Test Execution: Everything You Need To Know

Test execution is the process of performing test cases to identify bugs, errors, and other potential issues your software could have. This article will show you how make yours successful.


Lack of time or resources can lead software developers to skimp on deep or complex testing. However, effective test execution is the only way to be sure that a product is reliable enough to be released to market or if there are bugs that need fixing.  
This post will explore precisely what test execution is, why it's so important, and how you can use the results to improve both your testing process and the software itself.

What is test execution?

Test execution involves carrying out a set of specifically designed tests on a software product to verify that it meets all of its pre-defined specifications and functionality. The tests are performed according to a test plan, which breaks the whole activity into separate modules and/or requirements, with detailed test cases for each.


Steps for test execution in the QA-specific testing environment

1. Completion of the planning stage

  • Ensure that the planning stage of the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) is complete.
  • Verify that all entry conditions are met before starting test execution.

2. Begin test execution

  • Start executing tests in the QA-specific testing environment.

3. Documenting results

  • As tests are executed, document the results in detail.
  • Check whether the actual results match the expected outcomes for each test case.

4. Logging defects and bugs

  • Log any defects or bugs encountered during test execution.
  • Provide detailed information to aid in the debugging process.

5. Reporting defects

6. Retesting fixes

  • Once fixes are implemented, retest the affected areas to verify that the defects have been resolved.
  • Ensure that the retests confirm the fixes without introducing new issues.

7. Tracking defects to closure

  • Track each defect until it is resolved and closed.
  • Ensure all defects are properly addressed and closed out in the defect tracking system.

8. Test execution methods

  • Execute tests manually or use test automation tools as required.
  • Optionally, use a test management tool like Jira to facilitate and manage the test execution process.
  • Outsource the testing process to a specialist firm like Global App Testing, which combines remote crowdtesting and on-demand testing services.

gat-launching-test-casesWhat is a test execution strategy?

A test strategy in software testing is a set of principles that describe how the software testing process will be carried out. It determines the test design, which modules to test, and which techniques to use. It's a long-term action plan and can be used for multiple projects.
This systematic approach to the process ensures testing quality, traceability, and reliability, making planning easier.

A test strategy includes:

  • Documentation formats
  • Test processes
  • Team reporting structure and
  • Client communication strategy.

It should not be confused with the test plan, a separate document that defines the scope, objective, approach, and emphasis of a software testing effort. (However, in some smaller projects, a test strategy can be one of the sections in a test plan.)

test-execution-strategyA test strategy may be either preventative or reactive. In the preventative approach, tests are designed before software development begins. In contrast, in a reactive strategy, the test team waits until the software is received before "reacting" to the actual system under test.
Global App Testing's worldwide network takes on repetitive testing tasks so you can focus on strategy and analysis.


Why is test execution important?

Test execution is probably the most important phase of the STLC. It ensures that any problems are discovered early and determines whether the software is ready for release. If execution results do not match the expected or desired results, the product may have to go through the SDLC and STLC again.

Efficient test execution is important for generating accurate test reports, including:

  • How many bugs were found,
  • Their severity and
  • Which features or functions were impacted.

If bugs are present, the product will be returned to the development team for correction before retesting is performed.
The test execution phase also evaluates and validates everyone's efforts in software development so that all contributions and work are adequately recognized.


Ways to run tests

During the test execution phase, there are various methods for running tests. Your decision will depend on factors such as:


During each test execution, the software is placed in different scenarios, which help the team verify and validate its various aspects. By analyzing the results, you can tell whether the software is ready and if the testing process works as expected in a specific context and environment.

Manual and automated tests

One significant choice is whether to run the tests manually or use automation (or a combination of both methods). Manual test execution means that a human follows all the steps set out in the test cases. 

manual-testing-overviewIn automated testing, a tool is programmed to carry out your plan. Automation speeds up the process and shortens the release cycle. Still, manual testing allows for some deviation from the written plan if necessary. In contrast, automated tools follow it to the letter.

Test case execution records

If you want your pre-defined reports to display test results by test plan, iteration, or test environment, you can generate test case execution records before you run tests. They enable you to run the test in a specific test environment and map test planning and environment information to each test case. They can be used to run both manual and automated tests.

Run a test case

A test case is a collection of steps used to test a specific concept. It includes:

  • Preconditions (which must be satisfied before execution)
  • Steps to follow and
  • One or more postconditions.

