The Ultimate Guide to ISTQB Advanced Level (CTAL) Exam Preparation

In my experience, I have seen that people opt for testing QA certification only to add it to their resume, either to switch their company or to get promotion/good appraisal. I am not against of this attitude but my perception of being certified is something different.

I see, there is some negative feedback about the testing certifications in general, but I’ve different opinion in positive way.

I feel that people should get certified to enhance their knowledge and awareness and most importantly implement the learning to improve their quality of day to day work, which will eventually return good career growth.

ISTQB advanced level certification CTAL

(image source)

This academic journal is not a study material for ISTQB – Advanced level – Test Manager Examination. This is a CTAL Certification guide which will give the readers a direction to prepare. The content is purely based on my experience so it may have a disparity in opinion. I have inscribed down whatever has come to my mind and I thought to share with a wider audience.

(Note – If you are preparing for the ISTQB foundation level then please register here with your email to get the CTFL exam tips and sample papers.)

We all have become the part of Rat Race where we are just running around our projects and work schedule and have forgot to devote some time for our personal growth. Just like exercise and good diet is essential for our body; reading, acquiring and sharing knowledge is essential for our profession.

So friends, find some time to enhance your skill and take it to the next level. Don’t stop at the foundation level, gear up for the advance module. We should constantly try to climb up in the ladder by acquiring the knowledge and most importantly by implementing those. Please don’t say “I don’t have time”. We will seldom have time; we have to learn to manage the time. After all, God has given 24 hours to everyone, it depends on us how we utilize it.

In the following sections of this article, I have endeavored to guide and endow you with some tips and techniques for the ISTQB Advanced Level Test Manager Module. Towards the end, I have also given few sample questions which will help you to scrutinize the exam pattern and will give you a route for due course of action.

ISTQB Advanced level (CTAL) Certification Introduction:

Advanced level certification basically comes in three sub modules:

  1. Technical Test Analyst
  2.  Test Analyst
  3.  Test Manager

Each module has separate syllabus. You can take the exam for each module in any sequence. You will get the certificate based on the module chosen to appear and clear.

CTAL Certification Eligibility:

#1 Foundation level certification/score card.

#2 For Degree holders in computer science or related fields you need 24 months of testing experience if you want to take 2 sub modules and 36 months of experience is mandatory if you want to take all the three sub modules.

#3 For non bachelor degree in computer science, 60 months of experience

How to apply?

You need to find your exam provider and freshly enroll yourself in the ISTQB site for the advance module. E.g for Indian board you can enroll here, for American board register here, for UK board enroll here. The enrollment is same as that for the foundation level.

While enrolling you have to upload the following three documents:

  • your foundation level score card,
  • experience certificate and
  • educational certificate.

After you have uploaded your documents and enrolled yourself, you need to send the DD along with the hard copies of your documents. The payment process may differ slightly by country. The DD details are mentioned in the site as well as you will be getting mail with the details after you enroll. Once the DD is received, you will get the confirmation on your mail.

ISTQB CTAL Certification Exam Pattern:

For each module, exam consists of 65 objective type questions that to be solved in 3 hours.

The questions can have either 1 correct answer or more that 1. The number of correct option is clearly mentioned in the question paper.

Total marks are 100 (1 mark, 2 marks & 3 marks questions. Distribution is mentioned in the question paper)

Passing % – 65 with no negative marking.

The questions are not direct instead they are scenario based. For example – In scenario “X”, their is a situation “Y”, what will you do? Or out of the below options, select <n> number of best suitable options.

ISTQB Advanced Level Test Manager Syllabus: (Click image to enlarge)

ISTQB Advanced level

(image source)

How to Prepare for the CTAL Certification Exam?

There are 2 ways to prepare:

a) Take up a training course or workshops in good institutions - I personally have not taken the course so cannot comment on the quality of the teaching.  The training does not guarantee that you will clear the exam; it will just provide you the guide lines and will cover the syllabus. You have to give time to yourself and study.

b) Prepare by yourselves – You can download the material from ISTQB site and study. Now when I say study, I mean study very thoroughly. Please don’t leave any topic or line unread. You need to have in-depth study of the material.

Tips and Techniques:

Tip #1) The study material provided is sufficient to gain the theoretical knowledge but I believe one has to have a good implementation experience.

To explain, there were few questions related to Agile – Scrum methodology. To answer those one has to have experience in Scrum. Fortunately I had the opportunity to work in Scrum in my previous company so I was able to attempt those. But if anyone who does not have an experience in scrum, might face some difficulty.

{Recommendation} Don’t restrict your self only to your project deliverables or process. Instead try to explore the different methodologies which are current in the market and learn those and if possible, try to implement it in your project (maybe in a dummy way).

Tip #2) Persons who have actually worked can only attempt to answer. To explain, I have come across many testing professionals who have a good experience in testing in terms of number of years but still lack the practical knowledge. If one does not get the opportunity to actually work on good projects, then one should update their skills by reading and taking up training.

