Exploratory testing is a new way of thinking: Automation has its limits.

QA Talks Community
5 min readJul 15, 2021


Though the current trend in software testing is to push for automation, we all see automation as the best form of testing but taking a clear look at exploratory testing, I think you should give it a go if you have not started already.

Exploratory testing is a type of testing where test cases are not created in advance, but testers check the system on the fly. They may note down ideas about what to test before test execution. The focus of exploratory testing is more on testing as a “thinking” activity.

It focuses on the discovery and relies on the guidance of the individual tester to uncover defects that are not easily covered in the scope of other tests.

Wikipedia defined Exploratory testing as an approach to software testing that is concisely described as simultaneous learning, test design, and test execution. Cem Kaner, who coined the term in 1984, defines exploratory testing as “a style of software testing that emphasizes the personal freedom and responsibility of the individual tester to continually optimize the quality of his/her work by treating test-related learning, test design, test execution, and test result interpretation as mutually supportive activities that run in parallel throughout the project.

Exploratory testing can be applied at any stage in the development process. As a tester, you should be creative and able to invent test cases and find defects. The tester is allowed to think outside the box having in mind all about the product and what it entails.

Exploratory testing is carried out without a test plan, as opposed to scenario testing, it requires to simultaneously manage several testing activities: the product discovery, the understanding of its functioning, and setting up a testing strategy. Testers thus combine all these testing activities to carry out relevant testing cases that have not been previously considered. It is more of a mindset than a methodology.

EXPLORE — in exploratory testing

The EX — stands for experience: It involves an Investigation process that helps find more bugs than normal testing using bugs hunting experience.

The P stands for Preparation: even when it is called freestyle testing there is a need for careful planning to avoid just testing without a goal in mind.

The L stands for Learning Simultaneously… as you design you execute all at the same time.

The O — Outside the box: once you have the details of the product, you are free to create test cases without a script, hunt bugs, and create our test plan.

The R stands for re-evaluating your test design with all the freedom we can think of until we achieve our aim.

The E stands for Execute your test cases and logs your bug report.

Best Exploratory Practices

1. Prepare the Test.

Doing exploratory testing does not mean testing without control or randomly. It is a structured approach that requires thorough preparation.

· Classify the bugs.

· Present the products and the requirements.

· Set a time for the test.

· Define the testing scope.

2. Exhaustive testing is not allowed: Do not try to test everything:

The aim of exploratory testing is not the range of the tests done. It is good practice to not try to test everything but to test according to the campaign’s requirements.

3. Create a complete bug report:

A report that explains all the incidents encountered during the testing. In the case of exploratory testing, the creation of a bug report can be challenging. Testers must pay special attention to communication to explain in a complete and detailed manner the idea behind the tests done, the steps taken, the conditions in which the tests were carried out, the covered areas, the results, and the evaluation of defaults.

4. Debrief:

Drawing from the bug report and from the testers’ individual feedbacks, debriefing will help decide if additional testing is required.

5. Be Ready and Resourceful:

This test stresses the tester’s individual freedom as well as engagement and responsibility and so it is necessary that the tester has a good bug hunting experience and keen sense of observation and be able to create test cases using experience.

Benefits and Challenges of Exploratory Testing

The main advantage of exploratory testing is that less preparation is needed, important bugs are found quickly, and at execution time, the approach tends to be more intellectually stimulating than the execution of scripted tests. This testing is useful when required documents are not available or partially available.

Another major benefit is that testers can use deductive reasoning based on the results of previous results to guide their future testing on the fly. They do not have to complete a current series of scripted tests before focusing on or moving on to exploring a more target-rich environment. This also accelerates bug detection when used intelligently.

It Uncovers bugs that are normally ignored by other testing techniques. Helps to expand the imagination of testers by executing more and more test cases which finally improves productivity as well.

Challenges of Exploratory Testing

Tests invented and performed on the fly cannot be reviewed in advance (and by that prevent errors in code and test cases), and that it can be difficult to show exactly which tests have been run.

Learning to use the application or software system is a challenge and replication of failure is difficult.

Reporting of the test results is a challenge as the report does not have planned scripts or cases to compare with the actual result or outcome.

Documentation of all events during execution is difficult to record. Conclusion:

In Software Engineering, Exploratory testing is performed to overcome the limitations of scripted testing. It helps in improving Test Case suite. It empathizes on learning and adaptability.

References: Wikipedia and guru99.


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