How to pass the PSPO1 exam with less than 4 hours of studying?

This Sunday, I decided to stop procrastinating for a few hours and finally pass the long-overdue Professional Scrum Product Owner I exam.

How did I do? It took me less than 4 hours total to prepare for the exam and pass it on the first attempt with a score of 93%. And it took me 32 minutes to get it.

So how can you prepare for the exam and pass it easily as well?

My background/context

Although it took me less than 4 hours to prepare for the exam, you have to keep in mind that:

  • I’ve been working as a Product Owner (or proxy) for approximately five years now at various software agencies (usually doing it part-time since my main job title is Project Manager).
  • I passed PSM1 in May 2020 and studied for ~5 days then as I wasn’t sure what to expect.
  • I am genuinely interested in all things agile, and I’m always learning something new. My CV accurately states: “Willingness to learn. Everything. Always.”

That being said, I still believe you can pass it after studying for 2/3 days max if you’re just starting out.

Study plan

A quick side-note before we jump into a concrete learning plan: You can follow this study guide to pass both PSM1 and PSPO1.

Theory first:

  1. I reviewed Scrum Guide (as I wasn’t that familiar with the 2020 changes)
  2. Re-read Evidence-Based Management (since I haven’t worked at a company using EBM)
  3. (suggestion) Read the Nexus guide if you’re not THAT familiar with scaling Scrum in general.
  4. (suggestion) I was thinking about re-reading The Professional Product Owner, but I had a short timebox and decided not to. But you should if you haven’t read it before. Great book!

Once the boring reading is over, it’s time to get practical:

  1. Take PSM, PSPO, Agile Lead, Evidence-Based Management (Nexus optional) open assessments until you can score 100% on every single attempt 5+ times in a row. I’m not kidding. You have a high chance of getting ~20 questions from open assessments on the real exam, so it’s worth taking the time and learning them.
  2. Take both Scrum Master & Product Owner mock tests created by the one and only Mikhail Lapshin. Your goal is to get 100% with 5+ attempts in a row BELOW 15 minutes per attempt. Yes, 60 questions in less than 15 minutes.
  3. I also took the free assessment from The Scrum Master (no need to provide a real email address). Again, your goal is to score 100% on 5+ attempts in a row in the shortest time possible.

If you’re new to Scrum or would like to read more before taking the exam, read this forum thread on passing PSPO. There are plenty of additional articles/sites mentioned in the thread replies.

Taking the exam

My approach to taking any exam (that I studied for) is simple:

  1. Try to answer all questions as quickly as possible (it took me ~20min to go through all 80 questions during this exam)
  2. Bookmark questions you’d like to review and get back to them after the initial pass.
  3. Don’t second-guess your responses. Usually, your first answer is the correct one.
  4. Click submit and enjoy your brand new certificate!

Do I need a formal training?

No. Don’t waste money on it. Especially, if you’re already working in an agile environment. Learn from your peers. Shadow Scrum Masters (or Project Managers) at your company. Put yourself in a position where you can learn from practitioners daily.

However, if you’re trying to change your career path or get a junior-level/internship position in IT, it might not be a terrible idea. Just remember that a 2-day training and a certificate will not make you a “Scrum Master” from the get go. Agile is a journey and should be treated as such ;)

Good luck!

IT Project Manager.