Tag Archives: certification

A Good Test Case Is?

I’ve recently been reading through my ISEB Practitioner notes, which I got when attending a course organised by Grove Consultants a few years back, as I mentioned in my previous post. It’s got me thinking about test cases, and in particular the four criteria of a good test case. Having attended both Rapid Software Testing and Rapid Test Management recently, and having rolled out an Exploratory and Session Based Test Strategy in my teams then it’s caused me to question again the validity of test cases and the need for them.

So, to a good test case. Reading my notes, a good test case is, in no particular order, apparently:

1. Exemplary.
2. Evolvable.
3. Economic.
4. Effective.

Straight from the ISTQB/ ISEB of course. But not without merit. Are these still relevant?


Good test cases can test more than one condition at the same time. This is one good reason for taking the time to design test cases in the first place. Just writing test cases because “it’s the done thing” or “because the policy says so” is time wasting, but designing them so that when the testing is carried out it is done so in the most efficient way requires exemplary test cases and can add value. It is also the case that test cases are shared and it’s difficult, especially in large organisations, to ensure that all testers have the same basic level of ability. Having test cases can help.


From a contextual point of view perhaps a good test case is not written down at all but merely in the testers head, and driving the testing into particular areas that the tester feels are worthy of time and effort. Cases where the software is the specification are becoming increasingly common; in-sufficient or non-existent requirements documentation which requires the tester to apply their previous knowledge of the system under test in order to effectively test it. Clearly in this case, if documented test cases are required then they will be need to evolve. As Rapid Software Testing mentions “How do you invent the right tests at the right time – evolve them with an exploratory strategy”.


Time is money and often in testing we have little time and sometimes little money. So using that time and that money in the most efficient way means we minimise the economic impact. Of course, sometimes the best way to get maximum value is to have a purely exploratory approach and spend more of the time and money with the software in hand. A choice which is key to a good test strategy and highly dependant on the industry area one is testing within.


Clearly a good test cases should be effective. We are not in the business of wasting time, particularly when time is precious as it often is in testing projects.


I’d argue that the definitions given in ISEB/ ISTQB are still relevant and can be a good guide as to what is required of a test case. In a lot of industries test cases are still very much required and, particularly where there is strict regulation such as in areas of financial software and even in mobile software. The ability to write a good test case is a skill which should not be forgotten.



!(Certification) = !(New Job)

There’s a lot said in the testing press and blogs about certification. There’s some well known haters of ISTQB and a few, albeit quieter, exponents. There is of course the training providers shouting loudly about their guarenteed pass rates, how their courses are faster than all the others, and how you won’t survive in testing without the qualifications that you can get from them. Is certification as important as they say? I’m beginning to think that maybe it is, but not for the reasons their sales people present.

Firstly some background. I’m ISEB Foundation and Practitioner certified. I enjoyed the courses which I did with the excellent Grove Consultants a few years ago. OK, the exams were not fun but the courses were. I felt like I learned something and I went along because I wanted to learn. The qualification was good, but secondary. I felt it wasn’t essential. I still feel this way, I’m not an out-and-out ISTQB basher but I feel things are beginning to go too far.

Once I became a team leader, and then a test manager I continued to send people on the courses. Some didn’t want to go, but I felt it was important for them to learn something new, and more importantly to learn the same way, and using the same information, that the rest of the team had already learnt. It gave some consistency. That was useful.

Fast forward a few years. I now have a team of testers and delivery ops people. Times have been hard and training has been hard to come by, by the time these people joined the team there was no training available that would lead to the ISTQB/ ISEB certifications. Has the quality of what we do decreased? Well, no. If anything, we’ve gone out and trained ourselves, trained ourselves, and updated our ways-of-working in even better ways. We are still consistent in our approach, and as a bonus, some people can now train others. Also a good skill. Not getting the ISTQB training has annoyed some, whilst others weren’t bothered at all.

Now my team and I find ourselves in a new situation. Soon we will all lose our jobs as R&D is moved overseas. Suddenly the issue of certification slams itself forward again. Most of the job ads scream ISTQB certified, for recruiters it’s almost the first question asked “Are you ISTQB certified?”. How have we come to this?

I think a lot of the testing community is stuck in a vicious circle. If we get lazy with our recruitment then we quickly fall into a trap of just putting “ISTQB certified” in the “Essential Requirements” section of our job ads. We are the ones who caused the recruiters to ask “Are you ISTQB certified?” Certification within the industry becomes self fulfilling. And those of us recruiting testers don’t necessarily get better testers.

So what’s the solution? More certification? I think all those of us who recruit for software testers need to re-visit what we look for in a tester, to adjust our outlook and our requirements so that we are trying to find those who are good at what they do, not what they have studied. A few years ago I used to run a written interview test for candidates which was based on the ISTQB syllabus. Many of those with the qualification failed.

And to my team, without certification and needing to find new jobs? I’ve sent them on ISTQB courses. It’s only fair, they need the best start they can get in their job searches. But if I find myself in this situation again then I hope that it’s not this way….

* For those of you without any programming knowldge – ! in the title means “Not” 🙂

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