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Is UAT functional testing?

If you are involved in UAT or functional testing, you may have wondered what are the key differences, or if they are one of the same thing. Well, let me explain…

Is UAT functional testing? No, UAT is not functional testing. UAT is a process of checking and validating that the user requirements have been met. This is typically governed by the User Requirements document. Functional testing, on the other hand, is verification that the system meets the functional specification. 

To put things into perspective, it is possible to pass functional testing, with the system meeting the functional specification, but still failing UAT. But now that you know that they are different let me explain each one in more detail, the types of testing that fall into these categories and more…

What is UAT?

UAT is a validation process which proves the contract (user requirements) between the project team and the user has been met.  This is based on User requirements agreed from the beginning of the project.

This is typically conducted by end users (customers). Or in some cases, it is done by a product owner who is working as a proxy for the actual end-user.

Why is UAT testing important?

UAT testing is important because it confirms that the customer’s requirements have been met. It is also possible to find issues in the system that could have been missed during functional testing.

It is also an important quality gate. Often the final gate before the system goes live.

What is functional testing?

Functional testing (Click here to see Why Functional Testing is Required) is a way of verifying that each system function meets the functional specification document.

Inputs are put into the system with the actual results (or outputs) of these functions compared against the expected results defined in the functional specification.

I have mentioned the functional specification a few times in this article. Which is a key document in the traditional v-model, used in testing? However, in the real world, from my experience, you will often find that there is no functional specification.

This is the real challenge to a tester. Because, the books ion testing, or ISTQB exam never really prepare you for this.

The main activities of functional testing use black box testing…

Black box testing is a functional based procedure which does not concern itself with the underlying code within each functional module.

Therefore, a tester running black box tests does not need to know the exact code behavior within that function. Meaning they don’t have to be a developer.

They just need to know what input is required and what to expect to get out of it, as per the defined specification. Hence the reason it’s called the “black box”.

Functional testing usually tests functions such as APIs, databases, user interfaces, etc.

What different types of functional testing is there?

In this section, I’m going to explain what different types of functional testing there is.

The following forms of testing would be regarded as Functional testing:

  • Regression testing
  • Smoke testing
  • System integration testing

Integration testing is a classic example of this ( Click here to see the difference between System Integration Testing and UAT testing). During integration testing, you will be verifying if each individual system module can integrate and talk to each other successfully.

For this to be successful, inputs from one module will feed into another function. Hence the reason why it is typically called Integration testing.

Working Example from my experience…

So, for example, in one of my previous testing projects, we were working on a large financial system. This system was responsible for checking customer debt. Depending on the debt levels, certain actions would be triggered, etc a letter to a customer.

To gather accurate data on the customers, required multiple XML feeds into a central database. It would collect data, for example, address information and credit score data from external vendors.

Each one of these XML feeds was effectively integration tests that needed to be verified using functional testing.

Related questions:

Q: What is the difference between verification and validation?

Verification is what most people think of when they talk about system testing.

It is a procedure to verify that the system works as per the specification. In particular, the functional specification. In basic terms, it means – is the product built correctly?

Validation

Validation is different if you are thinking of user-related testing. Then, the chances are your thinking of validation testing.

Validation in basic terms means – are we building the right product?

It Focuses on confirming if the system that has been built and verified actually delivers on the user’s expectations.

And this is validated against the User Requirements that were drafted in the very beginning of the project.

Q: What is non-functional testing?

Non-functional testing is test procedures that confirm non-functional related specifications such as reliability, performance, etc.

These tests are performed based on separate non-functional requirements. They are not covered during functional testing.

An example

An example of a non-functional test would be: How many simultaneous users can be loaded onto the system?

Typically these tests are done by specialist test resource. They focus on non-functional testing. These testers are usually very well paid because they have rare skills that are often needed by large organizations.

Highly Paid

If if you are ever considering a highly paid contracting role for the future, this is something to consider.

Usually, this testing is done by some form of automation such as LoadRunner, QTP,  etc.

The reason for this is, it is usually quite challenging replicating these test scenarios without using test automation.

My example of a real-life manual load test…

An example of non-functional testing that I was involved in, as a test manager. During a previous project for a large energy company, we needed to simulate some load on the system.

We didn’t have the budget for automation tools, and time scales were tight. So, to simulate this load, we required multiple people all in the same room.

Each person was using the system at one time to verify the system could handle the load. The reality is this method is quite hard to coordinate, and there is room for error.

Also, this is quite a costly affair because you need to have everyone coordinated in the same room at the same time. And time is money. For these non-functional tests, If the project has the budget, automation is easier. because you can click a button to replicate the load.

Q: Is white box testing functional testing?

No, white box testing focuses on the underlying code in a function. This is typically referred to as unit testing and is usually executed by an actual developer.

It is a very important activity which typically happens before the system is passed on for functional testing. Think of it as an important prerequisite before you get into black box testing (or functional testing).

Q: What is end-to-end testing?

End-to-end testing is a testing method to verify that the entire system application, from start to finish, performs as expected. It verifies the flow of data works as per the specification.

