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Exploratory Testing In Software Testing


In everyday language, exploratory testing in software testing refers to the process of concurrently designing and executing test cases for an application or system that is being evaluated. The tester will think of an idea for a test, either verbally or in writing, in order to provide direction. They will then explore the system while testing in order to further develop important, useful, and practical tests for the successful testing of an application. This requires very little in the way of planning. The testers are constantly debating and deciding what the next step or action in the process will be. It is totally dependant on the way of thinking of the person doing the testing. When it comes to finding some subtle bugs that are missed during formal testing, sometimes this testing can be more beneficial than the traditional approach of formal testing. At some point in their careers, all testers, whether consciously or unconsciously, will have participated in exploratory testing in some capacity.

It is common knowledge that a learner will acquire knowledge more effectively through practical experience as opposed to simply memorising theory. In the same vein, a tester won’t have a better understanding of the application until they have explored it and learned about all the features and capabilities it offers on its own. When testing an application, it is essential to have both a customer’s and a business’s point of view in order to ensure the testing is carried out successfully.

If you open a shopping website, for instance, you probably have a general idea that this shopping website will allow you to shop by selecting a product or item of your choice and then allowing you to pay for the same product. However, this is not always the case. During the course of this procedure, you might discover that the website provides you with a virtual human look-alike that assists you in the process of selecting products to purchase. You have also discovered that you are able to order a variety of products for a home trial or that you are able to make payment using rewards points from some banks, amongst other things. As a tester, it is not enough for you to check whether a system is operating as it should; you also need to ensure that the system is not acting in a manner that is contrary to what was anticipated from it.

The following considerations should be made while conducting these tests:

  • It ought to be crystal clear what your mission is.
  • Make sure to record your actions and any system behavior that might point to the presence of bugs by creating reports on your actions and system behavior.
  • First one must learn, then one must observe, and finally one must devise new test cases.

History of exploratory testing

Exploratory testing has been around for a while, although it was more commonly known as “ad-hoc testing” in the past. In the authoritative work that he authored on the subject of software testing, Cem Kaner formally presented the concept of “exploratory testing” in the context of computer programmes. The following is the now-famous introduction: “You will run out of formally planned tests regardless of how many test cases of how many types you’ve created. This is guaranteed. You can keep testing. Conduct new tests as soon as you can think of them, but do not spend a lot of time preparing for them or explaining how they work. Put your faith in your gut instincts.”

When to use Exploratory Testing?

  • In the early stages of the SDLC, when the code is undergoing significant and frequent revisions, exploratory testing has the potential to be very useful. This is because of the nature of the testing.
  • This testing strategy can be utilised by the developers in order to carry out unit tests, and it can also be utilised by the testers in order to become more acquainted with the application.
  • In later stages of the software development life cycle, when test scripts need to be prepared and additional testing needs to be performed, the knowledge and experience gained from exploratory testing can be extremely helpful.
  • Within the context of agile software development, the iterations of the scrum process are brief, and there is consequently little time for the development of formal test designs and scripts. Because it can keep up with the short iterations of the scrum process, exploratory testing is an excellent choice for an agile environment.
  • When carrying out exploratory testing, test plans are developed on the spot, which helps the tester save a significant amount of time. At the conclusion of each iteration of the scrum, important exploratory tests can be documented for use in subsequent iterations.

Testing approach: How to do exploratory testing?

  • When performing tests, take advantage of the tester’s ability to learn and understand new things on their own.
  • Both the preparation of test cases and their execution are carried out simultaneously.
  • The number of test cases continues to increase as a direct result of the tester’s observations.
  • The tester integrates their new knowledge into the evaluation process.
  • Combining exploratory testing with other types of testing strategies, such as equivalence partitioning, error guessing, decision table testing, and boundary value analysis, amongst others, is also a possibility.
  • Testers are able to put their ideas to use while maintaining focus on their mission.
  • Test automation is not utilised during exploratory testing; rather, the emphasis is placed on the tester’s knowledge, observation, and experience.
  • Exploratory testing can be done on a session-by-session basis, which provides a structure and helps keep testers focused.

