Let’s Chat About – ISTQB CTFL

After being a Software Tester for more than eight years now and gaining knowledge and indispensable experience in Software Testing, only this year 2021 opened the doors for my CTFL Certification journey. In this article, I’ll share useful information about the ISTQB – CTFL program, How to prepare for the Certification exam, Exam Guidelines, and many more.

What is ISTQB? 

Before we jump into the core concept of CTFL let’s understand or have some insight on ISTQB. ISTQB stands for “International Software Testing Qualifications Board”. It’s a nonprofit organization with the mission of “advancing the software testing profession”. ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) was founded in November 2002 and legally registered in Belgium. This is the only organization that has defined the “ISTQB® Certified Tester” scheme which has become the worldwide leader in the certification of competencies in software testing. A highly appreciated aspect of ISTQB® is that it’s an organization based on volunteer work by hundreds of international testing experts.

ISTQB Presence Worldwide

ISTQB® exams/certifications are administered by Member Boards​. In 2002 ISTQB® was founded by 8 member boards to name them Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the UK, this clearly states that member boards are classified based on the countries. Currently, there are around 66 member boards across the globe​ which signifies that 66 countries are currently tied up with the ISTQB program. ISTQB’s official site has the list of all Licensed Member Boards​ please Click Here to know the list. 

ISTQB® exams are offered through external Exam Providers and Member Boards acting as Exam Providers. An Exam Provider is an organization licensed by a Member Board(s) to offer exams locally and internationally. In order to find the nearest Exam Provider please visit the ISTQB official site to know the different Exam Providers here.

Certifications by ISTQB

ISTQB® uses Bloom’s Taxonomy to design its syllabus. A little information about Bloom’s Taxonomy: Bloom’s taxonomy is based on the belief that learners must begin by learning basics. Its core idea is foundational knowledge about a given subject is needed before anyone can progress to more complex types. In short, learners must have mastered basic knowledge about any subject before they can start applying their knowledge to that subject. 

Along similar lines, the ISTQB Certification program starts from the entry-level of ISTQB – CTFL (Certified Tester Foundation Level). CTFL forms the base or pre-requisite for any higher level Certification within the ISTQB program. As of January 2021, 750,000+ certifications are issued. Below is the pictorial explanation of the different Certifications within ISTQB. 

What is ISTQB -CTFL Certification?

Now that we know all about ISTQB and the different Certifications within it, let’s deep dive into our main area of CTFL. ISTQB Foundation Level is the first level that you can obtain by passing the CTFL exam. It forms the entry-level to be certified as a software tester, which includes the understanding of theoretical and practical concepts of Software Testing. 

Who can appear

The Foundation Level qualification is suitable for anyone who is involved as well as interested in Software Testing. This includes people in roles such as testers, test analysts, test engineers, test consultants, test managers, user acceptance testers, and software developers. Also, it is appropriate for anyone who wants a basic understanding of software testing, such as project managers, quality managers, software development managers, business analysts, IT directors, and management consultants.


Foundation Level and Advanced Level ISTQB® certificates, including the Specialist ones, are valid for life.


  1. To justify our topic, firstly let’s take some insight from ISTQB® Effectiveness Survey Report 2019-2020. Based on this survey: 
    • In terms of Test Skills – 85% of people have said ISTQB® CTFL certification will improve their future by improving their test skills  
    • In terms of Career path – 87% of people have said it supports their career path. 
    • In terms of Knowledge level – 74% of respondents consider that the ISTQB® Foundation Level certification exam reflects the knowledge of any candidate either reasonably well or exceedingly well. 
  2. CTFL will help you understand the fundamental concepts of software testing if you are new in the testing domain.
  3. It improves your proficiency, by knowing the fundamentals clearly, it promotes effective communication within the team by using a common vocabulary related to software testing.
  4. Increases your visibility at work and makes you a valuable member 

CTFL Objective

As ISTQB® uses Bloom’s taxonomy to design its study pattern. CTFL follows the K-Level or Cognitive level – taxonomy from Bloom’s.

The Foundation Level covers four different K-levels (K1 to K4): 

Chapters within the Syllabus are distributed across the K-Levels, Let’s see the CTFL Content and the K-Level distributions in further topics.

