The BBST Foundations course: Week 4

Experience Reports, Software Testing

The Final Week

It’s the monday of the last week of BBSt, I flunked the last assignment and that had angered me.
In fact, this released a lot of the frustrations I had towards the course in one moment.

I had a short discussion with the instructor and this cleared up a few things. I hadn’t quite understood in what way I had to explain my answer and the instructor hadn’t found what I wanted to say.

We had a long google-hangout session and cleared a lot of things out. Apparently, there were a few videos and pages I missed that were key to answering the exam successfully.

For example, there’s a list of keyword. If the question contains “List X” you give 3 examples of that list. Number 4 and number 5 will be ignored, unless they contain errors; in that case, they’ll subtract marks.
Another, If it says “Describe”, you have to paint a picture. “Describe the Weibull curve” becomes: “A fast surge in the beginning, a flattening until it reaches the peak and then a deep plummet down until its pace declines and steadily, but slowly falls down to 0.

So yes, you need to know these things to be successful in the course. No, it has nothing to do with testing, apart from the fact that “precision reading” is a core skill of a tester.

I eventually got to fill out all the exam questions and discussed several answers of the other students.
I tried to be everywhere and discuss everything worth discussing.
In the end, there was a lot less activity this week than all the others.

The Exam

The exam was a three day, closed book exam. The instructors count on your honour not  to cheat. But it’s really easy to cheat. Really, really easy…. And we’re testers.
Testers cheat.

I had everything stored locally. All my answers, all other people’s answers, all the quizzes…
My book is full of post-its with all the definitions and important information on it.

I really like cheating, I do.
Yet somehow, I was able to fight the temptation. My honour is unscathed. This is probably because I didn’t really need it. I had answered every question already before and I had done this meticulously. I was pretty confident in my answers.
Apart from that, during the exam, you experience sparks of brilliance. You think of things you weren’t able to before.

Gabi, the instructor, had told me that might happen. I didn’t believe it, but paid attention to it none-the-less. He was right.

After the Exam

Ru, another instructor, and me went over my exam questions in a Skype meeting. She had lots of feedback and gave me an appreciation for my answers.
Even-though there was a question in the pool which I had answered similarly wrong as the practice question, Ru gave me the chance to defend and change my initial answer.

The conclusion in the end was:

  • I have successfully completed the course
  • My exam met expectations
  • I was one of the most active students across many foundations courses.


I have already stressed how interesting the material is and how much I’ve learned from the course. It’s good. The course is by far the best testing course I’ve learned about by now.

If you’re looking to send your testers on a course, take this one.

There’s a few things I didn’t really like though, but I can see why they are the way they are and how they each have their own function.

  1. I disliked my experience of the online component.
    While I really like functioning in diverse teams, I absolutely disliked it in this format. Don’t get me wrong I really liked the people I met and got to know. Maybe someday, we’ll meet again. But generally, I felt it was a distraction. Every task is focused on the individual, with the option to give feedback on others.
    Most of this feedback is about questions. “Why did you say/do it like that?”. You ‘lose time’ explaining your words and ideas, rather than have an in depth discussion.
    Sure, this is how it works in the real world. But I get enough of that in the real world already, here I want to learn and learn in depth.
  2. I disliked the Exam format.
    To me, the exam is not a good representation of “did I make the course or not”. It serves two functions: One; it’s a learning opportunity. A way to further process what you’ve learned. Two; it’s a measure of how well you completed the course.
    I felt it focused way too much on precision reading and precision writing than on what you’ve understood from the course.
    It’s very academic. I understand why, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
    I would really like to know how many from my class got their ‘certification’. That way I could take a guess at how high I should hold it in esteem.

I have felt frustrated throughout most of the course, but I have learned a ton.

Thank you, Cem, Altom, Ru, Gabi, the other instructors and all my fellow students for your efforts and knowledge sharing. I imagine I wasn’t the easiest student, but I’m grateful for the chance of learning with you.

The BBST Foundations course: Week 3

Experience Reports, Software Testing

I have the feeling I took the week off.
Did about 15 hours of work towards the course, but there were too many other things going on, rendering the experience of the course a bit too the background.

A lot has happened though. All the assignments are completed, all quizzes are done and all deadlines passed. Next week is a straight line to the exam.

An online meeting

Last week started off with a Google hangout session where about 10 people gathered, including the instructors and Cem. It was interesting to see how this format was handled. The value from the session was that I could finally see and interact with the people apart from a forum setting. I got to know how some people talked, looked and generally carried themselves.
I found that I really benefit from having seen people in order to understand their communication better.

This was an hour to ask anything to the instructors directly.
There were less questions than I expected and the explanation to them couldn’t quite go as much in depth as one would like. It’s probably very hard to divide the time among the relevant questions and make sure the important things get covered without going too much into details.

Next up: practice exam question.

All the exam questions are there. All twenty of them have been sitting there from the beginning of the course. I’ve understood that we’ll get a subset of those for our final exam. So everything can be prepared perfectly in advance.

However, one of the final assignments is prepare a bogus exam question. This exercise is meant to practice how we should tackle the questions. It is designed to teach us how to format our answers and explain them in a clear and structured way.

I didn’t do well on this exercise. I could’ve put more structure in there, worded it more precise and more elaborate.
It’s definitely a skill I have to practice if I would pursue the other BBST certificates.

One week to go.