Q: What is compatibility Testing?

This is classed as a non-functional test. Its main job is to verify that the application is compatible with different devices, browsers, etc. For example, let’s say you were working on a web application, such as an online sweet shop.

To perform compatibility tests, you would check the web app on multiple browsers to verify that it is compatible with the major browsers. This is just one example obviously.

These requirements, governing which browsers will need to have been documented and agreed on ahaead of time so that it is not an open-ended test on whatever browser the tester feels like testing. And to also ensure that the agreed coverage is met.

What is difference between SIT and UAT testing?

If you have ever worked in system testing, you must have seen when a system does not integrate correctly or just doesn’t work as expected, even after the system testing has passed. This is usually due to the lack of SIT (System integration testing), but how is this different from UAT? Let me explain…

What is the difference between SIT and UAT testing? SIT (System Integration Testing) focusses on proving that the system functions integrate successfully. With each input/output message invoking the next function successfully. Whereas UAT proves that the system meets the User requirements.

Now you know the difference. Let me explain who works on these phases, how they fit into the software development life cycle, the different types that are available and more.

What is UAT testing?

UAT (User Acceptance Testing) testing is a method to verify that the system application meets the user requirements that were laid out before the software development began.

It verifies from a user perspective that they are happy to accept the system.

What is SIT?

SIT stands for Software Integration Testing. It is basically a way to verify that the overall system integrates with the subsystem modules as expected.

Essentially, it makes sure that the end-to-end system hangs together as expected after system testing.

SIT typically follows system testing and is based on verifying that the system meets the functional specification. This is the process typically used with the V-model.

When is UAT usually done?

UAT usually happens towards the end of a project test phase. Usually, the last step before the system is accepted to go into production.

This is after its been proven in system testing, SIT and sometimes other phases such as OAT (Operational Acceptance Testing).

The reason it is usually at the end of the project is that at this point in time the system should be almost clear of all system serious system defects.

In fact, if you are following the correct procedure it will have had to have passed the exit criteria (click here to see what QA sign off is) of the other phases before it gets to UAT. So, by that time there should only be non-show stopper defects if any.

Who usually carries out this UAT testing?

UAT testing is typically done by a designated product owner. When I say product owner, these are users that typically use the system day in day out and are deemed as product experts or SMEs (Subject matter experts).

When I say experts they are not necessarily technical people. They are usually very skilled in using the application on a day-to-day basis, so they know all the nuances or expected behaviors, are you with me?

As well as verifying the requirements have been met, they are ideal for catching ad-hoc issues that could ordinarily get missed by a less experienced individual.

Their input is valuable because there are a lot of things that they know about the system that maybe even the technical testers may overlook.

Who usually does SIT?

SIT is usually done by very technical and skilled testers. These are usually dedicated resource who focus on testing in their job role.

They usually have very good technical skills and understanding of the modules that will be integrated. For example, these skills may include advanced SQL query skills.

What types of UAT testing are there?

There are two types of UAT testing which are as follows:

  • Alpha testing
  • Beta testing

In all honesty, these distinct types of UAT testing are not always implemented by every company. In my years of experience working on software projects, which includes some large blue-chip companies, it is very rarely split up into these two distinct phases.

But, for your benefit, I will break these two distinct approaches.

Alpha testing

Alpha UAT is typically done on the development site by a product owner or user accepted acceptance representative. This user will be able to test the system at the control of the development or project team.

Therefore, the project team is still largely in control of the environment and user access, etc.

Beta testing

Beta testing, on the other hand, is typically done on the clients actual site. This is using their own environment outside of the project teams control.

The benefit is, it mimics the real-life environment more. There still may be a representative from the project team on site to lend assistance, but not always.

Let me share an example of this from my experience of testing. Whilst working for an energy software consultancy. We were tasked with providing some software for them.

After SIT testing, was a phase of UAT on the client site using their environment. Any defects were entered into our defect management system for triage.

So what types of SIT is there?

SIT can also be broken down into two major approaches:

  • Top-down
  • Bottom-up

Let Me Explain…

Top-down approach

The top-down approach is focusing on the main parent function. The child modules can or will be replaced by stubs.

What is a stub?….

A stub is a test harness that will return an expected result to a parent function. This is used to test an application with missing (or incomplete) functions.

For example…  Cash machine…

Let’s assume we have a cash machine application and we want to test the interface that the customer uses (the parent module). In this example we want to test that the interface links to two child functions:

  • Withdraw cash page
  • View Statement

In this example, we could replace the whole withdrawal cash page with a stub. This could be written to return an expected value when the user selects the option from the main interface page.

This is a way of testing to see how the parent function will perform in the absence of the parent function.

Bottom up approach

The bottom up approach is essentially the complete opposite of top-down. You start with the lower level modules and use drivers instead of stubs.

A driver is the opposite of a stub. It will actually provide the input that you expect into a bottom level function to prove that the child function works.

So if we revert back to a cash machine application example…

If we want to prove that after viewing your statement you are returned to the parent menu. A driver could be used to provide a value to confirm that it performed as expected.