  • K1 (Remember): Here the candidate should remember a term or a concept. 
  • K2 (Understand): Here the candidate should select an explanation for a statement related to the question topic. 
  • K3 (Apply): Here the candidate should select the correct technique and apply it to a given context. 
  • K4 (Analyze): Here the candidate will have to separate information related to a technique into parts for better understanding and need to distinguish between facts. 

CTFL Content 

The above picture explains the 6 different Chapters within the Foundation Level Syllabus.

A brief overview of each chapter is below:

Chapter 1: Fundamentals of Testing 

• This Chapter has details about the basic principles related to testing, the reasons why testing is required, what are the different test objectives, and the different principles for successful testing. 

• In short in this chapter we will understand the test process, the major test activities, and different work products. 

Chapter 2: Testing Throughout the Software Development Lifecycle 

• Here we will learn how testing is incorporated in every step of a software development lifecycle. 

• About the different test levels, test types, and more details on impact analysis when working with maintenance testing. 

Chapter 3: Static Techniques 

• This Chapter will deal with all the various static techniques of testing such as static analysis and reviews (i.e., informal reviews, walkthroughs, technical reviews, and inspections). 

• Also this chapter has details on how to apply a review technique to a work product to find defects. 

Chapter 4: Test Techniques 

• This chapter covers the various test techniques i.e Black-box, white-box, and experience-based testing. 

• Also we will learn how to apply test techniques to derive test cases from other software work products. 

Chapter 5: Test Management 

• Test management, this chapter deals with topics that are covered from a perspective where the tester can work with test managers, focusing on risk-based testing, test execution and defect reporting and handling. 

• Also we will learn what could be included in the various test documentation work products, such as test plans and test reports. 

• In detail this chapter explains how to report defects in a clear and understandable way. 

Chapter 6: Tool Support for Testing 

• This chapter has information for testers to classify tools, the risks and benefits connected with tools, and aspects of selecting and introducing tools. 

Now that we know the different chapters, let’s check out the K-Level distribution across them. 

Understand how the questions are distributed per chapter from the diagram below. You can focus your efforts on more important chapters and not waste your time on the chapters from which you might get only a couple of questions. I do not mean that you skip these chapters but focus on the chapters from where you get more questions. Do not skip any chapter if you want to clear ISTQB exams.

Guidelines to pass CTFL

Know the exam rules

The exam is a multiple-choice question set. There are a total of 40 questions. The passing grade is 65%, meaning that you are required to answer a minimum of 26 questions correctly to pass the exam. (Note: Non-Native English speakers, will receive an additional 25% time.​)

Materials to choose for Preparation

The core Syllabus and the Textbook forms the Bible for your CTFL preparation. Let’s check out the details of it:

  • “Foundation of Software Testing: ISTQB Certification” by Rex Black, Dorothy Graham is the recommended text book. No need to refer to any other books. This textbook explains every concept in detail with simplified examples. 
  • The ISTQB syllabus can be downloaded from the official website using the link – https://www.istqb.org/downloads/category/2-foundation-level-documents.html. The ISTQB syllabus is like notes made by summarizing the text book. You might not understand several concepts if you directly read the syllabus. So read the textbook first and then the syllabus. 

Online Courses 

Udemy platform nowadays serves as a great place to learn. I purchased the below Udemy course for myself, this served as a great learning source for me during my preparation time. The course is specially designed for those who are new to the testing domain. Each topic of the ISTQB official syllabus is explained in an easy to understand way with the help of real industry examples. After each chapter, some quizzes are included. After going through the quiz you can evaluate your understanding with the corresponding quizzes.

Course Link: https://www.udemy.com/course/istqb-foundation-level-certification-with-sample-papers/learn/lecture/25375578#overview

Sample Papers 

ISTQB official site has 3 sets of Sample Papers, please only rely on those sample papers. A point to talk here before moving ahead is ISTQB has refreshed their database, Foundation Syllabus is updated and the latest version now available is 2018. For this version there is no sample paper available on the internet, it’s my personal experience. During my preparation, I referred to a few good sample papers online (Example: ISTQB Patshala , Testing GURU , DumpsBase) but all were outdated, no point in referring to them, by solving online sample papers you can just get rid of your exam fear. Hence please focus on the Study materials and the sample paper that is available on the ISTQB official site.

