Pradeep Soundararajan got threatened with lawyers when he criticized Testing Experience magazine for being under the thumb of the ISTQB (for those who don’t yet know, the ISTQB are the guys who want to prevent you from getting work as a tester unless you first pass their silly test. They also plagiarized my definition of exploratory testing, while subtly changing that definition to alter part of its fundamental meaning).
The editor of that magazine could have said “Look, we believe in the ISTQB. That’s just how it is.” Instead he hinted that he would sue Pradeep if he blogged his criticism. Pradeep blogged anyway.
A couple of authors of testing textbooks have threatened to sue me, in the past. I don’t know what they think they were accomplishing by that. I just turned around and blogged about them. It’s not illegal to criticize bad work and the people who do it.
The ISTQB is not part of any community of software testers. They are a business that ignores the rest of the testing world while pursuing their own agenda to line their pockets and promote themselves with misleading advertisements. That’s my opinion, which I have reached through a variety of experiences and investigations as part of being in this craft. One of those experiences is the time that the ISTQB approached me to run their American operation. They spent 30 minutes telling me how great it would be to take advantage of the American market for certification, before they realized I thought it was a terrible idea. After that, I guess they decided that I’m not qualified to have an opinion, since they’ve never paid attention to me since.
I once read Rex Black’s own advertising (promoting ISTQB certification) as part of a keynote speech at the CAST conference– his exact words, mind you– and after reading it I explained why I thought it was misleading. Rex then demanded the return of the money he paid to sponsor the conference.
You might think, yeah, well, of course he should get his money back, until you remember that this was a conference dedicated to free investigation of testing ideas, and not a get-out-of-criticism-if-you-pay-a-fee show. CAST is a free speech zone.
I hope that testers will recognize these opportunists for what they are and begin to fight back. I’m glad that Pradeep is doing just that.
ISTQB Certified says
I saw … I fell for it … I got certified … that made my pocket a little lighter and their pockets a little heavier …
For me it was a lesson learnt … For them I guess they want to teach more people the lesson …
If every ISTQB logo that is put on every resume increases the resume file size by 10KB and assuming all of them (us) put it, it adds to 100GB of digital waste produced and add to Internet Pollution by way increased transmission of Suspended Junk Matter.
Joe Grossberg says
Keep fighting the good fight; if their ideas are so good, they shouldn’t be afraid of your criticisms.
I just don’t understand why software testers think they will learn from the certifications. The community itself should kill these.
I just don’t think people learn anything from these tests. I don’t really understand why they even still exist. Someone could argue that management thinks they have meaning, but I am management and I don’t think they have any meaning.
Today’s world of Software Testing has become more and more crowded. I though may not need a Certificate but wanted to go through for something other than ISTQB (not close to IEEE). May I ask you to suggest, which Center of Excellence to approach for a Test Manager’s certification.
I have asked you only because I have been advised by you earlier and got doubts clarified.
Thanks and regards,
Srinath M K
[James’ Reply: You should self-certify, as Pradeep has done. Meanwhile, Pradeep is running a program at Edista that looks interesting.]
Edista has its own Software testing certifications. How does that work?
[James’ Reply: I know nothing about that. There seems to be nothing easily googleable about it, either.
If it is designed to satisfy the Indian market, it’s probably awful.]
Michel Kraaij says
There is no harm in sharing the knowledge of testing through a channeled way. In that way, the ISTQB program isn’t bad. Not bad at all.
[James’ Reply: You call what the ISTQB is peddling KNOWLEDGE? It’s mythology. It’s a cartoonish vision of testing, fit only for children. But no, I would teach children the truth, too.]
Companies want skilled personnel and are willing to pay extra for it. Any wrong in that? I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. If it pays out for them, it just fine by me! They get worth there well spent money. Just like they should. Hoever, the current level of certification isn’t optimal yet. At the moment the only thing companies are paying for is a piece of paper that “someone ones had the knowledge to pass the exam”. Does this prove his/her excellent testing skills and knowing how to practice it? Well, in my opinion, the line on the resume saying you passed an exam doesn’t prove that at all. I’ve seen too many tester wasting the customers money, still saying they are “certified testers”. Lets review their work according to a standard (and that could just as easily be the ISTQB standard). Do they still pass the exam? Is there work still worth certifying? Yes? Well, then, and only then is it worth certifying. Certifying the tester… certifying the product… well, what the heck, maybe even give out guarantees.
