Advanced Level Examination Rules and Regulations

Scope

This document contains provisions pertaining to the examinations required for Certified Professional for Software Architecture – Advanced Level (CPSA-A) certification, covering all modules of the curriculum.

Skills areas and modular concept

Three skills areas

For CPSA-A, the iSAQB has defined curricula for the following three skills areas:

  • Methodical skills: a systematic approach to architectural tasks, regardless of the technologies used
  • Technological skills: knowledge and implementation of technology solutions used in design tasks
  • Communicative skills: communication, presentation, argumentation and moderation skills as well as the ability to cooperate productively with different stakeholders

Flexible training pathways

If you take part in the CPSA-A certification scheme, you will be able to create your own individual training pathway selecting freely from the three skills areas. The only requirement for you to be able to register for examination is evidence that you have gained the necessary minimum credit points score in the different skills areas. As a participant, you are free to decide which individual training courses you combine in order to achieve this points score.

Modular concept

For each of these skills areas, there are different training modules, whose curricula are defined by the iSAQB. For each module, there is a specific number of credit points linked to each of the three skills areas. The exact module-specific allocation of credit points can be found on the Advanced Level page.

Recognition of training or certificates not licensed by the iSAQB

The iSAQB e. V. recognises several certificates and trainings not directly related to the curricula as qualifying for admission to the CPSA-A examination. The relevant courses and certificates are listed on the Advanced Level page, stating how many points can be awarded for them.

Examination requirements

In order to be certified, every candidate must provide written evidence to the certifying body demonstrating that they meet the following requirements:

Requirement

Evidence to be submitted

Certified Professional for Software Architecture, Foundation Level iSAQB certificate
A minimum of three years’ full-time professional experience in the IT industry, including involvement in the design and development of at least two different IT systems Overview, in tabular form, of activities as well as relevant IT systems. List key features as bullet points (system & project scope, sector, technologies, products used, frameworks, operating systems, methods, patterns)
Participation in CPSA-A-licensed training (or equivalent recognised training or certificates) with a total score of at least 70 credit points gained in all three different skills areas and at least 10 credit points in each skill area Certificates of attendance issued by the licensed training providers
Non-disclosure agreement relating to the examination task Personal written declaration of consent by the candidate stating that they undertake to refrain from passing on to other persons or organisations the task they were provided with or any documents, models, data and notes created during accomplishment of the task. The iSAQB will make a standard agreement available for this purpose, which stipulates a penalty for any breach of the agreement by the candidate.

The iSAQB reserves the right to verify the fulfilment of these requirements in their entirety or to perform spot checks, in particular with regard to the type and duration of involvement in required IT systems – if applicable, references or contact names may have to be provided.

Examples:

  • Josef E has completed the Architecture Assessment (20 CPs, methodical), Architecture Documentation (20 CPs, methodical) and Web Architectures (20 CPs, technological) modules. The total points score thus achieved amounts to 60 CPs, which is insufficient for participating in CPSA-A certification.
  • Franz A has attended non-iSAQB-curriculum training and been granted 10 CPs in technological skills by the iSAQB upon application (based on the list of acknowledged certificates). By completing the Architecture Assessment (20 CPs, methodical), Architecture Documentation (20 CPs, methodical) and Soft-Skill training (30 CPs, communicative) modules, Franz A has gained more than the 70 CPs required.

Examination cost

In addition to the expenses for individually selected training, participants must pay an examination fee for taking part in the examination.

Parties involved in the examination process

The following individuals or parties are involved in the CPSA-A examination process:

  • The examination participants (also referred to as “participants” in brief)
  • The certifying body
  • The examiner
  • The working group Advanced Level within the iSAQB e. V.

Preparing for the examination

It is recommended that a future examination participant carries out preliminary planning of their examination, attends necessary training and then registers for the examination. The following sources may be of help:

  • The iSAQB website
  • Contact with a licensed training provider or organiser
  • Contact with an iSAQB member
  • Information published in sources such as newsletters, articles or books
  • iSAQB events

Taking stock

To begin with, the examination participant will have to check whether they possess any recognisable certificates or have attended any CPSA-A-licensed or other qualifying training (proof of attendance required) and how many credit points required for CPSA-A certification they have achieved to date. An up-to-date list of certificates and training recognised for CPSA-A certification can be found on the Advanced-Level website.

Search for CPSA-A-licensed training

In order to be awarded the credit points required for CPSA-A certification, an examination participant will have to select one or more licensed training courses.

Information on licensed training providers can be found using the iSAQB website’s tool Find Training.

