CSM, PSM or PMI-ACP — Which is the right agile certification for you?


In this post, we compare three, entry-level agile certifications: The Scum Alliance’s Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Scrum.org’s PSM 1, and PMI’s Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP). We have also included a Comparison.

Certification: Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

Vendor: Scrum Alliance

Vendor’s Pitch:

A Certified ScrumMaster helps project teams properly use Scrum, increasing the likelihood of the project’s overall success. CSMs understand Scrum values, practices, and applications and provide a level of knowledge and expertise above and beyond that of typical project managers.

Certification Exam:

Format: Multiple choice
Number of Questions: 35
Time limit: None specified
Passing score: 24 correct answers
Number of attempts permitted: 2 attempts within 90 days of completing the CSM course

Initial Cost:

  • Free with Certified Scrum Master Course registration. Course costs generally range between CDN$1,500 and CDN$2,000 in the Greater Toronto Area.

Exam Prerequisites:

  • Applicants must attend an in-person, two-day (16 hour) CSM course taught by a Scrum Trainer that’s been cerrtified by The Scrum Alliance,


  • Renewal fee: $US100 renewal fee payment every 2 years

Like it: Ease and speed with which you too can be certified agile. You’re in, you’re out… SHA-BOOM! You’re a CSM.

Leave it: Joining the club comes with a hefty price since you must take a sanctioned course.

What’s interesting: Upon completion of the CSM course, students are eligible for 16 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) that can be used for learning and renewing additional Scrum Alliance certifications such as the CSP, CEC, and/or CST.

Certification: Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)

Vendor: Scrum.org

Vendor’s Pitch:

Unlike other Scrum certifications that require only class attendance, Scrum.org certification requires a minimum score on an online assessment. Attending a course is neither required nor sufficient for certification. This gives Scrum.org certification teeth and ensures that it has true value in the marketplace.

Certification Exam:

Format: Multiple choice, multiple answer and true/false
Number of Questions: 80
Time limit: 60 minutes
Passing score: 85%
Number of attempts permitted: Number of attempts permitted: Apparently no limit (assuming your wallet holds out)

Initial Cost:

  • US$150 per attempt.

Exam Prerequisites:

  • None
  • Recommended courses: Professional Scrum Foundations or Professional Scrum Master
  • Recommended Practice Assessment: Scrum Open


  • None; it’s yours for life.

Like it: No mandatory training or experience required; the price of admission is a mere 150 greenbacks.

Leave it: 80 questions in 60 minutes and an 85% passing score—make sure you’ve eaten your Wheaties before sitting the exam.

What’s interesting: Scrum.org provides a free trial exam (“Open Assessment”) that allows cadidates to gauge their basic knowledge of Scrum, the structure of a Scrum Team, and the fundamentals of scaling Scrum. The Scrum Guide and Nexus Guide, which provide Scrum fundamentals, are downloadable for free from the Scrum.org website

Certification: PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

Vendor: PMI

Vendor’s Pitch:

Compared with other agile certifications based solely on training and exams, the PMI-ACP is evidence of your real-world, hands-on experience and skill.

Certification Exam:

Format: Multiple choice
Number of Questions: 120
Time limit: 3 hours
Passing score: 85%
Number of attempts permitted: PMI doesn’t disclose this; however, it’s estimated to be 70%

Initial Cost:

  • Member: US$435
  • Non-member: US$495
  • Re-Examination, Member: US$335
  • Re-Examination, Non-Member: US$395

Exam Prerequisites:

  • 2,000 hours of general project experience working on teams. A current PMP or PgMP will satisfy this requirement but is not required to apply for the PMI-ACP.
  • 1,500 hours working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies.
  • 21 contact hours of training in agile practices.


  • 30 Professional Development Units (PDUs) in agile topics every 3 years.
  • Renewal fee: US$60 (PMI members); US$150 (PMI non-members) every 3 years.

Like it: Three letters: P M I

Leave it: US$435 to sit the exam (plus US$335 if you need to re-write it)? 1,500 demonstrated agile hours? 21 hours of training? Seriously? Tell me the part again about how I get a return on my investment?

What’s interesting: There is no de facto passing score. PMI relies on people it deems to be subject matter experts to determine how many questions each candidate must answer correctly to pass the exam.


Are you a CSM, PSM or PMI-ACP? Which one? Why? Are you happy with it? Drop us a line — we’d like to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Close Menu