Then, how should a company recognise a good tester? The experience on your resume should prove that! The satisfied customers should prove that. For now, ask them!
[James’ Reply: I’m promoting a far deeper idea of testing skill than you seem to be talking about. The first thing I have to do if I work with an ISTQB tester is get them to forget all the nonsense they had to memorize in order to pass the stupid test.
“boundary value analysis,” “equivalence class partitioning,” “expected results,” “test cases”… it’s all useless posturing and rhetoric. None of that touches the heart of testing.
So you might wonder, if it isn’t testing, why do people think that it IS testing? It’s because A) while testers are pursuing those silly ideas, they end up accidentally or incidentally learning and thinking in ways that are useful for testing, although not very efficiently, and B) managers accept the waste and shallowness of ISTQB (Factory School) testing as normal, and C) some testers are secretly pursuing the kinds of testing I promote, without publicizing it to their management.]
Matt Heusser says
hey man, I think boundaries, and equivalence classes, can be the start of a good discussion on testing. It’s just that they take about five minutes to cover. They’d be part of any introduction I’d do to software testing, but I wouldn’t allow them to trivialize the discussion.
[James’ Reply: They don’t take five minutes to cover well, they would take months, because they are embedded in a much deeper ontology and skillset of testing.]
I would be a lot more likely to take the test, for fun, if I would not be counted among the “100,000 testers can’t be wrong” rhetoric.
[James’ Reply: Every one of the 100,000 testers who were bamboozled or coerced into taking the test is wrong. And every one who took it thinking it means something important about testing skill is wrong. It’s a measure, if anything, of just how weak and/or simple-minded those practitioners are.
Of course the “X number of people can’t be wrong” tactic completely undermines the credibility that the program might otherwise have. It is the exact opposite of a scientific or engineering argument.
With every tester who joins the program without first critically analyzing it (and many testers seem not to have the professional commitment or ability to do that analysis) the program becomes that much more of a farce. Hey, they have Lois Koslowski, a woman with absolutely no credibility in the field, selling certification. She smiles as she brags about how ISTQB is so dominating that they don’t need to make a cogent case for certification any more. She must have placed her ethics in a blind trust when she took that job.]
I mean, what if they /were/ wrong? How many of them are in the position of your initial commenter, and honestly wish they could un-do their taking of the test? One thing I would be interested in the ISTQB offering would be a “please stop listing me in your millions of hamburgers served” button, where you fill in your name/email and your number is removed from the database.
[James’ Reply: Don’t touch them. Their taint will leave a glowing mark of sepsis on you.]
Matt Heusser says
and no, not boundaries as they are often explained in textbooks.
Darren Ryan says
I was certified in the old ISEB foundation exam. I was skeptical at first but a friend was going to the UK and had to have it. We both couldnt afford to sit a course so we self studied. Crazy thing happened we learned something about the field we thought we were experts in.
I agree that the ISTQB are money makers but ISEB was created from the British Computer Society. I feel there is more credibility to the content then you are giving.
For the record I promote my team to learn the course content. I am not interested in the certificates that come with passing a multiple choice exam. But I do believe there is benefit in learning the content. It does not make you a tester but it shows a commitment to learning more about your trade.
[James’ Reply: Whatever that content is, it does not belong to ISEB. It did not originate with ISEB. And no one needs or ever needed the ISEB program to learn it.
But, based on statements by some ISEB instructors and officials and a review of the ISEB syllabus, I think it’s terrible stuff. Worse, it was created by a committee of people who valued compromise over clarity and depth. People who had the arrogance, consciously or unconsciously, to claim to represent the whole craft of testing with their single community view of it.
If you take my testing class, you get my personal opinions about testing. I don’t disguise them or pretend they are anything more than my own opinions. Instead of taking that honest and open approach, ISEB and the other certification universalist organizations dresses up their gang’s static views of testing (often based on decades old ideas, rather than current industry thinking) in fancy dress and surround it with pomp and ceremony– as if they have subjected their syllabus to some sort of special quality assurance process not known to the rest of us.
