How To Prepare For ISTQB Exam

How To Prepare For ISTQB Exam

What is ISTQB?

ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) was founded in November 2002. Since then the organization has achieved incredible goals. They have created the world’s most successful scheme for certifying software testers. The organization conducts exams in over 120 countries worldwide.

What is the ISTQB Foundation Level Certification?

ISTQB foundation level certification syllabus is likely to be the most read software testing document ever. The syllabi contents and glossary have become the de facto industry reference for the software testing profession.

The foundation level qualification is suitable for anyone who is involved as well as interested in software testing.

Basically this certificate is the most popular and recognizable in the world for Test Engineers. That’s why it is the most widespread requirement for tester vacancies. With this certificate, it will be much easier for you to find a job and to start or enhance your career in this field. You are more likely to be involved in the projects where customers demand the certificate for the tester.

Why choose ISTQB certification?

Many of our readers asked me – “Does ISTQB Certification help?“.

ISTQB certification is good to have and it is non-mandatory. It could make you more competitive.

1. Employers may seek certified professionals. It opens doors for Software Testing jobs.
2. It gives you the flexibility to choose the education that fits your testing job.
3. It gives you a career path to get the software testing or QA job you want.
4. It could reduce your company’s or client’s costs
5. It will give you an edge over non-certified ones.

ISTQB Exam Rules:

Now when we know what the exam is and why we need it. Let’s check what we should know about the foundation level exam.

This exam comprises 40 multiple-choice questions. Each correct answer has a value of 1 point. A score of at least 65% (26 points) is required to pass. The time allowed for the exam is 60 minutes.

The questions are distributed per chapter per cognitive level. Questions are distributed across K-levels. The Foundation exam covers four different K-levels (K1-K4). For Certified Tester Foundation Level (ISTQB-CTFL), 20 questions are from K1 level, 12 questions are from K2 level and K3&K4 levels comprise 8 questions collectively.

There are 6 chapters in the foundation level.

1. Fundamentals of testing
2. Testing throughout the software development lifecycle
3. Static testing
4. Test techniques
5. Test management
6. Tool support for testing

How long does it take to prepare for ISTQB

It may sound simple – Pass the test and get the certification. Maybe some of you think it’s not bad and you will easily pass it. Few people will say that preparation will take 2 days. Even your colleagues can also say that I was preparing for 2-3 days and it was so easy to pass or I didn’t prepare for it at all. As per my experience with ISTQB test, I will simply call this ISTQB myth. I will say it is impossible for most of the people to prepare for it in 2 days.

Even 2 weeks mostly is not enough.

This organization has administered over 920,000 and issued 673,000 certifications. And it sounds like only 2 of 3 people successfully passed the exam and one try to pass the exam costs around Rs. 4580.

Personal experience:

I appeared in ISTQB-CTFL exam and passed with 92.5%. Based on my personal experience, now I will tell you the complexity of questions asked in the ISTQB exam and the best approach to attempt various kinds of questions. By reading this you can understand how difficult is the ISTQB exam.

1. Questions with complicated answers:

Most likely ISTQB makes simple stuff extremely complex. It means that a couple of answers are correct and others seem to be correct and you need to find the pairs. It is complex because it is about software testing theories. Let’s see an example.


Integration testing has the following characteristics

I. It can be done in an incremental manner
II. It is always done after system testing
III. It includes functional tests
IV. It includes non-functional tests

a. I, II and III are correct
b. I is correct
c. I, III and IV are correct
d. I, II and IV are correct

Above mentioned ISTQB questions is one of the examples. In order to give the correct answer during 60-90 seconds, you will need to be fluent in theory and have the ability of logical thinking.

2. Questions which are focused on knowledge of terminology:

You will be required to fully understand the definitions of almost 200 terms. Check this article where we have put more than 100 Software Testing Types in one place. It means you will need to know them very well because half of the terms are not very much different from each other. For example, the word bug. One of the aims of our work is to find bugs, the case when the actual result doesn’t meet the expected result. It is more complicated in ISTQB. There are 6 terms that have the same meaning with slight variations which is necessary to know.


When what is visible to end-users is a deviation from the specific or expected behavior, this is called:

a) an error
b) a fault
c) a failure
d) a defect
e) a mistake

3. Subjective questions:

It is important to understand the thinking of people who created tests and it is required to give not the right answer but the expected answer. So the most specific questions are the subjective questions. These are the tests with the words: normally, main, best, most likely. When you see questions with one of these words, it means there are 4 right answers and one the most correct answer. There are 25% of such questions of all. In order to succeed in these questions, you need to be fluent in theory, read a few chapters from the book, and resolve hundreds of questions.


