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Test Strategy vs Test Plan: Key Differences

Test plans and test strategies are part of any comprehensive and effective software QA system. While both often work in tandem and are complementary to one another, they represent different goals.

Test Strategy vs Test Plan

But what’s the difference between them?

This common confusion arises due to the fact that there is some overlap when it comes to their usage. This blog post discusses the difference between test strategy vs test plan. First, we’ll learn these terms individually and then compare their fundamental differences.

What is a Test Plan?

The test plan (sometimes termed a QA test plan) may be considered the instruction manual or guide for an organization’s testing effort. The test plan lists all the activities in a QA project in one place as it creates a schedule, identifies the scope of the project, defines roles & responsibilities, highlights risks, entry & exit criteria, objectives of testing, and so on.

Test Plan

Generally, the test plan is designed based on software requirements. Ideally, test plans should feature the risks foreseen in the QA project so that QA managers may prioritize the testing process by risk.

Types of Test Plans

Test plans are classified according to the testing types, levels, and sizes of plan. These categories define high-level details about the software testing techniques and their processes. Hence, the types of test plans are:

  • Level-specific test plan: It includes planning for Unit testing, Integration testing, and System testing.
  • Type-specific test plan: It includes planning for key parameters, such as performance.
  • Master test plan: This comprehensive QA test plan features high-level information and details of the overall testing process. This plan rarely undergoes any revisions.

Uses of Test Plans

A test plan acts as a guide to software or app testing throughout the SDLC. During the planning phase, QA engineers only need to define test points. A test plan records the types of testing undertaken and may be reused in case regression testing is performed at a later stage. The following are the critical uses of test plans:

  • Guide to testing process: The test plan document guides the testing approach and describes what testing practices will be performed. A test plan essentially contains details of the scope of testing, the test items, the pass/fail criteria, and resources required to set up the test environment. A test plan outlines the testing process schedule and clarifies every team member’s role in the testing process.
  • Bridge between teams: The test plan is an effective communication channel among associated teams of developers, testers, and other stakeholders. It allows everyone to go through the requirements, review them together, and make the desired changes. Anyone can track the comments of other members to stay updated on the ongoing project. The test plan contains information which is often circulated, such as estimated budget, schedule, software and hardware requirements, and so on.
  • Streamlined functional coverage: A well-written test plan covers all the aspects of a product to be tested. A test plan describes the scope of testing, including the functionalities and features to be tested. It also mentions the types of testing to be executed as well as the testers who will undertake these testing types. This ensures every functionality of the AUT is tested.
  • Ensures availability of resources: Before executing the software testing process, it is important to have the tools, hardware, software, and other resources required to set up the test environment. A test plan ensures all the prerequisites are available when required so the testing process can begin as and when planned.
  • Prevents testing ‘out of scope’: Some testers might test the entire app release every time, even when it is not required. There are instances where the scope of testing has to be limited. In such cases, a test plan helps to keep the testing process on track as it is created for specific modules and declares the functionalities to be tested.
  • Keeps a record of testing: Test plans record what was tested. A ‘Test Plan Identifier,’ features the project name, level of test plan, module name, release, and version number. Test plans document the new additions to the release and what needs to be tested. As a result, testers do not miss any functionality or feature that needs to be tested.
  • Tracks the testing progress: Managers can control and track the status of the testing process as it defines the schedule for steps involved in testing. A test plan includes which engineers are involved in the process and their responsibilities. As a test manager, a test plan can be utilized to see the validity of planned timelines, project status, and actual status of testing process at any instance.
  • Provides effort estimation: A test plan helps determine the estimated testing effort and cost. Since the test plan breaks down the process into smaller segments, it is possible to identify the resources and time required to test the software.
  • Ensures risk management: Risk management is a key aspect of test planning. A test plan guides testers through the risk mitigation process to prevent risk incidents.

Test Plan Template

A test plan can vary with every project. However, the testing team should adhere to a set template, which enables them to log all the details of the testing process.

Defined by the standard IEEE 829, a test plan template consists of the following 19 details:

  1. Test plan identifier
  2. References
  3. Introduction
  4. Test items
  5. Software risk issues
  6. Features to be tested
  7. Features not to be tested
  8. Approach
  9. Pass/Fail criteria
  10. Suspension criteria and resumption requirements
  11. Test deliverables
  12. Remaining tests
  13. Environmental needs
  14. Staffing and training needs
  15. Responsibilities
  16. Schedule
  17. Planning risks And contingencies
  18. Approvals
  19. Glossary

How do you write a Test Plan?

