The Debate over Software Testing Certification Heats Up | TechWell

The Debate over Software Testing Certification Heats Up

The debate over software testing certification is heating up once again. There are many who seem to believe that attending a three- to five-day course followed by a forty-question multiple-choice examination is a good measure of software testing ability; and there are many who don’t. This debate has gone from bubbling on the surface to truly boiling over in the last few weeks.

As I understand it, the debate started up on Twitter predominately between Keith Klain, head of the Global Test Center at Barclays, and Rex Black, a recognized software testing consultant, concerning the validity of certification exam results. However, due to Twitter's “interesting” conversational view, it has been quite difficult to follow.

Then came an open letter to the International Software Testing Qualification Board (ISTQB) from Keith Klain with questions directed to the ISTQB concerning the validity of ISTQB examination results. The main driver for this letter appears to be the preceding debate that took place on Twitter, and the questions asked are those that Rex Black did not provide answers for during the conversation. Some of the questions directed to the ISTQB include:

1. Have there ever been issues with the ISTQB Foundation exam reliability coefficient reviewed by your exam consultants Kryterion?

2. Have the reliability coefficients consistently shown, since the inception of the ISTQB’s certification program, that results on the certification exams accurately measure the testers’ knowledge of the syllabi?

3. Have there ever been any other issues with the validity of the exams?

The letter was also accompanied by a petition, which anyone interested in having the ISTQB answer the questions can sign. At the time of this writing, there were 243 signatures on the petition.

After the letter was posted along with the petition, more debate took place on Twitter. Keith asked the opinion of one of the founding members of the context-driven testing school, Dr. Cem Kaner. Cem's response was perhaps a touch unexpected, ending with a very clear statement:

So. Keith. No, Keith. Absolutely not, Keith. I will not sign that petition. I encourage you to withdraw it.

The debate raged on with Keith's call to action:

Had enough? Well, then let’s do something! Sign the petition or write a letter to the ASTQB and ISTQB to get some answers, and let’s take back the value proposition of software testing. 

Then Keith wrote a response to Cem's response:

It can be especially disheartening when you see people who were once lions in our industry and leaders in tester education, twisted into caricatures of themselves by their new bedfellows. But as testers, we keep asking questions until we are satisfied...

I think no matter where you stand on this debate, it is important to get involved and let your voice be heard. I agree that certification bodies need to be held accountable to their claims, and they need to prove that the certifications they offer do actually provide the value they market. I understand that the actual certification board may not be the ones pushing the questionable marketing spiels. However, as those marketing spiels represent their certifications, they should take responsibility to ensure the correctness of them.

To echo Keith's words, let's do something!

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