Certified Software Testers Swat Software Bugs

Find software bugs

As the story goes, in 1946 computer scientist Grace Hopper was at the Harvard Computation Laboratory doing work on what would become the Harvard Mark II computer. During a test, something went wrong with the Mark II machine. Upon investigation, technicians discovered a dead moth which was trapped in a relay.


The insect was removed and taped into a log book, with the following notation written underneath:


"First actual case of bug being found."


The word "bug" had previously been used by engineers to describe a fault with a machine or other device. The Harvard story and its successive retellings, however, led to the widespread adoption of the word in the computing industry, particularly when referring to programming errors in a piece of software.


Today, the task of finding software bugs belongs to software testers.


Software testers are IT professionals who use specialized tools and processes to locate and identify bugs in pieces of software, document the bugs, and send their findings to the software development team so the bugs can be fixed. In a typical software company, software testers collaborate with programmers, technical writers, product managers, and regulatory officials to ensure that the highest quality product gets shipped to customers.


Many software companies ask testers to provide feedback on the usability and functionality of the product they are testing. This role is often referred to as a user advocate. Testers still look for bugs when performing the role of user advocate, but they also put themselves in the user's shoes, trying to identify things that could confuse or irritate someone using the product.


Software tester is a demanding IT job role. It requires rigorous attention to detail, a reasonable knowledge of software programming, excellent communication skills, and (sometimes) an understanding of regulatory standards for software products used in certain industries such as healthcare or law enforcement.


One prominent IT certification program for software testers is offered by the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB). This global program is administered in the United States by the American Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB). The ISTQB certification program has achieved remarkable success since its inception, with more than 400,000 certifications awarded to professionals in over a hundred countries.


ISTQB certifications for software testers are split into three tracks: Foundation, Advanced, and Expert.


ISTQB Foundation Level is for candidates who have completed some software testing training, and/or have at least six months of industry experience. The Foundation Level certification exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions, which candidates have an hour to complete. The passing score for the exam is 65 percent. Passing the exam earns candidates the Certified Tester: Foundation Level (CTFL) certification.


A series of extensions to the ISTQB Foundation Level are currently being developed. One available extension is the Agile Extension, which is for software testers working with a team using the Agile software development framework. The Agile Extension exam format and passing score is identical to the Foundation Level exam.


Testers who have earned the CTFL certification can continue on to the ISTQB Advanced Level track. The Advanced Level is recommended for testers with at least three years of industry experience. This track is split into three certifications:

? Test Analyst

? Technical Test Analyst

? Test Manager


Test Analysts are focused more on software usability and risk analysis, rather than reviewing lines of code. Technical Test Analysts are more savvy with scripting and programming languages, and are comfortable deep diving into code to look for bugs. Test Managers are testers who have the additional skill set of managing strategies, teams and projects.


Software tester uses laptop outside

Each Advanced Level credential has its own certification exam. All of them are multiple-choice, and come with two-to-three-hour time limits depending on the exam. Passing any of these exams earns candidates the Certified Tester: Advanced Level (CTAL) certification.


CTAL certified testers can advance to the ISTQB Expert Level. This certification track is recommended for software testers who have a minimum seven years of professional experience. The Expert Level track is split into specialties that map to specific Expert Level certifications.


Candidates who have earned the CTAL Test Manager cert can challenge the following Expert Level exams:

? Test Management

? Improving the Test Process


Candidates with the CTAL Technical Test Analyst cert can challenge these Expert Level exams:

? Test Automation Engineering

? Security Testing


An Expert Level certification linked to the CTAL Test Analyst cert is still under development at this time.


Expert Level certification exams consist of both a multiple-choice exam and an essay component, which is fairly unique to IT certifications. Passing an Expert Level exam earns — you guessed it — the Certified Tester: Expert Level (CTEL) certification.


Interested in learning more about the ISTQB certification program for software testers? Check out this page on the ISTQB.org website for more information.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author
Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.