The importance of a UAT Kick-off meeting.

An information session or UAT kick-off session is a basic session to transfer information to the UAT testers before starting the UAT phase.

In this session, you will give important information such as

  • login information
  • System availability times
  • The expected duration of the UAT phase
  • Who is the point of call for any issues
  • Defect detail expectations
  • If screenshots are required and detail required

So, in a nutshell, it’s a way of establishing the expectation for UAT after following system integration testing.

In my experience of UAT testing, this is always been a very useful session. Because, if you do not have this initial startup information meeting you will find that you’ll get a lot of these questions asked by multiple people during the test process. Often, you will end up duplicating information again and again.

Related questions:

What is the difference between SIT and System Testing? SIT, as discussed earlier, is mainly focused on how the individual system application modules integrate together.

System Testing focuses on the behavior of the system functions. Hence the reason why it is often called functional testing. The goal of System testing is to prove the system meets the functional specification.

Why do you even need system integration testing? It proves the dependencies between system modules. Sometimes it is possible to get carried away focusing on which tests pass at a functional level.

But, not focusing on how they will hang together once all the functions are proven.

Progression vs Regression Testing (Big Difference?)

If you have ever heard of progression testing, then the chances are, you may have heard of regression testing. But are they different? similar, or something completely different? Let me explain…

What’s the difference between progression and regression testing? Progression testing focusses on new functionality and proving that it works as per the requirements. Whereas regression testing focuses on proving that existing functions of the application are not broken from the addition of new code.

During my years of testing, regression, and progression testing have been critical. Especially when you are dealing with systems that have serious impacts on customers. So, let me explain in further detail the major differences. In addition to this, I will give some examples to make it more understandable.

What is progression testing?

Is reality its another word for saying functional testing. Some people also refer to this as incremental testing (Click here to see what the incremental model really is), depending on what type of testing model you’re using.

Essentially, it’s testing new functionality in a methodical approach. To make sure that the new functionality matches the desired requirements.

I say sometimes referred to as the “incremental model” because it depends on what model of testing is being used. For example, you could be using the V-model.

However, whatever your model of choice is, progression testing still comes down to testing new functionality against your requirements.

What exactly is functional testing?

Functional testing is a method of verifying the outcome of the application in comparison to the agreed requirements.

It is often referred to as a form of “black box testing”. This is commonly referred to as black box because we are not focused on the underlying code for this. Testing code modules is known as unit testing (Click here to see the difference between unit and integration testing) or “white box testing”.

So, ultimately with functional testing, you are looking at the functions of the system and making sure that expected outputs are seen, are you with me?

So, what is regression testing?

Regression testing (Click here to see What Change Related Testing is?) is different from progression testing. Ultimately, with regression testing, we are making sure that we have not broken anything when we introduce new code. Simple as that.

Let me give you a working example here…

Example: Calculator App

Let’s assume that you’re testing a calculator application. Currently, it is very basic and can only add and subtract, nothing else.

Now requirements have been drawn up to add a multiplication feature to this app. We can also assume that the application is fully functional and in production at present.

To regression test, the calculator application after the new multiplication feature is tested. You need do some additional tests to:

  • verify that the addition feature is still working.
  • verify that the subtraction feature is also still working.

Why do we need regression testing?

Regression testing is needed because mistakes or errors in code can be expensive to clean up post-go-live.

Typically you’d need to use regression techniques for the following situations:

  • If you have a new defect fix.
  • New functionality (Such as the calculator example above).
  • Performance improvement.
  • Routine maintenance release.

All of these potential changes can provide a risk of damaging existing functionality which can have adverse cost effects to the business if they are not tested.

How do you do regression test?

Once you have decided that regression testing is important and worth the time investment. You then need to think to yourself, how are you going to tackle it? Let me explain…

Essentially, there are three main ways to approach regression testing:

  • Test everything
  • Test a selection of test cases
  • Prioritize testing (Risk-based)

Testing everything

Testing everything is one of the most thorough ways of doing regression testing. Meaning you test the entire suite of tests after every new change is implemented.

You’ll often find that most companies will not want to invest in this. Simply because there is a massive cost impact for doing this.

To be perfectly honest, from my experience of testing, it just isn’t feasible to be able to do this every time a change is implemented into the system. So, it’s unlikely that this will ever be used.

A selection of tests

A selection of test cases can be chosen instead. This is usually the approach businesses choose. But there a decision made on what to test.  In some cases, a standard regression suite can be selected for this purpose. Depending on the business needs.

Prioritizing test cases (Risk-based approach)

Prioritizing is a clever way to select which test cases should be tested first. Depending on time restraints its likely that only the high priority regression tests will be executed.

Essentially, you and your project team make a risk assessment on which test cases need to be focused first. This could be based on the risk of the system being impacted or it could be based on how often a particular function is used.

There can be a number of different reasons behind these decisions. But, essentially it comes down to testing only a subset of test cases based on their perceived priority or risk Factor.

Related questions:

Q: How do you use regression testing in agile?