In the words of Chef Ramsay, it’s all bollocks.]
Rolf Barbakken says
I’ve always considered certifications in any profession as a nice way to prove you know something about something and have done something to achieve it.
The real proof is your work, so in the work of selling myself as a consultant, it’s far more important for me to have references from previous work. I have been project manager, but I do not have a PMP certification, for instance. My previous work sells my project manager abilities.
I have certifications on two levels of ISTQB and do not regret taking them. The most important part of the certification, though, was the courses. The course leaders’ experience (and communicate that experience) and ability to inspire the participants is far more important than the end certification, in my opinion, so I suggest to others in our company that are interested in learning about testing to take a course run by people I know have something valuable to teach you about testing and not just a certification. A certification exam is a good way to verify that you have learned something during the course, though.
Also, foundation-courses can give someone new to testing a good basis to build on for their new position as a full-time tester.
In our company’s group for test managers, we encourage everyone to think for themselves what needs to be done in a test management scenario. There is no single syllabus, book, article, seminar and so on that can teach you a template for running tests. All projects are different.
James Bach will never be able to teach anyone everything about testing. Neither can a course that leads to ISTQB certification. But it’s a good start, and both courses and certification syllabi can help you structure your thinking on the subject.
[James’ Reply: I don’t think it’s a good start. I think it has set you back. Among my colleagues and the people who resonate with my work, your casual acceptance of the ISTQB is a strong indicator of having a shallow and confused notion of testing.
I’m not saying this because I want to insult you. I just want to demonstrate that the certification you think is a good start will actually, in the minds of some people, brand you as a poser.
To me, getting ISTQB certified is *exactly* like buying a university degree online. For any of you who have been forced to get certified in order to get work in this field, I sympathize, but at LEAST don’t take your “certificate” SERIOUSLY!]
The post is clearly made his point like many other arguments against certifications, and this times but I wonder what happened to the actual fightback that you and Kaner started few years ago with the open certification initiative?
[James’ Reply: We investigated open certification and discovered that it can’t meet our standards. That’s the difference between my community and some of the others. It’s more important for us to do quality work than it is to “get something done” even if it’s crap.
There is already another kind of certification available to anyone who wants to work for it: personal reputation. Pradeep is in the process of earning that. So are many folks in my world. Jeff Fry, Ben Simo, Michael Bolton, Mike Kelly… They are known and respected.]
I am aware that if the open community will start to hit the ITCB in his pockets by offering a free alternative, thing could get even more ugly , but meanwhile in this war, you allready lost Europe, and other GEO’s like Israel and east europe seems to go it that direction too ahve Cem and the other speakers of the certification-free world got cold feets?
[James’ Reply: I don’t see it as “we lost.” If the whole world decided that pi equals 3, then things would break down and eventually the whole world would wake up. I think I’m speaking about reason and reality. Eventually, a critical mass of people will wake up and call bullshit. When that happens the certificationists will try to shift the story (you’re already seeing it) by creating new “levels” of certificates. They will claim that the higher levels are the real certification, and they will try to fool the world into giving them more money.
Fundamentally, just as the medical world had to drive out charlatans to make significant progress, we will also have to drive them out of our craft. But I don’t want to see that done with regulation. Rather, I’d rather see it done with ridicule.]
Following the previous comment… two incidents:
Side A: It is true that certification is still gaining ground quickly… In a recent Israeli conference I attended it was announced that the army decided to have all it’s software testers ISTQB certified (I don’t know if it really happened).
Side B: This week I received a LinkedIn alert about a forum activity. One of the posts was titled “What really makes a real real software tester? How software tester becomes professional?” (sic)
Being LinkedIn what it is, I was expecting a storm of acronyms and certification names to follow the question — but was surprised: The first two answers were certification related, and the next 20 answers bashed certifications as harmful, useless or at least not that important.
One anecdote on LinkedIn doesn’t testify for the whole testing world, of course. But it is nice to see people reacting.
Certifications are very easy to sell to perplex managers. I guess it will take individual testers to change the market and make the managers see the truth.
