Software Testing Life Cycle: All the Key Stages + Implementation Tips

Audiences are constantly seeking exceptional digital experiences. This makes it crucial for businesses to release software that has undergone rigorous testing.

However, the process isn’t a linear one. Rather, it should be multi-dimensional and continuous. As digital systems become sophisticated, programs need to go through the software testing life cycle before businesses introduce them to the market.

Get to know the software test life cycle and each STLC phase below.

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What is Software Testing Life Cycle?

The software testing life cycle (STLC) is a testing strategy that helps meet software quality standards through systematic testing. It identifies test activities to be carried out and when to accomplish them.

It is designed to understand a system’s state and recommend improvements. The stages involve strategizing, planning, executing, and completing test cycles.

The software test cycle ensures that software quality goals are met, involving verification and validation. It is not an isolated activity but instead consists of multiple series carried out methodologically to establish diverse goals.

Each stage has entry and exit criteria, as well as activities and other deliverables. Entry criteria involve prerequisites that must be completed before testing begins. On the other hand, exit criteria define items that must be completed before the testing phase is concluded.

Some of these phases can be performed simultaneously, while others require previous stages to be completed before moving forward.

Below are the six software testing life cycle phases:

#1: Requirement Phase Testing

Requirement phase testing is the first step that allows the quality assurance team to understand the requirements, such as the following.

  • Basics such as the product to be tested
  • Software requirements
  • High-end business needs
  • Architectural requirements showcasing the features to be designed and supported
  • Detailed system requirements that guide developers

These may include functional and non-functional aspects, which help with testing and validation.

Also known as the requirement analysis phase, it requires the team to study and identify testable requirements. Hence, the stage also includes brainstorming sessions, highlighting problem areas, and prioritizing certain assessments.

In case of doubts, the QA team clarifies with engineers, stakeholders, or the business side. This helps the team understand if anything is missing or needs detailed understanding.

The activities in this phase include:

  • Identifying the tests to be performed
  • Gathering details about testing details and focus
  • Preparing the Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM)
  • Determining the test environment details where testing will be carried out
  • Automation feasibility analysis
  • Enhancing product quality
  • Reducing test cycle time

Entry and Exit Criteria:

  • Entry - Functional and non-functional requirement specifications
  • Exit - RTM and an automation feasibility report (only if applicable)

#2: Test Planning

Test planning is the most efficient phase that defines all testing plans. The team manager calculates the estimated cost and time for the project.

The senior QA manager determines the test plan strategy along with efforts and cost estimations. With the plan created, this phase gathers participants’ data and their testing roles, necessary testing tools, and test environment.

The insights taken from the previous step help create the QA strategy documentation. This analyzes the resources and efforts required for the release. This documentation also helps inform the rest of the teams and departments about the project particulars.

The activities include resource planning, determining roles and responsibilities, tool selection (automation), training requirements, test environment, limitations, schedule, and others.

Other details include the scope, objectives, functional types, non-functional tests, and details of the testing environment. It sets the timelines for the roles, determining deliverables to be provided towards the end of the phase.

Test planning activities include:

  • Preparing the test plan document for various types of testing
  • Testing tool selection
  • Testing effort estimation
  • Resource planning
  • Determining roles and responsibilities
  • Preparing training requirement

Entry and Exit Criteria:

  • Entry - QA Strategy Documentation
  • Exit - Test plan/strategy document and an effort estimation document.

#3: Test Case Development Phase

After the test plan, testers begin writing and creating detailed test cases.

The details of the structured tests are defined in detail, along with the test data. Test cases should be simple, transparent, and adaptable and should cover full requirements in specific documents. When the test cases are ready, the team lead can review them and update automated test scripts.

Each case defines test inputs, procedures, execution conditions, and anticipated results.

Further, this phase implies manual and automated testing to cover the functionality and features. However, research shows that manual testing is the most time-consuming activity, so firms nowadays rely on automation for accuracy.

To begin, test data is identified, created, and then reviewed and reworked if required. The QA team then starts the development process of the test cases for individual units.

The stage involves creation, verification, and test case rework after the test plan is finalized. Teams also prepare required data for testing which are then checked by the quality assurance team.

