Is ISTQB certification useful? Yes, for certain roles on your team. But is is not for all, and does not necessarily make you a good tester. We recently had one of our European clients mention that they thought all testers that are on their team need to have the knowledge equivalent to the ISTQB foundation level. They haven’t specifically said that all team members must have ISTQB certification, but this is scary.

We certainly understand the need for basic knowledge of testing to work on a project and we would not even dare put a newbie on a project without hands on training, but we think ISTQB is a little bit over the top. Some of our guys have gone to ISTQB training and been certified, but we have found no direct correlation between those that are certified and those that make good testers.

What assurance is there that a person with an ISTQB certification can find good defects? Can they recite the components that should go into writing up a defect? Yes. But can the find a good defect, and then can they actually document it in a way that a developer can understand and then rapidly fix the defect.

The tasks that a software tester executes require attention to detail, hands on experience, and making mistakes, learning from the mistakes and then improving. Book learning and theory, while very useful in developing test cases and thinking of why and how to approach testing can serve as a foundation and is essential for a test manager in guiding testers that work for them, but for a software testers’ daily work, it may not be necessary.

From our point of view in hiring hundreds of software testers, requiring ISTQB certification is similar to saying that all our team members should have a Bachelor of Science degree. Depending on the level of person you want, those with degrees certainly have their value. They look good on paper and may help you win a project. Sometimes they can think and solve problems but often the degree does not help that. However, what we have found is that those with Associates Degrees make better testers! Why? Because they are hungry and want to prove themselves. Fire in the belly, hunger for learning, attention to detail, thinking in another person’s shoes (the end user) and passion for software testing is what makes a good tester. Bottom line. This reminded me of a recent talk at Better Software East where the characteristics you are looking for in a good tester cannot be found on the resume!

On the other hand, ISTQB has a ‘vocabulary’ about it so that when communicating testing concepts and issues, you can speak directly and get right to the point. That is very useful when talking about issues, defect analysis, test planning, test case design, etc.

We hope we can convince our client that ISTQB certification is useful for some but not all, and discuss which roles on their team should have this and which should not.

Somehow this reminds me of the ISO 29119 debate.