James, the list of self-certified testers include only publishing testers: they blog, teach and are ‘celebrities’. My belief is that non-publishing testers can self-certify too, I’m sure (or, I hope) you’ve met testers like this, and it is a point worth to be made.
[James’ Reply: First of all, anyone can publish. You can blog or Tweet instantly.
But even if you don’t do any of that, you can self-certify by working on a portfolio of your work. Be ready to demonstrate examples of what you can do.
My brother got his first job as a tester by doing testing exercises with me and talking about them with the people he interviewed for.]
I think you are right about ISTQB. A few months back when went for an interview, that Consultant insisted on taking ISTQB cetification. Also, he emphasized that if I come to him in 2 weeks with ISTQB certification he’ll make sure that I get a job in that company.
Strange but after all this non sense he told me that I’ll have to pay him 5000 Rs so that he’ll send my resume across all the companies in his (s0 called) database. I thought he’ll stop here but no the night mare was not over….. he continued saying that after I get job I’ll have to pay him 1 month’s salary as well.
When I told him that to get a job in an organzation my skills & my knowledge are important than these certifcations. On this he said that if thats the case no will hire you.
Thankfully I didn’t paid heed to any of his rubbish & today Im working for of the best companies in India.
[James’ Reply: Good job, Roshni.]
Jitendra Kapoor says
I have a diverse combined experience (of 14-15 years) as in software development, computer hardware, and then of course in software testing. Other than this I also have exposure to various domains which somehow compensate software testing. All this has supported me a lot in my current endeavours and approach in testing and has deepened my vision, I think it has also helpmed me understand testing to the aspect where I can relate very well with Pradeep Soundararajan, when based on his experience, he can ‘see, judge’ and write about Testing Experience magazine and ISTQB. I specially agree to your views James about ISTQB’s chronicles.
Moreover, this has been the reason I have not attempted ever to give a ‘skill-enhancing’ online ISTQB examination to get ‘ISTQB certified”. I guess I have right understanding and have likeminded colleagues here.
First of all it is a business, nothing else to do with this. Just a manufacturing a product and promoting thru people and getting more publicity.
every computer diploma or graduate learnt all these content from their course curriculum. There is nothing new in this so called certifications.
They really got good business using this software testing certifications. Nobody give a looking at certificate, learning, implementing, and getting experience yields result. There are lot of other things associated with testing. But Institute and businessmen hypes and getting money.
I think every one knows recent slow down, ads displaying in news papers saying that irrespective slow down waiting 2 lac job for certified testers. where all these jobs? clue less.. weird..
Hi..this is the first time I came to your website….while googling about testing.After reading all these comments about ISTQB, I can’t help but ask your views about other certifications like SCJP and other such certifications offered by ORACLE, Microsoft and other big companies. Are these also worthless ? Infact, the points made about ISTQB and other testing certifications can be made about the courses that we take at undergraduate level in colleges which ultimately don’t serve any purpose after you get the job and are not able to apply that knowledge. Or is there something fundamentally wrong with ISTQB in particular ?
[James’ Reply: My generic arguments also apply to certain other certifications, outside of the testing field. But the ones you mention I don’t know anything about.]
I am an EnC Engineer and working as a tester for past one and a half years. I got the tester job because of lack of experience in Computer Science. I did very well in manual testing till the job involved just running the application and finding bugs.
But what after that? How do I progress from here?
Whichever field we take, it has some formal training and certification. Our law, medical and engineering degrees are nothing but certifications.
[James’ Reply: They are not necessarily good certifications, either. Anyway, I have had no significant formal schooling since the age of 16. Even before that I was fighting it. I think I didn’t actually learn anything in a classroom environment since the age of 14.
You don’t need formal schooling to be a great tester. But you do need a lot of learning and study.]
Do we have anything in the field of software testing which can give confidence to our employer about our testing ability – any qualification or industry standard ?
[James’ Reply: We don’t have much, but who cares? Employers need to be able to tell if a tester is qualified. They can do that without certifications. I’ve hired many testers. I don’t believe I ever hired a tester with a certification.]
I am not saying that ISTQB or any other organization is doing a very good job by offering these certifications. Its just that there is some void in our field which they appear to fill.
