Why phrase “pass the QA” makes me cringe

Today I heard someone say “pass the QA” and in this post I will share why I believe that we should cross out this phrase from all dictionaries where it is included because it is just wrong use of definitions.

Let’s break this phrase into two parts: QA and pass.

What is QA?
I am talking here in a sense of quality assurance. Okay, that sounds clear, however, what is quality assurance?

A lot of people mix up QA and testing on a daily basis. There have been various discussions about it and I mostly lean towards the point of Michael Bolton in his post Testers: Get Out of the Quality Assurance Business. It was an eye opener blog post for me: my first job as a tester even had it in the title “Software Quality Assurance Analyst”. Later on, I turned into QA Engineer. However, I am a tester.

Michael Bolton in that blog post gives so many valid points, it’s like a gold mine. It is one of my favorite ever posts about testing. It basically stresses that as a tester you cannot really assure quality. You just inspect it and help to improve it. You test.

QA is not a person or the department of certain type of professionals. It is a task of everyone in the company to work towards assuring quality. Tester may play a huge part in it, but the actual “action” assurers of quality usually are programmers because they actually are making changes to the quality level. And, let’s not forget the main part:

Assuring quality is an ongoing task/goal of the company.

What does it mean to pass?

In testing passing the test means that the test has passed based on its acceptance criteria.

Test may be built from multiple specific test cases or lead by charters. However, the defined acceptance criteria should be clear.

Passing of tests could be related to the common question in testing: how much is it enough to test? Sometimes the answer is not that obvious. There may be various scenarios, explorations to be made and a common standard should be discussed with product management team on what are the requirements and if edge cases should be addressed for the initial release/iteration.

Why don’t I like the phrase “pass the QA”?

After explaining both parts of this phrase, I can say that for me saying “pass the quality assurance” makes almost no sense.

Quality assuring is an ongoing task, so it is never going to end. You cannot pass the quality assurance as it is, but you can pass the test.

I do understand the intent of this phrase and why it was used: it was meant to say that testing will be completed with no show-stopper issues and will pass the acceptance criteria.

Let’s not underestimate the power of wording. Saying “pass the QA” can definitely be misleading. However, sad news are that this term is quite popular to describe the teams of testers. In this case, let’s spread the awareness of the differences between QA and testing – we all are doing QA in the company, but only testers do testing as their full time job (programmers do a fair deal of testing as well, but it is not their main responsibility usually).

 

 

 

Learnings from “Explore It!” by Elisabeth Hendrickson

Exploratory testing is mentioned quite often in the testing world and I believe that the best book to start learning about it is Explore It! Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing by Elisabeth Hendrickson.

This book is pretty short (186 pages), written in a wonderfully smooth and easy to read style, and, it is full of practical tips and tricks for testers. I felt that a lot of things I’ve read in the book I always wanted to express myself, but never found the right words.

Elisabeth starts with foundations about exploring and why it is important. What I liked a lot in the first part of the book was the definition of testing which allowed me to finally know how to clearly answer what’s the difference between testing and checking:

Testing = Checking + Exploring

You’re not done testing until you’ve checked that the software meets expextations and you’ve explored whether there are additional risks.

Very often some colleagues may not understand that testing is more than checking the requirements – there are many silent risks which may cause problems and to find them we need to explore. I also loved Elisabeth’s example of a net: you can imagine software covered in a net and the better coverage there is of the checks, the finer the weave is. However, checks may not cover some spots, so we must explore to find areas where we should improve the net weave.

After some foundations, this book provides many practical tips on how to explore. It teaches you how not to get overwhelmed with the areas to explore, how to create charters and lists many helpful methods for exploration. They are explained in a clear manner and their summary is added in an Appendix 2 of the book. You may have heard of same author’s Test Heuristics Cheat Sheet which is pretty similar to the one in the book.

One more thing that I found especially useful and right on point was the last part of the book called “Putting It in Context”. Not only does it have a lot of useful information on testing itself, but also Elisabeth includes several valuable tips on the communication part of the tester’s job (and.. I love this topic!).

What struck me the most was that very often testers end up “creating” new requirements which may cause some tension in a team. This is very common in a life of a tester as the more you use the product – the more areas you uncover and some of them may not have their requirements specified. In this situation, programmers may get a bit hurt that the tester is coming up with never mentioned scenarios. Here Elisabeth gives a great tip for testers: try to get into requirements meetings. Testers must be present when the requirements are being created together with a programmer and a product manager. In this way, risks can be discussed and clarified together avoiding silent requirements popping up in the late stages of the product which may expand the scope. And, Elisabeth gives a brilliant tip on how to get into those meetings:

Bring cookies. The other people involved are less likely to kick you out of the meeting if you come bearing chocolate.

In conclusion, “Explore It!” was a pleasure to read. It is a very helpful book on how to express yourself better and how to do that sometimes overwhelming job of a tester more systematically. I feel like I have gained confidence as a tester after reading this great book. Nevertheless, I recommended it to some of my non-tester colleagues as I am sure that it gives a good and easy to understand insight to testing.