In agile testing, you mainly use short sprints of functionality (click here to see what an Agile sprint is) to test. Therefore there are two main ways that you can tackle regression testing in agile:

At the Sprint level

At this sprint-level, you will effectively test the functionality which is relevant to that particular sprint. It is more of a scaled-down modular based approach.

End-to-end

The end-to-end approach Focuses on the entire application. With each sprint module talking to each other. To regression test this, a selection of test cases are run to ensure that there are no problems (defects).

In modern agile testing, there is a growing appetite to automate the majority of these tests to speed up the delivery to market.

For example, in my experience of testing, I was working for a well-known mobile telecommunication company. They had a Christmas promotion one year targeting millions of homes.

Effectively it was offering their customer base as a special offer for Christmas. This was new functionality added to an existing codebase. Therefore, a large amount of repeatable regression testing was required.

Due to the number of man-hours required to test this manually a decision was made to use selenium test automation suite.

We implemented the selenium test automation suite to go through many laborious iterations of dropdown forms on a web application. This is an example of how test automation could be used to speed up regression testing

Q: What are the test automation regression tools are there?

As mentioned above Selenium is one good example. However, there are quite a few others such as QTP, winrunner,  etc.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of regression testing?

The advantages of regression testing is it gives your application higher quality delivery. It’s one of the best ways to secure the quality of your application.

Also, you have the advantage of being able to automate some of these laborious tests to speed up the delivery.

Disadvantages

Disadvantages are the additional cost that comes along with regression testing to bolt onto a project. Unfortunately, some companies have a tight budget and cut corners. This can be a disadvantage.

Also if automation is not an option for your company due to lack of budget for the tools, you are left with quite a large burden of manual tests.

Either way, in my opinion, regression is critical. And, although it may seem expensive when you look at the costs up front, long term it can save your company some serious time and money downstream. The costs after going live can be exponentially more than if it was picked up before then.

9 Ways to Prepare for the ISTQB Foundation

Preparation is absolutely key to your success with the ISTQB foundation exam. It is definitely achievable if you know how to prepare correctly. let me explain…

How can you prepare for the ISTQB Foundation exam? You need to use a combination of self-study, textbooks, sample exam papers, the actual ISTQB foundation course syllabus, getting familiar with the exam time restrictions and exam format.

Now you know what you should be doing to prepare let me break down exactly how you can implement this starting today. For this, I have 9 ways that can help you prepare:

01. Self-study

You may find that paying for a training course is quite expensive. Unless you’ve been given a budget from your workplace. For that reason, it is advisable to do self-study.

Self-study can be done in many different ways but one good way of doing it is using a study group.

This is basically a collection of people that have the same goal of completing the ISTQB exam. You can pool your resources to make sure that you can make studying a lot easier, faster and more fun.

The best tactical way to approach this is to have each person in the group responsible for a specific section or topic. Then ask them to present their findings. After the presentation, they should ask the group questions to test if they have retained the information.

Be mindful that this is just a suggestion. There are many different ways of doing this. But, this is one good way of retaining the information in preparation for the exam.

02. Using the syllabus in combination with a textbook

The textbook that I recommend is this (Click to see the price on Amazon) it is a great textbook to use in collaboration with the official ISTQB syllabus.

I highly recommend that you go through the textbook first in detail and then follow up with the syllabus. The reason for this is the textbook is structured in a great way that will help you understand what you need to do and the concepts within the exam.

The syllabus is crucial because it is always updated and you can download the latest version from the ISTQB website. And, this will also work hand-in-hand with the textbook.

03. Check out the Glossary

As you are referring to the syllabus you may come across various acronyms or words that are unfamiliar to you. A good way to understand these terms is to go through the glossary to make sure that you truly understand them.

It’s important not to just gloss over unknown acronyms or words because you may get tripped up in the exam if you do not have a good understanding.

04. Use sample exam papers

This is essential (Click here for some sample exam papers) because it will give you an idea of how the test questions are actually formatted. And, help you get a good feel for the multiple choice questions that you will get in the real exam.

Personally, I love these sample papers. When I was doing my exams for my degree, I used to love getting mock exams because it gave me a taste of what to expect. And, in most cases, the real exam papers were very similar.

When I did my ISTQB foundation exam especially, they were also essential.

However, I would say that you need to understand that these are sample papers. And, they are not actual papers taken from the actual ISTQB exam. Therefore, do not think that you can literally just study every sample paper and guarantee that the question will come up.

Because there is a good chance that you will get different questions. Reason being, the questions are always being updated each year.

05. Get yourself familiar with the format of the exam

During my years of study, one thing I noticed, that separated the high achievers from the people that struggled in exams was preparation.

Not just the actual study of the exam topics but organizing their time so that they didn’t run out of time during the exam, are you with me?

For example, if you have a 2-hour exam and you spend the first 30 minutes on the first couple of questions you may not get to complete all the answers. You may simply run out of time by not pacing yourself correctly.

So for the ISTQB Foundation level exam, you need to know the following: It is 40 questions and you have to get at least 65% of these correct to pass. That’s the most important thing to take in.