A test planning document provides a blueprint for the testing method, strategy, selection of hardware/software, schedule plan, and estimation of deliverables. Although many test plan templates are available on the web, testers or QA managers may analyze the project or business requirements and devise a customized plan that best suits the business requirements. However, for a test plan to be effective, the following aspects should be covered:

  • What should be tested: Description of the object (system, application, website, etc.)
  • How to test: Identifying the testing strategy.
  • When to test: Listing down the activities: preparation, testing, result, and report.
  • Criteria to start testing: Readiness of the test platform, functionality development, and documentation.
  • Criteria to end testing: Test results align with the desired quality criteria.
  • Review and approval: Review by the stakeholders, including:
    – Lead QA engineer
    – QA Manager
    – Head of Development
    – Project Manager

What is Test Strategy?

Test strategy is a comprehensive document that describes the approach to performing software testing. It lets the project managers, developers, and testers know of the critical issues of the process. Creating an effective test strategy is a skill one may develop with experience.

Test Strategy

The test strategy describes how the risks must be mitigated at the test level, what criteria are required to apply, and the type of testing that needs to be performed. The testing strategy is shared with the entire team so that everyone onboard follows a common approach and mindset to testing.

Types of Testing Strategies

Testers use a testing strategy to identify the levels and methods of software testing to be applied in the project, along with techniques and tools. Besides, it features the test cases and specifications, putting all these together for execution. All testing strategies given below provide the tester with a template for testing.

  • Analytical strategy: This process uses formal and informal methods to assess and prioritize the risks of testing. Analytical testing gives a brief overview of the requirements, process, and implementation to determine the motive of testing.
  • Model-based strategy: This strategy tests the software’s functionality according to the real-world scenario (like software functioning in an organization). Model-based testing identifies the data domain and chooses the ideal test cases as per the probability of errors in the domain.
  • Regression-based strategy: Here, the testing strategies emphasize lessening regression risks for functional or non-functional product parts. They can even utilize GUI-based automation tools to operate the tests whenever the application is altered.
  • Standards or compliance-based strategy: Here, the testers pursue the procedures or guidelines ascertained by the committee for standards or panel of enterprise experts such as HIPAA, FDA, etc., to specify test conditions, define test cases, and put the testing team in place.
  • Methodical strategy: This strategy tests the features of the application according to the user-based checklist. Software testers perform methodical testing to test critical aspects of the software, such as functionality, reliability, usability, and performance.
  • Process-oriented strategy: It tests the software according to existing standards such as the IEEE standards.
  • Dynamic testing strategy: Dynamic testing is performed to test the software after getting the collective inputs of the team.
  • Philosophical testing strategy: It tests the software to see if any component of the software might break or stop performing at any time.

Uses of Test strategies

The following are the critical uses of test strategies:

  • Ensures software usability: Along with identifying the bugs, a good testing strategy should also assess the portability and usability of the software.
  • Provides quantified metrics: Test strategies follow a qualified approach to specifying software requirements such as the desired software output, effectiveness, and average time to failure.
  • Facilitates continuous process improvement: It should improve testing methods and continue to make them more effective.
  • Establishes agile software development: Feedback from rapid software testing may be used to control the corresponding strategies. Also, an effective test strategy enables the development of robust software that can test itself using intelligent debugging techniques.

Test Strategy Template

A test strategy is a documented approach that defines the testing methods, domain, environment, configurations, tools, schedules, resource allocations, and staff utilization. It plays a critical role for organizations to ensure the testing process is as effective as possible. A typical test strategy template features the following factors:

  1. Scope
  2. Test Approach
  3. Test Environment
  4. Testing Tools
  5. Release Control
  6. Risk Analysis
  7. Review and Approvals
  8. Test Summary

How do you write a test strategy?

