the point of skill level – Advanced and Expert. You will not find advanced levels in the SPECIALIST group.
ISTQB Certified Tester, advanced level (CTAL)
Advanced level certification is for those experienced testing professionals and focuses on demonstrating in-depth knowledge in the area of testing and the ability to perform testing activities in practise. The advanced level is divided into three parts: Core, Agile and Specialist.
ISTQB Certified Tester, expert level (CTEL)
The expert degree expands on the knowledge and skill gained in the advanced level by providing in-depth and practise-oriented certification covering various areas of testing. With the expert degree, ISTQB offers career growth for testers with clearly defined business results. The expert level currently only has the Core part available.
In general, the condition of being able to participate in the exam at all (except that you pay the fee), is that you pass the lowest level tests.
What does this mean?
Possession of a CTFL certificate (Certified Testing Level Field) is a pre-requisite for all exams (including basic level Agile Tester exams). In the case of higher-level exams, a basic level certificate is needed for the given module (for example, CTFL certificate for the Certified Advanced Level Tester - Test Analyst exam). An advanced level certificate is a pre-requisite for expert-level exams.
What do you actually gain with an ISTQB certificate as an employee?
- A systematic approach to advancing your knowledge
Individual modules of the certification system are generally well structured and suitably combine the topics that the person interested in a given problem should study.
- An external whip that forces the employee to learn new things
The certification exam forces you to study a topic by a certain date (no excuses). These are often topics that go beyond the current “operational need”. This wider perspective has come in handy many times in my life.
- A better position on the work market
Today, it is no longer the exception that “ownership” of a relevant professional certificate is a condition for the performance of certain job positions. If it is a requirement, then it will definitely be an advantage over otherwise comparable “competitors” who are not able to prove their knowledge with a recognised certificate. In the field of testing, the ISTQB certificate is an internationally recognised document of the required level of knowledge. This certificate means prestige and in the case of two applicants for a tester position, the one with an ISTQB certificate will be preferred by a company.
- A higher level of recognition
Passing the exam for a higher skills level (Advanced and Expert in the ISTQB system) is not easy. If you have this certificate, you will definitely earn your respect in the professional community.
- A document stating your ability to understand professional text in English
In many certification exams (especially on an advanced level), the study material and the exam itself is available only in English (or other international languages). A perfect understanding of the exam text questions is crucial. In addition to professional knowledge, possessing a certificate proves your ability to understand a professional foreign language text well.
- A relatively low price and worldwide validity
In many certification systems, the certification exam is not conditional on completing the course. The student can prepare for it by self-study. The prices are then reasonable and usually around 100-200 €.
- Discounts for conferences included in the ISTQB conference network
This point is the icing on the cake and applies exclusively to ISTQB certificates. Every year, many multi-day professional conferences are held worldwide under the heading ISTQB Conference Network. Most of them are lectured by renowned professionals from various areas of software testing. Holders of any ISTQB certificate usually get a discount of 10-20 %.
ISTQB certification for employers in general
- Guaranteeing a common language for all teams
In entry-level certification systems (whether it is for ISTQB tester or PRINCE2 designer), one of the most important benefits is the introduction of common terminology. There is nothing better than when everyone in the team clearly knows what is understood by the term test plan or test case.
- Increasing the quality of testing in the organisation
The curricula for sub-models are not created from scratch. Dozens of professionals take part in their production, projecting their know-how and practical experience into them. Then, certified employees can transfer this knowledge to the functioning of your organisation.
- Being allowed to take part in certain selection procedures
Especially in the government sector, we often come across tender documents which directly require that the key functions in the contractor’s team (e.g., head of testing or project manager) be occupied by those who hold the relevant certificate.
- Help in recruitment
Of course, a professional certificate does not automatically guarantee that its holder will be a capable member of the team. However, it does show that its holder dedicated a certain amount of time to the subject and was able to prepare for the exam. This information can also be useful in the recruitment process.
How to get an ISTQB certificate?
- Via your employer
Often, a company provides selected testers with free training by a certified trainer. This applies mainly to senior and more capable testers where, from the point of the company, this investment should “pay off". A senior tester means that he is loyal to the company and there is no worry that he will quit in a short time. It is a prestige for the company that it can present to its customers testers who hold ISTQB certificates.
- At your own costs
There are many ISTQB providers on the web. However, it is important to choose a verified company and compare costs so that you do not unnecessarily pay more.
- Choose companies that offer this certificate as a benefit
Many companies offer testers this certificate as a company benefit.
Our developer’s view
ISTQB is mainly aimed at the knowledge of terminology in the field of testing and software development. An agreement was reached to unify the terminology so that testers worldwide would be able to understand when specific glossary is used (e.g., Smoke tests, Regression tests, Functional tests, Unit tests, Integration tests, etc.). The fact that testers (and also other team members) understand them, makes communication more efficient and saves time, which is a very expensive commodity in today’s trend of agile software development management.
Misunderstandings often result in someone doing something different than what someone else had expected of him, which then needs to be corrected so that the requirements are correctly incorporated. Therefore, the knowledge of correct terminology allows testers to report testing results that are understandable to other team members. For example, when it is said at the morning “stand up-e” meeting that I conducted “Smoke tests”, everyone is aware that these are quick tests that test only basic application functionality, not exhaustive testing of deep functionality using testing approaches throughout the whole spectrum of application functionality.
On the other hand, it is not a guarantee that, just because a tester has an ISTQB certificate, that he will be a benefit to the team. It is an aid, but it itself does not make the tester a good one. Moreover, even among developers, product owners, architects and managers, there are people who do not have a good command of the terminology covered in ISTQB or they confuse the meaning of some terms. In that case, additional communication is needed in order to avoid misunderstandings.