The test case development includes:

  • Creating test cases and automation scripts (if required)
  • Reviewing test cases and scripts
  • Creating test data (if the test environment is available)

Entry and Exit Criteria:

  • Entry - Detailed test cases
  • Exit - Test data and test scripts/cases

#4: Test Environment Setup

The test environment setup phase is when the actual testing occurs. The test plan makes for a precise testing environment by configuring operating systems and virtual machines. This phase deploys tools such as Selenium, Katalon Studio, and other databases.

Testers adjust the environment parameters based on the test case requirement. This concludes the software and hardware conditions under which a product will be tested. Being an independent activity, each deliverable can be performed in parallel with the test case development phase.

This phase doesn’t involve the testing team. Instead, the developer creates the environment for tests such as smoke testing.

The activities include:

  • Gauging the required architecture, environment setup, and the software requirement list
  • Setting up the test data
  • Performing a smoke test on the final product

Entry and Exit Criteria:

  • Entry - Configuring operating systems and virtual machines
  • Exit - Ready environment with a test data setup and smoke test results

#5: Test Execution Phase

This phase is executed by the testers in the environment where the software is configured.

Tests are performed based on test documentation and a fitting configured test environment. The results are then recorded in the Test Management System.

Negatively passed tests are where actual results differ from the expected ones. They are mentioned as errors and are passed on to the development team for script revision and re-checking after corrections.

The testers execute all test cases within the allotted time to identify and report bugs. As developers fix the problem, testers continue to re-test the product so that the problems are not solidified. The testing team begins executing test cases based on the ones prepared before, based on test script execution, test script maintenance, and bug reporting.

In case of bugs, the report is sent to the developing team for correction and retesting.

The activities in this phase include:

  • Executing tests as planned
  • Documenting test results and noting the failed cases
  • Mapping defects to test cases in RTM
  • Retesting rectified areas
  • Tracking defects to closure

Entry and Exit Criteria:

  • Entry - Tests based on test documentation and a suitable configured test environment
  • Exit - Completed RTM with the execution status, test cases with updated results, and defect reports

#6: Test Cycle Closures

The test cycle closure phase is the completion of the test execution phase. This involves activities such as test completion reporting, collecting test completion matrices, and obtaining test results.

The testing team provides the test closure report which presents the gist of the project and its findings. This includes the time spent, the percentage of defects found in the positive test results, and the number of errors found and fixed.

The comparisons may include met objectives, time taken, total costs, test coverage, or any defects found. On the other hand, the testing department analyzes work, sums up the results, assesses productivity levels, makes suggestions, and improves testing quality.

The testing team submits the relevant details to the team which includes test strategy, test case document, automated test scripts, and test results.

The members may often meet to discuss and analyze testing artifacts, identify strategies for future implementations, and take lessons from current testing cycles. This is the last stage wherein the testing process is analyzed, and bottlenecks are removed for future test cycles.

The activities include:

  • Evaluating cycle completion criteria (may include time, test coverage, software, cost, or quality)
  • Preparing test metrics
  • Preparing test closure reports
  • Documenting project learnings

Entry and Exit Criteria:

  • Entry - Test closure report
  • Exit - Test metrics and test closure reports

Software Testing Life Cycle - Implementation

Certain firms include the STLC life cycle phases before and during development to maximize resources with the following tactics:

  • Test-driven development
  • Test automation
  • Crowd testing
  • Shift left testing
  • Shift right testing

An active STLC process creates valid and accurate results, helping organizations make changes swiftly and thereby drawing customers and revenue. The process also helps discover key insights during the pre-release phase to reach long and short-term objectives.

Since each phase has unique goals and deliverables, this offers validation in the ideation, design, and execution stages. Testing is performed in stages to ensure systematic training and meeting quality standards.

Different teams may get involved in different stages of software development methodologies for the achievement of goals. However, this should be done in a well-documented and strategic way.

The software test life cycle phases may be repeated multiple times until the software is fit to be released.

The process helps with:

  • Refining the agile testing process
  • Increasing effectiveness and consistency
  • Clearly defining goals and expectations
  • Defining time constraints
  • Ensuring thorough testing of features and approving additional features
  • Ensuring project requirements are met
  • Analyzing task automation
  • Assessing environmental information

Software Testing Life Cycle – Key Takeaways

When testing software, nothing can be left to chance. While planning is crucial, it doesn’t have to be tedious and time-consuming. The pressure to meet tight deadlines and create excellent software requires systematic testing.

A software testing life cycle helps efficiently organize testing workflow, improve product quality, make quick bug fixes, and streamline an otherwise chaotic process.

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