Various factors may be considered when creating a test strategy for a project. The test strategy document may vary from business to business as there could be an addition or elimination of a few sections per the business needs. However, the following pointers are the essential aspects of any test strategy document:

  • Test levels: Describe the document’s level of testing. This may be unit, integration, system, or acceptance testing.
  • Scope: Defines the application areas to be tested as well as the criteria to be exempted from scope of testing.
  • Entry and exit conditions: Define specific conditions for the start and end of the testing process.
  • Environment: Describes the place of testing – development, test, staging, or production environment.
  • Responsibilities: Declare the responsibilities of members performing the task. For example, describing the role of the Dev team in performing unit testing or assigning approvals to respective stakeholders.
  • Tools: List the tools required for testing and reporting. The scope of automation tools for testing and reporting is mentioned here.
  • Defect management: Describes how the bugs will be tracked and reported once identified.
  • Release control: Describes who is responsible for the final release. And if the release would be in versions or CI/CD. It also mentions the approvals required before the release.
  • Metrics and Reporting: Describe how the metrics will be recorded and who will take ownership of reporting. The metrics are defined by a Product Manager or likewise.
  • Risk and mitigation: Sometimes, testers are aware of the threats before actual testing is performed. This section describes ways to prevent such risks.
  • Summary – This section features a brief overview of the testing performed and its key components.

Differences Between Test Plan and Test Strategy

The difference between test plan and test strategy is that a test plan documents scope, objective, and key elements of software testing, whereas a test strategy defines the techniques and approaches to testing.

S.No. Test Plan Test Strategy
1 Test plan is a document that defines scope, objective, approach, and emphasis of a software testing initiative. Test strategy is a set of guidelines that describe the test design and how to perform testing.
2 Key elements include- Test plan id, testing features, types & jobs, pass or fail criteria, test deliverables, team responsibilities, release schedule, etc. Key elements include – scope, formats, processes, tools, reports, client communication, etc.
3 It describes how to test, when to test, and who will test. It defines what type of technique to follow and which module to test.
4 Test plan declares the specification. Test strategy declares the general approaches to testing.
5 The test plan may be updated if required. Test strategies cannot be changed
6 It determines possible issues and dependencies to identify the risks. It is a long-term plan of action. You can abstract information that is not project-specific and put it into a test approach
7 A test plan exists individually. Test strategy is a section of a test plan.
8 It is defined at a project level It is set at the organization level.
9 Test plan is derived from software requirement specification (SRS). Test strategy is derived from business requirement specification (BRS).
10 Test leads or managers prepare test plans.  Project managers or business analysts prepare test strategies.
11 It is created after requirement sign off. It is created before the test plan.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to segregating test strategy vs test plan, many find it quite complicated to identify the key differences between the two. A test strategy is generally a static document and the test plan, on the other hand, specifies what to test, when to test, and how to test.

As described in the blog above, these are two different aspects wherein a test plan is comprehensive and detailed as compared to a test strategy. Test plans are used at project levels, whereas test strategies are generally used at the organizational levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the contents of a test plan?

  • Scope
  • Schedule
  • Resource allocation
  • Environment
  • Tool
  • Defect management
  • Risk management
  • Exit parameters

2. What is the basic format of a Test Plan?

Here’s the basic format of a test plan:

(Product Name)
Prepared By: (Names of stakeholders)
(Date)
TABLE OF CONTENT
1. Introduction
2. Objectives and Tasks
3. Scope
4. Testing Strategy
Alpha/Unit Testing
System and Integration Testing
Performance and Stress Testing
User Acceptance Testing
Batch Testing
Automated Regression Testing
Beta Testing
5. Hardware Requirements
6. Environment Requirements
Main Frame
Workstation
7. Test Schedule
8. Control Procedures
9. Features to Be Tested
10. Features Not to Be Tested
11. Resources/Roles & Responsibilities
12. Schedules
13. Impacted Departments
14. Dependencies
15. Risks
16. Assumptions
17. Tools
18. Approvals

3. What is the basic format of a Test Strategy?

1. Test Strategy
1.1 Test Automation
1.2 Schedule
1.3 Resource Planning

2. Test Development
2.1 Test Plan
2.2 Test Script
2.3 Test Data

3. Test Execution
3.1 Defects
3.2 Reports
3.3 Metrics

4. Defect Management
4.1 Bug fixing
4.2 Bug verification
4.3 Bug tracking

5. Delivery
5.1 UAT
5.2 Application installation testing
5.3 Requirement verification


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