Wednesday, 6 February 2008

My notes on how to study for ISEB foundation

While trawling through my hard drive on a deletion frenzy, I found my old notes on what I did to pass the ISEB foundation exam. Bear in mind that I made these notes in 2003 and the ISEB syllabus has moved on since. But I have updated all the links and someone might find my updated notes useful.

Original Notes - with up to date links.

Hints and tips

  • The questions get written from the syllabus - know the syllabus
  • The definitions come from the glossary - forget what you think you know if you want to pass - learn the definitions in the glossary
  • The techniques come from the BS7925, read and understand this
  • At the end of your study, if you feel like doing something adventurous then read the practitioner syllabus for extra depth


  • Study the syllabus in conjunction with the Glossary of terms used in software testing and the BS7925 standard
  • Build a mind map or set of study notes for the syllabus to summarise what you think important
  • Check your understanding and notes against the definitions in the glossary and the standards
  • Learn some memory techniques and general exam techniques. The  multiple choice foundation exam tests your memory skills rather than your testing skills.

Optional with Cost

  • From the Recommended Texts: Hetzel reads at about the right level; Beizer, although admirably included in the list should count as a bit more advanced than the foundation requires (but do read it for your own education and edification); I use Roper as a good summary of test techniques at about the foundation level
  • Get the sample paper from ISEB and try it out

Additional References

Up to Date Notes

  • The BCS web page recommends that you take a course to learn this stuff - frankly I think this massive overkill for a 40 question multiple choice test. Apparently "the overall public exam pass rates are notably lower than for candidates who have attended an accredited training course", but I could not find those stats on the ISEB site. Given the cost of a training course, you could probably sit the foundation exam 6 or 7 times on your own and still not have paid the same as a course would have cost.
  • The massive BCS Reading List seems designed to intimidate you into taking a course or grabbing the "An ISEB Foundation Course"
  • Where did this Intermediate course come from! Cue a post for a later date.

    1. Hi,

      I read your notes on How to Study for ISEB and I found it very helpful when I prepared for my exam (I wrote one last weekend). I just wanted to add that I also used the exam simulation software by Dr. John Estrella titled Sample Exam Questions: ISTQB Certified Tester Foundation Level ( With your tips and the software combined I aced my exam. Thank you for all the help.


      Glad you found this useful. Thanks for the comment, Alan.

    2. [...] So I duly went out to pass the ISEB Foundation. Eschewing any form of training for such a simple and easy test. I downloaded the syllabus and began preparing for a public sitting of the exam. (see my notes on how to prepare) [...]

    3. Hi,

      I passed Foundation. I ma now moving onto studying for Intermediate. There is 1 (just 1) sample paper & a book.

      I still get confused as to terminology.

      Test Scenario, Test Condition, Test Case, Test script (manual), Test script automated.

      Do you know of website with an example? (proper Example)

      I'm sure I've also seen "Test Asset" (maybe I was seeing things)

      I would read the syllabus. All the exams focus on the syllabus so everything needs to have coverage in there.

    4. if someone in the I.T field and wants to be ISEB certified,where does he or she starts.

      Start by questioning why you want to get certified, and how much certification you actually require. Bear in mind that people make a lot of money from the ISEB certifications and training so don't just give money to them, weigh up the benefits to you against the costs to you. Since the certifications have the syllabus online, make a decision about how much you can self-study using the syllabus and other recommended texts to avoid training. Unless of course your main motivation for doing the certification revolved around the training.

    5. Hello,

      I'm currently studying for this exam, and I would like to thank you for all of the above, it's give me a lot more information that I required.

      Can I just ask 1 question? As this is from 2008 would the exam and syllabus be the same or is there an updated version of this post?



      1. I have not prepared an updated version of this post. It marks a point in time. The theory behind the post still stands, but you need an up to date syllabus for whatever exam you have chosen to study for.

      2. Thanks for the update Alan, what is already posted is more than enough to help me prepare and thanks again for help.

    6. I have recently got myself into a testing job through my work as a seconded role - but after doing it for the past year only to be told I'm moving back (call center) i want to make the most of my experience and it seems all the contracted testers recommend this training - can you recommend a good site where i can get the up to date syllabus?

      many thanks

      1. Sorry, I don't keep up to date with the ISEB stuff. I think you have to search for ISTQB now, and I'm not sure if you can do public exams anymore. I think it is now more of a money making machine than it ever was.

        You don't need certification to be a good tester. If you have experience then you can sell yourself on the basis of your experience.

        The web site says that you can do the exam online, but when I click on the link I get an error.

    7. Thanks. Content is good.

      One more blog has good information on this subject: