Characteristics of Test Engineers - Testing Tools

Many young software engineers think that testing is not a creative job. Contrary to this popular belief, testing is a very creative and challenging work. The test engineers need to understand the application well, study the software functionality in detail to find out where the bugs are likely to occur, study the code to ensure that each and every line of code is tested, create test cases in such a way that testing is done rigorously to uncover the hidden bugs and also ensure that the software is usable and reliable. All this has to be done very fast—testing engineers are given very less time in the whole life cycle of product development! To take up testing of a software product, the test engineer needs to do the following:

Understand the application domain:

The software may be a Client/Server based database management system, or a telecom software, or data communication software, or embedded software, or process control software, a web site and so on. In your career as a test engineer, you may have to test software of various application domains. Before starting the testing, you need to understand the application, from an end-user point of view. You need to be a very fast learner of the application domain.

Learn about the development environment:

Based on the application and the end user needs, the development environment varies—the operating system may be windows or Unix or Linux or Solaris; the programming language may be C, C++ or Java; some special tools would have been used to develop the software such as database engines, cross-compilers etc. You need to have flair to work on different development environments.

Learn how to use the application:

The test engineer has to assume that he/she is the end user and run the application to get a feel of how the software works. Only then, he will be in a position to generate the test cases and also create automated test procedures.

Study the source code:

If the test engineer is asked to validate the source code also, he needs to study the source code based on which the test case generation has to be done.

Study the requirements specifications document:

The SRS document gives the functional, performance and reliability requirements of the software. The software has to be tested for all these requirements. You need to be "eagle-eyed" and look for detail while studying the specifications and check whether each requirement can be tested or not. If the SRS document says "the transaction response should be very fast"—it does not mean anything! You need to tell the person who wrote the specifications that the response time should be indicated, say 10 seconds. Then only you can test this performance requirement. Remember, software metrics are very important.

Study the acceptance test procedure:

The ATP document gives the test plan based on which the user will validate the software. The test engineers need to carry out the testing as per the ATP document. The ATP document has to be prepared by the development team and the testing team in association with the customer representative.

The test engineers need to have an eye for the details, in other words, they need to be eagle-eyed. But then, they need to offer constructive criticism to improve the quality of the software rather than finding fault with the developers.

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