What is Exploratory Testing? (Techniques, Examples)

Exploratory testing, as the title suggests, is about observing and learning about the program, what it does, what it doesn't do, what works, and what doesn't work. The tester is always deciding what else to check next and where to invest his or her (limited) time. This method is particularly beneficial when there are no or few requirements and speed is of the essence.

Exploratory testing could be used with other methodologies.

What is Exploratory Testing?

  • Exploratory testing is a practical method in which testers are engaged in as little preparation as possible and as much test execution as possible.

  • The test planning process begins with the production of a test charter, which is a brief statement of the range of a brief (1 to 2 hour) time-boxed test attempt, as well as the goals and potential methodologies to be employed.

  • Generally, the test design and execution operations are carried out concurrently, with no documentation of the testing conditions, test cases, or test scripts. This does not exclude the employment of other, more formal testing procedures. For instance, the tester may opt to do boundary value assessment but will only think about and test the most critical boundary values without writing them down. During the exploratory-testing session, certain notes will be taken to compile a review later.

  • When test execution is carried out, test logging is carried out, documenting the essential parts of what has been checked, any flaws discovered, and any suggestions regarding possible future testing.

  • It may also be used to supplement other, more formal testing, hence increasing trust in the program. In this approach, exploratory testing may act as a check on the formal test process by assisting in the discovery of the most critical issues.

  • [Kaner, 2002] and [Copeland, 2003] discuss exploratory testing. [Whittaker, 2002] describes more exploratory testing methods ('attacks').

When to use Exploratory Testing?

  • Exploratory testing may be quite useful in the early phases of the SDLC – software development life cycle – when the program is undergoing frequent modifications.

  • This methodology may be used by developers to run unit tests, while testers may use it to become familiar with the application.

  • Exploratory testing expertise might be useful in writing test scripts and doing more testing later in the software development life cycle.

  • In an agile development context, scrum cycles are brief, and there are design time constraints for building rigorous test designs and scripts. Exploratory testing is ideal for agile environments due to its ability to catch pace with the short sprint cycles.

  • When doing exploratory testing, test designs are created on the fly, saving the tester a significant amount of time. Critical exploratory tests may be collected at the conclusion of each scrum cycle for future scrums.

Testing approach - How to do exploratory testing?

  • To do testing, make use of the tester's ability to adapt things on their own.

  • The planning and implementation of test cases are carried out concurrently.

  • The number of test cases continues to rise as a result of the tester's findings.

  • The tester implements what they've learned into the exam.

  • Equivalence partitioning, error guessing, decision table testing, boundary value analysis, and other testing approaches might be integrated with exploratory testing.

  • Testers may put their thoughts to use while remaining focused on their task.

  • Exploratory testing does not employ test automation but instead relies on the tester's expertise, insight, and skill.

  • Exploratory testing can be session-based to retain attention and give structure.

Advantages of Exploratory Testing

  • Minimal preparation is required, and critical errors are discovered fast.

  • It is urged to think critically and respond swiftly, and much more flaws are discovered.

  • For the tester, there is a lot more emphasis on extending their expertise and understanding.

  • It may be used to check the performance of another tester.

  • Exploratory testing can detect flaws that might have gone undetected in the test cases.

  • When time is short, exploratory testing may be used to evaluate innovative features, whereas regression testing may be used to evaluate existing ones.

Disadvantages of Exploratory Testing

  • Because the tests are created and conducted randomly, they cannot be examined beforehand, and it might be hard to ascertain which tests must be conducted.

  • Testing relies on the tester's expertise, talent, and experience.

  • Acquiring acquaintance with an application takes some time, so there is a chance that problems will be overlooked if the tester is unfamiliar with the website or program.

Example of Exploratory Testing

Assume that somebody is driving a vehicle to a location in a new region without a map. The person driving the automobile will employ a variety of standard strategies to get there, including −

  • Obtaining a map of the surrounding region

  • Traveling in a random direction to find the location

  • Contacting a buddy and asking for directions

  • Heading to a neighboring petrol station to ask for directions

A similar concept may be applied to exploratory testing.

Imagine you've been tasked with doing exploratory testing on a hospital management system.

There are various approaches to exploratory testing.


Guesses are used to identify areas of the software that are more likely to contain mistakes. Prior working experience on a comparable product/software/technology aids in guessing.

In the example of the Hospital management system, you can expect the payment component to have more faults because it must connect with the payment gateway; transactions may time out and result in problems if not managed properly.

Architectural diagrams and use cases

Architectural diagrams depict the connections and linkages that exist between various components and modules. Use cases provide knowledge of the product's functioning from the viewpoint of the consumer.

These drawings and use cases may be used in the exploration methodology to test the product.

Hospital Administration System - You recall a use case in which many people may use the same phone number and the application must allow it; you decide to test that scenario.

