Dispelling the misconceptions #3 – Testing ISN’T running through a script to check against requirements!

This is a big misconception that usually comes from other members of the project team not understanding what testers do. The fact is that some people don’t really know what testers do. And I believe a huge part of a tester’s job should be to be vocal about what they actually do.

Running through a set of test cases with step by step instructions of how the software is intended to work, with columns for the expected results and a tick box to indicate “pass/fail” is not testing. I repeat – this is not testing.


This is checking. I’m not going to go on about the testing vs checking debate… Michael Bolton has a blog that perfectly details how I feel about it: http://www.developsense.com/blog/2013/03/testing-and-checking-redefined/
What I will say though is that I suggest that these scripts are the type of things that really ought to be automated.

Automation should predominantly be the focus if you have a set of checks such as these, where you anticipate how the software should work and you have expectations that you can check against. You always need to weigh up the value of whether to actually automate these checks though.

My advice: if you have a document in front of you that has columns for “Description“, “Steps“, “Expected Result” and “Pass/Fail?” and you plan to use this for your sapient testing – take out the 2 columns of “steps” and “expected results” from your document (put them aside to be automated), change the title of the “Pass/Fail” column to “Notes“, and open your creativity with some exploratory testing using your brain. And then talk about how you are actually testing to others so that they can learn that testing isn’t about following a script.

11 thoughts on “Dispelling the misconceptions #3 – Testing ISN’T running through a script to check against requirements!

    1. Thanks for the comment Pabs!
      I think its important that people learn whats involved in testing and the skills that are required.

      I got your tweet too – I hope the post helps to stem the conversations with your team so that you can dispel the misconception! 🙂


  1. Totally Agree. Having a step by step document really restricts the tester and it also makes testing much less fun!! Trying to convince PMs that exploratory testing is better than step by step though can be an odious task……


    1. Thanks for the comment David.
      I think thats the next misconception post… That exploratory testing is not “ad hoc” testing. 🙂

      I generally find that when I explain that exploratory testing as actually being structured with visibility through lightweight documentation (such as what you have with SBTM), compared to the lack of structure and lack of visibility that you get with ad hoc testing, they’re generally much more open to seeing it in action.

      I also try and use some of the influence skills that I’ve spoken about before too 🙂


    2. David, I’m wondering why the comparison of testing vs checking. Aren’t they different tasks that share, somewhat, the same goal? Why is step by step worst or better than exp?


      1. Hi Freddy,
        Yes I agree they are different tasks that share the same goal – to give us testers information about the ‘quality’ of a piece of software, however to me checking is something that can be done via automation. If In my day to day job if I had to constantly check everything I would almost certainly lose the will to live as I personally find it a bit dull. Exploring and discovering about a peace of software without the shackles of too much documentation is to me the most satisfying and enjoyable part of my job. Yes I do need to check aspects of a piece of software but hopefully not too much 🙂


  2. Dan, you’re not by chance stating that checking has no value, even if done manually (I.e. not automated), are you? In my opinion you need both. This is not an either or situation.

    BTW, I do concur that testing and checking are two separate things.


    1. Hey Freddy! Thanks for the comment. Sorry for the delayed reply.

      No, checking is an essential part of testing and has value. What I am saying is that checking (on its own) is not testing, but that it’s part of testing. There are so many people that have this misconception that testing is checking. A common answer to the question “What is software testing?” is: “Checking that the software works”…

      Also, anything that is a check /can/ potentially be automated, although there won’t be any value in automating every check.


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