top of page

Overview of the ISTQB Foundation Level (CTFL) v4.0 [NEW!]

What is ISTQB? Why ISTQB® Certification? What is ISTQB foundation level? What is Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) v4.0 [NEW!]?

The ISTQB is the abbreviation for the International Software Testing Qualifications Board. You can find the following information on the website we link to at the end of the article: "ISTQB® is the leading global certification scheme in the field of software testing. As of Apr 2023, ISTQB® has administered over 1.2 million exams and issued more than 845k certifications in over 130 countries. With its extensive network of Accredited Training Providers, Member Boards, and Exam Providers, ISTQB® is one of the biggest and most established vendor-neutral professional certification schemes in the world. ISTQB® terminology is industry recognized as the defacto language in the field of software testing and connects professionals worldwide."

My team and I are pragmatic people, so I'm always interested in the practical part, how this or that can be used in real life. In our opinion, the ISTQB Foundation Level certification performs the role of a university diploma which is internationally recognized. That is why having the "ISTQB CTFL" certificate may be a requirement for an interview. Also, if you are already working as a software tester, the organization can define obtaining a certificate for you as a goal, in order to increase your salary or successfully pass a performance review. Therefore, from a practical point of view, it is logical and necessary to obtain an ISTQB certificate. Conclusion: The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification is not mandatory for software testers, but it can be valuable and important as it can be much easier for you, to find a job, and start, or enhance, your career in the software testing field.

Again, ISTQB itself provides a list of Benefits for Professionals:

  • An independent, internationally-recognized validation of skills that employers trust

  • Portable proof of ability for both current and future employment

  • Career progression support through the advancement of testing skills

  • Enhanced professional credibility (certificate holders have authorized use of the applicable ISTQB® “Certified Tester” logo)

Also, the question "Why ISTQB?" can be answered from a philosophical and theoretical point of view. And the ISTQB board provides a good answer to this question on the website About Us.

From our side, we want to emphasize one point, the common language. At interviews, in everyday work, during coffee breaks, testers communicate and use terms such as regression testing, smoke testing, sanity testing, test plan, test strategy, explorer testing, and others. And very often different people attach different meanings to those concepts. A perfect example is smoke testing and sanity testing. All testers are sure that they know what sanity testing is. But as soon as they start discussing, it turns out that there are many opinions on this topic. Some believe that this is sanitary testing, and another believes that this is conscious or aware testing, some consider it part of regression testing or small regression testing others believe that it is a separate type, and so on and so on. Of course, having a dialogue, having different opinions, and discussing these opinions is a good thing. But if from the answer to the question "What is smoke testing?" depends on whether you will be hired or not, it would still be good to be able to refer to official literature.

So, we talked about the benefits, let's talk about which certificate do you need.

If you are taking the ISTQB exam for the first time, you need it Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) v4.0 [NEW!]. If you look at the certificate scheme, this is the widest certificate from the bottom, the first of the possible ISTQB certificates. To gain advanced certifications, candidates must hold the Certified Tester Foundation Level certificate.


Coupon code: EFC8FC2912FF4B66CB87


The ISTQB Certified tester Foundation level (CTFL) consists of 6 chapters, 22 Topics, and about 60 sections. This is a lot, a lot of theoretical material that needs to be well studied, known and understood.

Contents of ISTQB Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) v4.0 [NEW!]

As it is written on the ISTQB website: "This syllabus forms the basis for the International Software Testing Qualification at the Foundation Level. Its content is not a description of the entire knowledge area of software testing." There are 6 chapters, but they are different in volume and content, there are also different number of questions on the exam per chapter, accordingly, not all chapters are equally important. Let's go through all 6 chapters one by one.

Chapter 1: Fundamentals of Testing

There is a total of 8 questions required for Chapter 1. K1 = 2 K2 = 6 K3 = 0; Number of points for this chapter = 8

No. of Topics: 5

No. of Sections: 14

No. of Pages in the Syllabus: 9

You'll learn the basic principles related to testing, the reasons why testing is required, and what the test objectives are. You'll understand the test process, the major test activities, and testware. You'll understand the essential skills for testing.

Major changes in chapter 1 (Fundamentals of Testing):

  • Section on testing skills expanded and improved

  • Section on the whole team approach (K1) added

  • Section on the independence of testing moved to Chapter 1 from Chapter 5

Chapter 2: Testing Throughout the Software Development Lifecycle

There is a total of 6 questions required for Chapter 2. K1 = 2 K2 = 4 K3 = 0; Number of points for this chapter = 6

No. of Topics: 3

No. of Sections: 10

No. of Pages in the Syllabus: 8

You'll learn how testing is incorporated into different development approaches. You'll learn the concepts of test-first approaches, as well as DevOps. You'll learn about the different test levels, test types, and maintenance testing.