Which expression best matches the following characteristics or review processes:

1. led by author
2. undocumented
3. no management participation
4. led by a trained moderator or leader
5. uses entry exit criteria

s) inspection
t) peer review
u) informal review
v) walkthrough

a) s = 4, t = 3, u = 2 and 5, v = 1
b) s = 4 and 5, t = 3, u = 2, v = 1
c) s = 1 and 5, t = 3, u = 2, v = 4
d) s = 5, t = 4, u = 3, v = 1 and 2
e) s = 4 and 5, t = 1, u = 2, v = 3

4. Questions where you forgot what you need to do while reading:

Also there are really long questions when you will finish reading you forget what you were asked for and remember you have 60-90 seconds per question so it is not easy.


Consider the following statements:
Pick up and read the newspaper
Look at what is on television
If there is a program that you are interested in watching then switch the television
on and watch the program
Continue reading the newspaper
If there is a crossword in the newspaper then try and complete the crossword

a) 1 test for Statement Coverage, 1 for Decision Coverage
b) 1 test for Statement Coverage, 2 for Decision Coverage
c) 1 test for Statement Coverage, 3 for Decision Coverage
d) 2 tests for Statement Coverage, 2 for Decision Coverage
e) 2 tests for Statement Coverage, 3 for Decision Coverage

5. The most complex questions:

The worst thing is that there are 5-10% of really complex questions. Those are long and have a lot of answers. In order to do them, you need to know, understand, and be able to use the theory of ISTQB very well.


Given the following types of tool, which tools would typically be used by developers and which by an independent test team:

i. static analysis
ii. performance testing
iii. test management
iv. dynamic analysis
v. test running
vi. test data preparation

a) developers would typically use i, iv and vi; test team ii, iii and v
b) developers would typically use i and iv; test team ii, iii, v and vi
c) developers would typically use i, ii, iii and iv; test team v and vi
d) developers would typically use ii, iv and vi; test team I, ii and v
e) developers would typically use i, iii, iv and v; test team ii and vi

Tips for the preparation of ISTQB:

One more interesting question many people asked: “How can I crack ISTQB Foundation exam“. Here are some tips to crack the ISTQB Foundation exam for you . 


Read and understand syllabus – Before doing anything regarding exam preparation, nothing is more important than syllabus. Understand every topic of the ISTQB syllabus in depth. The syllabus is your guide. Use the syllabus to aid your revision.

The syllabus can be downloaded from here 


Understand the exam structure – Each topic in the syllabus has associated with it a level of understanding represented by KI through K4. Prepare according to the distribution of levels per chapter. Learn how the questions are distributed per chapter per cognitive level and prepare accordingly. Questions are distributed across K-levels

No. of questions distributed across topics:

ISTQB K-Levels


Study from one resource only – I will suggest studying from one resource only. Follow just 1 book or online material to prepare for the exam rather than getting lost in the maze of books and online resources. More resources lead to more confusion.


Read glossary – Make a list of useful glossary and frequently used definitions. Make some cards and print the glossaries on them. Keep them handy for frequent reading and while solving ISTQB certification exam sample papers.


Istqb mock exams – After reading the entire material properly take up some sample question papers or mock tests. This will give you an idea of important topics that need more attention. This will also help you in understanding the different questions that are asked in the ISTQB certification exam. But never rely on dumps to pass the exam.


Note-Revise-Practice – Make notes of important topics and concepts from the textbook/syllabus. Recall what you have just read into memory. You can even try mind maps for quick revision. Practice using mock tests and dumps.


Last and most important tip – Remove exam fear from your mind. You should not be worried about the exam if you have read and understood the syllabus properly. In ISTQB exam everything comes from the syllabus only. So be confident to clear the exam.


ISTQB Quiz – You can test your knowledge with this ISTQB Quiz. We have created this ISTQB Quiz Online Test to let you take an ISTQB Mock Test before taking the ISTQB Certification Exam.


Hope this post covered all your queries on how to prepare for ISTQB Exam and we wish it will help people who can take ISTQB exam.

If you feel that we have missed something, please let us know and we will try to include here. 

Author: This article is written by STM writer, Harsha Mittal an ISTQB-CTFL Certified Software Test Engineer having 3.5+ years of experience in Software Testing.

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