I’ve got more than enough time to work trough the exams. Hell, I’ve completed 3/4’s already.
I hope the other students and instructors have enough energy left to make this last week one for the ages.

The BBST Foundations course: Week 2

Experience Reports, Software Testing

A blast, a long sizzle

This week started with two days of never-ending stream of comments. I did a quick arbitrary count and think the whole class generated close to 200 messages during that time.
That’s a lot of input you can work through. ‘Can’, because you have a choice. I’ve skipped more than half of the messages and read only a few in depth.

That’s because most of the messages are the same, yet framed in a different way. They are all answers from the students to two or three exercises and can be expected to be very similar content-wise.
The exercises are challenging, interesting and make you see things somewhat different. Excellent for new testers, or testers who have been doing their job the same way for a very long time and are looking to shake things up a bit.
Yet again, the online format gives a lot of input, but brings very little extra.

The people who read last week’s blog post will have noticed that I was struggling to adjust to the format of the course. I decided to mailed two different instructors to explain my situation, what I’m thinking and how I perceive things.
When I didn’t get any reply from them (I can imagine they get a lot of these inquiries), I contacted Ru directly on the tester’s slack. (check it out if you haven’t yet!)
She gave me much needed feedback for which I’m grateful.

After the big bang of messages, everything turned suddenly very quiet for 4 days. One or two messages a day, nothing more. I’ve been solving the exercises and storing them locally, deliberately not putting them on the forum yet. Trying to not seem the try-hard I am.

Where I’m at in the course

This week I worked about 25 hours on the course, the week before will be close to 30.

Week 3 begins tomorrow and I’ve worked through the course almost completely, listened multiple times to the lectures, completed all the quizzes, created a glossary and completed all but one assignment.

What I still want to do, is make a summary of all the lessons, listing the lesson objectives it touches upon and do some sense-making of what’s behind the course. I’m pretty sure that will prove valuable.
Apart from that, I’ll focus on the 20 exam questions and figure out what the instructors want (and don’t want) to hear.

I’m trying to find just the right amount of questions to ask and assumptions to make because I’m getting quite a few mixed signals. For example:

If you were to frame the context this way, then what you’ve included in your answer would be the absolute best way to address this context.
But I also feel you would get more learning value out of the course if you would try to work with the information that is provided rather than fight it at every turn.

(These are snippets from feedback I have gotten, not the whole thing. I include this here as an example, but it’s take out of a much larger body of feedback and so, is out of context.)

I don’t know what to do with this.
It’s a context driven course. I put myself in that context and try to make that context clear(er) to me. The instructor tells me that I did good in my answer, but at the same time tells me to stick with the information provided.

In any case, even with all the ups-and-downs, I’m having a blast. Today, Cem Kaner gave feedback on some of my exam questions and I have to do my absolute best to counter-argue. That’s learning.

The BBST Foundations course: Week 1

Experience Reports, Software Testing

The Meet and Greet forum has exploded.
100+ messages talking about all sorts of topics.
It’s an information flood about metal music, cars, toy rockets, nature, the outdoors and where everyone’s based.
I can’t wait for this to overflow into an abundance of testing knowledge.


The waiting game

And so I waited. Pressing F5 on the discussions forum to catch the occasional test-centered post that could become a testing discussion. This took a while.
4 days, I believe it took, before the first assignment was picked up in earnest.

There were a few interesting discussions, mainly on quiz questions that are designed to get you doubting, thinking, discussing and learning. Excellent!
Even Cem Kaner himself joined in.

Today, the last day of the first week, I’m feeling a bit disappointed. As a whole, I think the students have written enough to fill a small book. There’s a lot of good stuff, but also a lot of not so good stuff. There’s also input that is in complete contrast with what the course teaches (and what I as a tester believe in).

The format of a forum, limits us and the instructors to effectively enter in a discussion.
Answers are long, try to answer multiple points at a time and don’t do a good job at getting the right sentiment across (be you angry, annoyed or patient).
Because of this, I noticed a tendency to walk between the boundaries of “What the course is trying to teach you” and “how can we best pass the course” instead of doing earnest, in depth discussion.

I would love setting up a Slack for this course. A multi channel, multi person, immediate feedback, chatting tool with possibilities for one-on-one chatting, group chatting and complete class testing.

At the moment, I’m learning a lot from the course, the exercises and putting what I learn to test. The online course format, at the moment, isn’t adding much value to it though.
I’m hoping that will change.


The BBST Foundations Course commences

Experience Reports, Software Testing

Two months ago, I asked my employer whether I could follow the BBST Foundations course organised by Altom. My employer decided I could and gave me 5 days to work on it over the duration of the course.

Almost immediately I pre-ordered the coursebook, downloaded all the content and converted the video’s to MP3’s.
I vehemently started studying in advance and listened to the lectures during my daily commute.
Since that day, I might have been borderline obsessed with it.

So here I am, the day before the start.
There was an invitation mail in my inbox and I’ve entered the course website.

After some sense-making of the online platform, everything seems clear enough. One thing I miss is an option for one-on-one or multiple user communication channels.
There’s a few channels and they are open to everyone all the time. I understand the need for transparency, but the ability to have a dialogue or group discussion without having to refresh constantly would be nice.

The Meet-and-greet has already been filled by most instructors and some other students. They introduce themselves, what they do as a job and in their free time. Participants quickly get to know each other and the atmosphere is very jovial.

There’s a lot of potential for this course, I’m curious how it develops.