Therefore that means you need to get at least 26 of the questions correct in the time period that you are given to pass.

The time period is 60 minutes. By the way, it is 75 minutes in countries where English is not their first language, for example in Canada, where they have French as their first language, in some parts.

Therefore for English speaking countries, you need to make sure that your 60 minutes is used wisely.

06. Revise, revise & revise!

I can’t emphasize how important it is to make sure that you revised hard for the exam. Do not underestimate the exam. Maybe you have heard from other people that it is easy?

You will fail if you turn up unprepared!

The importance of doing more than Just reading

Your mind is likely to let you down if only you focus on just reading the material over and over. That’s why it’s important to take notes.

For the human brain to consume information it needs visuals, sound, and tactility.

Therefore it is a good idea to actually write down notes of important sections in the book, and then go through these notes. Read them out loud and it will stick in your mind more.

The reason for this is as you read it you take in information initially, but as you write it with your hands you then reinforce the understanding and mental retention. Finally, when you read your notes out loud, it will cement the topic in your mind.

07. Look out for things that may trip you up

Although this exam does not have negative questions it is designed in such a way where a lot of the answers look very similar.

Also, you may find that there are little words such as “Not” or “Never” that are nested in the sentences that could easily be overlooked if you quickly skim read it.

Therefore, I highly advise that you take the time to read through the questions at least a couple of times before taking your multiple choice answer.

Obviously, you still need to be mindful of the time that you have available. Because you only have 60 minutes (in English speaking countries) so it’s important that you take that into consideration as well.

08. Prepare to use a backup

If you take the option of doing the online exam which is typically done in one of the exam centers make sure that you use the option of the backup paper.

Most people overlook this because they don’t really want to spend the time of writing things down. They want to just put all of the answers directly into the online portal.

However, this is a mistake. The problem with this is if there is any technical issues with the online exam you will lose everything and you do not want to have to do this again.

It has been known that people have experienced technical issues during the exam, like any online portal, and they have not had a backup. And this has been detrimental. So, don’t let this happen to you.

09. Areas that you should focus in on

So in this section, I’m going to provide a few areas that are usually in the exam that you should focus on

They are Concepts that will help you in the real world of testing that will come up from time to time so it’s good practice to know these pretty well anyway:

  • Black box testing
  • Equivalence partitioning
  • Boundary value analysis

Related questions:

Q: Is the ISTQB foundation level certificate easy?

No, I wouldn’t say it’s easy I would say you stand a good chance of passing if you come prepared. If you arrive at the exam with the notion that is easy you can get complacent and overlook the basics.

This will typically end up with you having to retake the exam. So make sure you’re prepared and do not underestimate the task.

Q: How long does it take to prepare for the exam?

If you are focused on studying, most people can get them self prepared in 3 to 4 weeks. However, if you are not focused or you’ve got other important things to do in your life you may find that it may take longer such as 4 to 6 weeks. It may be even more.

If money is not an issue and time is a problem you may even consider going to one of the intensive training courses.

These are two or three-day courses where they work you through the syllabus in the first couple of days followed by taking the exam on the third day. With the goal of you passing your certificate within that week.

To be honest this was the route that I took and was quite beneficial. However, I had the benefit of my workplace paying for the bill and covering the costs. If this is not the case for you then that might not be a luxury you can consider.

Is Quality Assurance a Good Career Path?

If you are new to the industry making a choice about quality assurance could be daunting. Is it really worth pursuing? could you earn well? Let me explain…

Is quality assurance a good career path? Yes, it has many different high paying roles with great prospects. It is also something that you can feel proud about when asked “What do you do?” by a family member.

Now you know its worth it, what kind of roles are there, how do you get in, what is the typical salary, and what qualifications do you need? Let me explain…

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance is a formalized process to prove that system requirements have been delivered and that the system is fit for purpose.

It is actually twofold, firstly it focuses on confirming to the management and project team that the system has delivered as per the requirements.

And also it there is a quality gate to make sure that customers receive the highest possible quality software.

Why do companies even need quality assurance?

Quality assurance is important to companies for a number of different reasons. In this section, I’m going to break down a number of reasons why it is necessary:

Reduces cost

This may seem like a funny thing to say because quality assurance in itself has costs. Such as paying for testers salaries, costs to draught up requirements by BAs and test planning, etc.

However, after many years of experience of software production, the industry has been proven time and time again that it is cheaper to spend the money upfront to get the best quality rather than trying to clean up the mess after the software has been delivered.

Once the software is live and in production it is very hard to control the costs and clear up the mess.

Maintaining customer expectations and Brand loyalty

Apart from the actual costs of cleaning up errors once the system is live, there is also the potential damage to a companies reputation to consider.

Once a customer gets frustrated with software they never really give it a second chance. They typically move onto the competitor as soon as possible.

Therefore to avoid this happening in the first instance quality assurance is important to mitigate this risk.

Improving team motivation

If your team respects the software that they’re working with they will work harder to maintain quality, simple!

