How to Write an Exploratory Test Charter

Tools can help us in many ways far beyond the automation of checks. But in this, they necessarily play a supporting role to skilled humans; and the unskilled use of tools may have terrible consequences. We’re not saying that checking is an inherently bad thing to do.

definition of test charter

In fact, when I train people in how to do exploratory testing, we play “20 Software Questions”. I give people the object of testing just one feature in an application while I project the screen at the front of the room. Ad hoc testing may or may not cover all the features and conditions that should be tested. Therefore, many defects may be missed in testing and found by the users in live production use. In the 1980’s, software testing as a practice was starting to take a fairly defined form.

Plus, it can take significant time to develop automated tests. This is a huge challenge in rapid change environments, such as seen in agile. While this definition is concise, there are other ways to understand exploratory testing by contrasting it to other approaches. Also, it helps to understand what exploratory testing is not, such as ad-hoc, chaotic, slow, or unplanned. With a standardized Session Report, software tools can be used to parse and store the results as aggregate data for reporting and metrics. This allows reporting on the number of sessions per area or a breakdown of time spent on testing, bug investigation, and setup / other activities.

Along with that I liked the definitions/conditions for testing such as “a test must be an honest attempt to find a defect” and “a test is a question which we ask of the software”. I find that even though this topic on the surface appears to be quite simple it does prove difficult to explain to other testers the importance of understanding the difference. Often we assume that we understand the meaning of a word when attributed with context. However it is not until you take a step back and really look in to the details of what you believe the meaning of a word is that you start to realise that your preconceived ideas need to be adjusted.

Other Kinds of Charters

Having been quizzed recently on what my understanding of a commonly used word is, it has shifted my thought process from thinking I know to questioning what I think I know. In very simple terms I see checking as confirming what you think you already know about the system and testing as asking questions in which you do not know the answer. I congruent with you on how humans get easily distracted from a set of steps to be followed for checking a functionality. Therefore, let’s not be surprised that testing, today, is a process that involves tools in many ways, and that this challenges the idea of a tester.

definition of test charter

Testing is an open-ended investigation– think “Sherlock Holmes”– whereas checking is short for “fact checking” and focuses on specific facts and rules related to those facts. Testing encompasses checking , whereas checking cannot encompass testing. “specific observations” means that the observation process results in a string of bits . “experimentation” implies interaction with a subject and observation of it as it is operating, but we are also referring to “thought experiments” that involve purely hypothetical interaction.

Define the objective of the test in a test charter

In many software cycles, an early iteration is required when teams don’t have much time to structure the tests. What is often missed are edge cases, which are discovered through User Acceptance Testing and are tested based on user personas. On the other hand, exploratory testing is random or unstructured in nature and can reveal bugs that would go undiscovered during the structured phase of testing.

But the defining feature of a check is that it can be COMPLETELY automated, whereas testing is intrinsically a human activity. The list of words in the testing definition are not exhaustive of everything that might be involved in testing, but represent the mental processes we think are most vital and characteristic. “exploration” implies that testing is inherently exploratory. All testing is exploratory to some degree, but may also be structured by scripted elements. “evaluations” as a noun refers to the product of the evaluation, which in the context of checking is going to be an artifact of some kind; a string of bits. When you drive a car on a public road you can’t know what is around the next turn.

New York City was given a charter, for example, by the British monarch in the 17th century, guaranteeing it certain rights in exchange for goods and services. Today corporations still have charters governing their behavior. PractiTest offers solutions for exploratory testers by providing a way to capture and reuse exploratory tests on an ongoing basis. The test is conducted according to the session parameters defined in the charter. This includes limiting the test to the time box defined in the charter.

definition of test charter

Many groups do not have an explicit definition of testing. I am not sure if you would endorse their checks and tests. In this case, I think testing is hit and miss and one can create ‘bad checks’. I’ve always found that word to be a bit confusing for people and have preferred to use the term ‘Cognitive Thought’ to basically state “Use your brain! Too many times we hear about the “monkey on the keyboard” view of Testing, which it is not.

How to Write an Exploratory Test Charter

For the current one to be deployed in June this year, users expressed in a review that it was the first time they “grow” specifications with “testing” as the collaboration tool. In describing how to test a feature, they evaluate, learn, experiment, question, study, model, observe & inference. Management is especially impressed by the “Specification PLUS test cases” approach, as these are their living documentation. In the past decade, there is an exponential growth in the number of applications released in the market. Quality of an application has become the main differentiating factor. This has significantly increased the importance of the Quality Assurance process for the business.

It is especially useful to find new test scenarios to enhance test coverage. Test cases are defined based on already defined user stories and the test data is structured based on the test cases defined. Test coverage is measured using software engineering metrics and, in most cases, the coverage is adequate technically. A wide variety of results demonstrates a high rate of success in finding defects by executing exploratory testing throughout the testing life cycle of a software product. In fact, sometimes, it is possible to detect more and better defects than by following a previously defined set of test cases.