Best practice Exploratory Testing That We Can Follow

During the execution, the following needs to be done as listed below

  • Exploratory testing can be session-based, which offers a structure and helps maintain focus.
  • Note what needs to be tested, why it needs to be tested, and how the product’s quality has been determined.
  • monitoring the queries and problems brought up during exploratory testing
  • For more effective testing, it is better to pair the testers.
  • We are more likely to execute the proper test cases for the necessary scenarios the more we test.

Taking a document and keeping an eye on the following is crucial:

  • Test Coverage – If we have made any notes on the number of test cases we have run and how we can improve the overall quality of the software
  • Risks – Which risks need to be considered and covered, and which ones are the most significant ones overall?
  • Test Execution Log – Observations made during the course of the test
  • Issues / Queries – Make some notes on the issues and questions regarding the system.

Better exploratory testing techniques find more errors in a shorter amount of time.

Exploratory Testing Example

Exploratory testing enables you to find significant flaws more quickly because you are not constrained by the test case steps. You can cover more ground and concentrate on exploring the “what ifs” this way. Say, for illustration, that you have been tasked with testing a product’s “Edit Bookmark” functional area. There are two scenarios that could apply to your assignment:

1) Execute a test run


2) Perform exploratory testing of the “Edit Bookmark” functional area.

In the first case, you would perform the steps listed in the test case to ensure that each step functions properly and report any bugs you find. But what if a crucial error—such as a crash or data loss—does not happen while performing these actions? You won’t find it.

You experiment with or “test around” editing bookmarks in the second scenario. You might start by taking the same actions that were taken at the start of the test case. The question of what happens if you click Edit, remove the name, and then attempt to save the bookmark with a blank field might come up as testing goes on, though. Boom! When the application crashes, all user data is lost. By looking into something that wasn’t a step in the test case, you just discovered the most significant bug.

How to Structure Exploratory Testing

This strategy is structured even though it is implemented on the spot. The following needs to be ensured by exploratory test management:

  • The test’s objective is established clearly.
  • It is carefully noted what needs to be tested, why it should be tested, and the application’s overall quality.
  • Testing-related problems and queries are kept track of.
  • On the basis of their prior experience, two testers are appropriately assigned.

This is done through the following five phases of the session-based test management cycle (SBTM Cycle):

1. Classify the bugs.

  • Sort the issues that arose in previous projects into categories.
  • Find the source of these issues.
  • Determine the risks and create concepts for application testing.

2. Create a test charter.

  • Determine what needs testing, how it can be tested, and the factors to take into account.
  • Describe the testing’s starting point.
  • Specify the system’s intended use for users.

3. Create a time box.

  • At least 90 minutes are spent working together by two testers.
  • There are no interruptions made during the 90 minutes.
  • A 45-minute increase or decrease is acceptable.
  • Testers respond to the application’s response and get ready for the right result.

4. Review the results.

  • Analyze the flaws.
  • From the test, learn.
  • Analyze the areas covered.

5. Debrief.

  • Compile results.
  • Compare the outcomes to the persona.
  • Check to see if more testing is required.

Challenges of Exploratory Testing:

Exploratory testing presents a number of difficulties, which are described below:

  • It can be difficult to learn how to use the software system or application.
  • Failure is difficult to replicate.
  • Determining whether to use tools can be difficult.
  • It can be challenging to select the most appropriate test cases to run.
  • Reporting test results is difficult because there are no planned scripts or cases to compare the reported results to the actual outcome.
  • It is challenging to record every event during execution in the documentation.
  • Unsure of when to call it quits because exploratory testing requires the execution of specific test cases.

When does exploratory testing fall short?

However, time may not always be used most effectively with exploratory testing. There might be circumstances in which a more conventional workflow is preferable. In the same example as above, it makes little sense to use testers in a functional way if the company introduces a new functionality that is unrelated to the in-game inventory or currency. To make sure that the other features have not unintentionally been impacted by the new features released elsewhere, straightforward regression tests can be carried out.

In order to be effective and make the best use of your time as release deadlines approach, it is crucial that your organisation implement a solid test plan. Companies that shorten testing cycles frequently do so because they have simply run out of time before a release. However, you can prevent these kinds of problems by having a solid plan in place (and by using the appropriate scalable solutions).

