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Test design is the process of transforming test objectives into test conditions and test cases.


Resources for “Test Design”

Articles

To celebrate completion of the update to Advanced Software Testing: Volume I, here is an excerpt of Chapter 3. This is the central chapter of the book, addressing test design techniques.

We start with the most basic of specification-based test design techniques, equivalence partitioning.

Conceptually, equivalence partitioning is about testing various groups that are expected to be handled the same way by the system and exhibit similar behavior.  Those groups can be inputs, outputs, internal values, calculations, or time values, and should include valid and invalid groups. We select a single value from each equivalence partition, and this allows us to reduce the number of tests.  We can calculate coverage by dividing the number of equivalence partitions tested by the number identified, though generally the goal is to achieve 100% coverage by selecting at least one value from each partition.

This technique is universally applicable at any test level, in any situation where we can identify the equivalence partitions. Ideally, those partitions are independent, though some amount of interaction between input values does not preclude the use of the technique. This technique is also very useful in constructing smoke tests, though testing of some of the less-risky partitions frequently is omitted in smoke tests. This technique will find primarily functional defects where data is processed improperly in one or more partitions. The key to this technique is to take care that the values in each equivalence partition are indeed handled the same way; otherwise, you will miss potentially important test values.

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This article is an excerpt from Rex Black's recently-published book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1.  This is a book for test analysts and test engineers.  It is especially useful for ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst certificate candidates, but contains detailed discussions of test design techniques that any tester can-­and should­-use.  In this first article in a series of excerpts, Black starts by discussing the related concepts of decision tables and cause-effect graphs.

Equivalence partitioning and boundary value analysis are very useful techniques.  They are especially useful when testing input field validation at the user interface.  However, lots of testing that we do as test analysts involves testing the business logic that sits underneath the user interface.  We can use boundary values and equivalence partitioning on business logic, too, but three additional techniques, decision tables, use cases, and state-based testing, will often prove handier and more effective.  Read this article to learn more about these powerful techniques.  

This software testing article was originally published in the June 2009 edition of Testing Experience Magazine

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In this article, we look at state-based testing.  State-based testing is ideal when we have sequences of events that occur and conditions that apply to those events, and the proper handling of a particular event/condition situation depends on the events and conditions that have occurred in the past.  In some cases, the sequences of events can be potentially infinite, which of course exceeds our testing capabilities, but we want to have a test design technique that allows us to handle arbitrarily-long sequences of events. Read this article to learn more about state-based testing.

This article was originally published in Testing Experience Magazine. 

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The following is an excerpt from my recently-published book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1. This is a book for test analysts and test engineers. It is especially useful for ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst certificate candidates, but contains detailed discussions of test design techniques that any tester can—and should—use. In this third article in a series of excerpts, I discuss the application of use cases to testing workflows.

At the start of this series, I said we would cover three techniques that would prove useful for testing business logic, often more useful than equivalence partitioning and boundary value analysis. First, we covered decision tables, which are best in transactional testing situations. Next, we looked at state-based testing, which is ideal when we have sequences of events that occur and conditions that apply to those events, and the proper handling of a particular event/condition situation depends on the events and conditions that have occurred in the past. In this article, we’ll cover use cases, where preconditions and postconditions help to insulate one workflow from the previous workflow and the next workflow. With these three techniques in hand, you have a set of powerful techniques for testing the business logic of a system.

This article was originally published in Testing Experience Magazine. 

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Many of you are probably familiar with basic test techniques like equivalence partitioning and boundary value analysis. In this article, Rex presents an advanced technique for black-box testing called domain analysis. Domain analysis is an analytical way to deal with the interaction of factors or variables within the business logic layer of a program. It is appropriate when you have some number of factors to deal with. These factors might be input fields, output fields, database fields, events, or conditions. They should interact to create two or more situations in which the system will process data differently. Those situations are the domains. In each domain, the value of one or more factors influences the values of other factors, the system's outputs, or the processing performed.

In some cases, the number of possible test cases becomes very large due to the number of variables or factors and the potentially interesting test values or options for each variable or factor. For example, suppose you have 10 integer input fields that accept a number from 0 to 99. There are 10 billion billion valid input combinations.

Equivalence class partitioning and boundary value analysis on each field will reduce but not resolve the problem. You have four boundary values for each field. The illegal values are easy, because you have only 20 tests for those. However, to test each legal combination of fields, you have 1,024 test cases. But do you need to do so? And would testing combinations of boundary values necessarily make for good tests? Are there smarter options for dealing with such combinatorial explosions?