How I prepared for my Exam

  1. Firstly I did my personal research of connecting with already certified testers from different boards using the social handle – LinkedIn (How I picked the Certified Tester’s names? -Every board maintains a repository of Certified Testers hence picked a few names from there) and got some insights from them on the preparation and exam process and questions criticality.
  2. I purchased the hardcopy textbook “Foundation of Software Testing: ISTQB Certification ” by Rex Black, Dorothy Graham for my own, as it’s always effective to study from hard copy rather than the softcopies.
  3. Also I purchased the Udemy course “ISTQB Foundation Level CTFL training for 2021 + 1000 QUIZ” for myself which really helped to a great extent in my exam preparation.
  4. Next I designed a pattern for myself for the exam preparation, firstly decided a timeline for the preparation and also planned my exam date prior, secondly I chose a study time for myself and with utmost willingness prepared for my exam. Also made it a habit of taking notes while preparing. I strongly believe that writing will not only help you learn more effectively, it will also help you revise all the concepts. Your brain has three kinds of memory cells: sound, sight and feel. The best kind of learning occurs when you use all three at the same time. 
  5. Meanwhile, to make myself comfortable for the exam, I solved the ISTQB Patshala sample papers online.

All these points helped me to prepare well for my exam.

Exam Registration

  1. Taking into consideration the Covid-19 pandemic, ISTQB® has announced that we can use Remote Proctoring method to give our exams until the end of 2021 by sitting at our home. Hence we can just contact any local Member Board or Exam Provider for more information to book our exam.
  2. For a paper based exam, please contact any local Member Board or Exam Provider for more information to book our exam.

Exam Results

  1. Public candidates / Online Exam will get the result mail within 48 hours. ​
  2. Paper Based Exam will take 2 weeks of time for result mail.​
  3. Certificates will be delivered at the candidate’s postal address within 2 months from the exam date, but in consideration of the current pandemic situation, this has been suspended for the moment, in this case softcopy of the certificate will be sent to the candidates email account.


ISTQB SRC stands for ISTQB® Successful Candidate Register, after clearing the exam we need to request our concerned member board to update our result in this register.  The ISTQB® Successful Candidate Register maintains the achievement of candidates who have passed an ISTQB® certification exam. It allows for the validation of certificates. As an example, employers and recruiters can check validity by inputting the full certificate number and matching the information provided by the certificate holder. Hence make sure to update your details in the official ISTQB SRC portal.

Before I end my article few Personal Opinions:

  • Do your personal research on the Certification you prefer to appear for.​
  • Questions on the Internet are outdated for CTFL hence please don’t just rely on the dumps available online.
  • Reading the syllabus and solving samples is not enough, you need to understand the topics clearly. 
  • Questions are Chapter Wise​ hence please don’t skip any chapters during your preparation.
  • Theory content in Syllabus 2011 and content in Syllabus 2018 are not the same.

Set a goal, ​

Make a plan, ​

Do the work! 

Success is on your way! Happy Learning!

Success! You're on the list.

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Jency is an Ardent Software Tester and has been investigating the line between Software and Testing for the past 8+years. Her love affair with 'Software Testing' began years ago, starting from an 'ETL Test Engineer' to currently 'Senior QA Engineer' in the role of a passionate 'API Tester' at "Billennium IT Services (M) SDN. BHD.". She loves to spend time exploring the concepts and interesting facts about Software Testing. She is fond of sharing her experiences by blogging and participating in tech communities. Jency is an ISTQB Certified Foundation Level and Agile Tester. Other interesting facts about Jency - MOM of a 3year old Superhero | Certified Mentor | Community Contributor | Occasional YouTuber.

4 thoughts on “Let’s Chat About – ISTQB CTFL

Add yours

  1. There are two books with the same author name, two with different costs and edition which should i purchase, can you please help me out..?

      1. Hey Jency,

        Very helpful with the content and explanation. I am a Senior Manual Tester with 10+ yrs experience, but not ISTQB certified. What do you recommend, do I still need to get certified or can focus on other certifications. Thought will have a second opinion.

        Thank you
        John A R

  2. Hi John,

    Thank you so much for reverting back. Hope the article was of use to you in any form.
    Coming to your question, Certifications according to me is great to have for 2 reasons:
    1. It gives you more insight in the topic.
    2. It can give you some exposure at work place too
    If feel this reason can be of use to you then please go ahead with the certification.

    Hope this clarifies your question raised.


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