Often we are asked to explain what a tester does and whether someone might be a good fit for the job. It can be challenging to explain to someone without making it sound too simplistic such as a checking job or so difficult that they are intimidated. Over the next few months, I would like to address a few questions and challenges I face as a Software Testing Manager. In the October and November 2012 issues, I addressed the question “do you think I could be a tester?” In this article I will address the question “how can I learn to test?”

There are a lot of courses like BBST that teach black-box techniques, plus there are many bloggers sharing testing techniques. Instead of providing a list of training courses and blogs, I would like to address this question with small training exercises. I believe the best way to learn is through hands-on testing and mentoring from more senior testers. As testers we need to develop our problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and ability to ask good questions. Many testers sharpen their skills through testing challenges and games. I would like to expand upon these great opportunities to apply what you are learning to the product you test. Ideally these exercises are performed with a group of testers so you can learn from each other.

How to Improve Your Skills Through Testing Challenges

Identify key training areas that you want to accomplish through the testing challenges. Areas can include formulating questions, developing testing ideas, improving critical thinking, and identifying potential risks. Based upon this understanding you can identify different exercises and challenges to apply what was learned to the product you test.

Ideally someone will facilitate the challenge and identify an area of your product appropriate for the challenge. If you cannot find a facilitator then share the role within your group by giving each person a turn.

Step 1

Schedule a meeting for the testers. At this meeting, provide a challenge used within the Testing Community or one that you created. Give them 30-minutes to complete the exercise. This is meant to be a learning opportunity and not a competition to have the most questions or testing ideas. Another approach is to have the testers complete the challenge prior to the meeting asking them to spend only 30-minutes. If you complete this step beforehand the facilitator could gather the results and consolidate them in a word document or in a mind map. This can be used as a reference document during the meeting but not to replace the actual discussions.

Step 2

As a group, review how everyone approached the problem. Have each tester provide feedback on their answers. During the review, have them perform a self-assessment of what they learned from the other testers. We each tend to address problems differently and we have mental blocks that can make it difficult to look at problems with a different perspective. For example, one tester may see the obvious problems or questions. Another tester may probe deeper with his questions uncovering new information. I would be curious to know why someone asked questions or identified testing ideas that I did not consider. Understanding these differences can help you challenge how you think through problems.

Potential Personal Reflection Questions:

The testers may have their own approach for self-reflection on what they learned and how to apply that learning. Below are a few questions to help them get started.

· How was my approach to this problem different or similar to the other testers?
· What surprised me about another tester’s approach?
· What did I learn through this exercise?
· What would I do differently if I went through a similar exercise?
· If I struggled through this exercise, why did I struggle? What did I learn that would help me next time?

Step 3

As a group, identify what can be applied to their testing assignments. It can be helpful to capture this information in either meeting minutes or a mind map for future reference.

Potential Group Reflection Questions:

This consists of discussions facilitated at the group level on what was learned and how to apply that information. Of course this will be dependent upon the exercise and your product. Below are sample questions to get you started.

· What are the learning points that are appropriate for the product we are testing?
· How could we approach testing differently?
· Do we need to spend more time planning initial testing approaches and testing ideas?
· How can we ask better questions?
· What is working well for us that we should continue doing?
· If we could change one thing based upon what we learned, what would it be?

Step 4

The last part of this exercise is to apply what was learned to the product they are testing. The facilitator dentifies a bug or enhancement and has the testers repeat step 1 of the challenge. This time they should tap into what they just learned from their self-assessment and group discussion. For example if the exercise was to formulate questions or testing ideas, then the testers should repeat that exercise with the identified bug or enhancement.

Step 5

Repeat step 2 and 3. Document the information gathered through this exercise in a manner that the tester can use when actually testing the bug or enhancement.

Potential Testing Challenges

There are a wealth of testing challenges and exercises. Darren McMillan has always been a supporter of these challenges and you can find many of them on his blog: www.bettertesting.co.uk/content/. I would like to thank Darren for sharing this information allowing us all to learn from these challenges.

Asking Questions

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify questions on a testing assignment as we often face mental blocks. The challenge called “Testing the Future” on Darren McMillan’s blog provides a great opportunity to formulate questions. Do not read beyond the challenge as responses from the Testing Community are provided.


Testing an User Interface This is an interesting testing challenge on a user interface. Both links are for the same puzzle but may provide different insight.




https://i0.wp.com/www.testingcircus.com/wp-content/uploads/Learn-Software-Testing-Circus.jpg?fit=524%2C295&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/www.testingcircus.com/wp-content/uploads/Learn-Software-Testing-Circus.jpg?resize=150%2C148&ssl=1Bernice Niel RuhlandArticlesBecoming A Better Tester,Testing ArticleOften we are asked to explain what a tester does and whether someone might be a good fit for the job. It can be challenging to explain to someone without making it sound too simplistic such as a checking job or so difficult that they are intimidated. Over the...