Think of it logically, if you were working in a restaurant and you know deep down the food that you’re serving is low-quality,  will you feel embarrassed to serve the food? Of course!

Let’s be honest, you may not even want to continue working there, right?

It is the same concept as software. If your employees and team are passionate about the software, because it actually delivers, and is quality, then it will improve their morale and motivation. This is why quality assurance is important.

So, what career paths are actually available in quality assurance?

Quality assurance has two major routes that you can take in your career:

  • Managerial angle
  • Technical angle

Personally, in my career, I have taken the managerial angle. And I have done this for a number of years. but let me explain these two different routes right now:

Managerial angle

The managerial angle is not just dedicated to being a test manager, in fact, there are a few different roles in this direction such as:

  • Test manager
  • Test lead
  • Project manager
  • Business analyst (BA)
  • Programme Manager

Technical angle

Similar to the managerial roles, there are quite a few technical roles, such as:

  • Technical tester (Mainly advanced SQL, large migrations, etc)
  • Performance tester (e..g Load Runner)
  • Automation Tester (e.g. Selenium)
  • Senior Tester (e.g. Manual testing expert)

What kind of salary can you expect to make in quality assurance?

According to cwjobs, software testing professionals in quality assurance earn the following salaries:

  • Permanent quality assurance professionals £47k
  • Contract quality assurance professionals £91k

These are broad averages and be mindful that there are a number of different roles in these areas which could earn significantly more or even significantly less.

For example, an entry-level permanent tester may start off at £25-30k and a test manager could earn £70k+.

The purpose of this is to give you a rough average. Also, be mindful that these costs are based on the United Kingdom. Depending on where you live in the world the earnings will be different depending on your economy.

Why do contractors earn more than salaried employees?

You may have noticed from the averages above the contract workers earn significantly more than the salaried employees, but why is this (Click here to see my full article why contractors earn so much)?

In summary, this is because a salaried employee has additional benefits in their pay package that is not reflected in their net salary, for example:

  • Holidays
  • Healthcare benefits
  • Paid sick leave
  • Company cars

So, as you can see there are a lot of hidden bonuses as a permanent employee that are not reflected in this net salary.

However, depending on your circumstances, either of these is great. It all depends on your risk tolerance and your confidence levels.

As a contractor, you run the risk of being out of contract for periods of time. Some people do not have the confidence or appetite for risk to take this on. Especially if they have families to feed.

How do you become a QA professional?

To become a QA professional, from the beginning, you will usually need a degree and this is preferred in computing or computer science.

However, there are other qualifications that are accepted such as a BTECH, GNVQ and other related qualifications.

Depending on what level you wish to join you will usually be expected to have real-life experience in the industry that you want to work for.

Especially if you want to pursue a contract position. For contractors experience is critical. To be honest, the experience is more important than any vocational qualification in this instance.

In addition to this, a professional qualification such as an ISTQB foundation in software testing (click here to see 11 benefits of the ISTQB certification)  is usually required.

You will usually find that recruiters will not even contact or shortlist you for a role unless you have a professional qualification such as an ISTQB.

Other routes into quality assurance can be working your way up, through a career ladder within a company. For example, you could start off by working in a call center in a telecoms company. And then gradually working your way into a support role, and then into a UAT role. Then into an entry level system testing role, etc.

This route may seem long-winded and maybe unbelievable but this is based on my own personal experience of working with people that have taken that exact same route!

Bear in mind that this is not limited to this route. It is just one example of many different ways of doing it.

Related questions:

What is the difference between QA and QC? QA (or quality assurance) and QC (or quality control) are two different things which are closely related.

QA is a proactive methodology to find issues in software products before they hit the market. Whereas QC is a reactive process to ensure the quality of a product that has already been released.

ISTQB vs ISQI (What is the difference?)

If you are keen to get certified as a software tester, then no doubt you have heard of ISTQB and ISQI. On some resources, their name is used interchangeably. However, they are linked but not the same at all. Let me explain…

What is the difference between ISTQB and ISQI? ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) is a non-profit organization that creates testing courses. ISQI (International Software Quality Institue) organize and facilitate the exams and courses provided by the ISTQB.

Now you know the difference between these two acronyms and organizations, let me explain more about the ISQI, how they work with ISTQB, what other courses they offer if they actually provide their own courses and more.

What is ISQI?

ISQI (International Software Quality Institute) is a company which actually organizes/sells examinations and test courses. However, they are not the company that actually put the courses together.

As I will reveal later on in this article they work very closely with organizations such as the ISTQB to provide an examination and course material for their customers around the world.

So, what is the ISTQB?

The acronym itself stands for the International Software Testing Qualifications Board. Essentially this non-profit organization compiles/creates software testing courses.

They work closely with companies such as ISQI, who sell and facilitate the actual exams and administer the courses that they put together.

The courses that are compiled by the ISTQB rely on hundreds of professional volunteers worldwide. This is to ensure that the standards remain high and that the courses are of high quality.

Does the ISQI also offer its own training courses?

No, they only offer training courses that have been provided by other organizations. In fact, they actually promote this as a benefit.

