What Is Exploratory Testing? Four Simple Words To Level Up Your Testing Efforts

What Is Exploratory Testing? Four Simple Words To Level Up Your Testing Efforts

Simon Tomes shares what exploratory testing is and how it can help level up your testing efforts

By Simon Tomes

Good exploratory testing requires good note-taking skills. It looks good and I found this bug might be enough. But what are you missing out on by not taking notes to support your summary? What information have you left undiscovered? What did you observe that you didn’t document? What haven't you shared?

Notes trigger more test ideas. The act of writing engages a creative part of our exploration. When lost in a test your notes remind you to come back to that idea you just had. It’s also impossible to remember and recall every detail of an exploratory testing session, particularly when sharing your discoveries at a later date.

Capturing notes won’t interrupt the flow of your testing activity. In fact, it improves flow and adds good structure to the process. There are tools to help: you could use a physical notepad, a digital notepad, a word processor, a mind mapping tool or a dedicated note-taking tool for exploratory testing. Regardless of your note-taking tool these four simple words will keep your notes organised:

  • Problems

  • Questions

  • Ideas

  • Praise

Use Problems, Questions, Ideas and Praise (PQIP) to categorise your discoveries. With the PQIP method you get to call out your own ideas, ask questions and share compliments with your team – as well as document things you think are problems. It's a far cry from the try to break it and raise bugs testing ideology!‍

For example, imagine you’re exploring a print dialogue to discover information about the configured print destination. Your notes might look like this:

Exploratory testing notes

In this example the actual words for PQIP aren't used. The iconography draws attention and makes use of different colours. If iconography isn't to your liking you could easily use a hashtag or write the relevant PQIP label e.g. "Problem". Either way, organise and draw attention to your exploratory testing notes with PQIP labelling.

💡 Try this

  1. Grab a physical notepad and pen or open up an application that allows you to type notes, such as Google Docs, Word or Evernote.

  2. Pick something to test. Maybe the latest deploy includes a story that needs your attention. 

  3. Set a timer for 30 minutes.

  4. Start exploring! 

  5. Document in real-time what you’re thinking and observing.

  6. Try to categorise each note as either a problem, question, idea or praise. Don't worry if they don’t fall into one of those categories, just leave the categorisation blank.

  7. Stop exploring at 30 minutes.

  8. Read back your notes. What was it like to categorise your notes using PQIP? What surprised you? What test ideas did you trigger? What sort of testing story have you described? How comfortable would you feel walking someone through your notes?

PQIP Diagram

Contribute more!

Give yourself permission to discover more than just bugs! Your exploration notes will trigger ideas and questions. And of course you’ll find things which are equally important to call out with positivity. Give your exploratory testing activities the attention it deserves. Use problems, questions, ideas and praise to level up your exploratory testing efforts.

Simon Tomes's profile
Simon Tomes

Community Team

Simon works in the community team at Ministry of Testing and his pronouns are he/him. Currently learning to be a better community enabler, he has a passion for all things testing with a career in various testing roles since 2003. He particularly enjoys promoting and sharing the value of exploratory testing.

Websites To Practice Testing
Great Test Automation Does Not Absolve You from Manual/Exploratory Testing - Marit van Dijk
The Awesome Power Of The Debrief: Why Debriefing Is The Key To Successful Exploratory Testing
Exploratory Testing: Making Use of Micro-heuristics
A Really Useful List For Exploratory Testers
99 Second Talks - TestBash Manchester 2018
Normal, Mean, and Deviant: Basic Statistics for Testing - Amber Race
What Is Exploratory Testing? An Alternative To Scripted Testing And Try To Break It Testing
The Surprising Benefits of Exploring Other Disciplines and Industries - Conor Fitzgerald
With a combination of SAST, SCA, and QA, we help developers identify vulnerabilities in applications and remediate them rapidly. Get your free trial today!
Explore MoT
TestBash Brighton 2024
Thu, 12 Sep 2024, 9:00 AM
We’re shaking things up and bringing TestBash back to Brighton on September 12th and 13th, 2024.
Cognitive Biases In Software Testing
Learn how to recognise cognitive biases, explain what they are and use them to your advantage in your testing