software testing FAQ

software testing FAQ

Q: What is the general testing process?

A: The general testing process is the creation of a test strategy (which sometimes includes the creation of test cases), creation of a test plan/design (which usually includes test cases and test procedures) and the execution of tests.
Q: How do you create a test plan/design?

A: Test scenarios and/or cases are prepared by reviewing functional requirements of the release and preparing logical groups of functions that can be further broken into test procedures. Test procedures define test conditions, data to be used for testing and expected results, including database updates, file outputs, report results. Generally speaking...
•    Test cases and scenarios are designed to represent both typical and unusual situations that may occur in the application.
•    Test engineers define unit test requirements and unit test cases. Test engineers also execute unit test cases.
•    It is the test team that, with assistance of developers and clients, develops test cases and scenarios for integration and system testing.
•    Test scenarios are executed through the use of test procedures or scripts.
•    Test procedures or scripts define a series of steps necessary to perform one or more test scenarios.
•    Test procedures or scripts include the specific data that will be used for testing the process or transaction.
•    Test procedures or scripts may cover multiple test scenarios.
•    Test scripts are mapped back to the requirements and traceability matrices are used to ensure each test is within scope.
•    Test data is captured and base lined, prior to testing. This data serves as the foundation for unit and system testing and used to exercise system functionality in a controlled environment.
•    Some output data is also base-lined for future comparison. Base-lined data is used to support future application maintenance via regression testing.
•    A pretest meeting is held to assess the readiness of the application and the environment and data to be tested. A test readiness document is created to indicate the status of the entrance criteria of the release.
Inputs for this process:
•    Approved Test Strategy Document.
•    Test tools, or automated test tools, if applicable.
•    Previously developed scripts, if applicable.
•    Test documentation problems uncovered as a result of testing.
•    A good understanding of software complexity and module path coverage, derived from general and detailed design documents, e.g. software design document, source code, and software complexity data.
Outputs for this process:
•    Approved documents of test scenarios, test cases, test conditions, and test data.
•    Reports of software design issues, given to software developers for correction.
Q: How do you execute tests?

A: Execution of tests is completed by following the test documents in a methodical manner. As each test procedure is performed, an entry is recorded in a test execution log to note the execution of the procedure and whether or not the test procedure uncovered any defects. Checkpoint meetings are held throughout the execution phase. Checkpoint meetings are held daily, if required, to address and discuss testing issues, status and activities.
•    The output from the execution of test procedures is known as test results. Test results are evaluated by test engineers to determine whether the expected results have been obtained. All discrepancies/anomalies are logged and discussed with the software team lead, hardware test lead, programmers, software engineers and documented for further investigation and resolution. Every company has a different process for logging and reporting bugs/defects uncovered during testing.
•    A pass/fail criteria is used to determine the severity of a problem, and results are recorded in a test summary report. The severity of a problem, found during system testing, is defined in accordance to the customer's risk assessment and recorded in their selected tracking tool.
•    Proposed fixes are delivered to the testing environment, based on the severity of the problem. Fixes are regression tested and flawless fixes are migrated to a new baseline. Following completion of the test, members of the test team prepare a summary report. The summary report is reviewed by the Project Manager, Software QA Manager and/or Test Team Lead.
•    After a particular level of testing has been certified, it is the responsibility of the Configuration Manager to coordinate the migration of the release software components to the next test level, as documented in the Configuration Management Plan. The software is only migrated to the production environment after the Project Manager's formal acceptance.
•    The test team reviews test document problems identified during testing, and update documents where appropriate.
Inputs for this process:
•    Approved test documents, e.g. Test Plan, Test Cases, Test Procedures.
•    Test tools, including automated test tools, if applicable.
•    Developed scripts.
•    Changes to the design, i.e. Change Request Documents.
•    Test data.
•    Availability of the test team and project team.
•    General and Detailed Design Documents, i.e. Requirements Document, Software Design Document.
•    A software that has been migrated to the test environment, i.e. unit tested code, via the Configuration/Build Manager.
•    Test Readiness Document.
•    Document Updates.
Outputs for this process:
•    Log and summary of the test results. Usually this is part of the Test Report. This needs to be approved and signed-off with revised testing deliverables.
•    Changes to the code, also known as test fixes.
•    Test document problems uncovered as a result of testing. Examples are Requirements document and Design Document problems.
•    Reports on software design issues, given to software developers for correction. Examples are bug reports on code issues.
•    Formal record of test incidents, usually part of problem tracking.
•    Base-lined package, also known as tested source and object code, ready for migration to the next level.
Q: How do you create a test strategy?

A: The test strategy is a formal description of how a software product will be tested. A test strategy is developed for all levels of testing, as required. The test team analyzes the requirements, writes the test strategy and reviews the plan with the project team. The test plan may include test cases, conditions, the test environment, a list of related tasks, pass/fail criteria and risk assessment.
Inputs for this process:
•    A description of the required hardware and software components, including test tools. This information comes from the test environment, including test tool data.
•    A description of roles and responsibilities of the resources required for the test and schedule constraints. This information comes from man-hours and schedules.
•    Testing methodology. This is based on known standards.
•    Functional and technical requirements of the application. This information comes from requirements, change request, technical and functional design documents.
•    Requirements that the system can not provide, e.g. system limitations.
Outputs for this process:
•    An approved and signed off test strategy document, test plan, including test cases.
•    Testing issues requiring resolution. Usually this requires additional negotiation at the project management level.
Q: What is security clearance?

A: Security clearance is a process of determining your trustworthiness and reliability before granting you access to national security information.

Q: What are the levels of classified access?

A: The levels of classified access are confidential, secret, top secret, and sensitive compartmented information, of which top secret is the highest.

What's a 'test plan'?

A software project test plan is a document that describes the objectives, scope, approach, and focus of a software testing effort. The process of preparing a test plan is a useful way to think through the efforts needed to validate the acceptability of a software product. The completed document will help people outside the test group understand the 'why' and 'how' of product validation. It should be thorough enough to be useful but not so thorough that no one outside the test group will read it. The following are some of the items that might be included in a test plan, depending on the particular project:

* Title

* Identification of software including version/release numbers.

* Revision history of document including authors, dates, approvals.

* Table of Contents.

* Purpose of document, intended audience

* Objective of testing effort

* Software product overview

* Relevant related document list, such as requirements, design documents, other test plans, etc.

* Relevant standards or legal requirements

* Traceability requirements

* Relevant naming conventions and identifier conventions

* Overall software project organization and personnel/contact-info/responsibilties

* Test organization and personnel/contact-info/responsibilities

* Assumptions and dependencies

* Project risk analysis

* Testing priorities and focus

* Scope and limitations of testing

* Test outline - a decomposition of the test approach by test type, feature, functionality, process, system, module, etc. as applicable

* Outline of data input equivalence classes, boundary value analysis, error classes

* Test environment - hardware, operating systems, other required software, data configurations, interfaces to other systems

* Test environment validity analysis - differences between the test and production systems and their impact on test validity.

* Test environment setup and configuration issues

* Software migration processes

* Software CM processes

•    * Test data setup requirements

* Database setup requirements

* Outline of system-logging/error-logging/other capabilities, and tools such as screen capture software, that will be used to help describe and report bugs

* Discussion of any specialized software or hardware tools that will be used by testers to help track the cause or source of bugs

* Test automation - justification and overview

* Test tools to be used, including versions, patches, etc.

* Test script/test code maintenance processes and version control

* Problem tracking and resolution - tools and processes

* Project test metrics to be used

* Reporting requirements and testing deliverables

* Software entrance and exit criteria

* Initial sanity testing period and criteria

* Test suspension and restart criteria

* Personnel allocation

* Personnel pre-training needs

* Test site/location

* Outside test organizations to be utilized and their purpose, responsibilties, deliverables, contact persons, and coordination issues.

* Relevant proprietary, classified, security, and licensing issues.

* Open issues

* Appendix - glossary, acronyms, etc.

What's a 'test case'?

* A test case is a document that describes an input, action, or event and an expected response, to determine if a feature of an application is working correctly. A test case should contain particulars such as test case identifier, test case name, objective, test conditions/setup, input data requirements, steps, and expected results.

* Note that the process of developing test cases can help find problems in the requirements or design of an application, since it requires completely thinking through the operation of the application. For this reason, it's useful to prepare test cases early in the development cycle if possible.

What should be done after a bug is found?

* The bug needs to be communicated and assigned to developers that can fix it. After the problem is resolved, fixes should be re-tested, and determinations made regarding requirements for regression testing to check that fixes didn't create problems elsewhere. If a problem-tracking system is in place, it should encapsulate these processes. A variety of commercial problem-tracking/management software tools are available (see the 'Tools' section for web resources with listings of such tools). The following are items to consider in the tracking process:

* Complete information such that developers can understand the bug, get an idea of it's severity, and reproduce it if necessary.
* Bug identifier (number, ID, etc.)

* Current bug status (e.g., 'Released for Retest', 'New', etc.)

* The application name or identifier and version

* The function, module, feature, object, screen, etc. where the bug occurred

* Environment specifics, system, platform, relevant hardware specifics

* Test case name/number/identifier

* One-line bug description

* Full bug description

* Description of steps needed to reproduce the bug if not covered by a test case or if the developer doesn't have easy access to the test case/test script/test tool

* Names and/or descriptions of file/data/messages/etc. used in test

* File excerpts/error messages/log file excerpts/screen shots/test tool logs that would be helpful in finding the cause of the problem

* Severity estimate (a 5-level range such as 1-5 or 'critical'-to-'low' is common)

* Was the bug reproducible?

* Tester name

* Test date

* Bug reporting date

* Name of developer/group/organization the problem is assigned to

* Description of problem cause

* Description of fix

* Code section/file/module/class/method that was fixed

* Date of fix

* Application version that contains the fix

* Tester responsible for retest

* Retest date

* Retest results

* Regression testing requirements

* Tester responsible for regression tests

* Regression testing results

* A reporting or tracking process should enable notification of appropriate personnel at various stages. For instance, testers need to know when retesting is needed, developers need to know when bugs are found and how to get the needed information, and reporting/summary capabilities are needed for managers.

What if the software is so buggy it can't really be tested at all?

* The best bet in this situation is for the testers to go through the process of reporting whatever bugs or blocking-type problems initially show up, with the focus being on critical bugs. Since this type of problem can severely affect schedules, and indicates deeper problems in the software development process (such as insufficient unit testing or insufficient integration testing, poor design, improper build or release procedures, etc.) managers should be notified, and provided with some documentation as evidence of the problem.

How can it be known when to stop testing?

This can be difficult to determine. Many modern software applications are so complex, and run in such an interdependent environment, that complete testing can never be done. Common factors in deciding when to stop are:

* Deadlines (release deadlines, testing deadlines, etc.)

* Test cases completed with certain percentage passed

* Test budget depleted

* Coverage of code/functionality/requirements reaches a specified point

* Bug rate falls below a certain level

* Beta or alpha testing period ends

What if there isn't enough time for thorough testing?

* Use risk analysis to determine where testing should be focused. Since it's rarely possible to test every possible aspect of an application, every possible combination of events, every dependency, or everything that could go wrong, risk analysis is appropriate to most software development projects. This requires judgement skills, common sense, and experience. (If warranted, formal methods are also available.) Considerations can include:

* Which functionality is most important to the project's intended purpose?

* Which functionality is most visible to the user?

* Which functionality has the largest safety impact?

* Which functionality has the largest financial impact on users?

* Which aspects of the application are most important to the customer?

* Which aspects of the application can be tested early in the development cycle?

* Which parts of the code are most complex, and thus most subject to errors?

* Which parts of the application were developed in rush or panic mode?

* Which aspects of similar/related previous projects caused problems?

* Which aspects of similar/related previous projects had large maintenance expenses?

* Which parts of the requirements and design are unclear or poorly thought out?
* What do the developers think are the highest-risk aspects of the application?

* What kinds of problems would cause the worst publicity?

* What kinds of problems would cause the most customer service complaints?

* What kinds of tests could easily cover multiple functionalities?

* Which tests will have the best high-risk-coverage to time-required ratio?

What if the project isn't big enough to justify extensive testing?

* Consider the impact of project errors, not the size of the project. However, if extensive testing is still not justified, risk analysis is again needed and the same considerations as described previously in 'What if there isn't enough time for thorough testing?' apply. The tester might then do ad hoc testing, or write up a limited test plan based on the risk analysis.

What can be done if requirements are changing continuously?

A common problem and a major headache

* Work with the project's stakeholders early on to understand how requirements might change so that alternate test plans and strategies can be worked out in advance, if possible.

* It's helpful if the application's initial design allows for some adaptability so that later changes do not require redoing the application from scratch.

* If the code is well-commented and well-documented this makes changes easier for the developers.

* Use rapid prototyping whenever possible to help customers feel sure of their requirements and minimize changes.

* The project's initial schedule should allow for some extra time commensurate with the possibility of changes.

* Try to move new requirements to a 'Phase 2' version of an application, while using the original requirements for the 'Phase 1' version.

* Negotiate to allow only easily-implemented new requirements into the project, while moving more difficult new requirements into future versions of the application.

* Be sure that customers and management understand the scheduling impacts, inherent risks, and costs of significant requirements changes. Then let management or the customers (not the developers or testers) decide if the changes are warranted - after all, that's their job.

* Balance the effort put into setting up automated testing with the expected effort required to re-do them to deal with changes.

* Try to design some flexibility into automated test scripts.

* Focus initial automated testing on application aspects that are most likely to remain unchanged.

* Devote appropriate effort to risk analysis of changes to minimize regression testing needs.

* Design some flexibility into test cases (this is not easily done; the best bet might be to minimize the detail in the test cases, or set up only higher-level generic-type test plans)

* Focus less on detailed test plans and test cases and more on ad hoc testing (with an understanding of the added risk that this entails).
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