Back to the Future with ISTQB “Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension, Agile Tester”, or About the relevance of the information in Syllabus


Back to the Future with ISTQB “Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension, Agile Tester”, or About the relevance of the information in Syllabus

My name is Marina Minak-Suprunenko, I am QA Team Lead at Temabit Fozzy Group, I have been involved in testing since 2015. With the arrival of global changes in early 2020, I started to actively discover Agile, acquired knowledge both from official sources, communities, training centers, and from practice. 


I have relevant certifications: 

  • ISTQB: Certified Tester – Advanced Level, Test Analyst; Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension, Agile Tester; Certified Tester – Foundation Level; 
  • ScrumAlliance: Certified Scrum Master (CSM); Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO); 
  • Certified Large-scale Scrum Basics (CLB); 


In this article I want to share my experience from compiling the certification “Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension”, as well as consider the relevance of the material presented in Syllabus, which is used as a guide for preparation. 


Before writing this publication, I very carefully reread ISTQB® Code of Ethics for test professionals. Argued, following the principles of lifelong learning: “Certified software testers shall participate in lifelong learning regarding the practice of their profession and shall promote an ethical approach to the practice of the profession”, sharing my experience of taking the certification exam “Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension, Agile Tester”.  

The role of standards, norms, and rules

Probably the most important thing in all standards is keeping them up to date. Outdated standards have limited value, whilst being certified confirms compliance with the necessary regulatory documents.  What if the certification is not up to date? If the knowledge assessment is just for out dated standards?  It therefore makes sense that in this instance, preparing your knowledge for outdated standards could do more harm than good. 

Step by step 

But back to reality. I purchased two attempts to take the exam remotely (Remote Proctor) via ISQI provider (my favorite is because of the regular discounts on exams, the convenience of taking online tests, and even the availability of an electronic draft, which is very helpful when solving test assignments). 

It wasn’t until the first minutes of working with Syllabus that I realized I was back in time. 

Lifehack! In order to pass this exam, you have to go back to 2014. 

“That’s for sure Agile?”, — you might ask. 

On the official website ISTQB you can see that Syllabus is constantly updated and available in new versions and editions, the Glossary is updated, and many areas of professional certifications are added. But for some reason is this particular Syllabus still in revision from 2014

One of the obvious minuses of the preparation stage is the mix of terminology. For example, all the approaches of agile development are united by a common name – Agile-projects. The literature to which Syllabus refers is also outdated, and the references to Syllabus materials are as follows: 

  • ISTQB Advanced Level Test Analyst Syllabus in the version from 2012;  
  • ISTQB Foundation Level Syllabus in the version from 2011. 

They are irrelevant except for the un-updated ISTQB Advanced Level Test Manager Syllabus in the version from 2012. 

I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that Scrum Guide updated in November 2020, in February 2021 there was an updated Official Kanban Guide. Accordingly, a number of practices and basic terminology have changed. 

But in Syllabus a lot of terms and practices are modified and often you just subconsciously know what we are talking about. 

Sections “Agile Software Development” and “Fundamental Agile Testing Principles, Practices, and Processes” require updates to the Scrum framework and approach Kanban.  

Scrum in the version Syllabus VS Scrum guide 

Using Scrum as an example: Syllabus states that Scrum is an agile management system containing the following component tools and practices: Sprint, Product Increment, Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Definition of Done, Timebox, Transparency. It is also noted that Scrum defines three roles – Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team.  

But according to the official Scrum guide: Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations create value through adaptive solutions to complex problems.  

The empirical pillars of Scrum: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Successful use of Scrum depends on people sharing five values: disposition, focus, openness, respect, and courage. A Scrum team consists of one Scrum Master, one Product Owner, and Developers. Regarding Scrum artifacts – each artifact contains an arrangement that provides information to maintain transparency and focus, by which progress is measured: for Product Backlog, the Product Goal; for Sprint Backlog, the Sprint Goal; for Increment, the definition of Readiness Criteria. 

Regarding Sprint – all the work required to achieve the Product Goal, including the events of Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospectives, is done in Sprints. 

Kanban in the version Syllabus VS Kanban guide 

Similar contradictions can be found by reading the latest edition of the Kanban guide. 

According to Syllabus: Kanban is a management approach sometimes used in Agile projects. Its overall purpose is to visualize and optimize the flow of work in the value chain. Kanban uses three tools: the Kanban Board, the Restriction of Incomplete Work, and the Lead Time. 

But from the official source of information on Kanban, namely according to Kanban University: “Kanban should be a management method or approach applied to a valid process or way of working. It is never a question of using Kanban against any methodology or framework. Rather, it is always the addition of Kanban using a valid methodology, framework, or way of working. Kanban is designed to help better manage work and improve delivery service to the place where the customer constantly expects to meet their customer. Kanban practices are visualization, limiting unfinished work, flow management, rule explicitness, implementing continuous feedback, improvement in conjunction with experimental development”.  

Extreme programming 

It is interesting that the basis of the Syllabus included a lot of information exactly on the flexible Extreme programming methodology, the project of which was closed in 2000 due to its obsolescence. Although it is impossible not to note the fact that now a lot of practices exactly on Extreme programming have adopted the now popular approaches of agile software development. And also even among the authors of the famous Agile Manifest, there are still fans of Extreme programming, as evidenced by such book publications as “Clean Agile: Back to Basics” from Robert C. Martin and others. 

For me personally, one of the benefits of this certification can be called an excursion into extreme programming and acquiring/updating my own knowledge. 

Achtung, Achtung, ISTQB! 


Still, I really wanted the ISTQB to pay attention to the problem and update the Syllabus. After all, if we believe the official ISTQB website, the new Syllabus is already in beta 2021 The Advanced Level Agile Test Leadership at Scale.  

But to be allowed to take it, you already need to have the certification “Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension, Agile Tester”, whose official material is still in the 2014 release. 

Interestingly, the Advanced Level Agile Technical Tester certification material is in the 2019 release, but at that time the Foundation Level was already outdated. 

Immediately reviewed this document and realized that 35 pages are not enough to prepare for the Advanced level exam, unlike “Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension certification, Agile Tester”. The number of literary references suggests – where to get additional materials and how to properly prepare for the certification exam “Certified Tester – Advanced Level Agile Technical Tester”.  


I want to note that for successful assembly of fundamental certification in-branch ISTQB Agile Certified Tester – Foundation Level Extension, Agile Tester you need and quite enough from official site ISTQB to download Syllabus and very carefully without internal objections re-read it. With the baggage of practice behind you, with the knowledge of the truths prescribed in the Syllabus and Glossary (although outdated), it is enough to prepare and pass the exam. 

Perhaps the ISTQB will update the 2014 Syllabus in the near future, and I sincerely believe that ISTQB terminology will be consistent with the official sources Scrum, as well as Kanban.