ISTQB Foundation Level Exam Structure

Examination Structure

  • The certified tester foundation level examination is a one-hour examination made up of 40 multiple choice questions.
  • All questions are equally weighted.
  • The pass mark is 26 correct answers and there is no penalties for incorrect answers.
  • All questions have one and only one correct answer among multiple optional answers provided, which are plausibly incorrect.
  • There will be enough time to answer the questions; a strong candidate can answer 40 questions in less than 45 minutes.

Writing the Exam

You must devote some time to carefully read and assimilate the contents of the question paper before you leap into answering them. Always start answering those questions that are straightforward and for which you know the answer. When you have done this you will have a smaller task to complete and you will probably have taken less than a minute for each question that you have already answered, giving you ample of time to concentrate on those that you will need more time to answer. Next, turn to those questions that you feel you understand but that will take you a little time to work out the correct answer, and complete such questions as many of those as you can. The questions you are left with now should be those that you are uncertain about. You now know how long you have to answer each of these and you can take little more time over each of them.

Preparing for the Exam

Some golden rules for exam revision:
  • Do as many example questions as you can so that you become familiar with the types of questions, the way questions are worded and the levels (K1..K4) of questions that are set in the examination.
  • Be active in your reading. Take notes while reading. Make your own Mind Maps. Your notes must provide you with prompts to ensure that you have remembered the key ideas from theory you revised. Your notes will help you for easy learning. Always return to a topic that you have revised to check that you have retained the information. Revise today, revisit one week after, and see how much you retain.
  • Work through all the examples and exercises. If you convince yourself you can do an exercise, but you do not actually attempt it, you will only discover the weakness in the approach when you are sitting in the examination centre. Don't regreat at the examination centre, but practice a lot before you go for an exam.
  • Read the syllabus and become familiar with it. Questions are directly raised from the syllabus and often contain wording similar to that used in the syllabus.
Sections of the Syllabus:
  • Fundamentals of Software Testing 155 min - 7Q
  • Testing throughout the Software Life Cycle 115 min - 6Q
  • Static Testing Techniques 60 min - 3Q
  • Test Design Techniques 285 min - 12Q
  • Test Management 170 min - 8Q
  • Tool Support for Testing 80 min - 4Q
Each topic in the syllabus has associated with it a level of understanding represented by K1 through K4.
  • Level of understanding K1 is associated with recall, so that a topic labelled K1 contains information that a candidate should be able to remember but not necessarily use or explain
    • K1 50% ~ 20Q
  • Level of understanding K2 is associated with the ability to explain a topic or to classify information or make comparisons
    • K2 30% ~ 12Q
  • Level of understanding K3 is associated with the ability to apply a topic in a practical setting
  • Level of understanding K4 is associated with the ability to analyse a situation or a set of information to determine what action to take.
    • K3 and K4 20% ~ 8Q
There will therefore be no more than two K4 questions and more likely only one, and the topic will be assessing statement and/or decision coverage for completeness with respect to defined exit criteria.
Since the majority of K3 questions will be likely to be based on Section 4 of the syllabus, it is likely that all or most K3 questions will be about applying test design techniques. All K4 questions will be related to statement and decision coverage.

Remember that K1, K2, K3 and K4 do not equate to easy, moderate or hard. The K level identifies the level of understanding being tested, not the difficulty of the question. It is perfectly possible to find K2 questions that are more difficult (in the sense of being more challenging to answer) than a K3 question. It is, however, true that K1 questions will always be the most straightforward and anyone who knows the material in the syllabus should have no difficulty in answering any K1 question.

The best preparation for any examination is to practise answering as many realistic questions as possible under conditions as close to the real examination as possible. This is one way to use the ISTQB/ISEB sample paper, or you can construct a sample paper of your own from the questions included in this book. Remember to read the syllabus and be sure that you understand what it is asking of you.

Good luck with your Foundation Certificate examination.

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