ISTQB - That´s it! No more certification exams, as they prove nothing

Hi there,

I am still a little upset, but I wanted to share my thoughts about ISTQB certification:
Last week I finished a really well taught Foundation Level Course in Germany. I learned quite a lot, especially around standards and terminology.But that´s it.
We finished the course with the certfication exam (I do not yet know the results) and to be honest: I cannot be bothered with the result.

What are my problems with ISTQB:

  • The Syllabus still trained is from 2011 - a lot has changed
  • The new Syllabus from 2018 will only be valid until next year - by which time a few things will have changed again - the ISTQB has to find a way to keep up the pace with modern developments. Politics have no room in teaching - unfortunately this seems to be the case.
  • The current certification does not require you to apply your knowledge - it´s just a way to get through Multiple Choice (with the addition to the fact, that questions are just asked in a way to get you off course) and earn money for the certification board.
  • If you already worked in a testing or QA - get used to the fact, that the trainer will quite often answer your questions with: That´s how the ISTQB defined it, just learn it for the exam and then forget it. Real Live is different. - This is ridiculous!!!

To be clear:
I most certainly believe, that the training as such helps you to get to know industry standards and helps you to understand a glossary (of sorts). It also provides insights into areas that usually are affected by areas of testing that you will not come across in your daily work.

Just had to get this off my chest and perhaps someone has ideas how to learn in the future (I am already a pro member at MoT ;-))

Have a great week



I find your experience is very typical and feel the frustration. Having completed it myself I’d never recommend it as a productive use of time / money and have worked with colleagues who actively boycott it.

One thing that frustrated me heavily is that ISTQB rarely provides any detail to back up its content. There are large sections of the technical tester course that simply say ‘this is very important, you should research it’.

Where there is a desire to aim towards development and training it will often stand out but I’ve found identifying a specific skill or technology, then orienting training around this has been more productive for my current team.

As more and more people seem to be becoming aware of ISTQBs limitations it may be it will have to change soon. I would be genuinely interested to hear from someone who found it worthwhile though, I’ve been doing this testing thing for a while and never found one.

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It is my belief (and I’m not alone in this) that certification programs are exactly what their name suggests. A way to give out certifications in exchange for money. It’s not a testing-training program that leads to excellence it’s a certification-training program that leads to a certification. If that certification holds respect from employers then it continues to make money no matter how effective the course may be.

There are no testing industry standards, really. People use their own words and work in various environments. It’s like the French’s relationship with linguisitc prescription - trying to define correct use of language doesn’t work in that dogmatic, axiomatic way. Words aren’t like that. Yes, language has strong affordances, and yes we should use language carefully and talk about how best to use it in an effective and morally positive way, but if someone claims to have the keys to the “official” dictionary then they haven’t understood how dictionaries work.

Now you have the piece of paper you never have to worry about it again.



I strongly believe, even though I think a common body to define certain things is needed, approaches like those of MoT or Google for training and certification, need to be extended in the future.

Training has to be based on current topics and not lack six years behind.

Yes, it’s also worth bearing in mind that many of these certification type things were started many years ago and they have not adapted as the years have gone on. (imho).

The world has moved on so fast and there is so much out there, and so hard to keep up. This is why MoT believes in the approach of working with the community to bring out what is relevant to software testing world.

We still have a long way to go and we’ll probably never be done, but we will keep striving to do the best to help people learn about testing.


I do not have ISTQB certification myself and I am not planning on getting one. As @asoc mentioned, there’s definitely better ways to use your time and learn something new besides this :sweat_smile:

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My point is twofold:

  1. I do not see any benefit in the certification anymore - just a way to make money, but
  2. I learned a lot in regards to overview and terminology.

As long as there are no widely “accepted” alternatives, ISTQB offers a way into the testing jungle and provides a possible source for a glossary. IMHO

Good portions of standardized learning will be a waste of time for any particular person: It’s a standardized path, therefore, it has limitations in how much context (experiences, goals, etc) they can considered.

Some of them are better than others to encompass context.

E.g., I have studied for PMI’s ACP certification. Are many things there basically classroom fables? Yes. Are many things there oversimplifications? Yes. Was it a complete waste of time? No: I was exposed to the iceberg tip of many interesting topics; if I felt that I end up in a real-life situation that it’s similar to the book, I could go there for some initial guidance, instead of having to fight the lion without a clue.

My understanding is that ISTQB Foundation never claimed to be able to prepare a professional and it got much bad rap because companies put it in their job requirements. It’s unfortunate, but IT HR is full of oversimplifications as well, part due HR people and (good) part due IT people - Bob Martin always opens his talk speaking of how we could do better in explaining (and practicing) excellence: You don’t need to be a doctor to at least shallowly understand what makes good medical practice.

I did my ISTQB Foundation nearly two years ago and it was the only way to get into the testing industry around where I lived.

It is literally just a one-line comment on my CV/LinkedIn that I thought no one would ask for.

I was lucky that my employer paid for it, because it certainly isn’t worth the money yourself. However, it can be a good way to get your foot in the door.

I know a lot of people say experience says more about you, and I agree with that, but when you don’t have any experience the ISTQB can be very useful.


In a previous thread on this topic, someone (and I apologise if the OP has already contributed to this thread) said that they put the phrase “I do not have the ISTQB and I am happy to discuss why this is so” in their CV, knowing that HR departments searching CVs for certain terms will accept that CV instead of rejecting it! Were I unfortunate enough to need to put my CV out there again, I would certainly adopt this ruse so I could talk to prospective employers about my nearly 25 years’ testing experience and why both I and my current employer agree that there is no point in my seeking ISTQB certification.


LIttle bit of devils advocate here, just because the conversation is definitely slanted one way at present.

ISTQB Foundations is exactly what it claims to be… a foundation course. It gives some general tools that are useful in some cases, and checks basic understanding of testing principles within a generalised SDLC. It’s meant for those who are two years into their journey essentially as a knowledge check.

When you do the advanced courses is when you get that more educational approach.

That said… I think their courses are showing their age.

I did ‘Certified Agile Tester’ about five years ago, and learnt a lot more in that. I still find it useful.


I took the foundation exam a few years back for one reason and one reason only - I was trying to get another job at that point and most adverts I’d seen had ISTQB foundation as an essential. I didn’t really learn much from working through the standard BCS textbook beyond finding out what other people called techniques I’d been using for years. I’ve looked at the CAT extension, but not gone further as I asked myself “what does this teach me that I haven’t experienced working in a truly mature agile/devops team?”. If certification gets you into a good role, in a genuinely (as opposed to a cargo-cult) agile team then what you’ll learn doing it for real will make it worthwhile, but if not, then you do have to ask what was the point? Unfortunately, while recuitment is left in the hands of HR departments and agencies who in my experience are largely staffed by humanities graduates lacking any “hard” skills who are just there as a temporary means of bringing in a wage, then CV sifting gets done by keywords and buzzwords without any recognition of what might indicate a good tester.


I did a certification through IIST. They are classroom based education and they do keep it current and relevant. My former company put us all through it. They have a curriculum based on which cert you want. I did the cert in 2009 and I still use techniques I learned there. Some things never change in testing, the core of thinking like a tester and being passionate about quality. IIST cert is good for 3 years I think, then you have to completely re-cert with is a lot of time and money. So if I do it again, I will do a different certification. One of the best things about the IIST training is it is for experienced people working in the QA field. Part of the learning was interacting with peers and sharing ideas in class. As for ISTQB, I can’t tell you the number of people who hold this certification with barely 1 year of experience under their belt and they think they know it all. Testing is a creative process and somethings “the book” just doesn’t work in every situation.


Hm, I took my ISTQB FL exam, but without a 2-3 day ~1490€ course - I prepared myself; I study syllabus, I followed a 11,99€ Udemy course (it was on sale), read two books about the subject and of course used the web, as there are many free resources. I was unemployed at that time, and having +3 years of experience meant nothing in the eyes of recruiters without that stupid exam. I learned a lot of theory that is unnecessary in my day-to-day work so far. :roll_eyes:


Definitely agree with the above quote. Theory takes you so far, it gives tools in your tester toolbox. Creativity and analytical thinking determine which tool(s) to use based on the specific situation.