A test run is an executable version of a test case that can be executed in multiple areas, such as different releases or sprints.

Run a test suite

A test suite is a group of related test cases, typically executed together. Test suites can include test cases with both manual and automated test scripts, as well as test cases without associated test scripts.

Within the suite, test cases may run in parallel or sequentially (where you can stop the execution of the suite if a single test case does not pass). You can also select a subset of the test suite to be executed in a particular cycle.

sequential-and-parallel-testingRunning test artifacts

Test artifacts, also known as test deliverables, are all the reports or documents created while the testing is being carried out. The most common test artifacts are:

  • Test plan
  • Test cases
  • The test suite, and
  • Bug or defect reports.

They are shared with everyone involved in the project, including the whole testing team, clients, and stakeholders.


Factors that influence test execution

Many factors affect the test execution process, including the scope and complexity of the software being tested, the flexibility of the lifecycle, and whether the project documentation covers everything the testing teams need to know before test execution begins.

The success of test execution also depends on the length of time allocated for testing, the skills of the people involved in carrying it out, and their ability to work as a team. Finally, the quality of automated tools is an important factor.

1. Code

The coding stage occurs before the test execution phase when the tests are being designed. To reduce testing costs, it's important to avoid repeating code and write the minimal amount necessary. The code should also be easy to understand, as maintenance teams spend a lot of effort reading and understanding it. Developers can create the code first or write it specifically to pass the test cases. The latter is known as test-driven development (TDD).

tdd-process2. QA environment

It's important to create a dedicated QA (Quality Assurance) environment where testing can take place so that the results won't be affected by unrelated factors in other environments like development.

The QA environment should mimic production as closely as possible, with testers using the product as consumers would. Validation of the test environment setup is always recommended (often through smoke testing) before officially starting test execution.

3. Test team

It's crucial to have a skilled and competent team of testers to deliver high-quality test results. Apart from their own skill sets, they also need to be able to work well as a team and adapt to the changing size of that team, as it's not constant from the beginning to the end of the project. Test execution is the phase when the team is at its maximum size, so scalability of resources is essential.

4. Test cycles

A test cycle is a container for tests and test suites, with test cases grouped to achieve specific test goals. Examples include regression testing, build-verification tests, and end-to-end tests. Test cycles are broader in scope than test cases, spanning multiple users and projects. They have a defined period with a start and end date, allowing you to track and compare actual results with expectations in real time.

5. Test script

Test scripts are typically line-by-line descriptions of all the actions and data needed to perform a test. They describe exactly what a user would have to do to carry out particular actions in the program. The scripts also include specific results expected for each step so you can see whether the software is performing as it should.

Test scripts must be well-written so that even inexperienced testers can follow the directions. However, scripts can limit the creativity needed for testers to discover hidden bugs.


6. Test script maintenance

The test scripts must be adapted accordingly because software products are continually updated. Test script maintenance is also required when a change to the product would cause it to fail the existing test.

Maintaining test scripts is unavoidable, but it can be time-consuming, as it cuts into time spent on actual testing. So, some companies develop a collection of reusable test scripts written to factor in a degree of change. 

Stages of test execution

1. Preparation

Specific criteria must be met before the test execution stage begins, including completing the plan and test design and preparing test management tools. A process for tracking test data and metrics must be in place, and instructions for logging and reporting defects must be available to all team members.

Preparation includes:

  • Designing test strategy
  • Defining test objectives and criteria
  • Determining test deliverables
  • Ensuring resources are in place
  • Planning and setting up the test environment
  • Providing relevant tools to testers.

2. Execution

When those elements are in place, you can execute test cases in which testers will execute the code and compare the expected and actual results. This includes marking the status of test cases (see next section) and reporting, logging, and mapping defects.

It also involves retesting to check whether the problem is resolved and regression testing to ensure those fixes haven't caused another problem.

test-case-execution3. Evaluation

Following execution (with retesting if necessary), you can check that the deliverables and exit criteria have been met—which means all planned tests have been executed, defects logged and tracked to closure, and an execution and defect summary report has been prepared.

It's crucial to evaluate the test execution process itself and the actual results. You can improve practices and tools for the next project by analyzing what went well and what didn't.  