{Recommendation} If you did not get an opportunity to work in good projects, then Reading is the only option. The more you read the more knowledge you get about different situations and it will become easy for you to attempt the questions.

Tip #3) Just knowing the concept won’t help, we have to know how to implement that concept in our daily works.

For example, if we are going through some good reporting techniques or template, then we should try to implement those in our day to day work. The more you implement the more exposure you get for different type of situations.

{Recommendation} Implementation is the key. What ever you read or learn, try to implement those. This will not help you to prepare for your exams, but also improve the quality of your daily work.

Tip #4) The questions are scenario based. Their wont be any direct question. Try to search and solve scenario based questions. Like for situation “X” there is a scenario “Y”. What will you do in this scenario OR out of the available solutions, which is (are) the best preferable solution.

{Recommendation} Practice and more practice for scenario based questions.

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CTAL sample question answers

ISTQB Advanced Level Sample Questions with answers and Justification:

Question #1:

Situation

You are the test manager of an organization which develops software for ATM machine. The organization will conduct the Usability testing which would be done on-site by the internal test team. At the beginning of the project, stakeholders decided to outsource functional system to an off site.

During usability testing, several defects in functionality were found by the internal test team. Some of the defects even blocked the continuation of the usability tests.

Analysis of the test reports shows that functional tests of the relevant functions were designed and executed by the offshore team and none of those defects were found or reported.

Which ONE of the following is the BEST way of communication to mitigate the situation?

Answer Set:

A. Schedule a video conference with the off root causes for not finding the defects
B. Send detailed defect reports and defect rates to upper management to get more time for the Internal test team to perform usability testing.
C. Schedule a review of the test work prod reviewers from the internal test team and the off
D. Send detailed defect reports and defect rates to the off causes for not finding the defects

Justification:

A. Incorrect: Upper management won’t want to be involved in the root cause investigation
B. Incorrect: Upper management won’t want to see detailed defect reports.
C. Correct: Diplomacy and objectivity are important to build trust. Reviews are constructive means to transfer knowledge to the offshore team.
D. Incorrect: Off-shore team alone won’t be effective to find the root causes.

Question #2:

Situation

For the above organization, Testing is following a Risk Based Testing Strategy. Now assume that the project is in test execution phase. Below table represents the test identifier, the risk level, requirement id and its status.

Test IDRisk LevelRequirement IDStatus
02.007Very High09.003Fail
02.010High09.003Ready To Run
02.019Very Low09.020Pass

Which two of the following statements are true?

Answer Set:

A. The test team might not be following the test strategy, since test 02.010 is higher risk than 02.019.
B. If the test plan calls for running at least one test for each requirement as early as possible, the test sequencing might be correct.
C. The test sequencing is certainly incorrect, since test 02.010 is higher risk than 02.019.
D. The test manager should stop test execution while evaluating all problems that exist with test Sequencing.
E. Running test 02.019 was a waste of time, because it did not find any defects.

Justification:

A. Correct: higher-risk tests precede lower – risk tests in risk-based testing strategies.
B. Correct: 02.019 cover a different requirement than 02.010.
C. Incorrect: the situation in option B, or perhaps simply blockage of tests, can explain running tests out of risk order.
D. Incorrect: while evaluating problems with test sequencing makes sense, there is no need to stop running tests while doing so.
E. Incorrect: finding defects is not the only objective of testing

Question #3:

Situation:

You are the Test Manager of an Aeronautics company and leading a group of test modules and testers. You are busy with a major release and working rigorously towards it. The release consists of many new features as well as bug fixes. It also contains fixes of few production tickets as well. You are now asked to present a Test Progress Report to a senior manager who is not from a testing background. Which of the below option should NOT be included in your report.

A. Product risks which are mitigated and which are outstanding.
B. Give the overall risk status.
C. Status compared against the started exit criteria.
D. Details of the risk based testing techniques being used.

Justification:

A. Incorrect. Upper management / stakeholders would like to know about the status of the risks.

B. Incorrect.  Upper management / stakeholders would like to have an overview of how many risks were mitigated.

C. Incorrect. Upper management / stakeholders would like to see the deviation of planned Vs Actual.

D. Correct. Upper management / stakeholders would not like to see the details of the testing techniques. I feel this is very much internal and technical to the team. Stake holders would always like to see the over all picture.

Question #4:

Situation:

In the above situation, now you have to present the report to a project manager who belongs to a testing domain, select 2 options which you would be including in the report to the project manager but not to the senior manager

A. Details of efforts spend
B. List of outstanding defects with their priority and severity
C. Product risk status.
D.Trend analysis
E. Recommendation for release.

Justification:

A and B. Correct. Project manager belongs to testing background and are more interested in the technical aspect of the project.

C, D, E – Incorrect as these details should be included to the upper management / stakeholders.

You can find more ISTQB advanced level dumps at: CTAL Test Manager sample paper pdf.

