CSM certification guide: Certified ScrumMaster exam explained

The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) certification sets the standard for establishing Scrum theory, developing practical applications and rules, and leading teams and stakeholders through the development process.

CSM certification guide: Certified ScrumMaster exam explained
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What is the CSM certification?

Agile practices are being rapidly adopted in project and product management across many industries, and the Scrum master is an important leadership role in agile development. The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) qualification, available through the Scrum Alliance, is an entry-level certification aimed at providing professionals with an awareness of the methodologies and values of Scrum, including team performance, accountability, and iterative progress.

Becoming a CSM offers individuals with valuable benefits, including increased recognition and credibility as a leader, additional opportunities within organizations with agile practices, and a demonstrated knowledge of Scrum.

CSM requirements

To earn a CSM credential, applicants must first understand the Scrum framework, as well as its principles and practices. The Scrum Alliance offers numerous resources to help individuals learn Scrum fundamentals, including the Scrum Alliance expert blog, member articles, videos, presentations, and reports.

Applicants must also attend a two-day (16 hour) CSM course taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer. The course provides a full overview of how to organize and support a Scrum team. The CSM course covers learning objectives and includes scope, Lean, agile, Scrum, agile facilitation, coaching, and service to the development team, product owner, and organization. At this time, online courses are not yet an option.

Applicants then need to pass the CSM exam through the Scrum Alliance portal. If it has been 90 calendar days since you took the course, you will need to pay a $25 fee to take the exam. The exam cannot be taken without attending the two-day course.

Once you have taken the CSM exam you must accept the license agreement. Next you will need to complete your Scrum Alliance membership profile.

CSM exam layout and passing grade

The CSM exam consists of a combination of multiple-choice and true/false questions in 60 minutes. The exam covers key Scrum elements, including general Scrum knowledge, Scrum roles, Scrum meetings, and Scrum artifacts.

A passing score is 24 out of 35 questions. Applicants can only attempt the test twice within the 90-day timeline of having completed the required two-day course.


The initial certification fee for each student who successfully completes a Certified Scrum Master course is paid by the Certified Scrum Trainers.

The fees cover the following:

  • The first two years of certification
  • Two attempts to take the exam (within 90 calendar days of attending the course)
  • Course materials provided by each instructor in class (must be Scrum Alliance approved)
  • The two-day in-person course
  • Two-year membership to the Scrum Alliance community

Benefits of being a CSM

After completing all the steps and becoming a CSM, members receive a two-year membership to the Scrum Alliance and can join local user groups and online social networks, as well as get access to discounts on gatherings, and more.

Maintaining your CSM certification

To maintain your CSM certification, every two years you will need to go to the Scrum Alliance portal and renew your credentials, obtain 20 Scrum Education Units (SEUs), and pay the US$100 renewal fee. SEUs fall into five subcategories:

  1. Scrum Alliance Scrum gatherings
  2. Scrum Alliance courses or coaching
  3. Outside events, volunteer service
  4. Independent learning
  5. Other collaborative learning

An example of SEU options include watching a community webinar, giving back to the Agile community through volunteer work, participating in a local user group, attending a global/regional Scrum gathering, writing about Scrum/agile in a blog post, or reading a book about Scrum/agile. As an additional benefit, taking the CSM earns PMI-certified professionals Professional Development Units (PDUs).

Becoming a Certified ScrumMaster through the Scrum Alliance is a great way to increase your knowledge as an agile practitioner, expand your career options, and increase opportunities to collaborate with other Scrum masters.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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