[James’ Reply: There may be a void. But they don’t fill it. Or else, you could say, they fill it with lies.]
I hope you understand my point. Do you know any alternative to these certifications that we can go for at present to be called as “professional testers”?
[James’ Reply: The obvious alternative is to study your craft, create a portfolio, create a reputation, and impress people by demonstrating what you can do.]
And if you had to design a certification or a course for testing, what would it like be ?
[James’ Reply: I have designed classes. I teach my Rapid Testing class. See also the BBST class, offered through the Association for Software Testing]
Thanks for the reply James.
I think I get your point.
You mean we need to study software testing thoroughly to be a good tester. Like go through as many software testing books as one can find. Read blogs, attend seminars, and above all, apply those things to our real testing.
We don’t need anyone to get ourselves ‘labelled’ as a ‘certified tester’.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
[James’ Reply: You don’t need that label, unless you want a better chance of getting a fake testing job from someone who’s a fake test manager.]
Also, if you could give one single suggestion or advice from your experience – something that you think would help greatly to be successful as a tester – to someone like me who has just entered this field – what would that be ?
[James’ Reply: Read Introduction to General Systems Thinking, by Weinberg. Then read everything else by Weinberg.]
I personally should not give a rats arse about wether someone has ISTQB certification or not, other than to wonder why they would waste their money on a load of rubbish that was old news 30 years ago. However with the aid of testing service organisations selling cheap labour, ISTQB has infected the market to the extent that the question is asked as to wether you have certification. It came to a head with me when I had a chat with a would be hirer who asked me about qualifications and experience: 35 years in testing, wrote methodology for IBM, Every role in Testing from tester to head of QA, projects from 10k to 750mil, every major bank, hardly anyone in Australia has not used something I have been involved with, CEO and CIO award winner, best conference paper etc…. The question still came back “but do you have ISTQB certification”. So in frustration, without study I did the stupid, pointless and some what erroneous exam and am now a certified IDIOT for wasting my money.
[James’ Reply: Why are they asking you but they never ask me? I have literally never been asked the question “do you have an ISTQB certification?” that I can remember. If I were to be asked that question I would answer “Of course not. I’m a well-known critic of that scam! I’m a serious professional tester, not a con artist.” The only way I would get an ISTQB certification is if it were as part of a court case where I had to study the process in order to sue them.]
I watched https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILkT_HV9DVU
and I was fabulously impressed with your opinion of ISTQB of which I now have 2 because government departments in New Zealand decided it sorted the wool from the chaff (deliberate mixed metaphor and as you have been to NZ you will know why..)
To pass the tests I had to learn a whole lot of new words and descriptions and be able to repeat them back and find them in a multi-choice list. I did learn 1 interesting thing I can’t remember what it was now and I can’t recall using it for anything.
What I did find more career affirming was Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in which he talks about all the years of training and practice creating a body of knowledge that allows you to do stuff. I love testing I can stand on my soapbox and talk about it all day.
Muy interesante y revelador para las personas que iniciamos en el testing y que poco o nada sabemos sobre certificaciones y que, nos dejamos influenciar por el marketing.
A todo esto quisiera saber, si existe alguna manera de poder ‘Graduarte’ en Testing de software. Los que si conocemos sobre la movida dentro de las pruebas queremos tener algo considerado como un ‘Titulo’ o una certificación. Ya que, muchas veces las empresas piden adicional a los años de experiencia algo que avale tus conocimientos. (Prefiero no entrar en detalles sobre si un tester sabe sobre testing o no, en mi caso si lo se y tengo experiencia laboral. Pero como todo, se necesita un comprobante academico)
Espero que me puedan orientar o aconsejar. Muchas gracias!!
[James’ Reply: Wow, you think I speak Spanish. I’m flattered. Sadly, I don’t understand your question. I ran your comment through Google Translate and I still don’t really understand it.]
lavina faria says
ISTQB is just a theory in software testing. And I feel learning theory is important so that you can understand practicals. It’s similar to what we study in school..you first learn the definition and then work on practical
[James’ Reply: The ISTQB does not present itself as “just a theory” but rather as the one and only one representative of “best practices” in the testing industry. It is perpetrating a scam on you. Stop taking it seriously.]