Note: The situations in the exam are actually quite big. The length may vary from half page to one and a half page, so read it carefully with very calm mind.

Conclusion:

That is it which I have to share. Just highlighting the main points:

1. Go through the study material thoroughly (very thoroughly)
2. Study the articles from softwaretestinghelp.com
3. Search in the net for more articles.
4. Apply practical knowledge
5. Solve and practice scenario/ situation based questions.

All the best.

About the Author: This is a guest article by Shilpa Chatterjee Roy. She is working in software testing field for the past 8.5 years in domains like Internet advertising, Investment Banking and Telecom. She has also cleared the CTAL test manager exam with good score.

If you have passed the ISTQB advanced level exam or preparing for it, please share your experience in comments below. After all, sharing is caring.



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21 comments ↓

#1 Suresh on 10.28.13 at 5:07 am

Nice article.Helpful in understanding categories in advanced level ISTQB.

#2 Hari on 10.28.13 at 5:17 am

This article is an excellent torch in the software testing career path…kudos…

#3 Shatikanth on 10.28.13 at 7:13 am

Really, this article would help to all who is seeking online help for Adv. ISTQB cerification.

#4 Supriya on 10.28.13 at 7:22 am

This article is indeed helpful for the ISTQB Advanced Level preparation. Thanks.

#5 swapna on 10.28.13 at 7:30 am

this article elped meto know the levels of exams.i need more help from you still. thank u

#6 Shiv on 10.28.13 at 7:42 am

Perfect guidance for CTAL study!!!!!
Can you please provide sample question papers for CTAL -Test Analyst?

Thank you

#7 Shilpa Chatterjee Roy on 10.28.13 at 12:43 pm

Thanks everyone for your feed back. Appreciate it.
In case you have any questions, please drop me a note and I will be happy to help.

#8 Mamatha on 10.29.13 at 5:01 am

Hi,

Thanks a lot for the valuable information provided. I have completed my ISTQB foundation level. In the advance level which module is better to choose first among 3 modules (Technical Test Analyst, Test Analyst and
Test Manager).

#9 Shilpa Chatterjee Roy on 10.29.13 at 10:45 am

@Mamatha

Thanks!!

It all depends upon your interest. TA and TTA basically talks about the types of testing ( static, dynamic, analytic) along with various other functional and non functional techniques.You can get the detailed syllabus at the istqb site(http://istqb.in/Syllabi.php)
Test Manager is all about test management which talks about planning, monitoring and control, estimations, various tool and processes.

So you can opt for whatever suits your interests. You can download the study material and go through it before deciding on what module you would like to opt for. You can give all the three modules if you want :)

#10 Mamatha on 10.30.13 at 5:18 am

Thank you shilpa

#11 sudhakar on 10.30.13 at 5:07 pm

Good one inshort to caution ISTQB appearing testers.

#12 Viswa on 11.07.13 at 5:36 am

Motivating article for ISTQB preparation, I really want to apply for next level (CTAL). Thanks for the article.

#13 Sunil Upadhyay on 11.08.13 at 12:13 pm

Shilpa,
Congrats for your good score.

Its a great help from your side if you provide me more mock question and answers.
You can mail me study material or provide me the helpful links.
Thanks in Advance

#14 Swathi on 11.09.13 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the article! It has provided me a direction to prepare for CTAL.

#15 Sangram Kumar Das on 11.12.13 at 2:37 pm

Nice article. Thanks a lot for the valuable information provided.

#16 sandra on 11.17.13 at 11:42 am

Can anybody forward me link to download the book: “The Software Test Engineer’s Handbook” By Graham bath and Judy Mckay
Thanks in advance

#17 Linh Vo on 01.17.14 at 7:26 am

This is very helpful artical for me, i’m studying to take the ISTQB Advance exam. Thanks a lot.

#18 madhu on 02.02.14 at 3:30 pm

Plz help me with Ctal,test analyst dumps r books n training.

#19 Didar on 03.19.14 at 6:42 pm

Which book did you read?

#20 Deb on 04.07.14 at 11:10 am

Hi Shilpa,

First of all Congratulation to you as you have cleared CTAL with good marks and wishing you all the very best in your future assignments.

Actually I have a plan to take up ISTQB CTAL (Test Analyst) very soon.So could i have some suggestion how/what to study and score good marks ?

waiting for your reply.
If possible please drop me a mail.

Regards
Deb

#21 PRASAD G J on 04.09.14 at 5:56 am

You can also find the sample question paper with solutions in ISTQB website,
—————————————————————–
For Technical Test Analyst:

http://istqb.in/downloads/advanced_level_2012_sample_questions_technical_test_analyst_v1.1.pdf
—————————————————————–
For Test Analyst:

http://istqb.in/downloads/advanced_level_2012_sample_questions_technical_test_analyst_v1.1.pdf
—————————————————————–
For Test Manager:

http://istqb.in/downloads/al_2012_sample_questions_atm_v1.02.pdf

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