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Demys­ti­fying the iSAQB Advanced Exami­nation – Introduction

by Falk Sippach, CPSA-A Examiner

Given the ever-increasing signif­i­cance of a software archi­tect’s roles and respon­si­bil­ities, compre­hensive training has now become essential. With this in mind, the iSAQB CPSA program offers a globally recog­nized, standardized education and training scheme. This blog article will guide you through the smartest approach to acing your Advanced examination.

Whereas “Foundation” – the entry level of the Certified Profes­sional for Software Architecture Certification (or CPSA‑F for short) – “only” requires you to take a multiple-choice test, the second or “Advanced” level (CPSA‑A for short) requires you to do a project instead. It is an exciting and inter­esting task where you can prove your actual architectural knowledge and, if successful, demon­strate it with a certificate as well.

isaqb Zertifizierungslevel-EN

Training levels at iSAQB


However, the Advanced exami­nation poses a major challenge both in terms of content and time. Examinees are usually required to work on the task alongside their day-to-day work and complete it in three months’ time, which is not to be taken lightly by anyone. For this reason, we will look at a specific case study in this blog series to learn how to practi­cally tackle this task and how it can be success­fully completed as well.

The example used

iSAQB provides sample tasks for the Foundation and the Advanced level. For the Advanced level, there is an older “BigSpender” exami­nation task that was removed from the pool some time ago. In subse­quent blog posts, we will look at the specific requirements, and you will famil­iarize yourself with a possible solution that will best prepare you for your own future examination.
And even if you are currently not inter­ested in taking the iSAQB CPSA-Advanced exami­nation, this hypothetical example will still famil­iarize you with the funda­mental tasks in software architecture devel­opment. This is because good architectural work is essential for the success of the software systems that you develop and helps you achieve the required quality objectives.

Structure of the exami­nation task

Stefan Zörner has already given a detailed description of how iSAQB-Advanced tasks are generally struc­tured. Furthermore, you can find additional information on the iSAQB website and partic­u­larly in the document on the exam rules. In any case, you need to meet certain requirements in order to begin the exam.

Requirements and general procedure

You are expected to have a certain amount of profes­sional experience (at least 3 years’ worth with contri­bu­tions to two different projects). Furthermore, you must have the Foundation certificate and have attended a certain number of Advanced seminars. Along the way, you collect credit points that serve as proof of the compe­tencies that you acquire in the three subject areas of method­ology, technology, and communication.



You must register for the exami­nation via one of the approved Certification Bodies. While doing so, you may specify your desired start date. On that day, you will choose from two tasks assigned at random, and from that point, you will have a three-month period to complete it. Two examiners will evaluate your submitted deliv­erable and will conduct a conclusive telephone interview with you to ensure that you have completed the work yourself.

How to work on the project

In the Foundation seminar, a case study will be used to practi­cally teach you funda­mental software architecture work in small groups. This includes the requirements analysis, the draft, the documen­tation and, ultimately, the evalu­ation as well. After­wards, the Advanced seminars go over some of the topics in detail. In the exami­nation, you must demon­strate that you are now able to indepen­dently and system­at­i­cally implement a software architecture design by means of a specific example. The task will guide you step-by-step as you work through it.

The task

There is a pool of different tasks from the areas of information systems, web systems, and embedded systems. You may choose one or two areas during regis­tration, and you will typically receive two sugges­tions. In two days, you must after­wards ultimately decide on one of the tasks, and you may start working on it.
The task consists of roughly 12–15 A4 pages, and the first section contains information about the system to be developed. Although it can vary, it typically contains many of the following pieces of information:

  • Important players
  • One form of the system context
  • An initial recom­men­dation for a specialist class model
  • An interview with the client
  • Examples of user stories
  • The stake­holders involved
  • Information on constraints
  • Furthermore, it includes quantity struc­tures, state­ments on requested avail­ability, etc.



Content and requirements, e.g., BigSpender


The required results

The exami­nation task precisely defines the results that you are expected to deliver, and your reading literacy is indirectly tested in the process. Therefore, I suggest that you pay close attention. For instance, if a diagram and a table is expected, then you should not write paragraphs.

Important note: Follow the task. The requested content and its expected format are clearly stated. Failure to follow the task results in extra work for the examiner and, in the worst-case scenario, can even result in a failed exam.

The exami­nation consists of roughly six subtasks, and you must be able to answer these questions—even in your own software projects. Conse­quently, the techniques you employ in your daily work will be quite like those you’ll use in the exam. You only need to apply them to the hypothetical example.



Tasks to be completed in BigSpender


If you have doubts about any requirements, you are allowed and required to make assump­tions and, of course, you should document and explain them as well. Furthermore, I recommend that you adhere to the required formal­ities such as the requested formatting and create the requested indexes for the chapters, graphics, tables, and sources. And do not forget to create a legend for the diagrams. This will make the examiners’ job easier and saves them from guessing what your intention was.


This is a trans­lation of the blog post “iSAQB Advanced Prüfung entschlüsselt — Einleitung” by Falk Sippach. Here you can find the original blog post in German.

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