The rest of the items looked odd, but turned out to be “works as designed”. Way back in the 1980’s, Boris Beizer, one of the early authors and practitioners of software testing, wrote about “The Pesticide Paradox”. To paraphrase, his assertion was that a pesticide is effective at first in killing bugs, over time the effectiveness diminishes until eventually another better pesticide is needed. For example, testing a medical device is different from testing a video game.

Session report

By referring to experimentation, we are not denying or rejecting other kinds of learning; we are merely trying to express that experimentation is a practice that characterizes testing. Any and all of these things shape the testing over time, even though the tester makes new choices about many other things. By this definition, all testing is structured, except completely random testing. (Randomness, by definition, has no structure, because no relationship among, say, the value of sequence of random numbers can be counted upon to persist as the sequence continues. This means they should proactively keep testing more features with every round of testing.

It is one of the leading test management tools with more than 10,000 users throughout Europe. ReQtest allows you to manage your manual and automated testing efforts at a single place. It offers a one-stop solution to view the test execution results of the testing and gain insights through reports. You can easily collaborate with your team members while performing testing. An uninterrupted period of time spent testing, ideally lasting one to two hours. Each session is focused on a charter, but testers can also explore new opportunities or issues during this time.

  • Organizations must be able to strike the right balance between exploratory testing and scripted testing.
  • The reason the follow-up research is done after the session is to keep the focus on the test during the session.
  • I am just thinking about how to define and convey instructions to manual testers using this terminology to help solidify this knowledge in my mind.
  • Certainly, there is no automatic connection between agile testing and exploratory testing.
  • What is often missed are edge cases, which are discovered through User Acceptance Testing and are tested based on user personas.
  • I’ve been trying to use these points to make improvements at work since attending a Michael Bolton workshop in Portland a couple of years ago.
  • Even in the midst of a formalized test procedure, when you find any indication of a possible problem, you must explore to discover the extent of that problem.

Exploratory testing complements QA teams’ existing test strategy. It comprises a series of undocumented testing sessions to discover yet unearthed issues/bugs. When combined with automated testingand other testing practices, it increases test coverage, discovers edge cases, potentially adds new features and overall improves the software product. With no structural rigidity, it encourages experimentation, creativity and discovery within the teams.

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Rather than referring to “checking” as “what tools can do”, I would suggest that checking is a subset of what tools can do, just as both are a subset of the greater activity of testing. In the early stages of software development when the code is undergoing rapid changes, exploratory testing can be highly effective. The developers can use this technique to perform unit tests while the testers can acquire familiarity with the application using this testing approach.

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But I was still going 40 miles an hour, so with that momentum I yanked hard to the left and luckily popped quickly back onto the road. By that time the deer had disappeared, having just missed me. Let’s advocate for a sense of structuredness that does not give special privilege to ideas just because they are put into words. In fact, it is unspoken, unwritten structures that we probably most need to become aware of.

Exploratory testing which is a context-driven testing approach is well-suited for agile development as it keeps up with the short scrum cycles. The test outlines are developed on the fly that saves a lot of time. At the end of each agile cycle, critical exploratory tests can be captured for subsequent scrums. One study published in 2008 found that exploratory testing was more effective in finding defects than structured testing.

More from Merriam-Webster on charter

Whatever industry you’re in, we have the expertise and experience to tailor the right testing solution for you, based on your specific needs and requirements. A test charter is the basic documentation of a test session. Among others, its basic goals are to be used in during a debriefing conversation, definition of test charter where the tester communicates to someone his/hers discoveries and concerns, and to serve as input to future sessions. “An instruction of test objectives and possible test ideas on how to test. Test charters are often used in explorative testing. See also explorative testing”.

In 1996, I designed the first class explicitly devoted to ET. This became the core of the Rapid Software Testing methodology. I also created the definition of exploratory testing that the ISTQB partially plagiarized and partially vandalized in their syllabus. Those of us really passionate about studying this have evolved our understanding over time. I will tell you where my own education and analysis has taken me, over the last 30 years or so. ReQtest is a preferred by Test Managers while performing exploratory testing.

Furthermore, the tester can convert exploratory testing sequences into functional test scripts using tools for automated test case documentation. Human/machine checking is an attempted checking process wherein both humans and tools interact to collect the observations and apply the rules. If you follow a specific procedure and the product behaves exactly as you were certain that it would behave, that is a demonstration. This might be reassuring, and it might help you explain what the product is supposed to do.

In the diagram, we should show that bad checks are not part of testing. With the current post one can leave with the impression that bad checks are part of testing. (Also worth keeping in mind that bad checks is rampant – much more than good tests – my opinion).

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