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Exploratory Testing

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Exploratory Testing is a type of software testing in which the tester is free to select any possible methodology to test the software. It is an unscripted approach to software testing. In exploratory testing, software developers use their learning, knowledge, skills, and abilities to test the software developed by themselves. Exploratory testing checks the functionality and operations of the software as well as identify the functional and technical faults in it. Exploratory testing aims to optimize and improve the software in every possible way. The exploratory testing technique combines the experience of testers with a structured approach to testing. It is often performed as a black box testing technique. 4 Exploratory testing is an unscripted testing technique. 

History of exploratory testing:

Exploratory testing is first named “ad-hoc testing”. the “exploratory testing” was named by the software testing expert Cem Kaner in the classic book, which is Testing Computer Software.

No matter how many test cases you have created you will run out of formally planned test cases. you can keep on testing, you can run new test cases. without wasting much time on the preparation of test cases or explaining them try to trust your instincts.

Why use Exploratory Testing?

Below are some of the reasons for using exploratory testing:

  • Random and unstructured testing: Exploratory testing is unstructured and thus can help to reveal bugs that would of undiscovered during structured phases of testing.
  • Testers can play around with user stories: With exploratory testing, testers can annotate defects, add assertions, and voice memos and in this way, the user story is converted to a test case. 
  • Facilitate agile workflow: Exploratory testing helps formalize the findings and document them automatically. Everyone can participate in exploratory testing with the help of visual feedback thus enabling the team to adapt to changes quickly and facilitating agile workflow.
  • Reinforce traditional testing process: Using tools for automated test case documentation testers can convert exploratory testing sequences into functional test scripts.
  • Speeds up documentation: Exploratory testing speeds up documentation and creates an instant feedback loop.
  • Export documentation to test cases: Integration exploratory testing with tools like Jira recorded documentation can be directly exported to test cases.

When should you use Exploratory Testing?

  • When need to learn quickly about the application: Exploratory testing is beneficial for the scenarios when a new tester enters the team and needs to learn quickly about the application and provide rapid feedback. 
  • Review from a user perspective: It comes in handy when there is a need to review products from a user perspective.
  • Early iteration required: Exploratory testing is helpful in scenarios when an early iteration is required as the teams don’t have much time to structure the test cases.
  • Testing mission-critical applications: Exploratory testing ensures that the tester doesn’t miss the edge cases that can lead to critical quality failures.
  • Aid unit test: Exploratory testing can be used to aid unit tests, document the test cases, and use test cases to test extensively during the later sprints.

When to say no to exploratory testing:

Organizations must be able to get the proper balance between exploratory testing and scripted testing. Until you reach a proper initial state only exploratory testing will not work and will not cover the expected result for the team.

especially when with any type of testing that is regulated the compliance-based scripted testing is beneficial to use at that time. In compliance testing, many certain checklists and mandatory to follow the legal reason. it’s best to use scripted testing where several laws govern the testing protocol and some standards are needed to match.

Importance of exploratory testing for CI/CD:

Exploratory testing is open to all stakeholders and not just only to train the testers. using these tests we will able to capture screenshots, record voice during the session, and able to give feedback at the same time. this will be more fastly able to review as compared to traditional software testers

The current test approach used by QA teams is enhanced by exploratory testing. It consists of several unrecorded testing sessions to find issues or bugs that have not yet been found. It improves the software product overall, finds edge cases, increases test coverage, and may lead to the addition of new features when paired with automated testing and other testing techniques. It promotes experimentation, creativity, and discovery within the teams because it lacks structural rigidity.

The almost instantaneous nature of feedback helps close the gaps between testers and developers. Above all, the results of exploratory testing provide a user-oriented perspective and feedback to the development teams. The goal is to complement traditional testing to find million-dollar defects that are generally hidden behind the defined workflow.

Types of Exploratory Testing:

There are many types of exploratory testing. Few are as follows:

  1. Freestyle: In freestyle exploratory testing, the application is tested in an ad-hoc way, there is no maximum coverage, and there are no rules to follow for testing. It is done in the following cases:
    1. When there is a need to get friendly with the application.
    2. To check other test engineers’ work.
    3. To perform smoke tests quickly. 
  2. Strategy Based: Strategy-based testing can be performed with the help of multiple testing techniques like decision-table testing, cause-effect graphing, boundary value analysis, equivalence partitioning, and error guessing. It is done by an experienced tester who has known the application for the longest time. 
  3. Scenario Based: Scenario-based exploratory testing is done based on scenarios with the help of multiple scenarios like end-to-end, test scenarios. The scenarios can be provided by the user or can be prepared by the test team.
  4. Collaborative Exploratory Testing: During exploration, several testers work together, exchanging observations and insights. Working together improves the variety of viewpoints and raises the possibility of finding various kinds of flaws.
  5. Charter-Based Exploratory Testing: The charter, a written document that describes the goals and scope of the investigation, is followed by testers. The charter could list particular features to test, situations to consider or goals to accomplish.
  6. Timing-Boxed Exploratory Testing: There is a temporal limit on how long exploration can last. The goal of testers is to find as many serious flaws as they can in the allotted period.

