Exploratory Testing: A Detailed Guide

Exploratory Testing is the most significant software testing method wherein test cases aren’t generated earlier; however, software engineers examine the system on the run. They might note down plans about what to test prior to test implementation. The criterion of this type of test is more on testing as a “thinking” deed. For instance, developers of any shopping site recognize what it is meant to do. Allow users to choose products of their preference, transfer them to cart, pay, and confirm their purchase order. Exploratory tests aids to verify that the system is functioning as expected, yet also that it is a simple and pleasing process for users. Exploratory Testing is all about investigation, discovery, and learning and extensively used in agile models. It emphasizes personal responsibility and freedom of the individual QA engineer.

In layman’s words, exploratory testing includes concurrent test case design and test implementation of a system or app under test. The software tester will generate or write down a testing idea to give a route, and discover the system while testing to further form practical, crucial, and helpful tests for successful application testing. This necessitates the least planning. Testers constantly decide on their subsequent step of action. It completely relies upon the thought process of a tester. Sometimes this testing can be additionally valuable than the formal tests approach to find some subtle flaws or defects which go missing in formal tests. Unintentionally or intentionally every QA tester would have DONE exploratory testing at some stage in their profession.


Exploratory Test vs Scripted Test

Under scripted testing, the software tester design test cases first and afterwards proceed with test implementation. On the flip side, an exploratory test is a simultaneous method of test design and execution all ended all at once. Scripted Test Execution is generally considered as a non-thinking action wherein QA testers implement the test steps and evaluate the actual outcomes with anticipated outcomes. This kind of test execution action can be automated doesn’t necessitate loads of cognitive skills.

Scripted Testing Exploratory Testing
Verification of test cases prior to testing Verification of test cases at the time of testing
Conducted from requirements Conducted from necessities and exploring during testing
Confirmation of tests with the requirements Investigation of app or system
Involves confirmed tests Involves initial Investigation
Emphasizes forecast & decision making Emphasizes learning and flexibility
Is all about Controlling testing Is all about the perfection of test design
The script of the test is in control The mind of the tester is in control
Like making a communication – you examine from a draft Like making a discussion – it’s impulsive


What Are The Key Advantages Of Exploratory Tests?

  • It Completely Supports Agile 

This type of Testing blends perfectly with DevOps as well as the agile method. It can maintain modifications in requirements and give rapid feedback. It also saves extra effort and time by crafting test designs and processes in parallel.

  • Rapid Testing

It works well when anyone has a time crunch that discontinues you from writing comprehensive test cases to define the test procedure. You can start off discovering the software and give feedback rapidly.

  • Instant feedback 

The exploratory test process helps in obtaining rapid response from stakeholders as well even prior to the app introduction in the market. Explorers can also manage any critical situation as they have a thorough understanding of software gained through preceding iterations of tests. It aids to rectify the functionality and improves the overall software consistency. Exploratory testing reduces the risk of leaving any significant flaws or defects at the final point of software or app release.

When You Should Perform Exploratory Testing?

  • Early writing of test cases: QA engineers of Exploratory Testing Company can perform exploratory tests while initially writing test cases for new features or for new products. This entirely fits in the agile surrounding where QA specialists are not offered with design documents.
  • Initial product learning: In the case of an agile environ, there may be no design data obtainable like in the old process, or there may be zero time for product training, in such circumstances team can go with exploratory tests. Here the key concentration is given on product knowledge rather than actual tests. This gives a full understanding of the product system and its dependencies.
  • Investigating issues: Testers require performing exploratory tests while reproducing problems.
  • Quick feedback: Often time testers might not have time for creating test documents for fresh features or for fresh products, in such situations rapid feedback can be given by doing exploratory tests.
  • To complete the test coverage: There are few risk parts where QA engineers need to update their testing document. Possible risk and problem areas can be investigated via explorative tests and test documents can be updated consequently.
  • Regression testing:  In Software Testing Life Cycle, regression test is a critical one, when developers fix the utmost number of flaws, this can be further enhanced by exploring fault areas by specialists QA tester.
  • Integrate with the agile testing procedure: Superior quality work can be delivered easily if we incorporate exploratory tests in the agile testing cycle along with system testing and integration testing.

What are the Challenges of Exploratory Testing?

There are numerous challenges and those are mentioned below:

  • Replication of failure is tough and complicated
  • Learning to use the software system or app is a challenge
  • Identify the best test cases to implement can be challenging
  • Detecting whether tools require to be used can be difficult
  • Reporting of the test outcomes is a challenge as the statement does not have planned cases or scripts to compare with the real outcome or result
  • Documentation of each and every event during implementation is hard to record
  • Do not know when to end the testing as exploratory tests has specific test cases to perform.

