SAFe Scrum Master SSM 6.0 Exam Notes SAFe Scrum Master SSM 6.0 Exam Notes

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If you are planning or preparing for SAFe Scrum Master SSM 6.0 (Scaled Agile Framework) certification then this article is for you to get started.


  1. Prepare well for the exam. Understand all SAFe concepts and you can crack it like me!
  2. Requires 1 to 3 weeks of preparation depending upon your commitment per day.
  3. You need to solve 45 questions (multiple choice = 1 answer and multiple select = 2-3 answers) in 90 mins from your laptop without any supervision. It is an open-book online exam where you can search for the answers.
  4. Passing score is 33/45 (73%) means you should answer at least 33 (out of 45) questions correctly. No negative scoring so answer all the questions!
  5. You get the result (Pass or Fail) once you submit the exam.
  6. First attempt is included in the course registration fee if taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake or attempt past the 30-day window is $50
  7. You can download the SAFe Scrum Master SSM Student Workbook after the course registration from
  8. Refer to the official Exam Details for more information.
  9. Refer to the official SAFe Website for exam material.

Exam Questions

Exam Domains

  1. Domain 1 - Introducing Scrum in SAFe (22-28%)
  2. Domain 2 - Defining the Scrum Master / Team Coach role (26-30%)
  3. Domain 3 - Supporting Team Events (17-21%)
  4. Domain 4 - Supporting ART Events (25-29%)

Other Links to Refer to:-

Exam Notes

Lesson 1 - Introducing Scrum in SAFe

What are the SAFe Agile Frameworks?

Agile Frameworks:-
• SAFe
• Scrum
• Kanban
• Timeboxing
• Frequent demos
• Information radiators
• Stories
• Test-driven development
• Retrospectives
• Team Syncs
• Behavior-driven development
• Continuous Integration
• Pair/mob programming
• DevOps

What is the Agile Manifesto?

Agile Manifesto uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
    That is, while there is a value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more


What are the 12 Agile Manifesto Principles?
  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.


What are the 10 SAFe Lean-Agile Principles?
  1. Take an economic view
    1. Deliver Early and Often
    2. Apply a Comprehensive Economic Framework:-
      -Operate Within Lean Budgets and Guardrails
      -Understand Solution Economic Trade-Offs: Development expense, Lead time, Product cost, Value, and Risk
      -Leverage Suppliers
      -Sequencing Jobs for Maximum Benefit: Weighted Shortest Job First (MSJF)
  2. Apply systems thinking
    1. The Solution Is a System
      -Optimizing a component does not optimize the whole system
      -For the system to behave well, teams must understand the intended behavior and architecture
      -The value of a system passes through its interconnections
      -A system can evolve no faster than its slowest integration point
    2. The Enterprise Building the System Is a System, Too
    3. Understand and Optimize the Full Development Value Stream
    4. Only Management Can Change the System
  3. Assume variability; preserve options
    -Flexible requirements and design, the Cone of uncertainty, set-based over point-based approach
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
    -PDCA = Plan – Do – Check – Adjust, The shorted the cycles, the faster the learning
    -Integration points control product development and reduce risk
  5. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
    -Phase-gate milestones force design decisions too early, false-positive feasibility, they assume a point Solution exists, huge batches and long queues, centralized requirements and design.
    -Use Objective milestones instead, PI System Demos, continuous, cost-effective adjustments towards an optimum Solution)
  6. Make value flow without interruptions
    -Reduce batch size for higher predictability. Total cost = Holding cost + Transaction cost. Reducing transaction costs increases predictability, accelerates feedback, reduces rework, and lowers cost.
    -Little’s Law: Wq = Lq / Lambda, Average wait time = Average queue length / Average processing rate
  7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
    Cadence – converts unpredictable events into predictable occurrences and lowers cost, makes waiting times for new work predictable, supports regular planning and cross-functional coordination, limits batch sizes to a single interval, controls injection of new work, provides scheduled integration points;
    Synchronization – causes multiple events to happen simultaneously, facilitates cross-functional trade-offs, provides routine dependency management, supports full system integration and assessment, provides multiple feedback perspectives
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
    -Workers are most qualified to make decisions about how to perform their work
    -The workers must be heard and respected for management to lead effectively
    -Knowledge workers must manage themselves. They need autonomy
    -Continuing innovation must be part of the work, the tasks, and the responsibilities of knowledge workers.
    -Unlocking intrinsic motivation with autonomy, mastery, and purpose
  9. Decentralize decision-making
    Centralize – Infrequent, Long-lasting, Significant economies of scale
    Decentralize – Frequent, Time critical, Requires local information
  10. Organize around value
    -Value doesn’t follow silos
    -Organize around Development Value Streams.


What are the four SAFe core values?

SAFe has the following four core values:-

  1. Alignment
  2. Transparency
  3. Respect for people
  4. Relentless improvement


What are the Scrum pillars and values?
  • The three pillars of Scrum are transparency, inspection, and adaptation
  • The five values of the Scrum are Courage, Commitment, Focus, Respect, and Openness
What are the SAFe vs Scrum Terminologies?
SAFe Scrum
Iteration Sprint
Iteration Planning Sprint Planning
Iteration Review Sprint Review
Iteration Retrospective Sprint Retrospective
Iteration Goals Sprint Goals
Iteration Backlog Sprint Backlog
Team Sync Daily Scrum
Agile Team Scrum Team
Team Increment Increment
Program Increment (PI) Typically 5 Sprints
Program Increment (PI) Planning Planning for typically 5 Sprints
Cadence and Synchronization Velocity
Agile Release Train (ART) - Teams of Agile teams Teams of Scrum teams
Release Train Engineer Chief scrum Master
ART Sync Scrum of Scrum
What is an Iteration?
  • Definition: Iterations are a single development cycle where each Agile Team defines, builds, integrates, and tests the Stories from their Iteration Backlog
  • Duration: Each Iteration is the same length, running back-to-back.SAFe advises two-week Iterations
  • Goal: To deliver new value to the Customer at the end of each Iteration
  • Avoid adding scope once the Iteration has begun
What is an Agile team?
  • An Agile Team is a cross-functional group of typically ten or fewer individuals with all the skills necessary to define, build, test, and deploy increments of value to their customers.
  • Agile teams are optimized for communication and the continuous delivery of value to the customer.
  • Agile Teams visualize flow with SAFe Scrum or SAFe Kanban
  • Agile Team Events are:- Team Sync, Backlog Refinement, Iteration Review, Iteration Retro, Iteration Planning

The Agile Team’s responsibilities are:-

  1. Connecting with the Customer (led by PO)
  2. Planning the Work: ART Planning (PI Planning), Team planning using SAFe Scrum or SAFe Team Kanban, and refining the Team Backlog.
  3. Delivering Value: Frequently integrate and test, Sync with other teams in ART through ART Sync (includes Coach Sync and PO Sync), build continuous delivery pipeline, release frequently.
  4. Getting Feedback: with the help of PO and through System Demos
  5. Improving relentlessly: participate in ART’s joint Inspect & Adapt, address the problems as they occur


What are the two specialty roles in Agile Teams?

The Agile Team contains two specialty roles:- Product Owner (PO) and Scrum Master/Team Coach (SM/TC).

  1. Product Owner (PO) responsibilities are:-
    • Connect with the customer
    • Contribute to the Vision and Roadmap
    • Manage and prioritize the Team Backlog
    • Support the team in delivering value
    • Get and apply fast feedback
  2. Scrum Master/Team Coach (SM/TC) responsibilities are:-
    • Facilitate SAFe Scrum (or SAFe Kanban) and PI planning
    • Supports Iteration Execution
    • Improves Flow
    • Build a high-performing team
    • Optimizes and improves the team and ART performance


What is Agile Release Train (ART)?
  • ART is a team of cross-functional Agile Teams and has the capabilities to define, build, validate, and release to deliver a continuous flow of value.
  • ART is a virtual organization of 5-12 teams (50-125+ individuals)
  • All the teams in ART are synchronized on a common cadence - a Program Increment (PI), aligned to a common mission via a single Program Backlog (ART Backlog).

