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Writing Repeatable Test Cases


By G.E. Morris

Of the five levels of CMMI, evolving from level 1 to level 2 is generally considered the most difficult task a software development group can face. Level 2 is described as the repeatability level. It can only be obtained when the QA process can be repeated exactly for each subsequent revision of the software application, and for each subsequent application developed. The key to making the QA process repeatable is making the test cases as specific as possible. There should be no ambiguity about any test step.

Consider the following example of a two field registration form:

Registration Form

Enter your first and last names and click the Submit button.

First Name:

Last Name:


A test plan, which describes an overview of the test, might describe the steps in testing this form as:

  1. Go to the registration page on the registration Website.
  2. Enter your name in the registration application.
  3. Go to the registration List.
  4. Verify your name is now in the list.
These steps would be adequate for a test plan, but would be totaly inadequate as test cases since the steps are not exact enough to guarantee the test would be repeated exactly each time the test was executed.

Here’s a detailed version:
  1. Launch an IE browser and go to the Registration Form.
  2. Verify the registration page opens.
  3. On the registration page, click the mouse in the First Name field.
  4. Type “John” in the First Name field.
  5. Click the mouse in the Last Name field.
  6. Type in “Doe” in Last Name field.
  7. Click on the Submit button.
  8. Click on registration List in the left nav bar.
  9. Verify the Name “John Doe” is now present in the registration list.
Here’s a variation:

  1. Launch an IE browser and select “registration” in your browser’s favorites list (which you must have previously added).
  2. Verify you are taken to the registration page.
  3. Verify the First Name field is highlighted by default.
  4. Enter the name “John” in the First Name field.
  5. Hit the tab key on your keyboard.
  6. Verify the Last Name field is now highlighted.
  7. Enter the name “Doe” in the Last Name field.
  8. Hit “Enter” on your keyboard.
  9. Select “registration List” in your browser’s favorites list (which you must have previously added).
  10. Verify the name John Doe is present in the list.
Given the basic 4 test case script from the test plan, a tester could perform the test by executing either of the two more detailed step sequences, or some combination of the two. The same tester might use a different combination of those steps in later tests, and no record would show it. Either of the two more detailed test cases specifies exactly what steps a tester should take, and on a mouse click by mouse click basis. Subsequent tests, using these same detailed test cases, even performed by different testers, would produce exactly the same tests. This is the heart of reproducibility. It takes detail to create a repeatable test. Without detail, repeatability is impossible, and so is achieving level 2 on the CMMI scale.




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CMMI Levels

Writing Repeatable Test Cases

Writing Thorough Test Cases

Writing Product Requirement Documents

Basing Test Cases on Requirements Documents

Test Case Formats



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