ISTQB® Certified Tester is the most widespread qualification scheme in the world, and the syllabi contents and glossary have become the de facto industry reference for the software testing profession.

Certification Levels and Streams



There are 3 levels of certification within ISTQB:

  • Certified Tester Foundation Level;
  • Certified Tester Advanced Level;
  • Certified Tester Expert Level.

There are three Streams within ISTQB:

  • Core: focusses on all testers in a generic situation;
  • Agile: specific extensions for working in an Agile environment;
  • Specialist: with specialist syllabi for testers working in a specific environment.

The Foundation level certificate is the basis for all other, within Core, Agile or Specialist streams.

The different certification levels use different levels of knowledge known as K-levels.

What are K-levels?

A K-level, or Cognitive level, is used to classify learning objectives according to the revised taxonomy from Bloom [Anderson 2001]. ISTQB® uses this taxonomy to design its syllabi examinations.

Questions with different K-levels may be awarded with different pre-defined scores to reflect their cognitive level.

The Foundation and Advanced exams cover four different K-levels (K1 to K4):

  • K1 (Remember) = The candidate should remember or recognize a term or a concept.
  • K2 (Understand) = The candidate should select an explanation for a statement related to the question topic.
  • K3 (Apply) = The candidate should select the correct application of a concept or technique and apply it to a given context.
  • K4 (Analyze) = The candidate can separate information related to a procedure or technique into its constituent parts for better understanding and can distinguish between facts and inferences.

The Expert level exams include five different K-levels (K2 to K6), with the two additional higher K-levels:

  • K5 (Evaluate) = The candidate may make judgments based on criteria and standards. He detects inconsistencies or fallacies within a process or product, determines whether a process or product has internal consistency and detects the effectiveness of a procedure as it is being implemented.
  • K6 (Create) = The candidate puts elements together to form coherent or functional whole. Typical application is to reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure, devise a procedure for accomplishing some task or invent a product.


[Anderson 2001] Anderson, L. & Krathwohl, D. A. (2001) Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives New York: Longman

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