Critical Roles in the ART are:-

  • Release Train Engineer (RTE) is a servant leader (chief scrum master) who facilitates ART execution, impediment removal, risk and dependency management, and continuous improvement.
  • Product Management is largely responsible for ‘what gets built,’ as defined by the Vision, Roadmap, and new Features in the ART Backlog. They work with customers, teams, and Product Owners to understand and communicate their needs and participate in solution validation.
  • System Architect is an individual or team that defines the system’s overall architecture. They work at a level of abstraction above the teams and components and typically define Non-functional Requirements (NFRs), major system elements, subsystems, and interfaces.
  • Business Owners are key stakeholders of the ART, with final responsibility for the business outcomes of the train.
  • Customers are the ultimate economic buyers or value users of the solution.

Other essential roles in the ART are:-

  • System Teams typically assist in building and maintaining development, continuous integration, and test environments.
  • Shared Services are specialists necessary for the success of an ART but cannot be dedicated to a specific train. They often include data security, information architects, site reliability engineering (SRE), database administrators (DBAs), and many more.

Three Sync events to keep ART on track:-

  • Coach Sync: (timeboxed: 1 hour) focuses on executing the current PI, including risk, dependencies, progress, and impediments
  • PO Sync: manages the PI’s scope, reviews progress, adjusts priorities, and prepares for the following PI
  • ART Sync: usually replaces the Coach Sync and PO Sync for a particular iteration to reduce overhead. The ROAM board created during PI planning can be reviewed during the ART Sync. ART Planning board is used during ART sync to track and manage dependencies, ensuring they do not block other teams.

Other events in ART:-

  • PI Planning (timeboxed: 2 days) Each ART begins with the PI Planning using the PI planning board, the outcome is PI Objectives to be completed in the PI iteration.
  • System Demos (timeboxed: 1 hour) Occur at the end of Iteration to review deliverables and receive feedback from stakeholders, business owners, and customers.
  • Inspect & Adapt (timeboxed: 1/2 day) Each PI concludes with I&A event for retrospection where ART reviews and improves its process before the next PI.


Lesson 2 - Characterizing the Role of the Scrum Master

What are the characteristics of an effective Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master acts as a Servant Leader. An effective scrum master should have the following characteristics:-

  1. Empathetic: Understand and empathize with others.
  2. Conflict navigator: Listen to and support team members in problem identification and decision-making
  3. Servant Leader: Persuade rather than use authority. Seeks to help without diminishing the commitment of others.
  4. Mentor: Encourage and support the personal development of each individual
  5. Transparent: Is open and appreciates openness in others
  6. Coach: Thinks beyond day-to-day activities


What are the responsibilities of the Scrum Master in the SAFe enterprise?
  • Works with the RTE to ensure the train meets its overall PI Objectives
  • Coordinates with other Scrum Masters, the System Team, and Shared Services during PI Planning
  • Works with the teams throughout each Iteration and PI
  • Participates in the Coach Sync
  • Fosters normalized estimating within the team
  • Helps teams operate under architectural and portfolio governance, system integration, and System Demos


What are the common attributes of the high-performing team?

