Exploratory Testing: One Size Doesn't Fit All

Ahmad Nauman Ghazi, Kai Petersen, Elizabeth Bjarnason, Per Runeson

Exploratory testing (ET) is a powerful and efficient way of testing software by integrating design, execution, and analysis of tests during a testing session. ET is often contrasted with scripted testing, and seen as a choice between black and white. We pose that there are different levels of exploratory testing from fully exploratory to fully scripted and propose a scale for the degree of exploration for ET. The degree is defined through levels of ET, which correspond to the way test charters are formulated. We have evaluated the classification through focus groups at four companies and identified factors that influence the level of exploratory testing. The results show that the proposed ET levels have distinguishing characteristics and that the levels can be used as a guide to structure test charters. Our study also indicates that applying a combination of ET levels can be beneficial in achieving effective testing.

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