What kind of testing is required by your organisation? Are you creating a smartphone application for end users? Or is your business primarily concerned with providing API functions because it specialises in B2B applications? Different types of testing and testing tools are needed at different stages, regardless of the goods or services you provide. You may only need to take regression testing into account when certain aspects of your goods and services are consistent and only show minor changes. However, new features and modifications might require you to use exploratory testing in software testing to make sure all bugs are discovered before the release.

Types of Exploratory Testing That We Need To Know

Below are a few types of ET:

  1. Freestyle ET:

Ad hoc exploration of the application. There are no guidelines, no coverage accounts, etc. in this kind of ET. This kind of testing is beneficial, though, when you need to quickly become familiar with the application, when you want to check the work of the other testers, when you want to look into a bug or perform a quick smoke test..

  1. Scenario-based ET:

Scenario-based testing is done, as the name implies. Real user scenarios, end-to-end scenarios, or test scenarios serve as the foundation. Testers can introduce variation after the initial testing based on what they have learned and observed. Scenarios serve as a general instruction manual for ET. To ensure that all potential routes to a feature work, testers are encouraged to investigate several potential directions while running a scenario. Additionally, testers ought to collect as many scenarios as they can from various categories.

  1. Strategy based ET:

 Exploratory testing is combined with well-known testing methods like boundary value analysis, equivalence testing, and risk-based testing. For this form of testing, either a seasoned tester or a tester who is already familiar with the application in question is selected.

Advantages of Exploratory Testing

Following are some benefits of exploratory testing:

  • Because exploratory testing requires less preparation, the test engineer may discover a serious bug earlier if they use it.
  • During this testing, we have the opportunity to discover any bugs that may have been overlooked by the test cases.
  • If we only have a short window of time to test the application, we will rely on regression testing to confirm the functionality that has already been implemented. Exploratory testing can be used to test the newly added features.
  • This testing requires a significant amount of concentration on the part of the test engineer in order to investigate the application.

Disadvantages of Exploratory Testing

Following are the disadvantages of exploratory testing:

  • Time Consuming
  • Due to the fact that we are still in the exploratory phase of the application, this process is time-consuming because we are unsure of the requirements and which features need to be tested first.
  • The testing engineer will have a misunderstanding about the feature and think it is a defect.
  • For instance, let’s say we have one login page, and the requirement states that we need to provide the necessary details before clicking on the login button. These details might include our username, password, and employee id.
  • However, when we were performing exploratory testing in software testing, all that we did was enter our username and password and then click the login button. The employee id was not one of the fields that we filled out. Due to the fact that we are conducting exploratory testing and do not have the requirement, we have the impression that the employee id component is a bug, despite the fact that it is a feature.
  • The presence of bugs may be mistaken for the presence of a feature.
  • For illustration’s sake, let’s assume there is a single registration page where we are required to enter information such as our username, password, mobile number, and email address. To further ensure that the submitted information is correct, the criterion indicates that the identical code will be delivered to the registered email id and mobile number. The code will only be sent to our mobile number and not to the email address that we provided when conducting exploratory testing in software testing on the registration page and providing all of the details (user name, password, mobile number, and email id). It is happening because the requirement has not been met, and we will be misunderstood as thinking that this flaw is a feature, but we will never come to the conclusion that this is a feature.

Agile Exploratory Testing

Because of its growing popularity, it is likely that you have read about or heard something about agile working environments, even if you have never worked in one yourself. Because the agile methodology utilises short sprints and strict deadlines, a team has a couple of weeks to complete activities such as planning, estimating, developing, coding, testing, and releasing the product. Because exploratory testing places an emphasis on producing useful results as quickly as possible, it can be very helpful when time constraints are extremely stringent. As soon as you have an understanding of the requirement, you are able to begin testing based on your previous experiences and your current knowledge.

After becoming familiar with the features and operation of the application, you will be able to design additional test cases to validate the application’s functionality and find bugs that were not initially anticipated. Because this is a more open-ended approach to testing, you will need to document everything. However, you are required to keep notes and produce a brief report on what you have tested, including any issues and bugs that you may have discovered.