They say this improves the validity of their courses and shows that they have no bias towards the actual courses that they are selling.

They are merely partners of the organizations that put together the courses rather than actually writing the courses themselves, are you with me?

How does ISQI work with the ISTQB?

The ISQI work with 14 different ISTQB boards around the world. This covers up to 33 different countries.

They also have over 5000 different physical venues where they provide testing examination facilities.

For example, if you would prefer to do an ISTQB Foundation level certification. And, you want to do it online, you can go to one of their test centers.

These test centers will provide a controlled environment to make sure that there is no cheating and also to improve a standard test for every participant.

At these centers, an individual will take the ISTQB course on the ISQI venue. This is how they partner up with organizations like ISTQB.

ISQI have a number of different categories of Interest. Not only software testing. In fact, they refer to these different categories as “Special Interest Groups (SIGs)”.

An example of these categories/SIGS include:

  • Project Management
  • Mobile Apps
  • Agile
  • Test Data Management
  • and more.

So what types of qualifications do ISQI offer?

They offer many different courses, across many different categories/SIGS. As discussed earlier in this article, this can be from project management to mobile app testing. But, for your benefit I’ll give you an example of a few of the courses that they have in software testing:

Istqb certified tester – Model-Based Testing

This is more of an advanced level course which is aimed at extending some of these standard practices that are covered in the ISTQB foundation level (Click Here to see the benefits of the ISTQB certification ) such as equivalence partitioning, boundary value analysis, and decision tables.

Ideally, you should have the foundation level before you move onto this course.

Certified tester Foundation level

This is the bread-and-butter entry-level Foundation level certification (CFTL) which I have discussed on this site in many different articles. This is one of the most popular and recognized certifications in software testing across the world.

Certified tester advanced level test manager

This course is also based at an advanced level. To even qualify for this you need to have done the foundation level certification.

However, in addition to this, you need to have at least a minimum of 18 months of real-world testing experience in the industry to be considered for this course.

It covers all areas of software test management, planning, validation, estimation and a number of core competencies that are required to be a test manager.

This is a good one to have on your CV. But, also remember that nothing beats experience. So, while this is great on the CV, most employers will always be looking for your years of experience as a test manager rather than a certification to prove you know what to do.

As I have been in the software testing industry for nearly 20 years now, I speak from experience of actually doing a test management role. And I have seen exactly what requirements that companies are looking for.

Related Questions:

Can I take the ISTQB exam online? Yes, you can. But, you can’t just log onto a website and do it on your mobile or in your home. You need to go to an approved test center.

This is to ensure the quality of the exam is upheld. And, to make sure that no cheating is done. Also, keep the circumstances standard for every participant.

The chances are you can find one of these test centers local to you. This is because they have over 5000 test centers around the world.

Does the ISTQB certification expire? No, it doesn’t expire. Once you have done the certification it is yours for life. Funnily enough, I remember being asked this in a recent contract within the last few years.

After looking into it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it does not have an expiry date. Simply because at that time I had the qualification for nearly 10 years and was worried I missed an expiration period 😉

However, there are some testing certifications such as the CSTP, which do have an expiry date. For example, this one will expire after 3 years.

After these 3 years, unfortunately, you need to re-sit the exam to prove the validity of your certification. This is to ensure that you are up-to-date on all of the latest syllabus updates and changes in the industry.

So, fortunately, this is not required for the ISTQB Foundation level exam.

Is there any negative marking in the ISTQB exam? No, there is no negative marking actually. It is a simple multiple choice marking system. Just to clarify, I do not mean the exam is simple. Its complexity is subjective to each individuals skills, experience, etc.

In total there is forty multiple choice question. You need a score of 65% or more to pass the test. The exam typically takes an hour. But is extended for countries such as Canada that may have English as their second language (They also speak French there).

How do I become a software tester without a degree? You can get in with work experience and a qualification such as an ISTQB CTFL.

In all honesty, most employers will be looking for graduates with an IT related degree. Also, ideally they look for high degree passing grade (in the UK 2:1 or above).

However, this is not always necessary. If you have managed to get experience doing the actual job, that will be much more favored than just a degree.

But how can I have experience without getting the qualifications first? I know it sounds like a catch-22 (no way to win). But I have personally worked with people, that have gone from entry level testers to test management positions with 5 years, without any prior testing experience.

Also worked with people who have had no experience or degree and still doing well in testing. The key is taking a different angle into the position. Maybe you start as a call centre rep, then move to IT support, then into testing, are you with me?

System knowledge in a company is highly valued. Once you establish yourself there for a few years you have experience as a tester and can move onto more lucrative testing positions.

11 Advantages of the ISTQB certification

When you are starting out in testing, you may get bogged down wondering which certification you need. But is the ISTQB certification the right one? Well, let me explain…

What are the advantages of the ISTQB certification? You have an Internationally recognized, industry standard that can get your foot in the door for a lucrative job or contract position. It could be the difference between getting considered by a recruiter or rejected.

