Adhoc Testing vs Exploratory Testing Top Key Differences

Adhoc Testing vs Exploratory Testing | Top Key Differences

Sometimes, testing can feel like a treasure hunt. Taking that analogy further, adhoc testing can be like searching for treasure without a map, while exploratory testing is like having a map to guide you. Both approaches have benefits and challenges; finding the proper method for you and your team is essential. 

With this blog as your map, let’s explore more about these two types of testing.

Adhoc testing vs Exploratory testing

What is AdHoc Testing?

Adhoc testing is a type of software testing that is performed without a predetermined test plan or script. This method involves exploring or testing features spontaneously as the tester perceives potential issues or areas that require further testing.

It is beneficial when looking for defects not included in test plans, discovering severe application issues quickly, or identifying edge cases overlooked during standard testing processes. 

Although Adhoc Testing does not adhere to formal documentation processes, it requires adequate preparation before beginning the process.

Here is an example of ad hoc testing:

A tester is testing a new e-commerce website. 

  • They start by testing the website’s basic functionality, such as adding items to the cart and checking out. 
  • They then start testing the website more randomly, clicking on different links, and trying different things. 
  • They find a bug where the website crashes if the user adds too many items to the cart. 
  • They report the bug to the developer, and the bug is fixed.

What is Exploratory Testing?

Exploratory Testing is an interactive approach that involves exploring the software program to find defects.

For example, when testing an e-commerce website, the tester would navigate the website to identify potential usability, browser compatibility, security, and other issues that may be hard to identify through formal testing techniques. 

This approach helps identify defects that may have escaped during formal Testing.

Differences Between Ad-hoc Testing and Exploratory Testing

AspectAd hoc testingExploratory testing
PlanningUnplanned and undocumentedUnplanned but documented and structured
ApproachUnstructured approachStructured approach
ExecutionRandom, spontaneous testingOrganized, focused, and concurrent testing
GoalGeneral testing to uncover defectsUncover defects and learn about the application
ScriptingNo predefined test casesPredefined charters with scope and objectives
CoverageLess structured, may miss areasComprehensive coverage through organized testing
RepeatabilityDifficult to replicate the exact test scenarioMore repeatable as it can be documented
LearningLess focus on learning the applicationHigh focus on understanding and learning the app
DocumentationMinimal documentation is enoughThorough documentation of testing activities needed
ControlLess control over the testing processMore control over the testing process
EfficiencyIt may miss critical scenariosEffective in finding critical and high-impact issues

Adhoc Testing vs Exploratory Testing – Test Automation

Ad hoc and exploratory testing are software testing approaches that involve testing without a predefined plan. Yet, there are some key differences between the two approaches.

Adhoc-Test Automation

  • Ad hoc testing is an informal approach typically performed by testers familiar with the software under test. 
  • Ad hoc testing is often used to find quick and easy-to-fix bugs, such as broken links or typos. 
  • Ad hoc testing is generally not suited for test automation.

Exploratory-Test Automation

  • Exploratory testing is a more structured approach typically performed by experienced testers who can think critically and creatively. 
  • Exploratory testing is often used to find deep-rooted bugs or to explore the software’s capabilities in new and unexpected ways. 
  • Exploratory testing is typically done manually
  • Though, once the exploratory testing phase is completed, new test cases that were created during exploratory testing can be chosen for automation.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between ad hoc testing and exploratory testing:

CharacteristicAd hoc testingExploratory testing
PlanningUnplanned testingUnplanned but documented testing
ApproachUnstructured approachStructured approach
GoalFind quick and easy-to-fix bugsFind deep-rooted bugs and explore software capabilities
Test automationNot well-suitedonce the exploratory testing phase is completed, new test cases that were created during exploratory testing can be chosen for automation.

Exploratory and Ad-hoc, do we need both?

In general, exploratory testing is a more effective testing approach than ad-hoc testing. Exploratory testers can use their knowledge and experience to focus their testing on the most essential areas of the system, and they are more likely to find bugs that are missed by ad-hoc testers.

Yet, there are some cases where ad-hoc testing may be helpful. For example, ad-hoc testing can be used to test a new feature or to test a fix for a known bug. Ad-hoc testing can also be used by non-testers, such as developers or product managers, to test the system from a user’s perspective.

Exploratory testing is the better choice for most software testing projects. But, there are some cases where ad-hoc testing may be helpful.

If you are looking for a structured and effective testing approach, then exploratory testing is the better choice. If you need to test a new feature or fix a known bug quickly, then ad-hoc testing may be a good option. To be thorough in your testing, use both exploratory and ad-hoc testing.


In a nutshell, Adhoc and Exploratory testing can both be helpful when testing software. The main difference is that adhoc testing is excellent for finding obvious or important bugs, while exploratory testing is better at uncovering harder-to-find bugs. 

Your chosen method depends on what you want to achieve with your testing. By understanding the differences between adhoc and exploratory testing, you can determine which approach best fits your software testing needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between ad hoc and random testing?

To put it simply:

Ad hoc testing is unstructured and experience-based, while random testing is unstructured and random.

Ad hoc testing is software testing performed without a predefined test plan or test cases. It is typically done by experienced testers who use their system knowledge to identify areas to test.

Random testing is a type of software testing that involves testing the system by randomly generating inputs and observing the outputs. Anyone can do it, even if they do not know the system being tested.

What is an example of exploratory testing?

Let me explain to you with a simple example.

The tester then continues to explore the site, trying to find other potential bugs. They try adding different products to their cart and checking out. They also try testing different payment methods and shipping addresses.

At one point, the tester tries to add a large quantity of a product to their cart. They notice that the website crashes. They report this bug to the development team.

The tester continues exploring the site, trying to break it in different ways. They also try to use the site in ways real users might use. For example, they try to search for a specific product, add it to their cart, and check out.

The tester documents all the bugs they find and reports them to the development team. Exploratory testing is a continuous process, so the tester may continue to explore the site and find new bugs even after it has been released to production.

What is the difference between Adhoc testing and Negative testing?

Ad hoc testing involves exploring the software without predefined test cases to discover defects. In contrast, negative testing is a structured approach to testing the system’s ability to handle invalid or unexpected inputs, focusing on error detection and handling. 

Ad hoc testing is more about exploring the system freely, while negative testing is about deliberately trying to break the system by providing inputs that shouldn’t be accepted.

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