Well, today I've been reading a bit about the site’s general consensus regarding the ISEB Certifications and I’m really confused as to -

1.) People’s opinions of the certification and where they got them?

2.) What’s so bad about getting it?


From what I’ve been reading, I fear that most of the stigma attached to the certification is down to having to learn? Someone even called it a “Memory test”?


Surely as a software tester, your ultimate aim is to achieve a higher understanding of the things you test? Am I the only person on this site that actually read the course materials and learned something rather than treating it like a massive drain on my time?


The whole reason I decided to go for the certification is because I found the idea of software testing and the principles behind it so intriguing and wanted to learn more. Since doing my foundation course I’ve gotten my Intermediate Certification also and found the experience wholly enjoyable.


To call the certification a memory test is nothing short of ignorance in my opinion. 


I’m not trying to be an advocate for ISEB and their certifications and tell you all that you MUST get one, however, what’s the harm in getting it?


You might even learn something along the way, regardless of how much experience you have.


I’ve seen people moaning about not being able to get jobs due to not having the certification, yet I know for a fact that it’s not that difficult, honestly, if I can get it having literally 0 experience of using the techniques or lessons learned from the text, then how difficult can it be for someone that uses them on almost a daily basis?


I'll be the first person to admit that people with these qualifications being chosen over those with years worth of experience is a massive shame as it should never be taken over experience, however, for those people that moan about not being able to get work whilst not having the certification, just get the certification! It's not expensive and it improves your chances of getting work?


Tell me where the downside of that is?


Comments please.




Thank you Phil for the insightful reading, I don't think I'll be giving the BCS anymore of my money...


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Comment by Duncan nisbet on September 29, 2011 at 20:54
Hi Eliza, great to see your personal reflection & taking the time to come back and amend your post.

Makes great reading for those who may not have made their mind whether to certify or not.
Comment by Martin Lewis on July 20, 2011 at 11:58

I've done the ISEB as well, I do agree with phil's comment - it is essentially a memory test.  It's multiple choice exam, so its easy for computers to scan in the answers and process the results.  I don't value multiple choice exams highly since it theoritically means you can pass just by guessing and not knowing anything at all.  Now if I'm going on holiday and flying, am not getting on no plane that's being flown by someone who has no knowledge of flying and has been accessed by a multiple choice exam. I agree that to increase the value of it, therefore you need to change the format of how the knowledge is accessed.  I also think you need to make sure that the knowledge of what is being taught is relevant and applicable to what is needed by the industry.

Comment by ElizaF on July 18, 2011 at 15:37

This is from a post I wrote last March and yes, I have the ISEB cert too but at least it shows I know what I am slagging off. In my writing (as in my testing), I try to come up with a 'fix' for the ISEB.

To ISEB or not to ISEB

From the BCS webite: About ISEB

The ISEB qualifications allow candidates to learn new skills in specific business and IT areas which measure competence, ability and performance. This helps to promote career development and provide a competitive edge for employees.


All very admirable claims but I do not agree that this is what the ISEB exams deliver to the people who take them.

My problem is not with certification but on the general awfulness of the software related certs out there. So far, all I have seen is an emphasis on choosing the right tick-box answer from a multiple choice list. If the aim of the ISEB is to allow candidates to learn new skills in specific business and IT areas Then, surely, asking the candidate to demonstrate their new abilities in a practical way is a far better way to go about it.

Testing certification in general is a good idea as a benchmark for hiring people who are willing to dedicate themselves to the time to get that certificate. However it is not a guarantee that they have all of the knowledge it represents nor the ability to apply it in any given environment.

As a homeowner, no-one would hire a gas engineer without the Corgi registration cert (or international equivalent) That tells you, the customer, that they are qualified to do their job. To become Corgi registered, the trainee does a short course one day a week over 20 weeks. Then they have to do 80 hours of relevant experience under a qualified (registered) engineer. Then the actual ACS exams take place over 2 days for basic gas safety and then 2 or 3 appliance types per day. After passing all of these, the engineer is qualified to work on domestic jobs only. One of the tests involves finding the fault on a number of boilers thereby proving without a doubt that the trainee deserves the certification or not.

Imagine a software testing apprenticeship based on this model ... yes, I know what I am saying is anarchy but imagine how much more valuable and relevant an ISEB would be should it only be achieved at this standard.

Suddenly the ISEB would not just be a buzzword that Tiffany and Simon in HR scan for in a stack of CVs to help them hire a software tester. It would be a statement that this candidate has been tested and found competent enough to do the job you want to hire them for.

Suddenly the ISEB would not just be an exam that people ask for the answers for on software testing forums. Oh and a message to all the genius' who do this - Way to go on devaluing the very exam you want to pass - Doh!

Perhaps the answer is not with the ISEB at all. Perhaps there would be more value in making software testing an academic city and guilds type course which is based on classroom time, employer review as well as practical exams.

Comment by phil kirkham on July 18, 2011 at 13:01

The whole reason I decided to go for the certification is because I found the idea of software testing and the principles behind it so intriguing and wanted to learn more


I dont think anyone would argue with the second half of your sentence

I learned by buying a ton of books from Amazon, lurking on SQA forums ( there was no STC in the old days ) and Testing Reflections and adding lots of blogs to my RSS feeds


To call the certification a memory test is nothing short of ignorance in my opinion.


I did the certificate ( got 96% BTW ) but found that to pass basically meant memorising their definitions of testing terms. There was no test of my understanding and no test that I could put any of it into practice

Comment by phil kirkham on July 18, 2011 at 12:46

Rather than rehash the old arguments - read this and this then come back and post what you think


As for the harm ? personal anecdote - people wouldn't touch my CV if it didn't have ISEB on it ( I was even told to put 'studying for ISEB' on my CV to get past keywords )

Luckily I found a great company that did not insisist on it


They then put me through ISEB as it helped get clients - but to pass it I had to unlearn what I knew, go back to memorising phrases and then when presented with questions had to ignore the urge to look for an 'it depends' answer


Hope the links help - please read and then let us know if it changed your thinking


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