If you have spent any time sifting through the job sights, you will probably see a pattern. Many recruiters asking for a list of skills and certifications to even stand a chance for you to get your foot in the door.  Now that you know at a high level the benefits of the ISTQB certification, let’s look at 11 advantages of the ISTQB now to give you a broader scope.:

01. International recognition

One of the beauties of the ISTQB is the fact that it is it’s not restricted to use in your local country but it is internationally recognized.

So, if there is a need for you to go overseas and work, work for an international client or even if you need to emigrate, you’ve got an internationally recognized certification.

02. A keyword on your CV

As we know, recruiters are not always that knowledgeable about every single term for each job role, therefore they heavily rely on searching and scanning CVs for keywords.

Whether you like it or not, without the keyword on your CV and a certificate to back it up you could be rejected from and miss out on a valuable job or contract role.

So, having the ISTQB could be the big tick in the box that could be the difference between you not having a job and watching re-runs of Friends at home on Netflix, or getting a high flying testing job to be proud of.

03. A Tool to Hook in a Client (As an Employer)

If you are trying to snag an important client this certification could make or break the deal. Think of it this way: If you run a consultancy and your potential client, which could be worth millions by the way,  is inundated with proposals from rival bidders.

If your rival consultancy had a team of testers with ISTQB certifications and yours doesn’t, all being equal apart from this, it could be the determining factor that could cost you a lucrative contract.

04. Staff loyalty (As an Employer)

I remember when I passed my ISTQB certification. I was working as a permanent employee and they offered this to me as a perk of the role.

This was quite good because it kept me in the company for longer than I planned to. It also kept me motivated because I was proud that they invested in my career.

As an employer, keeping employees motivated and feeling valued is an important part of retention (keeping them from not leaving). Therefore, this certification could help you keep hold of some of your valuable staff.

05. Standardized terminology (As an Employer)

As an employer, if you are looking to recruit employees it can be difficult unless you are very skilled in that particular job role. It can be hard to understand your perspective employee really has the right skills. Especially if they are creative with their CV 😉

Therefore you can use the ISTQB to get an understanding of some standard terminology. It can help you understand if that person knows what they’re talking about by having access to standardized terminology that can be checked against a recognized curriculum.

06. Improving quality control (As an employer)

This follows on from my point above. The ISTQB will help enforce Quality control by making sure that your employees have a standardized approach to testing, rather than off-the-cuff.

07. Measurable performance targets (As an employer)

If you have performance reviews looming and you want to have a measurable and quantifiable way of checking individual employees performance, getting them to pass a certification, such as the ISTQB, is a great way to do this.

08. General satisfaction

At the time of writing, in my current contract testing role, I am working with graduates who have recently joined the testing industry. It’s great because it reminds me of when I first got started decades ago.

Seeing their face as they find out that they have passed their ISTQB certification just reminds me of how satisfying it can be to feel. I can see that feel validated, making them feel worth something and that they have got something to show for their efforts. For that reason, just the sheer satisfaction of having it, is worth considering it, are you with me?

09. No minimum or expert level expertise required

This benefit could be seen in two ways. Negatively, you could argue with no barriers to entry it opens the Floodgates for anyone off the street and boosts competition.

Or, on a positive note, in my opinion, it levels the playing field allowing anyone to progress. Increases the good people moving into the testing industry and improves the standards.

10. Demonstrates the Individuals Skill Level (Mastery)

Although there are people that may argue that experience outweighs any certificate. I feel it is still important to prove that you have a benchmarkable skill.

And, the only way of proving this, especially in the absence of experience is to have a standardized certification. It is a great benefit, right?

11. Send The Right message to the interviewer

If you are successful, break through the recruiters initial filtering and get selected for an interview in a test role. Having the ISTQB on your CV is a great way to make a good impression, let me explain.

Just having this certification will prove that you were willing to put in the effort to actually do the exam and study. Especially if your competitor does not have this. In fact, this could be the deciding factor.

12. Good Price, in Comparison to other certifications

As you may or may not know there are a number of different testing certification in this industry. One thing that I like in particular but the ISTQB is the price.

If you are not fortunate enough to have your employer picking up the tab for the course, then this is a great way for you to be able to cover the costs if you’re on a tight budget.

Related questions:

Is there a Selenium ISTQB certification? There is an advanced level automation certification, however, this is not solely focused on selenium’ and is more for advanced level professionals who have had experience before they can actually sit the exam. However, there is a certification offered by SIQI which does this.

Is it better to do a 2-day intensive course or self-study then do the exam? Personally, I don the intensive course. However, I was fortunate to get my course fee paid for by a blue-chip company with deep pockets. The question is if I had to do it today, without the company paying, what would I do?

In all honesty, I would be inclined to get some sample papers (click here for some ISTQB study papers), and self- study. This would help me reduce the cost and do it following my own pace.

Can you take the test again if you fail? Yes, there is no real limits. The only limit is your budget. I would say though, if you study carefully and really put in the work you should stand a good chance of passing. Worse case the second time around. But be mindful everyone has different skill levels so it is impossible to say for everyone.

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