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17 Lessons For Writing Effective Test Cases
Posted On: May 31, 2022
3 Min Read
Writing effective test cases is one of the important actions accomplished by any tester in the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC). Test cases are the base of your research on any software product. However, writing effective test cases is a technique that can be learned by an in-depth study of the application, which includes developing test cases and, most importantly, experience. Identifying, defining, and analyzing requirements will be the approach for writing effective test cases.
In this article, I have outlined some tips on writing effective test cases. However, before we deep dive into the lessons for writing top-notch test cases, let’s start with the importance of test cases.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is a Test Case?
A Test Case is a set of conditions used to evaluate a software product and determine whether it complies with business requirements. A poorly constructed test case can result in significant flaw leakage. This can be time and money-consuming. As a result, writing effective test cases is critical to the success of any software project.
Basic terminologies used while writing a Test Case
Below are the basic terminologies used for defining a test case.
|Test Case ID||Case_01, TC_|
|Test Case Description||Description of the test case|
|Type (Positive / Negative)||Positive test case / negative test case|
|Scenario||for which scenario this case is being tested|
|Test Data||what input data has been taken for this test case|
|Pre – Condition||Condition before running this test case,|
|Action / Steps for execution for this test case||Steps for executing this test case|
|Expected Result||Based on the points mentioned above, the expected result can be mentioned here.|
|Actual Result||This will be filled during the actual execution of the test case.|
|Comments||Any kind of observation will be mentioned here|
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Best practices for writing effective Test Cases
Test cases that are simple to execute are believed to be effective test cases. They speed up the testing process by reducing time and effort. Following these 17 best practices will help us reach our goal.
1. Stick to the scope and specification
Identify the scope and purpose of testing. Earlier, I used to assume how the intended functionality of a test case should be. Through a hard-learned lesson, I realized that developing a thorough understanding of the SRS (Software Requirement Specification) document is always better. I have witnessed people become more intuitive rather than following a logical approach, and sometimes this intuition leads to assumptions.
While framing down test cases, an assumption of features and functionalities can often deviate you from the actual requirements that the client initially required. This will affect the product under testing and the client-organization relationship.
2. Be mindful of the product updates
It is critical to follow the Software Requirement Specification (SRS). If the software version is outdated, it is not mandatory to stick on SRS. Nobody would want to test a deprecated feature.
We live in a world dominated by Agile methodologies where product development drives through the fast lane. Sometimes, the Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document is left unattended to cope with short time windows or after deploying an immediate bug fix. It is best to update the SRS for major and minor changes.
3. Write, to the point descriptions
A test case description is vital for relaying the root cause of the bug, and it must always contain the steps to reproduce. When I kick-started my testing career, I failed to realize the thin margin between writing specific details and writing ornately. I used to write stories in the field for test case descriptions. I thought it would be impressive to fill the description as much as possible.
However, I was wrong! Not only did it waste my time, but the developer’s too! I realized how important it is to keep the description crisp, simple, and informative. Nobody likes to read long stories. Just be on point.
Only essential and valid steps should be included in writing effective test cases. If a single test case has too many test steps to complete, the focus and goal of the test case may be lost. As a result, each test case should only cover one expected result rather than attempting to cover several expected results. If the same actions are required to execute the test cases, include the test case id in the prerequisite step.
4. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer
Create a test case from the perspective of the end-user. It is often a common scenario that an angry customer would knock up at customer support, explaining that the software is not delivering an intended feature up to his expectation.
You, as a software tester, should be able to relate yourself to the customer in order to explain the problem from a customer’s point of view to your development team. My manager used to quote all the time that “Customers are always correct.”
While writing test scenarios, keep customer or end-users requirements in mind because ultimately, the software or product designed is for the customer. Keep a note of usability testing and accessibility testing.
5. User personas
A user persona is a fictional representation of an end-user that helps to describe how people from different job roles would operate on your software. If you are not familiar with User Personas, you must be wondering why you need a fictional character to help you write effective test cases.
I used to think unless I learned how crucial it could be to identify the user’s scope. To understand this more specifically, let’s take the example of Jack. Jack is a web developer who logs into LambdaTest, a cross browser testing tool. So, he could test how the web elements of his website or web application are rendering across multiple browsers.
In this scenario, Jack will not be bothered about the back-end functionalities like API communication, and Penetration Testing will be out of his scope. So for writing effective test cases, create different User Personas, each representing a community of your targeted audience and their profession, and focus on cases that will cover respective aspects.
6. Be granular while writing down the steps for execution
The steps in writing effective test cases should be detailed and to the point so that a new tester can simply execute them. The aim and scope of test cases should be clearly stated in the test case. The test cases themselves should be self-explanatory. All prerequisite test data should be described in the test case itself and specific steps. Peer members should review the test cases.
When mentioning steps for the execution of test cases, it is always a best practice to avoid composite sentences. Instead, write a small and specific step-by-step guide as a walkthrough of the test case.
For Example – Let’s write a test case to perform cross browser testing of his website. Choosing a cloud-based infrastructure platform like LambdaTest gives you access to an online device farm of more than 3000 real devices running on real operating systems to perform automation testing. In addition, this cross browser testing platform allows users to test public or locally hosted web apps on various browsers, operating systems, and devices.
Let’s take a look at the following steps:- (This job may call for assertive writing).
Step 1 → Log in to www.lambdatest.com.
Step 2 → Go to the Real Time Testing section.
Step 3 → Select the configurations for testing. (Browser, Browser Version, OS & Screen resolution).
Step 4 → Hit the START button to run the test and perform testing of your website on the respective configuration.
Step 5 → Terminate the test session.
Did you observe the composite step? It was step 4. “Hit the START button to run the test and perform testing of your website on respective configuration.”
Remember, an effective test case should always be self-explanatory. It is important to write the steps as granular as possible.
Therefore, the above case is more effective when written below
Step 1 → Log in to www.lambdatest.com.
Step 2 → Select Real Time Testing from the left panel.
Step 3 → Select the configurations for testing (Browser, Browser Version, OS & Screen resolution).
Step 4 → Hit the START button to run the test.
Step 5 → Scroll from top to bottom of the webpage.
Step 6 → Check all the icons & paddings are supported.
Step 7 → Change resolution display (to check for a device of different screen size).
Step 8 → Terminate the session.
This is just a brief example to help you understand how to break down steps to the most granular level.
LambdaTest also allows you to test on a real device cloud with real browsers and operating systems. Here’s how you can perform real-time testing on real devices using the LambdaTest platform:
7. Take ownership of your test cases
I have observed how test cases are juggled without proper ownership among a pool of software testers working on a large project. Test cases should be appropriately distributed in such scenarios. Every software tester should be responsible for only the test cases assigned to him.
My definition of “product ownership” encompasses the entire lifecycle of a product. For software testers, after a test case is executed, we should monitor how it operates in the hands of users with each update. Review performance statistics and provide proactive ideas to your team on how to improve the user experience.
8. Actively use a test case management tool
Test case management tools are deemed necessary for managing a stable release cycle. They help develop a level of transparency where everyone knows who is working on what. They can also be used for tracking deadlines related to a bug fix and a lot more.
However, the employees often fail to utilize these tools actively and efficiently. For writing effective test cases, you must learn the practical use of your respective test case management tool.
Spreadsheets can be used to handle test cases for a small team. As your team expands and you iterate on your app, they can soon become a major burden. Other tools, such as JIRA, can be set to manage test cases, but they lack testing-specific features.
Another point in writing effective test cases is to track, maintain, and automate your test cases. You’ll eventually need to hunt for a dedicated test case management application.
9. Monitor all the test cases
In test execution, test monitoring is the process of evaluating testing activities and efforts to track current testing progress and find and track test metrics. Also, to estimate the future actions based on the test metrics and provide feedback to the concerned team and stakeholders about the current testing process.
When working from a remote software tester or when too many software testers are working on a similar project, it is common for two software testers to bump into a similar test case. Therefore, monitoring all the test cases is important in writing effective test cases. Also, remember to remove the irrelevant & duplicate test cases.
10. Aim for 100% test coverage
The wonderful moment has finally arrived, you’ve created the tests, and the screen says “100 percent coverage”. You’re satisfied; all tests have passed, and your code will never be flawed again. Is that, however, what 100% test coverage actually means?
100% test coverage means that you’ve created enough tests to cover every line of code in your program. Nothing more or less. If your tests are well-structured, you should be able to predict what some input will do to produce some output.
Test coverage is an important aspect of enduring the robustness of any software. It is vital to aim for 100% test coverage when writing effective test cases. Take a moment and plan your test cases to cover each component and functionality specified in the SRS document.
Traceability Matrix can be used to verify that no functions or conditions are left untested, resulting in 100% coverage. The requirement traceability matrix is a mapping between Test Cases and the requirement that will track any functions or conditions that were not tested.
11. Beware of dependent test cases
When the behavior or outcome of one test case is dependent on the execution or result of another test case, this is known as test case dependence.
There have been times when I found a bug in a random scenario, and when I tried replicating it, things didn’t happen as I planned. That is when I realized that even test cases could depend on other test cases.
For instance, you may have a test case X which will only be executed after performing test case Y and test case Z sequentially. This scenario is usually observed when two modules are non-mutually exclusive. So a bug may not reproduce unless you draft a scenario after figuring out the dependent test cases.
12. Be the critic
Sometimes you need to take a different approach than others to find the unknowns of software. Unknowns are scenarios that are blind to the product team until they are reported by the end-user.
After we’ve gone over all of the test cases for a scenario, we should go over them again as testers, not as test case writers. For writing effective test cases, you must do things differently and think exceptionally, especially if you are aiming for exploratory testing.
13. Be intent specific
Intentions are important. As humans, we rarely act without a plan for how we want things to turn out! Realizing the acceptance criteria is imperative to writing effective test cases. Acceptance criteria is a condition that validates whether the software is working as intended with respect to the end-user.
Remember, acceptance criteria are there to help you judge the intent of the end-user rather than the steps. For example, “an administrator should be able to invite or kick people out of the team working on the same project under an organization” instead of “an administrator should visit the team page under organization settings, and click on invite to add people to the team or click on remove to kick people out of it.”
14. Lean on automation
My experience as a software tester has taught me that software testing is a rigorous and never-ending process. The rise of progressive enhancement and adoption of Agile methodologies has made regression testing an emergency and a headache for many of us.
By incorporating an effective test automation strategy, you can ensure a bug-free application. According to stats, 42% of firms consider automation testing to be an important part of their quality assurance process. So, if you are testing applications manually, you can consider switching from manual testing to automation testing.
However, the introduction of automation testing has been a game-changer for regression testing. Automation results in increased productivity and bandwidth for the software tester, allowing them to think of better ways of writing effective test cases instead of being stuck with the same test cases every day.
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15. Test case documentation at its best
As a software tester, you would undoubtedly agree with me that creating a flawless Test Document is a difficult effort. Don’t just get into writing test documentation on the spur of the moment. Before you begin the documentation process, you must understand the purpose of writing effective test cases.
The tests should always be simple and straightforward. They should be written in such a way that the tester can easily finish the testing by following the instructions outlined in each test.
Here are some hints that will help you stand out from the crowd regarding testing documentation.
- Is the structure of your test document satisfactory?
- Don’t Forget to Address the Negative test cases
- Have Atomic Test Procedures
- Tests should be prioritized.
- Sequence matters
- Keep two separate sheets in the document: ‘Bugs’ and ‘Summary.’
This is very commonly observed, and I am sure you would have come across a scenario too, where once a test case document receives the sign-off from the client, then all of the team gets fixated on that document. Nobody would attempt to think out of the box for writing effective test cases as we feel the document is all we need! So it is important to cover everything in your test document.
16. Prioritize your test cases
Prioritization of test cases is the process of ranking the test cases in order of importance. Prioritizing test cases assists in meeting two major restrictions in software testing, namely time and budget, in order to improve the fault detection rate as quickly as feasible.
When I started my career as a software tester, I was clumsy, stressed, and the concept of business priorities was alien to me. I used to jump into the test scenarios with an unorganized approach without realizing the role of priority in test cases.
One release cycle, I was short of bandwidth, and as the release date came knocking at my door, I rushed upon many high-priority test cases. Post-release, we committed a rollback when a failure was reported by the customers. That was a hard lesson! I realized how critical it is to prioritize the test cases simultaneously as you go about writing an effective test case.
17. Cross browser testing can help minimize outages
For writing effective test cases, it is important to keep a note of browser differences. One time an outage popped up in our office where our payment pages were appearing in a very flustered manner to the end-user. Our developers did everything from clearing cache to rebooting the servers.
However, the issue still persisted, resulting in a panicky situation. Then we realized that the users facing inconvenience had one thing in common. They were either using outdated IE browsers, or they were using android from a specific mobile vendor. It was then that we realized the incompatibility of our website with different browsers & devices. From there onwards, we implied the practice of performing cross browser testing in our every release cycle, never to face an embarrassing situation like that again.
LambdaTest is a fantastic platform to test and trust in this case. LambdaTest has shown to be incredibly reliable and feature-rich in my personal projects. LambdaTest comes with an online browser farm of 3000+ browsers and OS combinations so that no scope is left. And the best part is that it’s all done through the cloud. You just have to log in and start live testing from anywhere, anytime, and through any system.
Bonus Points for Writing Effective Test Cases
1. Define the scope and purpose of the testing: The first step in writing effective test cases is to determine the testable requirements. You must comprehend the testing objectives as well as the characteristics.
2. Domain expertise: Before developing test cases, you need to have domain knowledge, which is the foundation of any software program, because business rules vary widely by domain and can have a significant impact on business functions. It may result in a loss of business. So, avoid conflicts between Domain Standards; as a tester, you must have this knowledge before developing test cases.
3. Assumption should be avoided: When creating a test case, don’t make assumptions about the functioning and features of your software application. It might cause a disconnect between the client’s specifications and the product, affecting the business. When creating a test case, don’t make assumptions about the functioning and features of your software application. Follow the specifications in the documents.
4. Look for the non-functional requirements: Non-functional needs are just as significant as functional ones. Actually identify additional non-functional testing requirements, such as hardware requirements, operating system, and security features to be addressed, and testing data preparation, such as identifying additional testing requirements, such as test data preparation.
5. Establish a test case framework: The test case framework can be tailored to the system’s needs. Performance, compatibility, UI interface, fault tolerance, and performance of various categories should all be included in test cases.
6. Attaching relevant artifacts: Sometimes, it is difficult to grasp the test steps. In this situation, attaching artifacts or designs to a specific test phase will aid in understanding the flow. It will assist in tracking the massive changes in our application during release or deployment.
7. Positive and negative test cases: When composing test cases, Equivalence class partitioning, boundary value analysis, and normal and abnormal situations are some test case design methods that should be applied. You should also think about negative testing, failure situations, and error handling, as these might help you find the most likely bugs in the code. Don’t make any assumptions about functionality; instead, write test cases based on the requirements specification document.
Writing effective testing scenarios with all of the necessary details is an excellent job. You’ll be fine as long as you remember to consider the end users’ perspective, the application understands the end-to-end process, and you follow the best practice for writing a test case, as I described in this article.
That was all from my side. I hope that my lessons for writing effective test cases will be relatable or knowledgeable to many of you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are the Best Practices for Writing Effective Test Cases?
- Keep things straightforward and basic.
- Create reusable test scenarios.
- Keep the test case IDs separate.
- Peer review is crucial.
- The end-user or established requirements should be considered when writing effective test cases.
- Describe the intended outcomes and assumptions.
What should a good test case include?
- Test Name
- Test ID
- Test Setup
- Test steps
What is writing a test case?
A Test Case is a sequence of actions performed to ensure that a specific feature or capability of your application is working properly. A Test Case is a set of test steps, test data, preconditioning, and postconditioning created for a given test scenario to verify any requirement.
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