6 Tips to Write Effective Test Cases (including examples)

Writing effective test cases is a critical element of the software development process (and the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC)), and something we are deeply familiar with at Koderly.

The most effective test cases are simple to understand and execute. If your test cases aren’t effective, you will miss bugs and release unreliable software to your customers or end users, which may damage your reputation or cause you to lose revenue.

In this blog, we provide six tips to help you to write effective test cases and improve the quality of your software.

What is a test case?

A test case is a sequence of steps or actions with an expected outcome that determine if a software feature or function is working as expected. A test case contains a test case ID, test scenario or description, test steps and test data, test prerequisites, expected results or pass/fail criteria, and the actual or observed results.

In short, a test case tells testers what to do, how to do it, and what the results should be.

How do I write a good test case?

1. Read and understand the specification

The specification should form the foundation of your test cases, and a comprehensive specification will include scenarios you can use as test cases.

Before you start writing test cases, make sure you’ve taken the time to read and understand the specification. Detailed knowledge of what the client needs is essential when writing effective test cases.

Sometimes, the specification changes during development, and a test case can’t be effective if it’s based on an out-of-date specification. Therefore, you need to update the specification and the customer must approve any changes before writing test cases.

Domain-specific knowledge is also an important requirement for writing effective test cases, as this makes sure that you understand the processes and procedures that the software supports and how your customers intend to use the software.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of the end-user

Different users may have different requirements or areas of focus. When writing an effective test case, it’s important that you understand the needs of the specific user and how they intend to use the software.

As a tester, you should be able to understand the problem from the user’s point of view, and know exactly what their expectations are.

For example, a contact centre agent using our software to book a holiday will care most about the user experience and user interface, so effective test cases will focus on these areas. Whereas an analyst querying data in a data lake will be concerned about performance and data integrity and this requires a different focus for test cases.

3. Include a clear description for the test case

The test case description should be clear and concise, as it explains the root cause of the issue.

A clear description can help to save time and costs by helping the tester to understand exactly what the test relates to and helping the developer to understand the nature of the bug if a test fails.

6 Tips to write effective test cases - including an example - example of a description for a test case

4. Write test steps using short and punchy sentences

Keep the test steps direct and to the point, using short and punchy sentences.

There should be no ambiguity in the test steps and no scope for assumptions or interpretation by the tester. Poorly written test steps may require the tester to seek clarification from the developer or business analyst, which will take time and slow down the testing process.

The test steps should provide a clear example of the required inputs and any prerequisites. It may also be helpful to include images or videos to help the tester easily understand and follow the test steps.

Try to keep the number of steps in each test to a minimum. If there are too many steps, the tester may forget the point of the test. If you think there are too many steps, consider splitting the test into more than one test case.

If a developer needs to investigate a bug found during testing, it’s important that they follow the same test steps to recreate the issue.

6 Tips to write effective test cases - including an example - example of test steps for a test case

5. Make it easy to understand the pass or fail criteria

The expected results should be black and white, so the tester can answer definitively if the test has passed or failed. Any scope for interpretation may cause the tester to miss bugs and impact the quality of the software.

It’s also important that the tester can add comments when failing a test to help the developer to investigate the bug. The more relevant information you can share, the better. 

6 Tips to write effective test cases - including an example - example of expected results for a test case

6. Use a test management tool

Test management tools, like Qucate, can be used to create and manage test cases as part of your wider software development and testing strategy.

Test management tools help to standardise and speed up your testing process while increasing coverage and improving quality.

Qucate uses dynamic test plan templates, which allows test plans to evolve over time and makes sure that effective test cases are included in all test runs.  

Example of a test case

To get you started, here’s an example of a test case in Qucate, our test management tool.

6 Tips to write effective test cases - Test case example in Qucate

At Koderly, we use Qucate to plan, coordinate and execute our software testing process. Qucate allows you to create fully audited test plans for compliance, visibility, and transparency, whilst improving quality and test coverage. If you’re looking for a test management platform, head to our Qucate page for more information, and start your 30-day free trial today!

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Picture of Craig Kennedy

Craig Kennedy

Chief Executive, Craig Kennedy, is a Certified Accountant with 20 years’ experience. Craig joined Koderly in 2011 as Finance Director and took on the role of Chief Executive in 2019. Craig oversees strategy, finance, and compliance, working alongside the Board of Directors.