Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What makes a Good tester?

Everyone can easily say a good tester from a not as good one. A good tester finds more quality defects. But what makes one to be good tester? What is the difference that helps identifying important sound bugs faster?

First is technique. A good tester knows what the weak points about the application are. If it accepts a text for the input and produces a tagged text as the output, then most likely the issues will start popping up if you feed it a large volume of text. If it ate it successfully then change the text to something developer would not expect for the input. This is a sort of destructive thinking that helped my son breaking seemingly unbreakable toys when he was from 3 to 5. Thinking in categories "what else people usually omit?" helps finding more defects faster.

Second difference is the feeling of urgency. A good tester will explore entire functionality of the application rather than focusing on a small part of it. In result, the number of defects and the severity of defects is usually higher than quantity and quality of defects produced by testers bogged down into details of a specific dialogue. Likewise, a tester who focused on functionality will produce more quality issues than a person who is too deep into UI testing. Small issues reported early in the testing when application is full or crashes may make developers and project manager go mad. You are very likely to hear: "What are you thinking about?" So, better start from beginning and focus on how system works. Of course they may be exceptions. For example, it may be not reasonable to test a part of functionality and get back to it later. Anyway, if it does not cost too much I would rather recommend focusing on what matters now.

Third difference is level of expertise. A good tester can quickly imagine in which way a new functionality can affect the existing one. Knowledge about system functional and structural dependencies can help finding integration issues. Such issues usually have heavy consequence, so they are rated as critical.

Forth difference is seeing it all as a whole. A good tester always finds out how the functionality is supposed to be used and tries it on realistic tasks. There is no need to remind what use case or end-to-end testing is. This is all natural for a highly skilled testing professional to think of what real user is supposed to do with a system. It also helps finding usability issues. Recommendations on how to make system better are always welcome!

I wish all testers around would be good ones. Hopefully this article will help some of the readers to become one :)


  1. Quite a good starting point. I am to interview some wannabe testers for the first time, and until now i couldn't quite pin-point good testing qualities. Thanks a lot :)

  2. It is interesting and it would be more interesting if this blog covers many more differences rather just 4 points

  3. Good Post. Understanding the thought process of a person in a certain scenario is the key to identifying a good tester.

  4. Thanks everyone! I agree that we can keep naming qualities that can distinct a brilliant tester from just a good one... But it was not my intention to be exhaustive. I just wanted to focus on what is most crucial about testing with finla goal to wake up some on junior testers to look at what they do from the higher perspective.