If you’ve gained some experience in a testing role or you’re still looking for your first testing job, what better way to spruce up your CV than by becoming certified, proving that you understand testing concepts and terminology. So where do you start?

ISTQB Software testing courses

Generally, you will only need one certification, then it’s up to you whether you’d like to take it further. ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) are the industry standard. A lot of testers have the foundation level certification but in an expanding market, some choose to study to a higher level so they can stand out from the crowd. Here is a selection of courses you could achieve and some of the paths you could take.

ISTQB Software Testing Course Levels

ISTQB Foundation

The foundation level will be your first step towards being a certified tester. It usually involves a 3 day course where you will learn terminology and gain an overview of different concepts of testing. A detailed diagram of the modules can be found on the ISTQB site.

The learning side of the course will generally take two and a half days and will guide you through the topics. All this preparation leads towards the exam, the final stage of the course. The exam structure consists of a 60 minute test and a 40 multiple choice question paper. The pass mark is 65%, so you would need to answer 26 of the questions correctly.

The next part is the waiting to know if you’ve passed. You’ll probably find yourself checking your results online the following day but it takes roughly a week to get your results back. Once you have received them and the result is positive, it will then open more avenues and courses for you to take, if you so wish.

ISTQB Foundation Extensions

Following the completion of the foundation level, some new testing avenues will open up. This means that potentially, you could move straight to the advanced levels of the ISTQB, but there are couple of extensions on the foundation level that might interest you, the first being Agile Tester. This course will cover agile concepts and the role of a tester within an agile environment. A lot of companies are either heading down an agile route or practising agile so learning about how to be an agile tester might be a good advancement on the foundation level course.

The second extension within the foundation level is the Model-Based Tester which is aimed at teaching the candidate to improve the efficiency of the design process, test implementation and reporting.

Both of these exams follow the same principle as the foundation paper and again, you would need to achieve their standard 65% mark to pass the test.

ISTQB Advanced

Alternatively you may well skip the extension courses and move straight on to the advanced courses. You will qualify for this having completed the initial foundation course, passed the exam and have a sufficient level of professional experience. What are the options on the advanced ISTQB?

There are three main modules. Firstly, there’s the Advanced Test Manager. With 65 questions and 180 minutes to complete the exam, the 65% pass mark must be reached to complete this module. Secondly, the Advanced Test Analyst follows the same exam format as the former module. Lastly the Advanced Technical Tester, has 45 questions to be completed in 120 minutes with a pass mark of 65% still being the benchmark. Upon completing these modules and achieving a pass mark for all three, the candidate will receive a Full Advanced Certificate.

It is also worth noting that there are also two advanced specialist extensions; the Advanced Security Tester and Advanced Automation Engineer.

ISTQB Expert

We have now reached the expert level. Improving the Testing Process and Test Management both have multiple choice questions with the 65% pass mark, however the assessment is split into two parts and participants will also have to complete an essay to become an expert within testing. You will now be a master of testing but due to the rapid pace of change and development within the industry, your status will only be valid for 5 years before you will need to revise and renew your testing mastery once more.

ISTQB levels

Other courses

There are a range of different courses out there but be aware that you might not get what you need from of a course that has not been officially accredited by an official examination board. Your choice might depend on what you as a tester would like to focus on in your career. You may want to look at automation courses. There are plenty about, in fact too many to list here, according to a quick Google search. If it’s something you’re looking at getting into or perhaps you just want to pick up a new skill or refresh your knowledge, then a crash course in JUnit for example, might be a path to follow.


Congratulations on your future testing qualifications. It might help you to advance your career or land your first role within testing – and you may even become a master and an expert in testing. Despite your achievement in getting your qualifications that prove you understand terminology and can tick some multiple choice boxes over a three day course or perhaps even written an essay, the question you should really ask yourself is how do I become a better tester? Will a certification and a few courses prove without doubt how good you are, or can be? Or does that come with experience? As with most things in life, a healthy combination of both is often the best approach.