Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University
Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University

SEI-Certified PSP Developer Exam

Background
The SEI developed the PSP Developer Examination to ensure that only qualified individuals are certified as PSP Developers. The exam is based on information found in the PSP Body of Knowledge (BOK).

This examination was developed in accordance with the guiding principles of the PSP itself. A process was defined, a product plan developed, and necessary scripts utilized, all for the purpose of developing a valid and reliable exam in a manner consistent with the disciplined approach put forth by the PSP. Equally important, the exam was developed in accordance with the testing guidelines set forth by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education as presented in Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (1999).

Test specifications
The two-hour exam consists of 80 multiple choice questions. Each question has four possible answers, only one of which is correct. The exam covers the competency areas found in the BOK:

  • Competency Area 1: Foundational Knowledge
  • Competency Area 2: Basic PSP Concepts
  • Competency Area 3: Size Measuring and Estimating
  • Competency Area 4: Making and Tracking Project Plans
  • Competency Area 5: Planning and Tracking Software Quality
  • Competency Area 6: Software Design
  • Competency Area 7: Process Extensions

Question writing process
Subject matter experts were involved in each phase of exam development, from the development of the test specifications to the determination of the exam's pass point. This involvement was especially valuable in the question writing process. These experts were trained in the development of clear, non-trivial questions that test the knowledge required to perform as a PSP Developer.

Question review process
Upon completion of the question writing process, subject matter experts were asked to review the questions for clarity, correctness, and appropriateness. In conducting such a review, questions were extensively critiqued, rewritten, and, if necessary, omitted. All questions in the question bank underwent this same rigorous review process by multiple reviewers.

Alpha test
As an additional measure to ensure that the high standards of the question writers and reviewers had been met, the entire bank of more than 200 questions was alpha tested by subject matter experts. This diverse group of men and women varied in terms of the amount of their PSP experience, their employment background (both industry and academia were represented), and even their familiarity with the English language. The alpha testers answered all 200+ questions in the bank and even submitted comments about the questions.

Beta test
Drawing upon the suggestions of the alpha testers, additional revisions were made to the bank of PSP Developer questions. The exam was now ready to be beta tested. Nearly 50 beta testers sat for the PSP Developer exam, providing additional feedback on the individual questions, clarity of the exam instructions, and time needed to complete the 80-question exam.

Cut score process
The cut score process was used to determine the pass point—or passing score—for the PSP Developer exam. The concept of the cut score process was introduced in 1971 by William Angoff, a measurement research statistician. A criterion-referenced technique, it is one of the most commonly used methods of determining a pass point for licensure and certification exams.

Once again, the input of subject matter experts was critical. By identifying the knowledge necessary to competently perform as a PSP Developer and estimating the difficulty that an individual possessing that knowledge would have in answering each question correctly, the subject matter experts arrived at the exam's pass point.

Translations
The PSP Developer examination is delivered in English and Spanish online. The examination is also available in Japanese via a paper-based examination format. These are only available via special requests to certification-info@sei.cmu.edu.