One of the most frequent and major activity of a Software Tester (SQA/SQC person) is to write Test Cases. First of all, kindly keep in mind that all this discussion is about ‘Writing Test Cases’ not about designing/defining/identifying TCs.
There are some important and critical factors related to this major activity.Let us have a bird’s eye view of those factors first.
a. Test Cases are prone to regular revision and update:
We live in a continuously changing world, software are also not immune to changes. Same holds good for requirements and this directly impacts the test cases. Whenever, requirements are altered, TCs need to be updated. Yet, it is not only the change in requirement that may cause revision and update to TCs.
During the execution of TCs, many ideas arise in the mind, many sub-conditions of a single TC cause update and even addition of TCs. Moreover, during regression testing several fixes and/or ripples demand revised or new TCs.
b. Test Cases are prone to distribution among the testers who will execute these:
Of course there is hardly the case that a single tester executes all the TCs. Normally there are several testers who test different modules of a single application. So the TCs are divided among them according to their owned areas of application under test. Some TCs related to integration of application, may be executed by multiple testers while some may be executed only by a single tester.
c. Test Cases are prone to clustering and batching:
It is normal and common that TCs belonging to a single test scenario usually demand their execution in some specific sequence or in the form of group. There may be some TCs pre-requisite of other TCs. Similarly, according to the business logic of AUT, a single TC may contribute in several test conditions and a single test condition may consist of multiple TCs.
d. Test Cases have tendency of inter-dependence:
This is also an interesting and important behavior of TCs that those may be interdependent on each other. In medium to large applications with complex business logic, this tendency is more visible.
The clearest area of any application where this behavior can definitely be observed is the interoperability between different modules of same or even different applications. Simply speaking, wherever the different modules or applications are interdependent, the same behavior is reflected in the TCs.
e. Test Cases are prone to distribution among developers (especially in TC driven development environment):
An important fact about TCs is that these are not only to be utilized by the testers. In normal case, when a bug is under fix by the developers, they are indirectly using the TC to fix the issue. Similarly, where the TCD development is followed, TCs are directly used by the developers to build their logic and cover all scenarios, addressed by TCs, in their code.
So, keeping the above 5 factors in mind, here are some tips to write test cases:
1. Keep it simple but not too simple; make it complex but not too complex:
This statement seems a paradox, but I promise it is not so. Keep all the steps of TCs atomic, precise with correct sequence and with correct mapping to expected results, this is what I mean to make it simple.
Now, making it complex in fact means to make it integrated with the Test Plan and other TCs. Refer to other TCs, relevant artifacts, GUIs etc. where and when required. But do this in balanced way, do not make tester to move to and fro in the pile of documents for completing single test scenario. On the other hand do not even let the tester wish you had documented these TCs in some compact manner. While writing TCs, always remember that you or someone else will have to revise and update these.
2. After documenting Test cases, review once as Tester:
Never think that the job is done once you have written the last TC of the test scenario. Go to the start and review all the TCs once, but not with the mind of TC writer or Testing Planner. Review all TCs with the mind of a tester. Think rationally and try to dry run your TCs. Evaluate that all the Steps you have mentioned are clearly understandable, and expected results are in harmony with those steps.
The test data specified in TCs is feasible not only for actual testers but is according to real time environment too. Ensure that there is no dependency conflict among TCs and also verify that all references to other TCs/artifacts/GUIs are accurate because, testers may be in great trouble otherwise.
3. Bound as well as ease the testers:
Do not leave test data on testers, give them range of inputs especially where calculations are to be performed or application’s behavior is dependent on inputs. You may divide the test item values among them, but never give them liberty to choose the test data items themselves. Because, intentionally or unintentionally, they may use same test data and some important test data may be ignored during the execution of TCs.
Keep the testers eased by organizing TCs according to the testing categories and related areas of application. Clearly instruct and mention which TCs are inter-dependent and/or batched. Similarly, explicitly indicate which TCs are independent and isolated so that tester may manage his overall activity at his or her own will.
4. Be a Contributor:
Never accept the FS or Design Document as it is. Your job is not just to go through the FS and identifying the Test Scenarios. Being a quality related resource, never hesitate to contribute. Suggest to developers too, especially in TC-driven development environment. Suggest the drop-down-lists, calendar controls, selection-list, group radio buttons, more meaningful messages, cautions, prompts, improvements related to usability etc.
5. Never Forget the End User
The most important stakeholder is the ‘End User’ who will actually use the AUT. So, never forget him at any stage of TCs writing. In fact, End User should not be ignored at any stage throughout the SDLC, yet my emphasis so far is just related to my topic. So, during the identification of test scenarios, never overlook those cases which will be mostly used by the user or are business critical even of less frequent use. Imagine yourself as End User, once go through all the TCs and judge the practical value of executing all your documented TCs.
Test Case Writing is an activity which has solid impact on the whole testing phase. This fact makes the task of documenting TCs, very critical and subtle. So, it should be properly planned first and must be done in well-organized manner. The person who is documenting the TCs must keep in mind that, this activity is not for him or her only, but a whole team including other testers and developers, as well as the customer will be directly and indirectly affected by this work.
So, the due attention must be paid during this activity. “Test Case Document” must be understandable for all of its users, in an unambiguous way and should be easily maintainable. Moreover, TC document must address all important features and should cover all important logical flows of the AUT, with real time and practically acceptable inputs.
What’s your test cases writing strategy? Share your tips with our readers and also put your queries in comments below.
Further reading: How to Write Effective Test Cases