Major changes in chapter 2 (Testing Throughout the SDLCs)

  • Sections 2.1.1 and 2.1.2 rewritten and improved, the corresponding LOs are modified

  • More focus on practices like: test-first approach (K1), shift-left (K2), retrospectives (K2)

  • New section on testing in the context of DevOps (K2)

  • Integration testing level split into two separate test levels: component integration testing and system integration testing

Chapter 3: Static Testing

There is a total of 4 questions required for Chapter 3. K1 = 2 K2 = 2 K3 = 0; Number of points for this chapter = 4

No. of Topics: 2

No. of Sections: 8

No. of Pages in the Syllabus: 6

You'll learn about the static testing basics, the feedback and review process.

Major changes in chapter 3 (Static Testing):

  • Section on review techniques, together with the K3 LO (apply a review technique) removed

Chapter 4: Test Analysis and Design

There is a total of 11 questions required for Chapter 4. K1 = 0 K2 = 6 K3 = 5; Number of points for this chapter = 11

No. of Topics: 5

No. of Sections: 14

No. of Pages in the Syllabus: 9

You'll learn how to apply black-box, white-box, and experience-based test techniques to derive test cases from various software work products. You'll learn about the collaboration-based test approach.

Major changes in chapter 4 (Test Analysis and Design)

  • Use case testing removed (but still present in the Advanced Test Analyst syllabus)

  • More focus on collaboration-based approach to testing: new K3 LO about using ATDD to derive test cases and two new K2 LOs about user stories and acceptance criteria

  • Decision testing and coverage replaced with branch testing and coverage (first, branch coverage is more commonly used in practice; second, different standards define the decision differently, as opposed to “branch”; third, this solves a subtle, but serious flaw from the old FL2018 which claims that „100% decision coverage implies 100% statement coverage” – this sentence is not true in case of programs with no decisions)

  • Section on the value of white-box testing improved

Chapter 5: Managing the Test Activities

There is a total of 9 questions required for Chapter 5. K1 = 1 K2 = 5 K3 = 3. Number of points for this chapter = 9

No. of Topics: 5

No. of Sections: 16

No. of Pages in the Syllabus: 9

You'll learn how to plan tests in general, and how to estimate test effort. You'll learn how risks can influence the scope of testing. You'll learn how to monitor and control test activities. You'll learn how configuration management supports testing. You'll learn how to report defects in a clear and understandable way.

Major changes in chapter 5 (Managing the Test Activities):

  • Section on test strategies/approaches removed

  • New K3 LO on estimation techniques for estimating the test effort

  • More focus on the well-known Agile-related concepts and tools in test management: iteration and release planning (K1), test pyramid (K1), and testing quadrants (K2)

  • Section on risk management better structured by describing four main activities: risk identification, risk assessment, risk mitigation and risk monitoring

Chapter 6: Test Tools

There is a total of 2 questions required for Chapter 6. K1 = 1 K2 = 1 K3 = 0; Number of points for this chapter = 2

No. of Topics: 2

No. of Sections: 2

No. of Pages in the Syllabus: 2

You'll learn to classify tools and to understand the risks and benefits of test automation.

Major changes in chapter 6 (Test Tools)

  • Content on some test automation issues reduced as being too advanced for the foundation level – section on tools selection, performing pilot projects and introducing tools into organization removed

The conclusion is that there are many benefits from obtaining an ISTQB CTFL certificate. The problem is that it is not as easy as it seems at first glance. First, trying to pass the exam is quite expensive, especially for those who are not yet working as software testers. Secondly, the exam itself is quite difficult. Yes, I know that many people say that they passed the exam the first time, without preparation, with their eyes closed. Let's praise them, let's say how cool they are, how smart they are, and how talented they are, and that we envy them. Understand me correctly, I'm not saying that it's impossible, of course, it's possible because the passing score is quite low, you need to give 26 correct answers out of 40. I'm just saying that a candidate who has read the syllabus or the book has a much higher chance of passing the exam. And a person who has practiced on similar questions has an even greater chance of successfully passing the exam. And since the attempt to pass is not free, in my opinion, it is better to prepare for the exam and not listen to lucky people or testing geniuses.



bottom of page