I have not yet seen one, but some kind of cookbook in testing could be helpful in bridging the gap between the theoretical and practical side of testing. They exist in development. Maybe the closest we get to them is the very good MOT test clinics and the more practical tester courses - I hear rave reviews from folks who have done the BBST course.

Hi Bjoern,
I hear ya. Silly stuff that ISTQB. Everyone else has already said the relevant important points about that so no need to kick a dead horse.
I just finished last year doing the full curriculum ( 1 course each year) from the Association for Software Testing (BBST). Each course is a month long on average, You must apply knowledge.You evaluate peers and they evaluate your work. If you put time and effort into it, you can get something out of it. It helps on the road to thinking testing and applying this knowledge to some extent. I enjoyed it even though I have been testing for many years and knew most of the reference material. The approach is no longer novel but seemingly effective. Also, even though some of the material is old (examples etc.) it is certainly useful as a basis since the why of testing still has not changed that much. you get out of it what you put in it.

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for me, it was a similar case to the CCNA I did: Its something that gives you a paper saying “I did this” but nothing really meaningful in the practice. For the ISTQB exam I prepared myself reading the Syllabus and that’s it. Got approved (results given right after finishing the exam).

One thing I disagree, is that while it is true that things change pretty often for us, it’s mostly the tools and technologies the ones that do that. Patterns and design principles remain pretty much the same, and that’s what the focus is really.

Maybe I’m a little jaded as well, but today’s certifications are nothing but a money making ploy! I received the CSTE (Certified Software Test Engineer through QAI) certification when it first came out around 2000. At that time, I had to answer a set of distinctive questions regarding my experience with specific aspects of testing, provide job history to prove how long I have been in testing (to get the certification you had to have been in a testing position for at least two years), and provide references from at least two of my current/former managers citing the work I did and length of time I did it. There was a $100 or $200 application fee that my employer paid for and that is it.
Of course, shortly thereafter, QAI jumped on the bandwagon of needing a specific number of CEUs to remain certified (these were obtained through training courses provided by QAI and others) or you needed to take a test to be recertified. “BIG BUCKS, NO WHAMMIES!”

It is sad to see that the purpose that I see for certification has been lost. In my opinion certification validates a level of knowledge and brings a sense of acknowledgement across an industry. When I meet ASTQB CTFL testers I know that we share a common understanding of terminology that has been provided by the ISTQB testing experts. I am interested in understanding if those that prepare to sit for the ASTQB exams using the provided syllabi and sample exams find them useful and test knowledge of testing, not just what is espoused as only needed for certification. I will still value certification as an acknowledgement of a certain level of knowledge and really hope it has not become only a money making machine. We, as testers need to share our knowledge within the industry, and maybe that can be done through the right kind of certification.

I completely agree, I feel that these courses are done in the wrong way. Rename it a ‘Introduction to software testing’ course and not certify it and yes - it is great for a beginner or someone who is interested in testing vocabulary.

For certification there should be generic tests that cover the basics of actually doing testing and should teach people to test. I did not hear once the first thing any tester who is given a set of requirements to test (Waterfall) should first review those requirements for potential issues.
In future I hope to see some basic tests with training around them that are like this -
Verify the following application works, here is a set of requirements and a URL.
a) Identify any issues with the requirements.
b) Write your test cases.
c) Test the website.
d) Write bug reports and submit.
Have it reviewed by a peer who has obtained a higher level of certification. Did you find all the bugs? Did you apply all the correct types of testing? Etc.
Rate it and done.

That’s a very basic concept and does not cover the billion other aspects of testing like the ability to deal with a range of people with a large spectrum of technical knowledge. However, I would have found something as simple as that more important than the course I received.
Ultimately all I got was a course on testing terms and a test that tried to twist words to make you choose the wrong answer. There was nothing in the test that showed I could test only that I could use their defined words and avoid being tricked.
Sorry ISTQB I still call bugs - bugs! Not defects :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: