What is Pair Testing: Detailed Guide With Best Practices

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  • What is Pair Testing: Detailed Guide With Best Practices


Pair testing is an approach in which two team members work together on the same workstation and share ideas, discuss test scenarios, write notes, and test the functionality of software applications. It is a type of exploratory testing.

It is one of the methods that has been around for many years and is an easy and effective way to improve an application. During pair tests, each individual is responsible for different functions that determine the quality and functionality of the software.

One is in charge of testing, while the other analyzes and reviews the process. Through this approach, one can efficiently perform rigorous software testing while saving time and cost.

What is Pair testing?

Pair testing is all about doing testing in a group of two. It means a tester and developer or even two testers working together to get things done. Since the tester leads the pair test session, they can team up with other specialized professionals such as customer support, product manager, or marketing manager.

In a pair test, two people sit on a machine and work together to complete and evaluate a single test. A single task can be divided among two individuals who exchange thoughts and ideas, discuss the applicable test scenarios, jot down notes, and collaborate closely to validate the software component or functionality.

Sometimes, pair tests can be informal and spontaneous, where a tester could discuss with a designer and learn more about a feature from a design perspective. It is also known as buddy testing, as two professionals work as best work buddies in this process. This means working professionals promote the true learning culture by encouraging others to get better with time.

Pair testing is similar to pair programming, wherein two developers work together; one writes the code while the other reviews the code changes, asks questions, or even suggests improvements, so that code quality remains intact. It ensures that two people perform testing for the same scenario instead of one so that high-value testing results are obtained utilizing the dual capabilities of both individuals.

Importance of Pair testing

Different project teams need to work in a collaborative environment. We have seen developers and testers work in silos to meet and deliver project deliverables. Pair testing helps break the standalone working model and encourages different project stakeholders, such as developers, testers, product managers, and marketing professionals, to collaborate. It ensures:

  • Work barriers are eliminated.
  • Improves the overall project quality and delivery

Let us assume that a software organization is working on a telecom product with different teams working in agile to deliver customer requirements. The paired testing is included in the existing setup to ensure that customer requirements are delivered without issues. A tester and a developer are chosen as part of this activity.

One individual(tester) can use a mouse and keyboard to run a test. The other one (the developer) can be in charge of the test process, ask questions, give suggestions on an existing design, note down results, and more. They ensure that the overall functionality, usability, and design aspects are reviewed as part of application testing.


When to perform Pair testing?

There are different scenarios when you can run pair test sessions for your project. You can include it as part of the software development life cycle, either in a single sprint or multiple sprints based on your project requirements. It can be conducted based on the following scenarios:

  • Evaluation of a complex problem that involves different perspectives from diverse project teams.
  • Improve overall working culture within teams as part of learning opportunities.
  • Quick validation of software requirements.
  • Get project feedback from professionals who are not part of either the development or testing team.

Features of Pair testing

Given the nature of their work, developers and testers frequently operate in isolation. Pair testing encourages communication between multiple team members with various job descriptions and aids in bridging those silos. Additionally, it promotes knowledge exchange and provides an understanding of one another's positions.

Let's look at the list of features it offers.

  • Quick approach for generating effective test cases.
  • It is a time-saving approach.
  • Provides an excellent opportunity to train and mentor new testers with the task of testing without additional time and effort. The new testers learn and evolve to get better with time.
  • It helps improve collaboration between different cross-functional teams as they work together on a single task to get things done.
  • There is an exchange of ideas and knowledge which promotes a healthy work culture.
  • There is immense learning among different resources and diverse teams.

Who performs Pair testing?

Pair testing is a unique approach where two individuals work together to deliver quality outcomes. It is mainly used in agile and large projects involving cross-functional teams.

The following team members can perform it.

  • Tester and Developer
  • Tester 1 and Tester 2
  • Tester and Product Manager
  • Tester and UI/UX Designer

The testing team is the primary team that drives the pair test sessions, but it gives a unique perspective when a tester is paired with another team member. Pairing a tester with the developer allows a tester to get more insights related to the software, how it gets built, debugging, etc., helping them understand the approach developers follow to create a software product or application.

When a tester pairs with other testers, they tend to understand each testing experience and how they can be more productive in such pair-test sessions. Pairing a tester with a product manager helps them understand the business perspective and the customer problems they can solve.

Lastly, when a tester pairs with a designer, it is useful when testing the software's UI requirements. This way, you can understand the design requirements and its overall implementation.

Skills required for Pair testing

A testing approach can only yield the best results when you have an effective team of professionals who are great at resolving conflicts and effective with collaborative skills.

Some of the key skills required to run a pair test.

  • Overcoming existing work challenges and showing the right intent to take up additional responsibilities.
  • Effective collaboration with different teams to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Understanding complex end-user requirements and mapping them to the testing scope

Benefits of Pair testing

There are a lot of benefits when running pair tests in the existing development setup. Some of the important ones are:

  • It allows people from the same and different teams to collaborate and contribute. Knowledge-sharing and test activities break the ice between teams or individuals, promote a new perspective on the testing process, and keep everyone informed on the overall project progress.
  • Helps to bring much-needed accuracy, as a tester may miss out on a bug if they are doing testing during the initial development phases. The testers can work with someone from another domain or expertise to not miss out on obvious errors. It also allows someone not from the testing team to give valuable feedback about the software application.
  • When experts from different teams or roles work together, they can share unique critical perspectives looking at the existing software product or application. This promotes a great work culture where professionals from diverse domains work and collaborate to promote a pleasant work culture.
  • You can create detailed bug reports to help the development teams address issues faster. These bugs are analyzed from a technical perspective and a customer's point of view.
  • It helps to build an effective and high-performing team willing to share knowledge and take up challenging roles helping them to grow personally and professionally.

Disadvantages of Pair testing

Here are some of the disadvantages of pair tests.

  • You should not implement it if you are not sure of the exact implementation, as it won’t provide the desired testing results you are looking for.
  • You should not rely on pair tests when different teams or team members hardly interact with each other, as this approach is all about communication and seamless collaboration.
  • If you plan to execute structural test cases, executing them together won’t add any value, as one team member can only perform this task.

How to perform Pair testing?

Running pair tests involves identifying the right people, goals, and testing objectives. That is why it is recommended to follow a structured process. You can conduct it using the following steps.

To smoke test software, take the same steps as any other testing type. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Identify the right people to get things done: It is important to identify two right people who are comfortable with collaborating and sharing ideas. The two people should be well aware of each other’s working styles and be able to communicate freely to achieve the desired project goals together.
  • Establish goals: The resources should be given flexibility where they can discuss the goals they need to achieve. They can also define the overall strategy to achieve them. For example, let us assume that the pair is testing a new feature impacting multiple components. Both the resources can come prepared with a plan about the components to cover, expected outcomes, and the test results to be accomplished.
  • Allocate dedicated space: The duo should be provided with a dedicated space or area to brainstorm and exchange ideas by working closely on the machine for one or two hours.
  • Decision on the roles: Before starting, decide on each individual's role. This means which one will be the driver that will operate the machine and which one will give directions is known as a navigator. The navigator allows the driver to take a series of steps, suggests critical scenarios, takes notes, and exchanges ideas. However, both of them contribute equally to making the testing process a highly productive one.
  • Log bugs and take notes: Once the pair-test session is over, you can log bugs if required. Professionals can also create detailed bug reports and report any discrepancies that might come up.

You can speak your mind and even ask questions when running pair tests because it is about getting the right results. When both individuals are equally contributing, this is when you achieve real success. You should be open to differences of opinion, and other people's feedback must be respected, as we should always try to learn something from it.

Preparing Pair test session

It is vital to prepare well before you begin the pair-test session. The proper preparation gives you direction and a path to get started. As explained below, the following steps need to be performed to achieve desired results.

  • Creation of exploratory testing charter: You need to have a well-defined charter to achieve desired goals and objectives. The charter should cover the following aspects:
    • Testing goals and objectives
    • Testing scope and duration
    • Functionality or components to be covered
    • Details related to the resources.
    • Any challenges that are faced initially, and how can we overcome them
    • Desired outcomes
    • Are any improvements to be made going forward?

    You can also share the required documents that the individuals performing testing need to go through. It could include requirements, user stories, designs, and other documentation. Once you have covered all the key aspects, it is essential to define the focus and scope of your tests.

  • Finalize the scope of the tests: You can achieve the desired testing results once you have a clear definition of the tests and their final scope. Once you finalize the tests you need to perform, it becomes much easier to perform a session that adds tremendous value in the long run.
  • Describe the targets for the tests: You need to be clear in defining the targets for your tests so that it allows you to derive true value out of your pair-test sessions.
  • Agree to the timelines: You need to decide on the time mutually you will invest when you test. It should be a time-boxed event. Typically, the session can range from 60 to 90 minutes, with dedicated time reserved for taking breaks.
  • Record the testing observations: You need to record the testing observations and share them with the required project stakeholders. Different project teams, for easy reference, can refer to the testing observations.

Running your Pair test session

Once you have done all the necessary preparations, now is the time to execute your pair-test session. The team members must decide on the test scenarios and how deeply the tests will be performed. This should be aligned with the ET charter, focus, and scope finalized earlier.

Both team members should collaborate and contribute equally to executing pair tests. Follow these steps to run it effectively.

  • Understand and evaluate the overall testing scope
  • Identify the scenarios that are not required to be tested so that you do not have to spend additional time on them.
  • Ensure that the people know the system flow and overall functionality.
  • Respect the viewpoints and try to resolve them during the test session.

Finishing Pair test session

Once the pair test session is completed, the following updates need to be done.

  • The testing observations or findings are recorded in a bug reporting tool or designated centralized location.
  • As part of the ET charter, evaluation related to things that went well and things that needed improvement.
  • The test targets are validated.
  • Creation of test documentation, which includes the test plan and a set of test ideas to support your execution
  • Required outcomes are recorded.

Challenges of Pair testing

There will always be challenges when you execute pair tests. Some common ones are

  • Resistance to the new approach: Most organizations resist bringing the latest approach by default. Managers expect their testers to deliver desired results by working on different things in parallel. They are also mindful that there are always time constraints, and overall productivity should not be impacted when working with iterative releases.
  • Two testers will take less time to perform testing than an individual tester working dedicatedly. Testing, when done right, saves time and improves the overall quality. That is why you need to get buy-in from your managers and stakeholders, as you can explain the true value of this testing approach. You will see teams achieving remarkable productivity improvements as well.

  • Reporting and managing bugs: Testers often report bugs and share detailed reports during testing. Several testers defer writing detailed bugs and focus on comprehensive testing to achieve the maximum outcome of it. Reproducing and filling in bugs at the end of the session can be time-consuming and tiring. Testers can save time using free tools to record their bugs during pair-test sessions. You can automate bug reporting using such tools, which means recording bugs is easier than ever.
  • Avoid common mistakes: Testers know the end goal and desired outcomes well. They should not deviate from their planned goals and must drive the pair-test process. The testing should not be used as a replacement or a reason to skip any testing.

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Best practices of Pair testing

It is crucial to adhere to the industry standard best practices to stay relevant in the existing market. Here are some best practices you can follow when running pair tests.

  • Form a pair that are comfortable with collaborating. This is important so that they can respect each other's opinions and viewpoints rather than disagree on common points.
  • You can set up a dedicated workstation so that both the resources can sit together and perform the required tasks assigned to them.
  • It is always preferred to check both resources' availability so they can have enough time to perform testing.
  • Use the information from previously conducted testing sessions to improve your testing outputs.
  • Ensure all the required testing scenarios are covered within the defined time limit.
  • Define the correct time duration and make sure that you stick to it.

Summing up

Pair testing is one of the ways to encourage effective collaboration. It is a great method to get a new and different perspective on the software with little to no bias. It provides a perfect opportunity for testers, developers, product owners, and other participants in the SDLC to make software a lot better in terms of overall quality. It might not be a deeply technical approach, just like test automation, but it tends to offer many benefits.

When you have two members getting together to discuss multiple aspects related to the quality of the application under test, it surely means that you are setting up the right benchmarks in terms of customer satisfaction and engagement. This also helps provide additional insights to the rest of the team members.

About The Author

Irshad Ahamed is an optimistic and versatile software professional and a technical writer who brings to the table around four years of robust working experience in various companies. Deliver excellence at work and implement expertise and skills appropriately required whenever. Adaptive towards changing technology and upgrading necessary skills needed in the profession.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is pair testing in Agile?

Pair testing is a process in which more than two people simultaneously work on the same feature on a single machine, with a frequent exchange of ideas and feedback.

What are buddy and pair testing?

Pair and buddy testing are almost similar. Both require at least two persons to take the test; the main difference is in the individuals involved.

Who can do pair testing?

Testers typically pair up with developers or other testers. Still, they can pair up with anyone they believe would be a good match, such as customer support, product management, or marketing.

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