This article was originally published in Quality Matters.

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Structural Testing Techniques

By Jamie Mitchell and Rex Black

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the new edition of Advanced Software Testing: Volume 3, by Jamie Mitchell and Rex Black. Jamie is the primary author of the material in this chapter.

Structure-based testing uses the internal structure of the system as a test basis for deriving dynamic test cases. In other words, we are going to use information about how the system is designed and built to derive our tests.

The question that should come to mind is why. We have all kinds of specification-based (black-box) testing methods to choose from. Why do we need more? We don’t have time or resources to spare for extra testing, do we?

Well, consider a world-class, outstanding system test team using all black-box and experience-based techniques. Suppose they go through all of their testing, using decision tables, state-based tests, boundary analysis, and equivalence classes. They do exploratory and attack-based testing and error guessing and use checklist-based methods. After all that, have they done enough testing? Perhaps for some. But research has shown, that even with all of that testing, and all of that effort, they may have missed a few things.

There is a really good possibility that as much as 70 percent of all of the code that makes up the system might never have been executed once! Not once!

How can that be? Well, a good system is going to have a lot of code that is only there to handle the unusual, exceptional conditions that may occur. The happy path is often fairly straightforward to build—and test. And, if every user were an expert, and no one ever made mistakes, and everyone followed the happy path without deviation, we would not need to worry so much about testing the rest. If systems did not sometimes go down, and networks sometimes fail, and databases get busy and stuff didn’t happen...

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The choice of the right techniques is critical to achieving a good return on the test investment. Some tests happen before we can even run the software. Some tests involve analyzing the structure of the system, while others involve analyzing the system’s behavior. Each technique can involve special skills and particular participants, and might appropriately entail the use of tools—or not.

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Functional Testing

By Rex Black

Functional testing focuses on what the system does, rather than how it does it. Non-functional testing is focused on how the system does what it does. Both functional and non-functional testing are black-box tests, being focused on behavior. White-box tests are focused on how the system works internally—i.e., on its structure.

Functional tests can have, as their test basis, the functional requirements. These include both the requirements that are written down in a specification document and those that are implicit. The domain expertise of the tester can also be part of the test basis.

Functional tests will vary by test level or phase. A functional integration test will focus on the functionality of a collection of interfacing modules, usually in terms of the partial or complete user workflows, use cases, operations, or features these modules provide. A functional system test will focus on the functionality of the application as a whole, complete user workflows, use cases, operations, and features. A functional system integration test will focus on end-to-end functionality that spans the entire set of integrated systems.

The test analyst can employ various test techniques during functional testing at any level. All of the techniques discussed in Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1 will be useful.

We should keep in mind that test analyst is a role, not a title, job description, or position. In other words, some people play the role of test analyst exclusively, but others play that role as part of another job. So, when dedicated, professional testers do functional testing, they are test analysts both in position and in role. However, when domain experts do the analysis, design, implementation, or execution of functional tests, they are working as test analysts. When developers do the analysis, design, implementation, or execution of functional tests, they are working as test analysts.

For test analysts in the ISTQB Advanced syllabus, we consider functional and usability testing as concerned with the following quality attributes:

  • Accuracy
  • Suitability
  • Interoperability
  • Usability
  • Accessibility

In this excerpt, we’ll look at testing the first three of these attributes, starting with accuracy.

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This is an excerpt from my book, Expert Test Manager, written with James Rommens and Leo van der Aalst. I hope it helps you think more clearly about the test strategies you use.

A test policy contains the mission and objectives of testing along with metrics and goals associated with the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which we achieve those objectives. In short, the policy defines why we test. While it might also include some high-level description of the fundamental test process, in general the test policy does not talk about how we test.

The document that describes how we test is the test strategy. In the test strategy, the test group explains how the test policy will be implemented. This document should be a general description that spans multiple projects. While the test strategy can describe how testing is done for all projects, organizations might choose to have separate documents for various types of projects. For example, an organization might have a sequential lifecycle test strategy, an Agile test strategy, and a maintenance test strategy.

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Webinars

Podcast Episodes

This is the first in a series of webinars excerpted from Rex's popular book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1, a book for test analysts and test engineers. In this first webinar, Rex will discuss the related concepts of decision tables and cause effect graphs and their uses for testing. Conceptually, decision tables express the rules that govern handling of transactional situations. By their simple, concise structure, decision tables make it easy for us to design tests for those rules, usually at least one test per rule. Join this webinar, illustrated with examples throughout, to learn a technique that you can apply to your work right away.

