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9 Ways to Prepare for the ISTQB Foundation

Preparation is absolutely key to your success with the ISTQB foundation exam. It is definitely achievable if you know how to prepare correctly. let me explain…

How can you prepare for the ISTQB Foundation exam? You need to use a combination of self-study, textbooks, sample exam papers, the actual ISTQB foundation course syllabus, getting familiar with the exam time restrictions and exam format.

Now you know what you should be doing to prepare let me break down exactly how you can implement this starting today. For this, I have 9 ways that can help you prepare:

01. Self-study

You may find that paying for a training course is quite expensive. Unless you’ve been given a budget from your workplace. For that reason, it is advisable to do self-study.

Self-study can be done in many different ways but one good way of doing it is using a study group.

This is basically a collection of people that have the same goal of completing the ISTQB exam. You can pool your resources to make sure that you can make studying a lot easier, faster and more fun.

The best tactical way to approach this is to have each person in the group responsible for a specific section or topic. Then ask them to present their findings. After the presentation, they should ask the group questions to test if they have retained the information.

Be mindful that this is just a suggestion. There are many different ways of doing this. But, this is one good way of retaining the information in preparation for the exam.

02. Using the syllabus in combination with a textbook

The textbook that I recommend is this (Click to see the price on Amazon) it is a great textbook to use in collaboration with the official ISTQB syllabus.

I highly recommend that you go through the textbook first in detail and then follow up with the syllabus. The reason for this is the textbook is structured in a great way that will help you understand what you need to do and the concepts within the exam.

The syllabus is crucial because it is always updated and you can download the latest version from the ISTQB website. And, this will also work hand-in-hand with the textbook.

03. Check out the Glossary

As you are referring to the syllabus you may come across various acronyms or words that are unfamiliar to you. A good way to understand these terms is to go through the glossary to make sure that you truly understand them.

It’s important not to just gloss over unknown acronyms or words because you may get tripped up in the exam if you do not have a good understanding.

04. Use sample exam papers

This is essential (Click here for some sample exam papers) because it will give you an idea of how the test questions are actually formatted. And, help you get a good feel for the multiple choice questions that you will get in the real exam.

Personally, I love these sample papers. When I was doing my exams for my degree, I used to love getting mock exams because it gave me a taste of what to expect. And, in most cases, the real exam papers were very similar.

When I did my ISTQB foundation exam especially, they were also essential.

However, I would say that you need to understand that these are sample papers. And, they are not actual papers taken from the actual ISTQB exam. Therefore, do not think that you can literally just study every sample paper and guarantee that the question will come up.

Because there is a good chance that you will get different questions. Reason being, the questions are always being updated each year.

05. Get yourself familiar with the format of the exam

During my years of study, one thing I noticed, that separated the high achievers from the people that struggled in exams was preparation.

Not just the actual study of the exam topics but organizing their time so that they didn’t run out of time during the exam, are you with me?

For example, if you have a 2-hour exam and you spend the first 30 minutes on the first couple of questions you may not get to complete all the answers. You may simply run out of time by not pacing yourself correctly.

So for the ISTQB Foundation level exam, you need to know the following: It is 40 questions and you have to get at least 65% of these correct to pass. That’s the most important thing to take in.

Therefore that means you need to get at least 26 of the questions correct in the time period that you are given to pass.

The time period is 60 minutes. By the way, it is 75 minutes in countries where English is not their first language, for example in Canada, where they have French as their first language, in some parts.

Therefore for English speaking countries, you need to make sure that your 60 minutes is used wisely.

06. Revise, revise & revise!

I can’t emphasize how important it is to make sure that you revised hard for the exam. Do not underestimate the exam. Maybe you have heard from other people that it is easy?

You will fail if you turn up unprepared!

The importance of doing more than Just reading

Your mind is likely to let you down if only you focus on just reading the material over and over. That’s why it’s important to take notes.

For the human brain to consume information it needs visuals, sound, and tactility.

Therefore it is a good idea to actually write down notes of important sections in the book, and then go through these notes. Read them out loud and it will stick in your mind more.

The reason for this is as you read it you take in information initially, but as you write it with your hands you then reinforce the understanding and mental retention. Finally, when you read your notes out loud, it will cement the topic in your mind.

07. Look out for things that may trip you up

Although this exam does not have negative questions it is designed in such a way where a lot of the answers look very similar.

Also, you may find that there are little words such as “Not” or “Never” that are nested in the sentences that could easily be overlooked if you quickly skim read it.

Therefore, I highly advise that you take the time to read through the questions at least a couple of times before taking your multiple choice answer.

Obviously, you still need to be mindful of the time that you have available. Because you only have 60 minutes (in English speaking countries) so it’s important that you take that into consideration as well.

08. Prepare to use a backup

If you take the option of doing the online exam which is typically done in one of the exam centers make sure that you use the option of the backup paper.

Most people overlook this because they don’t really want to spend the time of writing things down. They want to just put all of the answers directly into the online portal.

However, this is a mistake. The problem with this is if there is any technical issues with the online exam you will lose everything and you do not want to have to do this again.

It has been known that people have experienced technical issues during the exam, like any online portal, and they have not had a backup. And this has been detrimental. So, don’t let this happen to you.

09. Areas that you should focus in on

So in this section, I’m going to provide a few areas that are usually in the exam that you should focus on

They are Concepts that will help you in the real world of testing that will come up from time to time so it’s good practice to know these pretty well anyway:

  • Black box testing
  • Equivalence partitioning
  • Boundary value analysis

Related questions:

Q: Is the ISTQB foundation level certificate easy?

No, I wouldn’t say it’s easy I would say you stand a good chance of passing if you come prepared. If you arrive at the exam with the notion that is easy you can get complacent and overlook the basics.

This will typically end up with you having to retake the exam. So make sure you’re prepared and do not underestimate the task.

Q: How long does it take to prepare for the exam?

If you are focused on studying, most people can get them self prepared in 3 to 4 weeks. However, if you are not focused or you’ve got other important things to do in your life you may find that it may take longer such as 4 to 6 weeks. It may be even more.

If money is not an issue and time is a problem you may even consider going to one of the intensive training courses.

These are two or three-day courses where they work you through the syllabus in the first couple of days followed by taking the exam on the third day. With the goal of you passing your certificate within that week.

To be honest this was the route that I took and was quite beneficial. However, I had the benefit of my workplace paying for the bill and covering the costs. If this is not the case for you then that might not be a luxury you can consider.

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