IEEE Software Test Documentation, a summary

IEEE standard 829-1998 covers test plans in section 4, test designs in section 5, test cases in section 6, test logs in section 9, test incident reports in section 10, test summary reports in section 11, and other material that I have decided not to summarise in the other sections.

Beware. This is only a summary. Anyone interested in claiming conformance to the standard should read the standard. I advise people interested in test documentation to read the standard, including the extensive examples, first. You may well decide that the full paper trail is too much paper for your needs, and decide to use the ideas in the standard selectively. The key point is to have test cases organised coherently, to do testing, to log what happens, and to think about the outcomes.

Test Plans

A test plan answers the questions

A test plan has the following parts, in this order.

  1. Test plan identifier. A unique label so you can refer to that document.
  2. Introduction. Outlines what is to be tested. The top level test plan should point to related documents such as project plan, quality assurance plan, configuration management plan, standards. Lower-level plans should point to their parents. I suggest using hypertext links to link test plans in temporal order, and to point to any relevant material.
  3. Test items. What is to be tested? Be explicit about version. Say how to get the test items into the test environment. Point to whatever documentation of the test items exists. Point to any "incident reports".
  4. Features to be tested. Say which features and combinations of features are to be tested. You need not cover all the features of one test item in one test plan.
  5. Features not to be tested. If you don't cover all the features of a test item, you should say which ones you left out and why.
  6. Approach. Describe what is to be done in enough detail that people can figure out how long it will take and what resources it will require. What tools will you need? How thorough will testing have to be? How can you tell how thorough it was? What might get in the way?
  7. Item pass/fail criteria. How will you know whether a test item has passed its tests?
  8. Suspension criteria and resumption requirements. When is it ok to stop this test for a while? What will you have to do when you start again?
  9. Test deliverables. What documents should the testing process deliver? Logs, reports, test input and output data, the things described in this summary and a few more. You decide what you need.
  10. Testing tasks. What must be done to set up the test? What must be done to perform the test? What has to be done in what order?
  11. Test environment needs. What must the test environment look like? What would it be nice to have? Tools? People? Building space? Bandwidth? How will these needs be met?
  12. Responsibilities. Who does what?
  13. Staff and traning needs. How many people with what skills will you need? If there aren't enough people with the required skills, how are they going to get them?
  14. Schedule Define milestones, estimate times, book resources.
  15. Risks and contingencies. What are you assuming that could go wrong? What contingency plans to you have?
  16. Approvals. Which people must approve the plan? Get their signatures.

Test design specification

A test design spells out what features are to be tested and how they are to be tested. It includes the following parts, in this order:

  1. Test design specification identifier. A unique label so you can refer to that document. Point to the test plan.
  2. Features to be tested. Point to the requirements for each feature or combination of features to be tested. Mention features that will be used but not tested.
  3. Approach refinements. Spell out how the test is to be done. What techniques? How will results be analysed? What setup will be needed for test cases?
  4. Test identification. Point to the test cases, with short descriptions. (Some test cases might be part of more than one design or plan.)
  5. Feature pass/fail criteria. Spell out how you will tell whether a feature has passed its tests.

Test case specification

A test case is a single test you can run. The document has the following parts, in this order:

  1. Test case identifier. A unique label so you can refer to that document. Point to the test plan/design.
  2. Test items. List the items and features you will check. Point to their documentation.
  3. Input specifications. Describe all the information passed to the test item for this test. [Either point to files, or include the information in such a way that it can be automatically extracted.]
  4. Output specifications. Describe all the behaviours required, including non-functional requirements like time, memory use, network traffic. Provide exact values if you can. [See previous note. See cosc345/pcfpcmp.d/]
  5. Test environment needs. What hardware, software, and other stuff do you need?
  6. Special procedural requirements. Any special setup, user interaction, or tear-down actions?
  7. Inter-case dependencies. What other test cases must be done first? Point to them. Why must they be done first?

Test procedure specification


Test item transmittal report


Test log

A test log answers the question "what happened when testing was done?" [As much as possible, this should be automated.] A test log includes the following sections in the following order:

  1. Test log identifier. A unique label so you can refer to that document. Point to the test case.
  2. Description. Information common to all the items in the log goes here. What was tested (with versions)? What was the environment? Other documents say what was supposed to happen. This says what did happen.
  3. Activity and event entries. Beginning/ending timestamps and name of actor for each activity. Point to the test procedure. Who was there and what were they doing? What did you see? Where did the results go? Did the test work? When something surprising happened, what was going on just before, what was the surprise, and what did you do about it? Point to incident reports, if any.

Test incident reports

If anything happens that should be looked into further, a test incident report should be written. It should contain the following sections in the following order:

  1. Test log identifier. A unique label so you can refer to that document.
  2. Summary. Briefly, what happened? Point to the test case and test log and any other helpful documents.
  3. Incident description. A detailed description of what happened. See the standard for a list of topics.
  4. Impact. What effect will this have on the rest of the testing process? How important is it?

Test summary report

A test summary report doesn't just summarize what happened, it comments on the significance of what happened. It should contain the following sections in the following order:

  1. Test summary report identifer. A unique label so you can refer to that document.
  2. Summary. Summarise what was tested and what happened. Point to all relevant documents.
  3. Variances. If any test items differed from their specifications, describe that. If the testing process didn't go as planned, describe that. Say why things were different.
  4. Comprehensiveness assessment. How thorough was testing, in the light of how thorough the test plan said it should be? What wasn't tested well enough? Why not?
  5. Summary of results. Which problems have been dealt with? What problems remain?
  6. Evaluation. How good are the test items? What's the risk that they might fail?
  7. Summary of activities. In outline, what were the main things that happened? What did they cost (people, resource use, time, money)?
  8. Approvals. Who has to approve this report? Get their signatures.

The End.

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