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Advanced Software Testing: Use Cases 9/16/2010


Length: 1h 19m 56s

This is the third and final webinar in a series excerpted from Rex’s popular book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1, a book for test analysts and test engineers. In this third webinar, Rex will discuss the use of use cases in testing. Use case testing ensures that we have tested typical and exceptional workflows and scenarios for the system, from the point of view of the various actors who directly interact with the system and from the point of view of the various stakeholders who indirectly interact with the system. Join this webinar, illustrated with examples throughout, to learn a technique that you can apply to your work right away.

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Advanced Software Testing: Pairwise Testing 11/12/2010


Length: 0h 50m 9s

This is another webinar in a series on advanced software testing, excerpted from Rex’s popular book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 1, a book for test analysts and test engineers. In this fourth webinar, Rex will discuss the use of pairwise techniques in testing. Pairwise techniques allow us to go beyond equivalence classes and boundary values to test the ways in which independent options can interact, while at the same time avoiding an explosion in the number of test cases. Join this webinar, illustrated with examples throughout, to learn a technique that you can apply to your work right away.

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Advanced Software Testing: Integration Testing 10/28/11


Length: 1h 20m 12s

This is the eighth webinar in a series on advanced software testing. This one is excerpted from Rex Black’s and Jamie Mitchell’s book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 3, a book for technical test analysts, programmers, and test engineers. In this webinar, Rex will discuss techniques for integration testing. Integration testing is one of the least-understood and oft-forgotten test levels, but proper integration testing is essential to ensuring that later levels of testing such as system testing and acceptance testing go smoothly. Join this webinar, illustrated with examples throughout, to learn a ways to ensure that integration testing is effective and efficient in your organization.

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This is another webinar in a series on advanced software testing, excerpted from Rex’s popular book, Advanced Software Testing: Volume 2, a book for test managers. In this eighth webinar, Rex will discuss the use of reviews to improve requirements and design specifications, including in Agile lifecycles. We’ll cover The most efficient quality assurance techniques known, Reviews of traditional requirements, use cases, user stories, design specifications, and other descriptions of how the system works and how it does what it does. Join this webinar, illustrated with examples throughout, to learn a technique that you can apply to your work right away.

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The Myths of Pairwise Testing: 9/27/13


Length: 1h 2m 36s

In the Spanish Conquista of North America, there were myths, such as the fountain of youth and El Dorado the city of gold. Today in software testing, there are myths as well, including myths surrounding the use of pairwise testing techniques. While pairwise testing can be useful for certain high-risk situations, too often it is used in situations where it is not needed or where it provides less benefit (often at a higher cost) than other test design techniques. So, how do we choose the right time to use pairwise testing? How do we avoid its misuse and overuse? Join Rex for an iconoclastic webinar that will change the way you think about pairwise testing.

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One Key Idea: Pairwise Testing Using ACTS 2/16/17


Length: 0h 38m 45s

If you’ve been testing for any length of time, you know that the number of possible test cases is enormous if you try to test all possible combinations of inputs, configuration values, types of data, and so forth. It’s like the mythical monster, the many-headed Hydra, which would sprout two or more new heads for each head that was cut off. Two simple approaches to dealing with combinatorial explosions such as this are equivalence partitioning and boundary value analysis, but those techniques don’t check for interactions between factors. A reasonable, manageable way to test combinations is called pairwise testing, but to do it you’ll need a tool.  In this inaugural One Key Idea session, Rex will demonstrate the use of a free tool, ACTS, built by the US NIST and available for download worldwide. We can’t promise to turn you into Hercules, but you will definitely walk away able to slay the combinatorial Hydra.

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Webinar: One Key Idea: Decision Tables 6/26/17


Length: 0h 19m 51s

In our inaugural One Key Idea session, we looked at how use pairwise testing to examine combinations of inputs, configuration values, types of data, and the like. This is a great technique when the interaction between these factors is unpredictable. However, in some cases, specific business rules govern these interactions. How can we model these business rules and use that model to develop a reasonable set of tests? Simple: decision tables. In this One Key Idea session, Rex will explain the basics of this fundamental technique.  In twenty minutes or less, you’ll learn how to create and use these straightforward, table-based representations of business logic in your daily work.

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Training

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