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History of ISEB and ISTQB Software Testing Certifications

History of ISEB and ISTQB Software Testing Certifications

The 2 main software testing certification paths are the ISEB and ISTQB, and both have been around for quite some time – especially ISEB certifications. Although both are unique, they definitely have many similarities, so much so that these certification paths are likely to converge in the future.

Previous articles have discussed the current state of these software testing certifications as well as the potential future direction of these accreditations. Now let us take a step back in time and discuss the history of the certifications.

History of the ISEB

The British Computing Society (BCS, also known as The Chartered Institute for IT) is the governing board for ISEB certifications, and was formed in 1957. Soon after formation, the BCS created the Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB) to oversee the ISEB software testing certification process.

Despite the long history, the ISEB Foundation certification and syllabus as we know it today were not crafted until 1998. The ISEB Intermediate followed shortly thereafter, and the ISEB Practitioner certifications were created in 2002.

Since inception, ISEB has been the software testing certification standard in the UK. Today, there are nearly 300,000 software testers that have earned their ISEB Foundation certification and this number continues to grow. Despite the UK-centric nature of ISEB, as of 2010 these certification exams have been delivered in over 200 countries.

History of the ISTQB

The International Software Testing Qualifications Board, or ISTQB, was officially formed in November 2002 in Edinburgh. It is a not-for-profit association legally registered in Belgium and is composed of member boards in 47 countries, the most prominent of which is probably the American Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB) which itself was formed in 2004.

The ISTQB Foundation (CTFL) syllabus was initially created in 2002 and revamped in 2005. Soon thereafter, the ISTQB Foundation syllabus was adopted by the ISEB to replace the ISEB Foundation syllabus. This is why the ISEB Foundation and ISTQB Foundation / CTFL syllabi, exams, and certifications are identical. At the Foundation level, a passing mark on your exam provides dual accreditation in both.

Beyond the CTFL level, the next step in the ISTQB certification path is the ISTQB Advanced level. The ISTQB Advanced level encompasses 3 distinct modules, each of which has its own exam (although all 3 modules are covered in a single syllabus). The 3 ISTQB Advanced-level modules are Test Manager, Test Analyst, and Technical Test Analyst. The first version of the ISTQB Advanced level syllabus was launched in 2003 and the first Advanced level exams occurred in 2004.

Today, ISTQB certifications are growing at a faster rate than ISEB certifications, which is to be expected since there are more than twice as many ISEB certified testers as there are ISTQB certified testers. As of 2010, approximately 135,000 software testers across 50 countries have earned at least one ISTQB certification.


With the impending convergence of the 2 certification paths at some point in the future, the number of ISTQB certified testers is expected to grow at an increased rate going forward. That said, no matter what the future holds, ISEB certifications such as ISEB Foundation, ISEB Intermediate and ISEB Practitioner will always be recognized and valued, and will certainly go a long way toward enhancing your software testing career.