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According to istqb foundation level, a test charter is the following:

"An instruction of test objectives and possible test ideas on how to test. Test charters are often used in explorative testing. See also explorative testing".

But the question I ask myself is, how should a test charter be built at all?

Which points result from the explorative test ?

Can the decision on the charter also take place during the test? Or should the charter only be defined before the explorative test?

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A test charter is the basic documentation of a test session. Among others, its basic goals are to be used in during a debriefing conversation, where the tester communicates to someone his/hers discoveries and concerns, and to serve as input to future sessions.

Considering that, the charter structure itself is not something set on stone. It's your responsibility to structure it in the best way for your reporting.

You can find some examples that may inspire you to create a format to your context here and here.

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Regarding this "Can the decision on the charter also take place during the test? Or should the charter only be defined before the explorative test?"

The decision on the charter could be made while doing other testing. (It would surprise me if that didn't happen at times.) Any time someone sees something they feel worth exploring it is worth noting. Capture the idea & circle back to see if it flushes out into a good exploratory test? Or maybe something else?

I find, at least for me, when doing exploratory testing I prefer a separate session. Something I can time box and block off on my calendar. That has little to do with the testing & more with my schedule & making sure I have time to dedicate & focus to the task at hand. I don't see why, if you have a clear purpose for the test & you know you have the time and resources to do it you couldn't decide on the fly to do exploratory testing. You just want to be sure you have the time & pieces in place for an uninterrupted session.

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Creating a test charter is a core part of every test. Adam Howard nicely summarizes this problem in A Heuristic Approach To Test Charters.

Here is a summary of his article.

Michael Kelly template to create a test charter:

My mission is to test (insert risk/problem) here) for (add coverage here).

For example:

My mission is to test users with different time zones for assignment duration.

So you test for a problem that users have different time zones and coverage is the function that calculates user assignment duration.

Think of a problem as something that complicates your testing. Having users with the same timezone would make your life as software tester much easier.

It is not always practical to create charters using Kelly template. At the beginning of the testing project (or sprint) with new features, you need first to get to know with those features doing just happy test flows. Again, Kelly suggests in Taking A Tour Through Test Country, suggest how to create tour test charters:

For example in the feature tour, you explore how application features work.

It is important to note that in the Kelly charter template, one coverage (feature) could have several problems.

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But the question I ask myself is, how should a test charter be built at all?

In this case we used the tips from Elisabeth Hendrickson.

For example, in our project we used an easy test charta template as followed:

Easy template as example

Investigate a goal with medium/resources in order to find (more) information about it

So what does this mean?

  • Goal: Could be a feature or a function or a small requirement (user story)
  • Medium / resources: Which medium or resources are required for executing the test scenario? This could be tools, data, configurations etc. everything which is required for executing the test scenario
  • Information: What would you like to detect when executing exploratory testing? Would you like to discover the security of the system? The performance? Usability of the system or something different?

Lets investigate a given example:

"Investigate the surname with the given name Peter's in a profile (e.g. webbased system), in order to check, whether the surname with apostrophe can be changed."

In this case the testcharta is not a testcharta, it is actually a testcase. Because it is clearly saying what you should do (changing the apostrophe -> this is a clearly action to perform the test case in a clearly way).

Better is this way:

"Investigate the xy webpage login with a wrong login Parameter in order to verify, that user should not be able to login, because he has not paid for it"

A good testcharta is actually some kind of inspiration to broaden your skills during test execution. It is not saying "do this way and then this" like in a test case.

Can the decision on the charter also take place during the test? Or should the charter only be defined before the explorative test?

That is difficult and good question. Generally exploratory testing "is test design and test execution at the same time." So in our case we used QaSymphony / Tricentis. During test session it was creating test cases. But before starting with test execution we made some description of the test charta what we wanted to execute. It was really described in a roughly way (as desribed above). This is a agile way of testing! There are several methods how to execute this.

One hint from my side: I would not try to adapt the style of ISTQB. From my point of view ISTQB is good for giving advice how you should structure your tests, but it is not agile.

I myself was using ISTQB but when I detected James Bach, we made the decision to test more with agile methods. Maybe the link is very helpful for you and you understand what I mean :-)

Exploratory testing is not Experience Based testing

More information about agile testing / exploratory testing:

Satisfice Blog James Bach

Happy testing! :-)

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