The Scrum master’s responsibility is to build a high-performing team with the following common attributes:-

  • Self-organizing
  • Effective decision-making
  • Open and clear communication
  • Value diversity
  • Mutual trust
  • Healthy conflict
  • Clear goals and purpose
  • Concentration and focus
  • Ownership and accountability
  • Understand work’s impact on an organization
  • Aligned and collaborative
  • Safe atmosphere to take risks
  • Effective, timely feedback
  • Sufficient resources for local control
  • Success focus over failure avoidance
  • Abilities balanced with challenge
  • Engagement
  • Have fun with work and each other

There are 4 stages of building a high-performing team:-

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing


What are the Team Events?
Event Timebox Value
Backlog Refinement 1 hour Team prepares requirements for Iteration Planning
Iteration Planning 2 to 4 hours Team commits to a set of goals to be delivered in theIteration
Team sync 15 minutes Teammembers sync regarding the progress of theIteration Goals
Iteration Review 1 hour Team meets with stakeholders to review thedeliverables and provide feedback
Iteration Retrospective 1 to 1.5 hours Teamreviews and improves its process before thenext Iteration


Lesson 3 - Experiencing PI Planning

What is PI Planning and its events?
  • PI Planning stands for Program Increment Planning.
  • PI Planning is a cadence-based event that serves as the heartbeat of the ART, aligning all teams on the ART to a shared mission and Vision.
  • PI Planning sessions are regularly scheduled events held throughout the year where multiple teams within the same Agile Release Train (ART) meet to align to a shared vision, discuss features, plan the roadmap, and identify cross-team dependencies.
  • PI Planning is a 2 full day event that typically runs every 8-12 weeks (10 weeks typical). The two-day agenda is as follows:-
    Day 1
    08:00 - 09:00 Business Context
    09:00 - 10:30 Product/Solution Vision
    10:30 - 11:30 Architecture Vision and Development Practicies
    11:30 - 01:00 Planning Context and Lunch
    01:00 - 04:00 Team breakouts
    04:00 - 05:00 Draft Plan Review
    05:00 - 06:00 Management review and problem solving
    Day 2
    08:00 - 09:00 Planning Adjustment
    09:00 - 11:00 Team breakouts
    11:00 - 01:00 Final Plan Review and Lunch
    01:00 - 02:00 ART Risks
    02:00 - 02:15 Confidence Vote
    02:15 - ?? Plan Rework (if needed)
    When ready Planning Retrospective and moving forward
  • Primary Inputs to the PI Planning include: 1. Business context, 2. Roadmap & vision, and 3. Highest priority Features (typically top 10) of the ART backlog
  • Primary Outputs of the PI Planning include: 1. Committed PI objectives, and 2. ART planning board
  • Product Management provides the vision and backlog (typically represented by the top ten or so upcoming features) and owns the feature priorities
  • Business Owner provides the business context and assigns business value (BV) to each PI Objective on a scale from 1 to 10
  • Development Teams own Story planning and high-level estimates
  • ART Planning Board is used for PI Planning showing: 1. Features, 2. Significant Dependency, and 3. Milestone or Event
  • Architect and UX work as intermediaries for governance, interfaces,and dependencies


What are PI Uncommitted Objectives?

Uncommitted objectives are used to identify work that can be variable within the scope of a PI. The work is planned, but the outcome is simply not certain. Teams can apply uncommitted objectives whenever there is low confidence in meeting the objective. This can be due to many circumstances:

  • Dependencies with another team or supplier that cannot be guaranteed.
  • The team has little to no experience with functionality of this type. In this case the teams may plan ‘Spikes’ early in the PI to reduce uncertainty.
  • There are a large number of fairly critical objectives that the business is depending on and the team is already loaded close to full capacity.


What is a Feature?
  • Features are maintained in the ART Backlog
  • Feature are sized to fit in a Program Increment (PI) and delivered by a single Agile Release Train (ART)
  • Features are split into Stories and fit in one Iteration for one team
  • Features include a definition of Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF), a benefit hypothesis (to justify development cost) and Acceptance criteria (defined during program backlog refinement).
  • Features are prioritized using WSJF and the top 10 features are presented to the team during PI planning
  • Typically Product Management creates business features and System Architect creates enabler features


