The ISEB Scheme So Far - A Personal View

As I am a member of the ISEB Testing Certificate board I should immediately say that these comments, observations etc. Should not be considered the views of that august body.

The ISEB Testing Certificate Scheme, at the Foundation level, has been in operation for a couple of years now. Over two thousand testers, developers, managers and a significant number of users (often roped into testing) have taken and passed the Foundation exam and presumably display their certificate on their office wall.

Like many others, I don’t have a wall I can call my own, so it takes pride of place on the wall of my study at home. As 2000 draws to a close, I'm looking back at my personal experience as an exam candidate, an accredited trainer and as one of those responsible for the syllabus (but not in that order!).

When was the last time you sat a formal exam? When I took the Foundation paper, I had not sat an exam for 19 years. Although I was confident of passing, like everyone else, I had pre-exam nerves.

I guess these are not to be feared if they are under control, but it was clear from the comments of the other victims, that most folk enjoyed their hour of pressureonce it was over.

After the exam, there's a frustrating time to wait for the result and when it comes, there’s a nervous moment as you open the envelope. If you've passed then the strain of a three-day intensive course and exam seem worthwhile after all.

I've presented our own course many times now, in public and on client sites. There are now few surprises in the questions, complaints and occasional praise I receive. What are other people’s reactions to the scheme?

The most common comment relates to the sheer quantity of material to be assimilated in (usually) less than three days. I know what they mean. During the course, I speak around 20,000 words per day. Trust me - we taped and later transcribed a course I gave last year to build into our TBT version.

The range of topics is extremely broad. To cover all of the foundation topics thoroughly would probably take three or four weeks worth of courses. For candidates having little experience, haven't read a book on testing, or who left college many years ago, it's a real challenge to take it all in.

Is it just too much? In my opinion, the quantity of material to be covered isn't necessarily a problem. But the large range of topics covered means that inevitably, some are less useful than others.

Few ISEB candidates are developers, so the white box test sections often cause grief to non-technical students (and the trainer). However, there is a strong argument for including such topics. If we teach what developers should do, testers can argue the case for better upstream testing practices when they return to work.

Is the training useful? With few exceptions, people who take the course come away with many, many ideas they can use on their return to the real world. I have received emails months after a course telling me of lessons being applied.

Typical success stories are ". My boss finally understands what I am trying to do as a tester", "I’m now confident that our testing is thorough", ". The developers show us more respect and we get on better". For testers with all ranges of experience, it seems to be useful.

Is the qualification worthwhile? I think so. As an employer of testers, I'm confident that if a job applicant has the qualification they will be able to at least understand what I'm talking about. They should know how to be productive in any testing project and be able to argue a good case for doing testing to their peers.

An independent consultant friend of mine told me that having the qualification actually got her an assignment recently. Someone willing to use his or her own money to fund their training and qualification is worth taking seriously, don't you think? Yes, it's worthwhile.

Is the scheme successful? Well, it will be when it's finished. We all hope the Practitioner scheme gets going soon. In the meantime, there are strong signs that the scheme is penetrating other countries as diverse as Ireland, Holland, Scandinavia, Australia with others on the way. It's going the right way.

Paul Gerrard, Systeme Evolutif