Exploratory Testing Charters

Exploratory Testing Charters
Photo by Andrew Neel / Unsplash

An exploratory testing charter is a mission statement for your testing. It helps provide structure and guidance so that you can focus your work and record what you find in a constructive way.

How to Write an Exploratory Charter

My favorite way to structure exploratory testing charters is to base them on “A simple charter template” from Elisabeth Hendrickson’s awesome book Explore It!, Chapter 2, page 67 of 502 (ebook).

Explore (target) With (resources) To discover (information)

  • Target: What are you exploring? It could be a feature, a requirement, or a module.
  • Resources: What resources will you bring with you? Resources can be anything: a tool, a data set, a technique, a configuration, or perhaps an interdependent feature.
  • Information: What kind of information are you hoping to find? Are you characterizing the security, performance, reliability, capability, usability or some other aspect of the system? Are you looking for consistency of design or violations of a standard?

Examples of Charters

While this is my favorite way to structure exploratory testing charters (I think its a really straightforward template) it isn’t the only way. As a way to learn I’ve complied a list of example charters you can look at that can be found on my Guides Page.

A few examples include:

  • Explore input fields with JavaScript and SQL injection attacks to discover security vulnerabilities.
  • Check the UI against Apple interface guidelines.
  • Identify and test all claims in the marketing materials.

You can see some use the template and some don’t.

How do charters relate to Session Based Testing or Session Based Test Management?

Exploring can be an open-ended endeavor which is both good and bad. To help guide those explorations you can organize your effort with charters and then time-box those charters into “sessions”. You can use sessions to measure and report on the testing you do without interrupting your workflow; this is called Session Based Test Management.

You can use exploratory charters without using Session Based Test Management. I’ve seen many examples of people using Charters in JIRA stories as part of the testing criteria for sign off for testers, developers and product managers.

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Jamie Larson