This content is part of the Essential Guide: Get ahead of the game: How to be a more technical tester

How can you ace ISTQB exam preparation? Organize the studying

It's a big test, but if you break it down into smaller bits -- and study with a group -- it's much easier. Expert Amy Reichert explains prepping for the ASTQB/ISTQB exam.

It's time to get certified. You've read over the ASTQB/ISTQB exam preparation guides, and a few of the suggested books (see part one in this series). Now what? Now, you have to organize your thoughts into study sessions.

Study sessions can be individual or used in a study group, depending on how best you retain information. I divided mine into the main subject areas described by the study guide. My ISTQB exam preparation was a mix of group discussion meetings and individual study.

From the ASTQB website, select the certification exam you're interested in. In my example, I'm pulling from the ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst. Download the syllabus document. This is, essentially, an outline of what's covered in the certification exam. From the syllabus, break out your study sessions in groups similar to:

I believe in the value of studying with others taking the exam.
  • Testing process
  • Test management test techniques
  • Testing types (quality characteristics)
  • Defect management
  • Test tools

You'll notice some of the groups may be simplistic based on your experience and background. However, make sure you read the syllabus carefully in all sections so you pick up how the certification body defines actions, types or methods. The test assumes you agree with the syllabus, so keep that in mind.

Now, you'll notice there are some sections of each of your study sessions that cover a great deal of information. I'd suggest breaking those down into smaller pieces so you can better track your study coverage and create more concise ISTQB exam preparation notes. For example:

  • Testing process
    • Test planning
    • Test design
    • Test implementation and execution
    • Test close
  • Test management
  • Test techniques
    • Specification-based
    • Defect-based
    • Experience-based
  • Testing types
  • Defect management
  • Test tools

Now, I have my outline. Next, I start going through each syllabus section and taking notes from the books I've selected to study. I divide my notes by date (or session) and create notes to serve as cheat sheets for last-minute study purposes or a quick review before taking the exam. The notes provide a handy reference sheet for use beyond the exam, like when you're interviewing for a new QA position or you need ideas for testing strategies or techniques.

I believe in the value of studying with others taking the exam. Schedule monthly or biweekly discussion meetings to review a section of information. Sometimes a discussion group, with active participants, gives you a broader understanding of the subject. You may also be able to get a deeper understanding of items that are confusing to you or difficult because you've not experienced them yet in your workplace.

Once you've reviewed and studied all the syllabus sections and created your notes, you've completed ISTQB exam preparation and you're ready to schedule your exam!

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