Advantages of Using an Exploratory Approach in Agile

  • Providing feedback to the developers at the earliest opportunity.
  • A wider range of flaws are brought to light as a result.
  • Because there are no scripted test cases and each individual brings a unique point of view, performing ET can be accomplished by a diverse group of resources such as a developer, tester, business analyst, and designer.
  • The exploration of new territories and the discovery of critical bugs are both aided by the scouting that takes place in ET.
  • When an application is developed using iterative programming, Exceptional Testing (ET) can concentrate on testing newly added features while automation tests for regression and backward compatibility.
  • If the requirements are prone to change, ET can assist in the testing of new requirements in a constrained amount of time.

Points to Remember:

1. Requires different skills: The individuals who perform ET need to have strong abilities in the areas of listening, reading, thinking, and reporting. Because there are no scripts and test cases, you will need to have experience in the domain.

2. There are times when it can be challenging to report a bug: We might come across a flaw while we’re in the middle of an ET flow, but we might not be able to replicate it. This is due to the fact that we do not track the testing steps, so it is possible that we will forget the specific steps required to reproduce that issue.

3. Can be carried out as a leisure activity: When I need a break from the typical cycle of test execution, I turn to exploratory testing (ET). However, a significant number of teams treat ET as a separate phase during their testing cycle.

4. Any testing phase can be done this way: We are able to begin implementing ET prior to the commencement of any testing phase. You can perform ET prior to the phase of functional testing even if you want to.

5. Rapid feedback: The ET system requires immediate feedback on the problems and any anomalies that may arise.

6. Critical Thinking and diverse ideas: This evaluation calls for analytical and deductive reasoning. The individuals performing the testing should have the ability to reproduce, evaluate, and articulate their thoughts in a rational manner. A tester is able to apply her experience across the many different technologies and domains that they have worked on.

Difference Between: Exploratory vs automated/scripted testing

Exploratory testingAutomated/scripted testing
1) In the case of exploratory testing, maintaining documentation is not strictly necessary.1) Testing that is automated requires a high level of documentation.
2) This method requires little to no lead-in time prior to test execution.2) In this approach, a sizable lead-in period is necessary before test execution.
3) There is no cost associated with creating the documentation or reading it.3) Prior to test execution, a significant amount of time and money is invested in writing test scripts and documentation.
4) In exploratory testing, test coverage is not explicit or quantifiable.4) To show test coverage, test scripts can be linked back to the original requirements and specifications.
5) The application is compared to the tester’s expertise and comprehension of how the application is intended to function.5) The programme is examined against the requirements.
6) This method makes it impossible to replicate testing; only defects can be.6) Testing is simple to duplicate.

Real time example of Exploratory Testing

A tester may be required to use exploratory testing in real-time while working on a live project to haphazardly test features of the application in an effort to find bugs. Applications from any industry, such as those in the financial, healthcare, and telecom sectors, can be tested using exploratory testing techniques. Exploratory testing is not domain-specific, for example. In general, exploratory testing is most helpful when the tester wants to test application features for which no bugs were fixed in a particular code release by the development team. In other words, sanity testing in real-world scenarios is best done using exploratory testing.

Exploratory Testing Interview Questions

  1. What exactly is exploratory testing in software testing, and when is it the best time to carry it out?
  2. How exactly does one go about conducting exploratory testing in software testing?
  3. What are the most important advantages and disadvantages of exploratory testing?
  4. What are the various kinds of exploratory testing there to choose from?
  5. Where do exploratory testing and automated or scripted testing stand most significantly apart from one another?
  6. Give an example of exploratory testing and explain why it’s important.

Summary of Exploratory Testing

Even though exploratory testing isn’t as common as other types of testing, it’s still a very effective method for evaluating software applications. Good testers are forced to think creatively and come up with real-time test cases in order to identify flaws as a result of this challenge. This testing is a type of testing that can be performed on any project that requires minimal documentation. This is true regardless of whether the project is utilising agile methodology, the waterfall model, or any other type of software development life cycle model. Have you ever put your projects through any exploratory testing? Please comment below and share your thoughts and experiences with us.


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Fahim Sachedina  Fahim is a Quality Consultant at Global App Testing. He’s interested in the potential of AI, machine learning and how exponential technology will shape our world. (n.d.). What is Exploratory Testing? | Global App Testing. https://www.globalapptesting.com/blog/what-is-exploratory-testing

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