Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A test is...

On twitter Santhosh Tuppad posted the following tweet:

It made me think about what 'a test' really is.

I made half an attempt to improve the statement Santhosh made and suggested the following:

This would make the statement read as following:
A Test is an experiment that tests to see if the testing yields observational information.
I have thought about this and it still does not appear quite right for what I would say is a test.

There have been many discussions on what testing is and how 'a test' relates to the testing.

A test is a part of testing as some of the links above state, therefore the definitions used for testing could apply to a test.  However there is a gap if you are communicating with someone and they ask you 'What is a test?'  What is your reply?  'Oh, it is a part of testing'  Hence thanks to Santhosh I wanted to look a little more into the definition of a test.

My thoughts is that for a definition of a test we should borrow from the scientific method.

You start with a theory, you run a series of experiments against that theory, you observe what happens, you analyse what you saw, you report the findings and adjust your theory based upon your new knowledge.

There is no mention of finding bugs within that process, looking at a dictionary definition of test it gives the following:

a critical examination, observation, or evaluation :  trial; specifically :  the procedure of submitting a statement to such conditions or operations as will lead to its proof or disproof or to its acceptance or rejection a test of a statistical hypothesis (2) :  a basis for evaluation :  criterion 
 an ordeal or oath required as proof of conformity with a set of beliefs 
a means of testing: such as (1) :  a procedure, reaction, or reagent used to identify or characterize a substance or constituent (2) :  something (such as a series of questions or exercises) for measuring the skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities, or aptitudes of an individual or group 
 a positive result in such a test 
:a result or value determined by testing

Wow so many different meaning for a simple word!  

To aid the definition it needs context.

We are focusing on a software test, this enables us to narrow the definition of 'a test'. Note we are not using the term 'test case'.  Using 'test case' I feel encourages limitations in the scope of what a test means.

To conclude the following is my definition of 'a test' within the context of software testing.

A test is a series of experiments performed against a theory that evolves based upon observational and behavioral information uncovered by the test.
The software testing part is the reporting of these evolving theories and the observation made.

What about you?  Could you improve this?  Do you have your own definition?

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