What is a Story?
  • Features are implemented by Stories
  • Stories are small increments of value that can be developed in days and are relatively easy to estimate
  • Features fits in one PI for one ART; Stories fits in one iteration for one team.
  • A Story Point is a relative number that represents: Volume, Complexity, Knowledge, and Uncertaity.
  • Team breaks down Features into User Stories and Enabler Stories


How to write a good Story?
  • User Stories are short descriptions of a small piece of desired functionalitywritten in the user’s language
  • The recommended form of expression is the user-voice form, as follows: As a (user role), I want to (activity), so that (business value).
    As a driver, 
    I want to get a receipt after fueling 
    so that  I can expense the purchase.
  • Use personas to better understand users. Personas are fictional characters.
  • A good story has INVEST attributes:-
    I = Independent (can be developed on their own)
    N = Negotiable (fexible scope)
    V = Valuable (useful to Customer)
    E = Estimable (can be estimated)
    S = Small (can fit in iteration)
    T = Testable (can be tested)
  • A good story is written using 3Cs:- Cards = Written on a card or in a digital tool and can be annotated with notes Conversation = The details are in a conversation with the PO Confirmation = Acceptance criteria confirms the Story correctness


What is an Acceptance criteria?
  • Provide the details of the Story from a testing point of view
  • Are created by the Agile Team
  • Can be written in the Given-When-Then format
    As a driver, 
    I want to get a receipt after fueling 
    so that  I can expense the purchase.
    Acceptance criteria:- 
        Given that the fueling is over 
        When the driver asks for the receipt
        Then it is printed and includes: amount fueled, the amount paid, tax, date, time


What are Enabler Stories?

Enabler Stories build the groundwork for future User Stories. There are four types of Enabler Stories:-

  1. Infrastructure: Build development and testing frameworks that enable a faster and more efficient development process
  2. Architecture: Build the Architectural Runway, which enables smoother and faster development
  3. Exploration: Build an understanding of what is needed by the Customer to understand prospective Solutions and evaluate alternatives
  4. Compliance: Facilitate specific activities such as verification and validation, documentation, signoffs, regulatory submissions, and approvals


What is a Story Point?
  • Fibonacci is used for Story Point estimation
  • A Story point is a singular number that represents:-
    – Volume: How much is there?
    – Complexity: How hard is it?
    – Knowledge: What do we know?
    – Uncertainty: What’s not known?
  • Story points are relative. They are not connected to any specific unit of measure.
    – An 8-point Story should take four times longer than a 2-point Story to complete
    – Typically, a 1-point Story would take one day to developand test
  • Estimating Poker can be used for fast and relative estimation


Lesson 4 - Facilitating Iteration Execution

What is Iteration Planning?
  • Iteration planning is the first event of the Iteration.
  • Timeboxed to 4 hours or less. Typically 90 minutes for a two-week iteration
  • Inputs to the Iteration Planning include:- – A refined Team Backlog – The Team and ART PI Objectives – Feedback from System Demos and prior iterations
  • A successful iteration planning event delivers the following outputs:- – Stories planned for the upcoming iteration, including Enablers. Each has defined acceptance criteria and an estimate and is recorded in the iteration backlog. – Committed iteration goals. – Dependencies with other teams are understood and planned.


What is the Scrum Master’s role in Iteration Planning?
  • Maintain the timebox
  • Ensure that the team commits to the Iteration Goals
  • Verify that the PO or other stakeholders don’t influence the team to overcommit
  • Challenge the team to exceed their previous accomplishments
  • Ensure that the improvement items from the retrospective are put into action
  • Ensure time is allocated for technical debt activities


What is the Team Sync?

The team sync is a short meeting (usually 15 minutes or less), typically held about daily, to inspect progress toward the iteration goal, communicate, and adjust upcoming planned work.

The Basic Team Sync agenda where Each person answers:-

  1. What did I do yesterday to advance the Iteration Goals?
  2. What will I do today to advance the Iteration Goals?
  3. Are there any impediments that will prevent the team from meeting the Iteration Goals?

