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Exploratory vs Adhoc Testing | Definition and Usage QA / Software Testing

Sep 12, 2020 SA Blog Team

Exploratory vs Adhoc Testing | Definition and Usage

Exploratory and Adhoc, do we need both?

We have all seen articles recommending explorative (exploratory) testing as a way to spot bugs faster and earlier in the development process. You may also have wondered if that is really the case. On the surface, ad-hoc testing offers many of the same benefits as exploratory testing. However, there is a small difference between exploratory and ad-hoc testing by definition. And knowing the difference would save you from potential miscommunication. Let’s compare.

Difference between the two.

We are not going to address monkey testing today. But according to qatestLab and similar sources, the difference is only the steps taken to get familiarized with the software before testing. "Ad Hoc Testing implies learning of the software before its testing. During Exploratory Testing, you learn and test the software simultaneously."

Ad-hoc testing is an informal, free-form method of software testing, which you can perform without profound knowledge of test subject that offers the possibility of unearthing critical bugs missed by automated or regression testing.

In another words, it is far from structured. Therefore, it doesn’t have any rules, goals, documented plan or target, so the efficiency of such kind of testing really depends on the experience level of the tester. It can be missed that without any specifications, ad hoc testing is difficult to manage and often inherent lack of documentation means that any discovered bugs will be difficult to reproduce as well.

Exploratory testing, on the other hand, offers the freedom of ad hoc testing with more advantages from somewhat formal testing. While leaving the room for tester to think creatively and critically when executing their test, it is mandatory to create documentation of test cases and have a set of goals. It is a kind of testing in which the tester thoroughly asks the questions about what the product can do and how to sort out appropriate testing.

Because of that, it is structured enough to provide reliable results and it can effectively locate new difficulties in test cases.

Explorative testing is not that easy.

As previously mentioned, both ad-hoc and exploratory testing are experience based test methods that takes experience and intuition. If one has no testing expertise with the correct know how, he wouldn’t be able to test exploratively. In addition, what becomes crucial here is test case creation. Since the tester would learn as he goes about and explore, test case creation and documentation require skills ultimately to create proper and maybe better test cases that can be reused.

In interested, please also read about blackbox testing which shares one big factor with exploratory testing - in a sense it doesn't require profound knowledge of the product but still formal with the use of test cases and meticulous planning. At shift asia, we mostly service blackbox testing to verify a software's quality from a 3rd party point of view.

When do we use Exploratory and Adhoc Testing?

Ad-hoc testing sounds impromptu, it is, but there is a use for it. For simple functions like registration and login, it is better to use ad-hoc testing as you don’t want to waste your time documenting and creating thought-through test cases.

Exploratory testing can be useful for more complex functions, as it is more reliable and it can be later assigned to junior testers as they are able to execute the same test cases after completed once. In addition, I would like to note that exploratory Testing is an important activity in an agile environment as it can help software testers to keep up with the rapid development pace of agile software projects. as often the characteristics are defined as simultaneous learning, test design and test execution.


As you see, the difference is very small, but it is relevant and sets the expectation of how it should be managed and what the outcome should look like. Most important thing to note is both exploratory and ad-hoc testing should only be executed by the appropriate testers, because if a wrong person executes it, it is nearly possible that the tests would be effective and errors will be found.

I hope this article helps and prepared you to have a discussion in your team before deploying those techniques.

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Exploratory vs Adhoc Testing | Definition and Usage

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