Examples of test execution outcomes

There are several different outcomes in the test execution phase, each assigned a status. If you are carrying out manual testing, a human tester will note the status on a chart. If you are using automation, the tool will display the status for you.

gat-results-exampleThe results are communicated through daily or weekly reports, establishing transparency for the QA team's daily activities during each test cycle. This includes both defect information and test case run information.

Here are the main examples of test execution outcomes:


If the test result matches the pre-defined expectations, the software is considered to have passed the test. There are few or no defects to report, and you can move on to the next stage of the STLC. The test case pass rate gives you a good indication of the quality of the product being tested.


If the expected result is unmet, the test execution status is "failed," and the defect or bug must be reported to the developers. Once the bug is fixed, you will perform the same test later. If one of the steps in a multi-step test case does not meet its expected result, failure may be declared immediately, and the subsequent steps may not be executed.


Sometimes, the test itself may be affected by a problem, such as a network error or a mistake in the test script. If this makes it impossible to continue, the "Error" result is produced, and the issue can be investigated before resuming.


Although most tests return a pass or fail result, occasionally, the status may be given as "inconclusive." As the name suggests, it was impossible to produce a clear result, and further investigation is required.


Test execution analysis examples

The test results require careful analysis so that you can track progress against the planned schedule. By studying test completeness and success, your team can understand the quality of the overall solution. Analysis is also important because it helps you spot serious issues early on and take action.

The results of test runs can be displayed as graphs, which can be shared beyond the testing team. The evidence helps programmers keep their code defect-free and enables managers to deliver evidence-based progress to stakeholders. Global App Testing makes it easy to analyze your results by filtering, grouping, and sorting them to pinpoint problem areas.

Metrics to analyze include:

  • Tests planned (the number of tests scheduled to be executed in the iteration)
  • Tests implemented (the number of tests built and ready to be executed, manually and automatically),
  • Tests attempted, and
  • The number of passed and failed tests.

You should also review the number of blocked tests that could not be executed to the last step for some reason—either the manual tester could not execute all the steps or the automated testing tool reported a pass, which a human test analyst overruled.
You may notice the following patterns from your results:

testing-results-pattern-exampleRising slope

This is exactly what it sounds like—a graph where the line slopes upwards. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on which metric you're looking at! 
For example, a rising slope is desirable for planned, implemented, attempted, and passed tests. However, if the slope shows an increase in failed or blocked tests, this could indicate a decline in quality, failure to keep to the schedule, or problems in the test environment.

Falling slope

A falling slope shows the exact opposite. If the number of tests planned, implemented, or attempted is decreasing, there's a problem—perhaps tests are being removed from the scope of the test effort, or there are not enough resources to write and execute tests.
A decline in the number of passed tests is also a cause for concern, especially if previously passed tests are now failing. Conversely, a downward trend for failed or blocked tests is a good thing.

Flat line

While you might assume that a flat line indicates plain sailing, it's actually not so great. If new tests are not being added to the overall test effort due to a lack of resources or precise requirements, the graph for tests planned, implemented, and attempted would stay the same.

Suppose the graph for tests passed is a flat line. In that case, defects are probably not being corrected (or there could be a coincidental net zero difference in the number of passing tests). It's the same for failed and blocked tests—you want to see that number going down. A flat line means the test schedule may be failing.

Make sure your test execution is effective with GAT

Ensuring top-notch software quality is critical for a successful product launch, and our platform excels in providing precise test case execution. By delivering detailed pass/fail results for every test case, we offer a comprehensive view of your software's quality, empowering you to launch with confidence.

gat-platformStreamlined test case implementation

We recognize the importance of efficiency, so we've made it simple to launch test cases within your existing workflows. Whether you need to:

  • Convert existing test cases via GAT,
  • Create new ones, or
  • Import them from a spreadsheet; our platform enables you to launch them with just a few clicks.

Fast and accurate results

Our detailed, actionable test case results provide all the information needed to identify and resolve bugs, including operating system and device details, location, timestamp, and visual evidence of failures. A comprehensive breakdown is available in a single dashboard, ensuring multiple testers can verify functionality thoroughly.


Compatible with popular workflow tools like TestRail, Zephyr, and Azure, or through our intuitive user interface, our solution integrates seamlessly with your processes. Our platform delivers thorough, actionable results, providing a complete product overview and deep bug analysis. With a 100-day onboarding period and critical bug incentives, we ensure you maximize the benefits of our professional crowdtesting services.

Speak to our experts today to discover how our platform can help you validate your software quality and confidently launch your product.

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