Exploratory Testing

In this tutorial, we will study one of the most popular testing types i.e. ‘Exploratory Testing’. We will be studying its types, advantages, disadvantages and at the end the difference between exploratory and scripted testing.

What is Exploratory Testing?

Exploratory testing is a type of testing where testers explore the system on the fly without any pre-prepared set of test documents.

In this type of testing, testers explore the system, perform test design and test execution simultaneously without any proper planning, which means there aren’t any formal or standard documents such as testing plans, test cases and so on.

This testing practice is mainly used in the agile software development life cycle. Usually in agile projects, developments are rapid and there is a little time for the testing process. In such scenarios, exploratory testing can be helpful as it gives the tester the freedom to do what s/he thinks is best to test the system, to find out maximum bugs.

Exploratory testing is also useful where functional specifications are not cleared to the testing team. This is a black box technique. It gives testers full freedom of what to test and how to test, a chance to learn new things, expand their expertise and use these learnings in next the testing process.

Exploratory testing is different from the traditional scripted testing method, where first test plans are made, test cases are designed and then after all this planning, testers test the system based on the available document.

Types of Exploratory Testing

Following are some types of Exploratory Testing:

  • Freestyle Exploratory Testing – In freestyle exploratory testing, as the name suggests, the tester has complete freedom of testing what s/he likes, there isn’t any set criteria or guidelines for testing. Testers test the application in an ad hoc way. Testers use this technique when they want to do a quick smoke testing. 
  • Scenario-Based Exploratory Testing – In this type of exploratory testing type, tester tests a particular scenario or functionality.
  • Strategy Based Exploratory Testing – In strategy based exploratory testing, testing strategies such as boundary value analysis, equivalence technique, cause-effect graphing, etc. are used to test the system. To perform this type of testing, the tester should be familiar with the functionalities and working of the system.

Advantages of Exploratory Testing

  • Takes less time for preparation – As less or, no pre-planning is involved in exploratory testing, testers will start testing the system immediately without spending much time on the time-consuming planning processes.
  • Critical bugs are found early – As the tester tests the system on the fly, s/he will focus on the major functionalities first and it is quite possible that critical or major bugs will be found early.
  • Beneficial in finding new bugs – For a tester who is performing exploratory testing, it becomes a bit difficult to repeat the same testing steps and s/he might try with a new set of steps, which can lead to the finding of new bugs.
  • Easy to test even when requirement documents are partially completed or not available at all – Even if requirement documents are not available or if they are partially completed, testers can test the system as in exploratory testing, testers test the system on the fly, learning the system as they test it, they do not need pre-knowledge of the system.
  • Helps in increasing resource knowledge and productivity – In exploratory testing, testers need to use their critical and analytical thinking to find as many bugs as possible which helps them to increase their knowledge of the system. This type of testing also helps the tester to improve his/her productivity.

Disadvantages of Exploratory Testing

  • Difficult to trace what tests have been conducted and what is pending – As explained earlier, testers test the system on the fly and try to find bugs in the system which makes it difficult for them to keep track of the steps that they performed. Sometimes it is also possible that the tester might miss certain functionality or scenario.
  • Requires experienced resource with critical thinking – In exploratory testing, the tester needs to start testing the system as soon as it is available for testing. So, the resource (tester) does not have enough time to prepare for the testing process. In such cases, it becomes very important that experience resource with proper domain knowledge is used to perform this type of testing. 
  • Less time to be familiar with the new application, especially for new testers – Sometimes it might become difficult for a tester to familiarise himself with the application especially if the system functionalities are critical. For inexperienced or new testers, this might create a problem and they might not be able to find as many bugs as expected.
  • Difficult to reproduce the bug – As sometimes testers are not able to keep track of what they have tested, it might become difficult to repeat the exact steps to reproduce the bug if it has been found.

Difference between Scripted Testing and Exploratory Testing

In scripted testing, in order to start the testing, the requirement documents need to be ready and complete. Based on the requirements document, test cases are prepared to cover all the functionalities of the system. Before the testing process begins, the testing team needs to prepare a detailed test plan.

In exploratory testing, even with no or incomplete requirement documents, testers can start testing the system. Testers do not need any test plan or test cases to start testing the system. Test design and test execution are carried out simultaneously, and testers learn the system functionalities as they explore the system.

Conclusion

Exploratory testing is a technique that is not traditional but is a very useful and efficient way to perform software testing. It is scientifically proved that exploratory testing gives more efficiency as compared to scripted testing. It is used to find bugs that have been missed during scripted testing.
Exploratory testing also gives the tester the freedom to test in his ways thus increasing their knowledge and thinking.
We hope that this tutorial was helpful in understanding the ‘Exploratory Testing’ concept. In case of any query or concern, please let us know in the comments section.

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