Exploratory Testing Process:

The following 4 steps are involved in the exploratory testing process: 


Exploratory Testing

  1. Learn: This is the first phase of exploratory testing in which the tester learns about the faults or issues that occur in the software. The tester uses his/her knowledge, skill, and experience to observe and find what kind of problem the software is suffering from. This is the initial phase of exploratory testing. It also involves different new learning for the tester.
  2. Test Case Creation: When the fault is identified i.e. tester comes to know what kind of problem the software is suffering from then the tester creates test cases according to defects to test the software. Test cases are designed by keeping in mind the problems end users can face.
  3. Test Case Execution: After the creation of test cases according to end user problems, the tester executes the test cases. Execution of test cases is a prominent phase of any testing process. This includes the computational and operational tasks performed by the software to get the desired output.
  4. Analysis: After the execution of the test cases, the result is analyzed and observed whether the software is working properly or not. If the defects are found then they are fixed and the above three steps are performed again. Hence this whole process goes on in a cycle and software testing is performed.

Exploratory Testing vs Automated Testing:

Below are the differences between exploratory testing and automated testing:

ParametersExploratory TestingAutomated Testing
DocumentationNo need to maintain documentation.Proper documentation is required.
Test casesTest cases are determined during testing.Test cases are determined in advance.
Is testing reproducibleTesting cannot be reproduced, only defects can be reproduced.Testing can be reproduced.
Investment in documentationThere is no investment in preparing documentation.There is a significant investment in preparing documentation and test scripts. scripts.
SpontaneityThis is spontaneous and directed by requirements and exploring during testing. This is well-planned and directed from requirements.


It usually requires less tools and scripting, which results in cheaper initial expenses. Ongoing manual testing initiatives, however, can raise long-term expenses.

Higher initial costs for tools and script development are involved. After that, it can result in cost reductions over time when using automated testing.


It depends on the tester’s abilities, inventiveness, and intuition. Ideal for situations when human discretion and flexibility are essential.

Technical expertise is needed for script development, preservation and troubleshooting.

Best Practices for Exploratory Testing:

  • Understand the customer: For effective exploratory testing, it is important to understand the customer’s viewpoint and expectations properly. End users browse the same software in different ways based on age, gender preferences, and other factors. Testers must be able to approach the software from all those user perspectives.
  • The aim of testing should be clear: For effective exploratory testing, the testers need to have a clear mindset and have clarity on the mission of testing. Testers should maintain clear notes on what needs to be tested, and why it needs to be tested.
  • Proper documentation: It is important to make proper notes and take a document and monitor test coverage, risk, Tets execution log, issues, and queries.
  • Tracking of issues: The tester should maintain a proper record of questions and issues raised during testing.

Challenges of Exploratory Testing:

  • Replication of failure: In exploratory testing replication of failure to identify the cause is difficult.
  • Difficult to determine the best test case: In exploratory testing, determining the best test case to execute or to determine the best tool to use can be challenging.
  • Difficult to document all events: During exploratory testing documentation of all events is difficult.
  • Difficult reporting: Reporting test results is difficult in exploratory testing as the report does not have well-planned test scripts to compare with the outcome.

Advantages of Exploratory Testing:

  • Less preparation required: It takes no preparation as it is an unscripted testing technique.
  • Finds critical defects: Exploratory testing involves an investigation process that helps to find critical defects very quickly.
  • Improves productivity: In exploratory testing, testers use their knowledge, skills, and experience to test the software. It helps to expand the imagination of the testers by executing more test cases, thus enhancing the overall quality of the software.
  • Generation of new ideas: Exploratory testing encourages creativity and intuition thus the generation of new ideas during test execution. 
  • Catch defects missed in test cases: Exploratory testing helps to uncover bugs that are normally ignored by other testing techniques.

Disadvantages of Exploratory Testing:

  • Tests cannot be reviewed in advance: In exploratory testing, Testing is performed randomly so once testing is performed it cannot be reviewed.
  • Dependent on the tester’s knowledge: In exploratory testing, the testing is dependent on the tester’s knowledge, experience, and skill. Thus, it is limited by the tester’s domain knowledge.
  • Difficult to keep track of tests: In Exploratory testing, as testing is done in an ad-hoc manner, keeping track of tests performed is difficult.
  • Not possible to repeat test methodology: Due to the ad-hoc nature of testing in exploratory testing, tests are done randomly and thus it is not suitable for longer execution time, and it is not possible to repeat the same test methodology.


Many advantages come with exploratory testing, such as its adaptability, versatility and capacity to address unexpected scenarios. This method helps testers to swiftly evaluate the functionality of the software and spot possible problems, which makes it especially useful early in a project or when dealing with changing requirements. A software product that incorporates exploratory testing within the testing lifecycle is more robust and dependable.

Last Updated : 09 Jan, 2024
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