June 28, 2019

Quick Guide on Exploratory Testing

This article is a comprehensive guide to understand Exploratory Testing, its features, benefits, and business implementation.

Cem Kaner coined the term Exploratory Testing in 1988 based on exploratory data analysis. It is a testing process which includes a series of activities based on exploration to test an application. The prime goal of exploratory testing is to inspect and find defects in the software application.

This process of testing software gives complete freedom to the tester to set guidelines and process to test the software.

This is a creative form of testing where a tester’s competency, skills, and comprehension is used to explore the software. It is a continuous process which uncovers defects.

Let’s take an example to understand exploratory testing. An e-commerce portal is under development and the final rounds of testing are going on. There is a new payment option “e-wallet” added into the payment section of the portal.

The test manager has a high-level plan to perform exploratory testing. He asks a tester who has thoroughly tested the payment gateway earlier to perform exploratory testing on the new payment option. The tester from his previous experience of what could possibly go wrong in the payment option, test the new e-wallet option thoroughly.

The tester records his testing session through a screen capture tool. He reports a bug with a video screen capture of the bug to the developer. The developer is able to reproduce the bug with the help of the video with voice over attached in the bug reported.

Here we cover three critical aspects of exploratory testing first there is a high-level plan to perform the testing and to be able to track what should be covered in the tests. Secondly, the tester uses his own competency and past experience to test the application as per his own knowledge of the software under test. Thirdly, a tool was used for effectively performing exploratory testing.

What are the benefits of exploratory testing? 

Here are the benefits of performing exploratory testing:

Quick Testing

Exploratory testing works well when you have a time crunch which stops you from writing detailed test cases to define the testing process. You can start exploring the software and provide feedback quickly.

Rapid feedback 

The exploratory testing process helps in getting quick feedback from stakeholders as well even before the application is released. Explorers can deal with any critical situation as they have in-depth knowledge of software gained through previous iterations of testing. Exploratory testing helps to refine the functionality and enhances the overall software reliability. It reduces the risk of leaving any critical defects at the last point of software release.

Supports Agile 

It blends well with agile methodology and DevOps. It can sustain changes in requirements and provide quick feedback. It also saves time by creating test design and procedure in parallel.

How to perform Exploratory Testing?

Before starting with exploratory testing, there are vital points to remember:

  • Validating software stability by preparing test scenarios
  • Testing software based on identified requirements
  • Finding the requirements and functionality of the software
  • Working on limitations of the software
  • Identifying the scope of the project

Exploratory testing can be performed in five stages:

1- Classification of bugs
  • It includes grouping the standard type of bugs as done in the previous projects.
  • Searching the root cause of the problem or issue.
  • Finding new ideas to check the application with risk analysis.
2- Creating a test charter 

Test charter is a statement document of exploratory testing which defines the goal of the test session.

It explains three vital points:

  • What to test
  • How to test
  • What factors should be considered

The charter also describes the starting point of testing and defines how the end user will use the system.

3- Creating a time box 

A time box is a time frame which sets the time limit of the testing session. It has a start date and time with end date and time.

  • The method includes testers to be working together for e.g., 90 minutes.
  • Nobody should interrupt them in those 90 minutes session.

The idea behind keeping the time box is to keep tester work to a decided timeline.

4- Results 
  • It involves finding and reporting defects
  • Analysis and learning from testing
  • Analysis of coverage areas
5- Examining results
  • It works on compiling the output results
  • Evaluating results with the charter
  • Checking any need of any additional testing
  • Analyze results before taking decisions related to quality and risk

The main challenge while performing exploratory testing is to ensure complete test coverage, the testers and developers should have the ability to reproduce defects found during testing, and the testing team should have a mechanism to follow up on the bugs reported.

Using appropriate tools at each stage of testing such as planning, reporting bugs and execution would accelerate results by saving time and capturing the precise information to improve the testing process.

The best approach to perform exploratory testing is using a bug reporting tool with screen capture capabilities to document the bugs found while testing.

ReQtest Capture is a screen capture tool which helps testers in performing exploratory testing. A tester can record their testing session and report the bugs in a visual context. A tester can capture videos with voice over of bugs and images to document bugs found during exploratory testing. This helps in avoiding any need for additional explanation. The test manager or the developer fixing the bug will be able to easily reproduce the bug found during exploratory testing.

Capture allows you to seamlessly upload your screen captures to ReQtest which is a test management tool with Requirements Management and Bug Tracking capabilities.

For instance, you’ve found a bug at the login page of the application software. With Capture, you can take a screenshot of the page or a particular section. You can add your comments and create a bug report in ReQtest with screenshot attachment. You can easily add voice over, images or even videos to report the instance as an error or a requirement.

The right approach to exploratory testing

There are three different approaches to perform and evaluate any software using exploratory Testing.

1. Scenario-based Exploratory Testing

This type of exploratory testing is based on a particular scenario or functionality which is tested. A tester can explore and find defects for different structures and situations using this technique. The tester can come up with a different test scenario to cover various situations.

2. Strategy Based Exploratory Testing

The strategy based testing is defined by various other factors such as risk evaluation, equivalence technique, and boundary value technique. The tester implements multiple procedures to check and improve the efficiency of the application under test.

3. Freestyle Exploratory Testing

As the name suggests this type of testing that doesn’t have a defined structure. It is implemented when the tester has to perform smoke testing. It lacks approach, a scenario like other forms of testing. A tester has to explore the entire website or application to find defects without any structured plan.

Exploratory testing and its business implementation 

The exploratory testing approach is unique and discovers new things about the project. It starts with simply logging in the system and exploring it.

  • The planning phase involves defining the scope, goal, and the approach of the testing process.
  • A high level test plan is designed together with test execution with reports created on bugs found in the Testing.
  • It offers flexibility and adapts to changes quickly, which makes it worth using for agile.
  • Testers offer the best course of action based on their knowledge and skills.
  • It also allows you to record experiments which can be converted into test scripts which can reinforce the conventional testing process.
  • You can use a tool to annotate and create bug reports.


Exploratory testing uses skills and a context-driven approach towards testing and uses human expertise to find issues and highly critical bugs in the software. You can ensure high-quality software is released in the market using exploratory testing.

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