Five Crucial Phases of Exploratory Tests:

Following is a step-by-step process of Exploratory Tests which is also named as SBTM (session-based test management) Cycle:

  1. Create a Bug Taxonomy (categorization)
    • Classify common kinds of errors found in the past projects
    • Examine the root cause scrutiny of the faults or problems
    • Discover the risks and generate ideas for testing the app
  2. Forming Test Charter
    •  Test charter is mainly a statement document of exploratory tests which describes the objective of the test session. Test Charter should suggest:
      1. how it can be tested
      2. what to test
      3. What requires to be over-looked
    • Test idea generation is the initial phase step exploration tests
    • Test charter assists in determining how the end-user can use the system
  3. Generating Time Box

The time box is a time phase that sets the time-bound of the test session. It has a start time & date with an ending time & date.

    • This technique counts a pair of testers jointly together not less than ninety minutes
    • Time Box can be reduced or expanded by 45 mins
    • There shouldn’t be any intermittent time in those ninety mins session
    • This session encourages QA engineers to react to the feedback from the system and arrange for the correct result
  1. Re-examine Results:
    • Assessment of the errors or defects
    • Learning from the test process
    • Examination of coverage areas
  2. Debriefing:
    • Collection of the output outcomes
    • Evaluate the outcomes with the charter
    • Confirm whether any extra tests is required


The Correct Approach to Exploratory Tests

There are distinct approaches to carry out and assess any software using exploratory Tests.

  1. Strategy-Based Exploratory Tests

This approach of exploratory testing is defined by several other factors like the equivalence method, boundary value technique, and risk evaluation. The QA tester of Exploratory Testing Services Company implements multiple processes to test out and improve the effectiveness of the app under test.

  1. Freestyle Exploratory Tests

As the word, ‘freestyle’ suggests this kind of test that does not have a defined arrangement. It is executed when the QA engineer has to carry out smoke tests. However, it lacks an approach, a situation like other forms of the test. The QA engineer has to explore the whole site or app to discover flaws without any structured plan.

  1. Scenario-based Exploratory Tests

The scenario-based exploratory Test is completely based on specific functionality or scenario which is tested. The tester can discover and detect defects for varied situations and structures using this method. The QA engineer can come up with a varied test scenario to cover several situations.

Exploratory Testing: ‘Pros and Cons’


  • This type of test is helpful when requirement documents aren’t accessible or partially accessible
  • It entails an investigation procedure which assists in finding extra bugs than normal testing
  • This kind of tests drill down to the tiny part of an app and includes all the necessities
  • Discover flaws or errors which are usually ignored by different testing methods
  • Helps to enhance the imagination of QA tester by implementing more and more test cases which ultimately improves overall productivity
  • This kind of testing covers all the different kinds of testing and it covers several cases and scenarios
  • Encourages intuition and creativity
  • Creation of new ideas during test implementation


  • Unsuitable for extended execution time
  • This type of test fully depends on the QA engineer’s skills
  • Partial domain knowledge of the tester

Distinction between Ad-hoc Testing and Exploratory Testing

Don’t confuse Ad-hoc testing with Exploratory Testing

  • Ad-hoc tests refer to a procedure of unplanned, impromptu, and unscripted defect searching while the exploratory test is a thoughtful method to Ad-hoc test.
  • Ad-hoc tests is a hit and trial way to find a bug while the exploratory test isn’t. In the exploratory test approach, the QA engineer learns about the system as they discover and ultimately evolve the testing using the acquired knowledge.
  • Ad-hoc test is an unstructured action where the exploratory test is rather a structured activity.

Best Practices for Exploratory Testing

  • Understand the End-user: Software testing is all about examining the product‘s quality so that it offers immense user satisfaction. For efficient exploratory tests, knowing the user’s point of view is integral. Exploratory test just makes sense if done from the user’s point of view. However, remember, it isn’t one user’s point of view that requires to be understood. Customers navigate similar software in varied means based on their gender, age, preferences, economic status, as well as several other factors. QA Engineers should be able to use approach the software from all those consumer’s mind-sets.
  • Know the competitors:  By understanding what works and what does not work for competitors, QA engineers will know which errors or bugs to watch out for. Certainly, this requires starting from the development phases. When a tester understands that users of a particular competing application often criticize the clunky design of the cart functionality, they can be watchful for testing the cart and make sure a similar issue doesn’t occur in the application they are testing.  
  • Use real devices and browsers: Users will use the software on actual devices. Thus, run exploratory testing on actual devices. No simulator or emulator can offer real user situations to test on. If QA testers can’t access an in-house lab (that generally includes high financial investment for creating and maintaining), go for a cloud testing service.

Final Verdict

Exploratory testing is a very practical and significant kind of software testing, which is time- saving and signifies the tester’s reasoning and analytical skills. It is the most used method in agile development wherein much value is not given to documentation and fast releases are expected from the Tester team. However, ET has its own limitations, such as its success completely depends on the tester’s intelligence and experience. Automated testing is never possible in exploratory tests. Exploratory Testing is an important section of every software test process. Factor it into the software testing lifecycle, and roll out software that provides customers exactly what they desire.

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About the Author


For the last 15 years, I have made my business to help to dig into customer's software problems and provide a variety of services tailored to a company’s structure with exclusive quality assurance services, training and technology. I work with startups, small businesses and enterprise IT product companies across the globe to help them to stop wasting time on old software testing strategies that don't work any more. You can find out more details on https://www.kiwiqa.com
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