Why is it that testing has an "image" problem anyway? We think that there has been a general perception in our industry that it takes skill to be a developer and to manage a project, but anyone can test.

If a company wants to employ a developer, they look for someone with relevant qualifications and experience. If they want a project manager, they might look for someone who has a certificate in the subject. If they want some testing done, more or less anyone will do.

The new Tester's Qualification Scheme aims to change this. This scheme will be administered by the Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB) of the British Computer Society (BCS).

The ISEB already offers qualifications in project management (there, we told you so), IT service management, data protection, security, and development methods such as Systems Analysis and Design, SSADM, DSDM, telecommunications and business management skills.

The software testing scheme has been "brewing" for a few years, but progress was rather sporadic until early this year when a board was formed, which has met regularly since. The board members include industry representatives, training providers, consultants, and academic representatives.

One of the first things the board did was to decide on the objectives of the tester qualifications. These are:

  • to gain recognition for testing as an essential and professional software engineering specialisation by industry;
  • through the BCS Professional Development Scheme and the Industry Structure Model, provide a standard framework for the development of testers' careers;
  • to enable professionally qualified testers to be recognised by employers, customers and peers, and raise the profile of testers;
  • to promote consistent and good testing practice within all software engineering disciplines;
  • to identify testing topics that are relevant and of value to industry;
  • to enable software suppliers to hire certified testers and thereby gain commercial advantage over their competitors by advertising their tester recruitment policy;
  • to provide an opportunity for testers or those with an interest in testing to acquire an industry recognised qualification in the subject.

It is envisaged that there will be three levels of qualification for testers.

Foundation Certificate: intended as an entry level qualification to anyone with an interest in testing.

Practitioner Certificate: a qualification appropriate for testing practitioners with some experience.

Diploma Certificate: An advanced (possibly specialist) level qualification suitable for senior testing practitioners or test managers with significant experience.

The Foundation Certificate is currently the most well-defined (actually the other two are not defined at all yet). The Foundation Certificate will be awarded to those who pass a one-hour 40-question multiple-choice exam (then you will be certified). A syllabus has been drawn up which forms the basis for the exam and also for a three-day course intended to prepare people for the exam.

The exam can be taken without attending any course; the ISEB will offer dates when applicants can sit the testing exam (for a fee of £100). The exam will also form part of the training courses, provided that the training provider has been accredited by the ISEB. Training courses can be given in-house, and organisations wishing to provide their own internal courses can also apply for accreditation from the ISEB.

So if you gain one of these qualifications, what will it mean to you? You will be able to prove that you know something about testing. You will have shown an understanding of testing issues. This should make you a more attractive proposition to your employer (current and future) (though we can't promise that it will improve your sex appeal). It will also demonstrate that your employer takes testing seriously.

Grove Consultants offers courses which will include the exam (either in-house or public). Public courses are scheduled for October and December 1998; more will be offered next year. Call Roger Graham on 01625 616279 for availability; our website details: www.grove.co.uk.

Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster, Grove Consultants, October 1998