Detailed information on licensed training for participants will be provided directly by the licensed training providers.

Attending licensed training

A participant needs to attend one or more licensed training courses in order to be awarded the credit points required for CPSA-A certification.

Information on curricular modules and relevant credit points can be found on the iSAQB website.

Detailed information on licensed training for participants will be provided directly by the licensed training providers.

For training they wish to attend (one course or more), participants will have to register directly with the licensed training provider.

Upon successful completion of training, the training provider will issue the participant with a training certificate specifying how many credit points have been awarded.

Examination registration

Participants must register for the examination with a recognised certifying body in writing.

The participant must submit the following information and certificates during registration:

  • Contact details (name, address, telephone number, e-mail address)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Evidence of projects
  • CPSA-F certificate
  • Certificates of attendance at licensed training (including CPs), certificates and training certification for recognised training where applicable
  • Non-disclosure agreement
  • The type of the system to be used in the examination task (e. g., information system, web-based information system or embedded system)
  • Desired examination period

The certifying body will then verify the completeness of registration documentation and request missing information if required.

Examiner appointment & examination period determination

The iSAQB will provide the certifying bodies with a list of examiners. The list will also indicate the system types each examiner can be used for.

The certifying body will then verify whether two appropriate examiners are available during the examination period desired by the participant. If they are not, the certifying body will agree on a different examination period with the participant.

The certifying body will confirm the chosen examination period for the participant. At a later stage, the participant will be able to apply for a postponement of the examination period if this becomes necessary due to exceptional circumstances that would prevent them from completing the examination during the proposed period. The certifying body will then agree on a new examination period with the candidate and the examiners. Participants may postpone the examination only once.

Payment of fees

Once all requirements for examination registration have been met, the certifying body will issue the participant with an invoice for the examination fee.

No further steps will be taken until the participant has paid the examination fee to the certifying body.

Part of this payment will then be used by the certifying body to pay a fee to the iSAQB, and another part for the examiner’s remuneration.

Posting the examination task

The certifying body will select an examination task for the participant and send depending on the preferences of the participant

  • a personalised letter containing the task to the participant by recorded delivery or
  • an e-mail containing the task as a personalised, protected PDF document.

On request the participant receives two examination tasks of two different types of system to choose among them, after signing a non-disclosure agreement for each task. After receipt of the tasks the participant has three days to decide, which one he would like to be examined on and to inform the certifying body about this decision.

Examination structure

The examination consists of two parts.

Part 1: assignment
Part 2: oral examination

Part 1 of the examination: the assignment

The assignment requires the examination participant to develop predefined topics and issues. They must work out this development independently.

Issuing the assignment

Upon submission of positive certification requirements evidence, the certifying body will send out an examination task.

Development requirements

The certification examination requires independent completion of an architectural task. The participant will choose the type of system used for the task (for instance: information system, web-based information system, embedded system).

The certifying body will then select one task randomly from the pool of available tasks for this type of system and send it out to the participant depending on the preferences of the participant either as a personalised letter by recorded delivery or as a personalised, protected PDF. The task will be to design and document a functionally and technically appropriate IT system based on an existing requirements description and to explain the system to the examiners appointed by the certifying body during a telephone or face-to-face interview.

Questions

The assignment questions will relate to the curriculum content and must be answered in consideration of the project situation chosen by the examination participant.

Completing the task

A minimum of 40 hours will be necessary to complete the CPSA-A task successfully. From the time the task is issued to them, participants will typically have three months for completion.

A development in writing will be expected (30 – 40 A4 pages of text and graphs: font size: 11pt, margin: 2.5cm, single line spacing). A deployable implementation is not part of the task but may be submitted to support certain concepts.

Comprehension questions

If the participant has comprehension questions he can send them via e-mail to the certifying body. The certifying body forwards the questions to the designated examiners who will answer them within 14 days.

This does not contain answering (inevitable) open issues in the examination task. The participant has to handle them as described in the examination task (usually by making a reasonable assumption including a motivation for the assumption).

Anonymisation and confidentiality of the assignment content

All individuals and institutions involved in the examination are required to treat the assignment content confidentially and to refrain from passing it on to third parties.

The examination participant, however, has final responsibility for the content of the assignment and its transfer. From the moment they start preparing the assignment, they must make sure not to violate any non-disclosure agreements with their employer, line manager or client.

Neither the iSAQB e. V. nor any individuals or institutions involved in the examination shall assume any liability for any damages or claims that may result from a non-disclosure agreement breach.

Should the examination participant be unsure whether they may be in breach of applicable non-disclosure agreements on the grounds of the content of their assignment, they should contact their employer, line manager or client prior to submission of their assignment.

Contact details

The examination participant is required to include their contact details in the written development. This includes postal address, an e-mail address and if possible a telephone number they can be reached on at specific times to be indicated by them.

Completion time and submission deadline

The assignment must be completed and returned to the certifying body within three months of receipt of the task. When issuing the assignment, the certifying body will inform the examination participant of the submission deadline; earlier submission is permitted.

If the assignment is not returned by the deadline, this part of the examination shall be deemed failed. Apart from the maximum time allowed of three months, the total time allowed for completing all examinations of twelve months must also be considered. If these twelve months are exceeded, the entire examination shall be deemed failed — regardless of whether the three-month deadline had been adhered to or not.

Form of assignment submission

The assignment must be submitted to the certifying body in electronic form as a PDF file. The PDF file may be created either by scanning print-outs or by saving the development in PDF. In any case, the examination participant shall be responsible for the PDF files’ legibility. If the PDF files are partially or entirely illegible, this part of the examination shall be deemed failed.

In addition to the assignment, the cover sheet containing a declaration on independent completion of the assignment must be signed manually, scanned and submitted as a PDF file. Electronic signatures or inserting scanned signatures are not permissible.

Extension of the assignment completion time upon request in exceptional circumstances

On the grounds of exceptional circumstances and where this can be justified in individual cases, the completion time for the assignment may be extended once for up to three months.

  • This request must be submitted in writing to the certifying body within the predefined completion time and justified accordingly. The certifying body shall be entitled to verify this information. If it is shown that the examination participant has made false declarations, they will be excluded from the examination and any certificate that has already been issued will become void.
  • In the event that the maximum time allowed for the entire examination of twelve months (see section “Completion time and submission deadline”) is exceeded because of such an extension, the maximum total time allowed shall also be extended to the time the extension expires.

Assessment of the assignment

The certifying body will send the written development produced by the examination participant to two separate iSAQB-appointed experts (examiners) for assessment.

The examiners will then mark the assignment within a maximum of four weeks. During this time, they will have the possibility of contacting the examination participant via telephone or e-mail in order to ask further questions.

If the two examiners disagree on the result of their assessment (one says “passed”, the other says “failed”), the certifying body will call in a third examiner.

The examination participant shall be obliged to answer such questions by the examiner. If the examination participant refuses to reply or fails to meet the deadline for a reply (when they are contacted in writing, a deadline for responding will be indicated), this part of the examination shall be deemed failed.

The participant always receives the marked assignments of the examiners, no matter if he passed or failed.

Re-sitting the assignment

If the examiners determine that the solution contains severe errors, there will be a one-off possibility to improve the assignment within two months from the date the examinee receives the information of the failed exam. In this case, the certifying body will charge a fee for the re-sit.

Appeals

The examination participant may appeal against the assessment and must then justify this in writing. The certifying body will transfer the justification to the examiner who has marked the assignment for them to review the appeal and justification and then issue a statement. This statement will confirm the original assessment or make a new assessment; either shall then be binding and can no longer be challenged.

Part 2 of the examination: viva voce

The second step involves a conference call of at least 30 minutes and no more than 60 minutes, during which both examiners will discuss the solution with the candidate. The candidate will be challenged by the examiners and will have to defend his design or design decisions.

Both examiners will be able to decide on the success of the examination immediately. If the two examiners disagree on the result of their assessment (one says “passed”, the other says “failed”), the certifying body will call in a third examiner.

Requirements for passing the examination

The examination shall be deemed passed if both examination parts have been passed, i. e., each examination part must be passed individually and independently from the other part. Passing part 1 is a prerequisite for progressing to part 2.

Both parts of the examination must be completed within twelve months of the first examination participation; failing that, the examination result shall be a fail. This twelve-month deadline shall apply in all conceivable cases, including the re-sit of individual parts.

Notification of results and potential examination re-sits

Just as certification documents, notification letters containing the results of examination parts shall be sent in writing by the certifying body to the address specified by the examination participant.

If the examiners determine that the solution contains severe errors, there will be a one-off possibility to improve the assignment within two months from the date the examinee receives the information of the failed exam. In this case, the certifying body will charge a fee for the re-sit.

A third examiner, or more, will take part in the telephone re-sit.

If the re-sit is also considered to be a fail by at least two examiners, the candidate will have to wait for at least one year until they can request a new examination.