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CSTE vs ISTQB – What Should You Choose?

In my early days of testing I got my ISTQB foundation certificate. It was very important to my career because a lot of recruitment agents tend to filter for keywords such ISTQB and CSTE. But what are the difference between these certifications? In this article we will focus on two in particular.

What is difference between the ISTQB foundation & CSTE? The ISTQB foundation is an entry level testing certification that does not require any prior experience. The CSTE is a higher level testing certification that requires experience before you can apply. The former has become very popular and almost a required prerequisite into testing, whilst the later is more established and still very respected.

Now that you understand at a high level what these certifications are, lets delve a bit deeper and look into the differences at a more granular level.

What is the CSTE?

The Certified Software Tester (CSTE) certification is a qualification provided by the Quality Assurance Institute (QAI). Once you are certified you become a member of a professional collective, which has the potential to increase your chances of commercial recognition and potentially speed up your chances of getting a job.


What is the ISTQB?

The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification is an internationally recognised standard that is quite sort after when looking for jobs in software testing.

There are a number of different member boards around the world that conduct their examinations online of face to face with an exam provider. These exam providers get a licence from the member board to authorise them to examine their students.

There are different levels of the ISTQB, but for the purposes f this article we will focus on the ISTQB foundation level.

What are the advantages of the CSTE?

The CSTE has a bigger barrier to entry. Meaning that you need some testing experience before you can qualify for it. If you have some testing experience this can be a real advantage.

On top of this, there are other requisites that need to be satisfied before you can be accepted.

This exam focuses more on the practical side rather than being theoretical. It is also good to have on your CV. This is because recruiters tend to filter applications based on core entry level skills regardless of your other experience and skills.

How is the CSTE exam structured?

In total the exam takes four and a half hours. However it is broken up into four sections. The first two has a limit of up to 50 minutes. The last two have a time limit of up to 75 mins. There are breaks in between these sections as you can imagine.

How is the ISTQB exam structured?

The ISTQB foundation level exam total exam takes up to 75 minutes. In this time you have 40 questions to answer. The minimum passing rate is sixty five percent. The questions are multiple choice, which allows you to get you results faster because it is either right or wrong.

What are the Advantages of the ISTQB Foundation?

One of the biggest benefits is the fact that anyone, without any prior experience in testing, can take the exam and qualify. Which means there is no barrier to entry.

The certificate is internationally recognised, meaning that you have the flexibility to work in another country if this is the direction that you wish to take with your career.

For a company, in particular a testing consultancy, if they have certified testers they are more marketable and can demand a higher day rate. This can also help to provide a quantifiable target for a companies employees.

Another benefit is no recertification is required. Meaning once you have done the exam and passed, you can don’t need to sit the exam again.

What are the disadvantages of the ISTQB?

The main disadvantage is the cost. Although some would argue that the cost is negligible for the potential value it can add to your career.

You can pay for the exam directly or do a course that trains you for a couple days first, then you sit the exam. The later is what I done and worked well for me. The course helps you prepare for the exam and increase your chances of success.


What areĀ  the disadvantages of the CSTE?

The first disadvantage is the fact that you need to re-certify every 3 years, as appose to the ISTQB. Meaning that in the long term it is more costly. Secondly is the fact that you have to wait until you have experience before you can apply.

The later can be seen as a an advantage if you are already established. But for a newbie, this is a disadvantage.

How Much Does The CSTE Cost?

The CSTE will be approx $350. This comes with a PDF version of their curriculum which is called “The Software Testing Body of Knowledge” (STBOK). If you are not a fan of PDF books, you can opt to pay a higher premium of $420. This will give you access to the CD and a hard copy.

What is the Software Testing Book of Knowledge (STBOK)?

Essentially this is a curriculum for the exam that you will tested against. The high level topics of this book are principles of testing, Managing the test project, Risk analysis, Test planning, Reporting, Test case designs and execution.

How Much Does The ISTQB Foundation Cost?

According to the ASTQB the cost is US $250. However this cost can vary from country to country because it has international exam boards. You are advised to visit you national board or an official ISTQB exam provider in your country.

What is the Best Way to Prepare for the ISTQB Foundation?

In my opinion, the best preparation is a course that that includes the exam. This is what I usedĀ  and is very effective. Essentially you have a couple days preparation on the course curriculum, followed by the actual exam taken on the final day. Bare in mind this is the most expensive way, but effective.

If you are not able to afford the course, the next best thing is sample exam papers. This will prepare you on what is required for the exam without the expense of an in person course.

What is the Best Way to Prepare for the CSTE Exam?

As discussed earlier, the CSTE comes with the CBOK PDF, or hard copy if you have opted for the upgrade. This contains all the information you need to pass. It just comes down to studying and digesting the content.

If you are looking for something else to assist you, you can get example samples and mock exams to aid you.

Related Questions:

What is the CAST certification? The Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST) is a foundation level certification offered by the QAI. The examination cost is approximately $100. To qualify for this application you need to pass one of the following prerequisites: 3 or 4 year degree but has to be an accredited organisation, two year degree from an accredited organisation + one year IT experience or 3 years IT experience.

What is the CSQA? The Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA) is a software testing certification for testers that are at a more experienced level. It is more targeted for experienced testers, project mangers or leaders that want a better grasp of the testing on their projects.

Similar to the CSTE, the cost id $350 or $420 with more materials. The exam is separated into two sections and is multiple choice based. The entire examination process will take up to two and a half hours.

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