Two weeks ago I had a discussion with an account manager of a testing consulting company about CAT: Certified Agile Tester. His company sells this training and he told me he sees a certification training as a driving license: once you obtain it, you still need to learn how to drive like an expert. I do not believe that ISTQB or TMap certification makes anybody a better tester. And this agile tester certification is even worse… How can you give somebody a certificate for a mindset?

I do not think you’re a good tester if you have an (advanced) certificate in ISTQB or whatever. It tells me nothing about your motivation. Especially not when the certificate could (or even worse, should) be obtained during working time paid by your employer… I think that certification is not necessarily bad, but it is certainly no blessing to our profession. James Bach wrote a great blog post about it in 2005 (!). IMHO certification gives a kind of false security about testing skills. And unfortunately this is maintained by the whole market. The big companies (let’s just for convenience call them “demand side”) have difficulty selecting the right external hires. So they look for certificates which makes selecting easier. The “supply side” is more than happy to participate in the certification hype. Because they earn a lot of money by providing training. But also from a commercial interest because the “demand side” keep asking for these certificates. And if they want to sell their people, they must have certificates. Sadly a mechanism that keeps the certification alive!

Certification says very little about a tester. I know plenty of testers with lots of certificates that I would never hire. Why not? Because they are no good in testing! And the certificates do not make them any better.

The CAT website explains: to become a Certified Agile Tester you have to succeed in three different ways:

  • A soft skills assessment on capacity for teamwork
  • An exam, which requires free answering – no multiple choice questions
  • A practical section where the examinee’s testing skills are put to the test.

This soft skill assessment makes me wonder. As a manager I find it difficult to assess my testers after some months or even a whole year, but the trainers of this course can in only 5 days?

The exam doesn’t prove the examinee is a good agile tester! How many exams have we taken during our lives? And do we still know everything we have learned? Like I said in my last blog post, you become a better tester by continous learning, not by taking exams!

The practical section sounds good. Although I cannot imagine that you can fail your certification on this part.  

The course itself looks okay: the subjects trained are interesting and on the reading list are books I have read and would recommend to others. But the whole idea of certification is bad! Agile is a mindset and how can a mindset be certified?

The testing/training industry has found another cashcowCAT!