The Professional Scrum Master III certification, commonly known as PSM III, is considered’s most elite certification. 
Those awarded with it are certified:

  • a distinguished level of Scrum Mastery
  • a deep understanding of Scrum
  • the ability to apply Scrum in complex team and organizational situations


  • Duration: originally 120 minutes, now extended to 150 minutes
  • Questions: 30; essay, multiple-choice, multi-select, true/false
  • Passing score: 85%
  • Number of certification holders: 900+


The minority of questions on the PSM III exam are multi-select and multiple-choice questions. On my exam of 30 questions, I had only 7 questions in this category. These questions are not more difficult than those on the PSM II exam. In fact, some of them appear to be coming from the same pool.

The majority of questions, however, are essay questions. You are asked to describe concepts of Scrum or are presented with a small scenario and asked for the best approach according to the ideas of Scrum. The particular challenge with these is that there is time available to answer these questions. 

The entire exam lasts 120 minutes, giving each question an average of at most four minutes minus any potential loading times of your browser. Thus, to answer the essay questions, you need to be as concise as possible, as the time limits do not allow for lengthy texts to be written.

The questions on the PSM III exams touch the fundamental concepts of Scrum and ask you to put them into a context. To give you an example: 

  • On the PSM I it was enough to select from a given list that the time-box of the Daily Scrum is 15 minutes.
  • On the PSM II it was enough to select from a given list that you need to coach the Developers about the importance of the time-box to ensure focus.
  • On the PSM III you need to explain with a self-written text the purpose of the Daily Scrum, how it relates to empirical process control and what the consequences are if not every Developer attends.
Some questions also go beyond the Scrum Guide, asking things more specific to software development or explicitly ask you to relate a previous experience or yours to a given statement.

As most of the exam is essay based, your exam will be graded manually by a PST, which means it can take several weeks until you know your final score and whether or not you have passed. The grading is based upon multiple factors, among others:
  • Your language must be similar to that of the Scrum Guide. For example, referring in an answer to the Daily Scrum as “Daily Stand-Up” or explaining concept of self-management without using the Scrum Guide term “self-management” might cost you points.
  • All of Scrum is essentially just a construct to foster empiricism, therefore you should try to refer back to empiricism whenever possible.
  • If possible, go beyond the pure theory and share examples from your own past to illustrate points.


 In my experience as somebody who has taken all exams, PSM III is by far the toughest to take and the toughest to prepare for. Unlike all Level I and Level II exams, there is not official class dedicated to preparing you for the exam. Therefore, the only way to prepare is through self-organized study, for which there are essentially three options:

  1. Preparing entirely on your own by studying the Scrum Guide, reading books and blogs, and watching videos. This is the path I have chosen. It is, however, a lengthy and often frustrating one.
  2. Preparing in a peer study group. Working together with others has the benefit of keeping up the motivation and forcing you to switch positions: rather than just taking in information, you will need to explain things to others, which prepares you for the essay questions on the exam.
  3. Preparing with a mentor, either alone or in a group. This combines the benefits of the peer study group with the guidance by somebody who is familiar with the subject matter; this can either be a PST or somebody who has themselves passed PSM III. This option may however be expensive, depending on whether or not the mentor charges money. As of now, there are two mentored study groups in existence that I am aware of, one commercial and one non-commercial one. 
If you wish to prepare for the exam alone or in a peer study group, the following things may be helpful to you:
  •  There are a number of topics that I like to describe as “core subjects”, all of which need to be understood to the point that they can be explained completely, correctly, and concisely. These are:
    •  Empiricism – Why do we need to work empirically? How does empiricism relate to complexity? What does empiricism mean in theory and practice?
    • Scrum Values – What are the Scrum Values? How do they relate to empiricism? How do they manifest in the work of the Scrum Team and in the Scrum Events in particular?
    • Scrum Events – What is the purpose of each? What are the inputs and outcomes of each? How does each relate to empiricism? 
    • Self-Management – What are the criteria for a self-managing team? What are the limits to self-management? What is the stance of the Scrum Master within a self-managing team? How does self-management relate to empiricism?
    • Definition of Done – How does it relate to empiricism? 
    • Technical Debt – What is it? How does it relate to empiricism? How does it relate to the team’s velocity?
    • Product Goal – What uses does it bring within the team and towards outsiders? How does it relate to empiricism?
    • Sprint Goal – Why is it useful? How does it relate to empiricism?
    • Artifacts – What is the purpose of each? Why is their transparency important? How do the Scrum Values relate to their transparency? How does each relate to empiricism? 
    • Forecasts, commitments, plans – How do you plan in an environment that works empirically? What effects does this have on the team? What effect on those outside the team? 
  • While there is not explicit preparation literature for PSM III yet, there are books which may be helpful when preparing for the exam. These include:
    •  Scrum Insights for Practitioners by Hiren Doshi – a powerful book for PSM I preparation but – if read very carefully – also a powerful preparation for PSM III. Particularly the Scrum Events are presented very well in terms of their inputs, outputs and outcomes.
    • Scrum: A Pocket Guide by Gunther Verheyen – while I personally did not like the writing style, some people swear by the book and many who have passed their PSM III cite it as a good source.
    • The Scrum Guide Explained by myself – even though the book deals with the 2017 Scrum Guide, many of the core concepts that are explained are still valid. As Dave West, CEO of said “Scrum is still Scrum”. For those who want to understand the interplay of self-management (in the book titled self-organization), the Scrum Values, the Scrum Events and empiricism, the book may be useful.
  • The perhaps biggest challenge on the exam is to explain the concepts in a limited time, so that is what you should practice! As weird as it may feel, a good exercise is to write down concepts as if you had to explain them to somebody else. This is how I prepared and it eventually turned into my first book. Switching the perspective from a reader to a writer, to an explainer, is something necessary for PSM III, since on the exam it is not enough to know things, but also to be able to explain them!
  • Taking a PSM II class (again) can be helpful. Most of the concepts crucial for PSM III are covered in the curriculum of the PSM II class. Attending it again with a particular focus on the core topics mentioned above may be helpful. This is of course a costly option, but might be worth it for some. Keep in mind that a PSM II class comes with a 40% discount on the PSM III password, cutting $200 off your expenses there.
  • While it may be risky, a good way to test if you are ready is to simply take the exam. Unlike the Level I and Level II exams, where you get an automated evaluation, the PSM III evaluation provides you with very useful feedback. The PST grading your exam will give you pointers which concepts you might want to research more. In a sense, it can be seen as an empirical approach: the only way to know if something is ready is to test it under real-world conditions. Good luck!

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