The meet-after Agenda:-

  1. Review topics captured on the meet-after board
  2. Involved parties discuss, and uninvolved people may leave


What is the Scrum Master’s role in tracking Iteration Progress?
  • Facilitate mid-PI re-planning
  • Encourage the team to point out as early as possible if they think they will miss Iteration Goals or Pl Objectives. Communicate to and from the Coach Sync
  • Encourage the use of engineering practices
  • Make sure defects are not pushed to the IP Iteration
  • Facilitate preparation for the next PI
  • Support release activities


What is Backlog Refinement Event?
  • Timebox: 1 –2 hours per Iteration
  • Purpose: Provides time to identify dependencies and issues that could impact the next Iteration. Ensures that there is a ready backlog for Iteration Planning.
  • Attendees: – Agile Team members are in attendance and actively engaged; subjectmatter experts (SMEs) and other teams’ members are invited as needed. – Scrum Master or Product Owner facilitates.


What is the Scrum Master’s role in Backlog Refinement Event?
  • Maintain the timebox
  • Maintain the right level of a deep backlog vs a full set of specified Stories for two Iterations
  • Make sure all the team members participate
  • Invite the right subject matter experts
  • Hold the event at regular intervals


What is DevOps?
  • DevOps is a mindset, culture, and set of technical practices that supports the integration, automation, and collaboration needed to effectively develop and operate a solution.
  • It is a combination of Dev (Development) and Ops (Operations).
  • DevOps enable the Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) to release on demand and deliver value whenever there is a business need


What is the CALMR approach to DevOps?

CALMR is a DevOps mindset that guides the ART toward achieving continuous value delivery by enhancing culture, automation, lean flow, measurement, and recovery.

  • Culture - Establish a culture of shared responsibility for development, deployment, and operations.
  • Automation - Automate the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.
  • Lean flow - Keep batch sizes small, limit WIP, and provide extreme visibility.
  • Measurement - Measure the flow through the pipeline. Implement full-stack telemetry.
  • Recovery - Architect and enable low-risk releases. Establish fast recovery, fast reversion, and fast fix-forward.


Lesson 5 - Finishing the PI

What is Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration?
  • The Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration is a unique iteration that occurs every PI, which provides dedicated time for Innvoation and Planning where:-
    Innovation includes opportunities for innovation, hackathons, infrastructure improvements, continuing education, certifications, etc.
    Planning includes PI Planning Readiness, Inspect and Adapt (I&A), and PI Planning events, etc.
  • It provides an estimating buffer for meeting PI Objectives and sufficient capacity margin to enable cadence
  • Without the IP Iteration
    – Lack of delivery capacity buffer impacts predictability
    – Little innovation; the tyranny of the urgent
    – Technical debt grows uncontrollably
    – People burn out
    – No time for teams to plan, demo, or improve together


What is Inspect and Adapt (I&A) Event?
  • The Inspect and Adapt (I&A) is a significant event (Timebox: 3-4 hours) held at the end of each PI, where All ART stakeholders and Agile Team participate.
  • The I&A event consists of three parts:-
    PI System Demo (Timebox: 45-40 mins) - team demonstrates the current state of the solution
    Quantitative and qualitative measurement - Team PI performance report is created which includes team’s planned vs actual business value. Individual team totals are rolled up into the ART predictability report.
    Retrospective and problem-solving workshop


What is Scrum Master Role in I&A Event?
  • Facilitate the team’s preparation for the PI System Demo
  • Provide team data
  • Facilitate one of the teams in the problem-solving workshop
  • Help the RTE make sure improvement items are included during the PI
  • If using ad hoc teams for the I&A, then ScrumMasters may be participants rather than facilitators


Other SAFe Certification Exam Notes

Read Leading SAFe Agilist 6.0 (Scaled Agile) Exam Notes

Read SAFe Product Owner/Producer Manager POPM 6.0 Exam Notes