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Bonus. What does "K" mean? (Learning Objectives/Cognitive Level of Knowledge)

When you study the syllabus or other documentation of ISTQB CTFL, you often come across the terms K-level, or K1, K2, K3. Mostly you just ignore these marks, but in fact it is important to know and understand, because K-level is the level of difficulty of the question on the exam. Let's take a closer look at this topic. Here are some examples:

Learning objectives support business outcomes and are used to create the Certified Tester Foundation Level exams. In general, all contents of chapters 1-6 of this syllabus are examinable at a K1 level. That is, the candidate may be asked to recognize, remember, or recall a keyword or concept mentioned in any of the six chapters. The specific learning objectives levels are shown at the beginning of each chapter, and classified as follows:

  • K1: Remember

  • K2: Understand

  • K3: Apply

Further details and examples of learning objectives are given in Appendix A. All terms listed as keywords just below chapter headings shall be remembered (K1), even if not explicitly mentioned in the learning objectives.

The following learning objectives are defined as applying to this syllabus. Each topic in the syllabus will be examined according to the learning objective for it. The learning objectives begin with an action verb corresponding to its cognitive level of knowledge as listed below.

Level 1: Remember (K1)

The candidate will remember, recognize and recall a term or concept.

Action verbs: identify, recall, remember, recognize.


  • “Identify typical test objectives .”

  • “Recall the concepts of the test pyramid.”

  • “Recognize how a tester adds value to iteration and release planning”


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Level 2: Understand (K2)

The candidate can select the reasons or explanations for statements related to the topic, and can summarize, compare, classify and give examples for the testing concept.

Action verbs: classify, compare, contrast, differentiate, distinguish, exemplify, explain, give examples, interpret, summarize


  • “Classify the different options for writing acceptance criteria.”

  • “Compare the different roles in testing” (look for similarities, differences or both).

  • “Distinguish between project risks and product risks” (allows concepts to be differentiated).

  • “Exemplify the purpose and content of a test plan.”

  • “Explain the impact of context on the test process.”

  • “Summarize the activities of the review process.”

Level 3: Apply (K3)

The candidate can carry out a procedure when confronted with a familiar task, or select the correct procedure and apply it to a given context.

Action verbs: apply, implement, prepare, use.


  • “Apply test case prioritization” (should refer to a procedure, technique, process, algorithm etc.).

  • “Prepare a defect report.”

  • “Use boundary value analysis to derive test cases.”

That's all, now you know what the marks K1, K2, and K3 mean, it will improve and facilitate further study of the syllabus and preparation for the exam.



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