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. On January 2016, ISTQB® has publicly announced its new product portfolio, that constitutes a considerable evolution in ISTQB® go-to-market strategy.

Certification Levels and Streams


 The new ISTQB® product portfolio follows an approach characterized by :

    • Levels, that identify progressively increasing LOs
      • Foundation
      • Advanced
      • Expert
    • Streams, that identify clusters of certification modules:
      • Core 
      • Agile 
      • Specialist 

ISTQB® streams focus on:

    • Core – these modules correspond to the “historical” ISTQB® certifications and so they:
      • Cover software testing topic in a breadth- first, broad, horizontal way,
      • Are valid for any technology/ methodology/ application domain
      • Allow for a common understanding
    • Agile – these modules address testing practices specifically for the Agile SDLC
    • Specialist – these modules are new in the ISTQB® product portfolio and address specific topics in a vertical way, meaning that:
      • They are built using a drill down / deep-dive approach
      • They can address specific quality characteristics (e.g.: Usability; Security; Performance; etc.)
      • They can address technologies that involve specific test approaches (e.g.: model based testing; mobile testing; etc.)
      • They can also be related to specific test activities (e.g.: test automation; test metrics management; etc.)
      • They can also cluster testing know-how for  application domains that deserve or require a specific approach (e.g.: automotive; pharma & medical devices; gambling; etc.) 

In any stream, there may be modules that heavily rely on the content of the Core Foundation; for this reason they can be additional referred as “Extensions”.

Pre-conditions among certifications

Pre-conditions relate to certification exams and provide a natural progression through the ISTQB® Scheme which helps people pick the right certificate and informs them about what they need to know.

The ISTQB® Core Foundation is a pre-condition for any other certification.

Additional rules for ISTQB® pre-conditions are summarized in the following:

    • Foundation Core shall be required for Advanced Level Core
    • Foundation Core is the default pre-requisite for Foundation Level  Specialist certifications unless differently stated in the specific module; as of date, all Foundation Level Specialist certifications require Foundation Core as a pre-requisite
    • Any Advanced Level  Specialist or Expert Level Specialist module which is linked to a lower level Specialist  module shall require certification at the lower level.
    • Expert Level modules shall require certification at the corresponding Advanced Level .
    • Any Advanced Level  Specialist  module which is not linked to a lower level  Specialist module shall require the Foundations Core as a pre-condition.


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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