TOGAF Demystification Series: TOGAF Certification is Weak

 Continuing on with our demystification series, I will talk about the comments I hear form people with regards to the TOGAF certification itself and the process. When I hear comments about this topic they usually gravitate to one end of the extreme to another. I often don't hear a middle ground. This for the obvious reason is an area of extreme passion, and rightfully so. After all we are talking about your career credentials, time investments in learning and the stressful certification process that architects will have to make. 

In this post, I will talk about the specific myth that TOGAF certification is weak. I suppose that the term "weak" is a matter of perspective. As we walk through the post we can explore if TOGAF certification is weak and but a bit more qualification around that term.



With a total of 21,390 certified TOGAF practitioners worldwide, the TOGAF certification has proved to be a market leader in the industry. Combined With all those TOGAF practicing architects and the amount of focus on TOGAF there is bound to be opinions and perceptions around what it takes to become certified along with the level of quality in the process.

Taking a step back, TOGAF certification is based on its extensive experience certifying UNIX implementations. The Open Group believed that the certification process needed to be demonstrably objective—that is, the same results would be achieved, regardless of who executed the process. So, in addition to the publication of the TOGAF framework, The Open Group membership defined a policy for certifying TOGAF products (specifically tools and training), services (consulting), and individuals (practitioners). The requirements for certifying TOGAF tools, training courses, professional services, and individual architects are defined by four TOGAF product standards. TOGAF-certified training courses and TOGAF-certified professional services must be delivered by TOGAF-certified architects.

There are two ways an architect can become TOGAF certified: by taking TOGAF certified training, or by passing a TOGAF-certified examination. The training must address, and the examination will test, knowledge and awareness of TOGAF, and a thorough and complete knowledge of the elements of TOGAF listed in the TOGAF 9.1 Framework specification.


Is the Certification Weak?

Lets look at the areas that I have heard scrutiny on the TOGAF certification:

  • Achieving the Certification - The process one goes through to get certified. This is the least common concern I hear about but it does come up. 
  • Pass Mark - By far this is the easiest to focus on. The TOGAF pass rate is set at 55% and 60%. 
  • Test Style - I sometimes hear the TOGAF certification as a multiple guess exam. 


Achieving the Certification
As I was sitting in on a training session for TOGAF a few months back this topic came up. It's a small misconception but I still wanted to talk about it because I think it's an important point to understand. The point at the training session was, "When do we take the test to become certified". Most people I talk to believe it is simple to get TOGAF certified. The common view (at least with the folks I talk to) is that all you need to do is go to a TOGAF trainer and then take a test at the end of the 4 days.

This simply isn't true. To preserve the integrity of the certification process The Open Group uses a third party called Prometric to administer the defined process. This ensures that there isn't a chance that training providers or other educators alter the process to make it easier (or harder for that matter) for the candidates.

It's subtle but there is an important point here, the TOGAF certification isn't just a certification that you can get by just going to the training and getting the award at the end of the class. There is a lot more to it.


How does the Pass Mark Compare to Other Certifications

The TOGAF Level 2 certification, which most people get is set at a 60% pass rate. I think this is a little low but I think it is acceptable. Lets face it, there is a lot of material to learn inside TOGAF. I'm not convinced that if you raised the pass mark up that it would yield significant better results. I believe that there are other factors at play to increase it's benefits to practitioners .

Let's compare TOGAF to other certifications. Below are industry leading certifications with their pass marks:

  • ITIL - Multiple choice with a pass mark of 65%
  • COBIT - 56% pass mark required or 450 right answers out of 800
  • PMI - A 61% or higher is required to pass 

As you can see from the sampling of certifications in other disciplines TOGAF is not that dissimilar from other pass marks. Again, slightly lower but still in the same ball park.



Hopefully what I was able to do was to dispel some of the myths on TOGAF certification along with some hard numbers and comparisons. As I have said a few times in this post, I think the pass mark is on the low side but it's still in the right range and isn't drastically different from the industry. 

So, love TOGAF or hate TOGAF it is the market leader in Enterprise Architecture certifications. The number of TOGAF certified praticiners continues to increase year after year and we see continued support from organizations world wide that recognize that as the defacto standard. I see the evidence from two primary areas: