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Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III) Example Question

People are often curious to know the style and format of questions in the Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III) assessment. Here is an example of the sort of things to expect:

You are a Scrum Master working with a Scrum Team. The Developers constantly complain that requirements are not clear enough. The Product Owner claims she is too busy to provide extra clarity. What should you do?

If you would like to see more questions, check out our Ultimate Scrum Master III (PSM III) Practice Questions and our Ultimate Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III) Practice Assessment.

Please feel free to post your answers in the comments section below and I will be happy to review and provide feedback.

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Comments 18

  1. The best requirements aren’t written down as Jeff Paton stated. Facilitate a conversation around the vision, mission, story mapping, cake wrecks etc. compare this to the current state of what is happening by holding up the mirror. Then ask the team (including PO) what a great target state would be and ask how we might get better at telling stories so we have a shared understanding. Agree the next target condition and experiment to run.

  2. Lots of answers above are making the flawed assumption that it is the PO and the PO alone who defines requirements for the team before the team start work on items. I also see some quotes that aren’t present in the 2020 Scrum Guide. This is Water-Scrum-Fall and although common in many organisations, it isn’t what the Scrum guide has in mind.

    My answer would be:

    I would chair a discussion between the entire Scrum Team, to determine the opinions of the team regarding who they thought was responsible for adding requirements to product backlog items and what they thought the correct process was.

    I would remind them that whilst it is the POs responsibility to create and order PBIs, that the entire team are responsible for the ongoing process of refinement as well as working with users and stakeholders to add a sufficient level of detail to PBIs. Expecting the PO to be solely responsible is an anti-pattern of the “Go-between” or proxy PO and such an arrangement actively hinders team collaboration with users and stakeholders.

    I would ask the developers within the Scrum team if they feel comfortable taking on this role and if not, ask why this is and see what the team thinks could be done to address this and how they would like to manage the plan to resolve it. Such a plan *may* involved the PO taking a more active role in adding more detail to PBIs, but this is definitely not the only solution.

    I would also determine if the team were unhelpfully utilising a “DoR” or definition of ready which is not stated in the Scrum guide, and whether or not the use of such an artefact was hindering the entry of items into sprints, by setting too high a bar for entry of PBIs. I would remind them that there is more value in creating a working increment of the product to learn from at the sprint review, rather than delivering a pre-solutioned and exhaustive list of requirements and encourage them to revisit any DoR with this in mind.

  3. 1) Check with PO why she cannot give enough time for her product. If she is fully occupied other than planning the future increments and measuring the value of past increments, I will coach about her accountabilities and why it is important to focus on her accountabilities. If she is busy in maximizing value, then suggest her to have delegates to help.

    2) Coach development team to have the courage to bring this infront of Product Owner during the retrospective meeting.

  4. Work with the developers in trying to find out where their pain points lie. Find out what is unclear or missing from requirements.

    Work with the PO to try and identify ways and practices to improve PB transparency.

    Maybe enlist a proxy PO to bridge the gap of unavailable PO. Have the developers and PO work together to try and work out a solution.

    See whether the developers have the courage to take on some of the PO’s accountabilities.

    Speak with the PO to remind them of their accountability to the team in creating and clearly communicating PBI’s. And that the PBI is transparent and understood.

  5. If this question is coming as part of PSM III, the answer short and crisp. How about –

    As a SM, I’ll remind that the PO has the complete responsibility and accountability of Product backlog management, which includes -“Ensuring that the development team understand the product backlog items to the level needed” . If the PO is not doing that, she is not respecting the Scrum rules, and breaking her commitment to the role.

    I’ll also ask the PO and the development team to self organize and figure out a way to help each other.

  6. 1. assess urgency of issue:
    a) in case it is an acute impediment in the sprint –> either immediately or latest bring to next daily: identify involved team members, plan subsequent meeting with PO and affected Dev(s) to resolve the acute blocking issue, AND ask developer and PO to bring the topic to the next retrospective
    b) in case it is a general repeatedly occurring issue but no acute urgency –> address topic in th next retrospective meeting (see 2.)
    2. assess root cause of the issue (as far as possible)
    – collect evidence: quality of PBIs, talk to Devs, talk to PO
    – what other obligations has the PO?
    – does the PO understand his role, accountability and deliverables?
    – are the Devs acting self-organizing & proactive?
    – what type of information is missing? could there be other sources for this information?
    3. facilitate discussion in the team and between affected developers to find a workable solution (in acute session (see 1) and in retrospective with the whole team:
    – encourage PO and affected Devs to bring their issues to the daily and retrospective
    – encourage team to deal with the issue creatively and constructively and to explore potential solutions (maybe use liberating structures if discussion is blocked)
    – if the team sees the need of change in the next sprint with high priority, add solution proposal to next sprint backlog
    – yes, backlog refinement is a PO “accountability” but it is absolutely in line with scrum that the PO delegates “responsibilities” (= doing the job) to (dev) team members. Of course, the PO can also review his agenda and make time for refinement available, the Sm can offer support.
    3. support implementation of the proposed solution, encourage PO and team to experiment and improve if the solution does not work as expected. Monitor indicators that the situation has improved (evidence based).
    If the PO and/or the Devs are lacking understanding of their roles the SM can coach them together and individually.
    Potentially a Definition of Ready could help the team, but the team would have to decide on it whether they want it and what should be in the DoR.

  7. As the scrum Master, I would:

    1. Teach the PO on Product backlog, its essence and components. Teach that spending enough time with development is a very important part of this job.
    2. Coach the team on problem solving and promote them to address the issue/overcome methods in Sprint planning and subsequent meetings by putting forth powerful questions
    3. Facilitate the sprint planning meeting and ensure that the cohesion btw PO and development is created and they work towards one goal (Importance on the Conversation and Confirmation ( 2 of the 3C’s ) of user stories are understood by the PO and team
    4. If required and team feels , I would facilitate – Product backlog refinement in initial days

  8. I see two things in the context
    1. Requirements are not clear enough
    2. PO is too busy to provide the clarity

    I would suggest the team to raise this during the retrospective if it is not yet brought
    1. As a SM I would try to understand what the team is expecting in terms of Clarity of the requirement s and facilitate a conversation to define the criteria for the requirements to be clear.
    2. As a SM I would try to understand from PO what is making her so busy and try to coach her about the role of a PO and the Scrum value ‘commitment’.

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