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Introduction to ISTQB’s CTFL 4.0

Tal Pe’er

Recently ISTQB® has released a new version of its Foundation Level syllabus (CTFL). First released in 1998, the syllabus has gone through a few updates previously, but this release is considered to be a major change. As ISTQB itself said “the old version of the syllabus was outdated, focused on theory and wasn’t up to speed with the Agile concepts that are very popular today”.

After analysing the market, the team responsible for the syllabus decided upon a drastic move and brought together the Foundation and the Agile Tester syllabi. Although this is not a complete merger of the two syllabi, the new CTFL syllabus now includes many of the Agile concepts accepted today.

Another major change in the creation of this syllabus was that of describing the testing activities that are done by anyone who may be doing testing, not just testers, e.g., developers, business analysts, and others.

Let me summarize the changes in each chapter, and after I will answer some questions that you may have.

Chapter 1, Fundamentals of Testing. In addition to the basic concepts of testing and why testing is necessary, this chapter presents testing as an activity or role, instead of the full-time-job it was described as before. The quality of the product, the processes, the deadlines, is the responsibility of the whole group and we will learn a more holistic skillset, not just a technical skillset.

Chapter 2, Testing Through the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). Here lies the biggest change in the syllabus where the impact of different SDLC models on testing is discussed. Modern practices are introduced: test-first approach, DevOps, shift left and focus on collaboration to prevent defects instead of finding them at a later stage.

Chapter 3, Static Testing. This chapter has not changed much. It emphasizes the importance of frequent feedback mechanism, and the need to invest in preventing defects, rather than finding them later.

Chapter 4, Test Analysis and Design. Mainly a change in the chapter’s name, although this is showing where the focus is. The test techniques presented in this chapter are tools used in test analysis and design, and they should be properly implemented where needed. Most of the techniques in the chapter are the same as the ones presented in previous versions of the syllabus. However, there is a new area covering collaboration-based test approaches, where we learn about the involvement of testers in writing and refining user stories, and how to participate in project using Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD).

There’s also a minor change in the White-box Test Techniques in that the Decision Testing technique was replaced by the Branch Testing technique. The two techniques are very similar but, according to ISTQB, this is the most widely practiced of the two variants.

Chapter 5, Managing the Test Activities. The change of name (from Test Management) is due to ISTQB’s view that in the Agile world the need for a test manager is decreasing. The testing activities are now taken by the group of individual professionals responsible for the quality. Still, the chapter is talking about Test Planning, which is essential in any size of project, done in any SDLC. Other activities discussed in this chapter include Risk Management and how it drives testing, Test Monitoring and Control, Test Closure, Configuration Management and its contribution to testing, and Defect Management, which is a core activity for every test project.

The chapter introduces some more concepts from the Agile world:

  • Testers’ involvement in release planning and iteration planning.
  • New estimation techniques are introduced.
  • The Testing Pyramid.
  • Testing Quadrants, explaining the testing activities a tester may perform depending on the quadrant the tester is facing.

Chapter 6, Test Tools. Presenting the importance of using tools for testing, their contribution for better testing, as well as the benefits and risks of using tools. The chapter introduces tools used in a DevOps environment and collaboration tools.

Overall, the CTFL continues to provide a comprehensive source of knowledge for anyone that wants to learn the fundamentals of testing. And, with this new version, it is aligned with modern practices that are common today. We must remember that although new practices arise every now and then, the core concepts of testing, being the building blocks of the testing profession, do not change.

Q: I’m certified with a previous version of CTFL. Do I need to take the exam again and be certified with the new version?

A: You don’t have to take a new exam as ISTQB’s CTFL certification is valid for life. However, it is highly recommended you at least read the syllabus and do the sample exams in order to get acquainted with the new concepts and techniques.

Q: Does the exam length change?

A: No, the exam remains a 40-questions / 60-minutes long, with 15 minutes more for people who take the exam not in their native language.

Q: How long is the CTFL course?

A: The course is 3-days long. It includes exercises and sample questions for each chapter.

For more information about registering for the course, please contact us.

Tal Pe’er

Grove Software Testing

information om författaren:
Tal Pe’er

Tal has been working in software and system testing for over 25 years, getting his Foundation Certification back in 1999. He’s been working as a tester and test manager before becoming a trainer and consultant, helping organizations to establish and improve test teams and test processes, as well as training testing professionals with various ISTQB® courses and testing workshops.

Tal is a Principal Consultant at Grove Software Testing, one of UK’s leading training providers and course training materials


Nyckelord: ISTQB new verson, ISTQB, SDLC, CTFL, Agile tester