You also recall from the architecture diagram that the reporting function is deployed individually from the main application and that it takes a few minutes to produce and email to the user, so you make the decision to test it as well to guarantee that reports are produced and the email functionality is configured correctly.

Past defects

Examining the issues encountered in past versions aids in identifying which aspects of the program are likely to have the most faults.

Previously, the hospital management system's reporting module used to eat a lot of RAM and had various mistakes, so you decide to test it as well.

Error handling

Error handling is the section of code that initiates necessary measures in the event of system breakdown. To verify gracious error handling, exploratory testing might be performed utilizing various scenarios.

The reporting module in the Hospital Management System would eat a lot of memory and occasionally collapse. You decide to test it to guarantee that findings that have been held for production are created soon, even if problems arise in the meantime.


Exploratory testing might also be formulated based on the software's understanding during project talks and briefings.

Questions and checklists

Questions such as "what, when, how, who, and why" might give hints for exploratory software testing.

Categories of Exploratory Testing

  • Freestyle Exploratory Testing:

    In freestyle exploratory testing, applications are examined spontaneously, with few standards or processes in place. However, exploratory testing can be beneficial in the following circumstances −

    • The tester must quickly become acquainted with the program.

    • The tester must confirm the work of other testers.

    • A flaw must be investigated by the tester.

    • The tester is eager to complete the smoke test as soon as possible.

  • Scenario-based exploratory testing:

    Scenario-based exploratory testing involves performing tests on the basis of situations. Scenarios might be supplied by the client or created by the test team. Following early testing, testers may develop testing based on newly acquired information and competence.

  • Strategy based exploratory testing:

    Common testing approaches such as Decision Table based testing, Cause-Effect graphing, and Error Guessing are combined with exploratory testing in strategy-based exploratory testing. An excellent tester for this form of testing would be one who is familiar with the application.

Exploratory Testing in Agile

The agile technique employs short sprints of around one month in length, with highly strict schedules. Because of the short timelines and emphasis on instant results, exploratory testing is highly effective in agile. Once the tester understands the criteria, he or she may undertake to test based on his or her expertise and understanding.

As the tester grows more acquainted with the application's capabilities and actions, he will be able to design extra test cases for future testing and may discover more flaws.

Because exploratory testing in agile is independent of formal procedures and documentation requirements, the tester does not need to keep paperwork for everything, but it'd be useful to keep a brief report on objects tried, issues detected, and so on for reference in the future.

Advantages of exploratory testing in agile

  • It is possible to offer the development team instant input on the project.

  • A broad range of flaws might be discovered.

  • Because each individual may have a different perspective and there are no particular test cases, exploratory testing might be conducted by developers, testers, designers, and business analysts.

  • If the present need is not reliable, exploratory testing may be useful in evaluating new requirements within a limited time frame.

Difference Between - Exploratory vs Automated/Scripted Testing

Exploratory Testing
Automated/Scripted Testing
There is no requirement to keep documentation in the case of exploratory testing.
While doing automated testing, a high amount of documentation is necessary.
This methodology demands little or no preparation time prior to test execution.
In this strategy, a substantial amount of time must elapse before testing can begin.
There is no cost associated with generating documentation and no cost associated with reading it.
Prior to test execution, there is a major effort in writing test scripts and developing documentation.
In exploratory testing, there is no obvious or quantifiable test coverage.
To verify test coverage, test scripts may be tracked back to the original standards and needs.
The application is evaluated against the tester's awareness and information of how the application should function.
The application is tested in accordance with the standards.
Only problems can be replicated in this method; testing cannot.
The testing can be simply replicated.

Real-time Examples of Exploratory Testing

A tester may be asked to do exploratory testing in real-time while working on a live project to arbitrarily test aspects of the program in order to uncover issues. The exploratory testing approach may be used to evaluate applications from any area, such as telecommunications, healthcare, and finance. In other words, the exploratory testing approach is not domain-specific.

In general, exploratory testing is most beneficial when the tester wishes to test features of the program for which no issues were solved in a given code release by the development team. In other words, exploratory testing is more beneficial for doing sanity checks in a real-world setting.

Exploratory Testing Interview Questions

  • What exactly is exploratory testing, and when should it be carried out?

  • How do you go about conducting exploratory testing?

  • What are the primary benefits and drawbacks of exploratory testing?

  • What are the many kinds of exploratory testing?

  • What are the primary distinctions between exploratory testing and automated/scripted testing?

  • Provide an example of exploratory testing.

Summary of Exploratory Testing

Exploratory testing is not a traditional method of testing, yet it is a very effective method of testing an application.

It encourages competent testers to go outside the boundaries and create realtime test scenarios for problem detection. Exploratory testing, because it is unstructured, might be conducted on any process that needs minimum documentation, regardless of whether it is utilizing agile methodology, the waterfall model, or any other software development life cycle prototype.