Difference Between Test Scenarios and Test Cases

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Animesh Pathak
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When we discuss software testing, we hear commonly about two things: - "test scenarios" and "test cases". Now, these terms might sound similar to each other, but they play distinct roles in ensuring the quality of software applications. So, let's break it down in simpler terms as we explore the core differences between test scenarios and test cases.

Test Scenarios: The Big Picture

Let's start with test scenarios. We can think of them as the architects of our testing plan, it provides a broad overview of what needs to be tested. It helps us answer questions like "What do we want to test?" and "Why are we testing it?"

Why Create Test Scenarios?

1. Scope and Purpose: They are like a map of your testing plan. They define what you want to test and why. They outline the main goals and guiding principles of your testing efforts.

2. User-Centric: When creating test scenarios, think about how users interact with the software. What are the key things they do? Test scenarios should focus on these user-centric actions. For example, if you're testing an e-commerce platform, a scenario could be "A user completes a purchase."

3. Important Functions: They often concentrate on the most important functions of the software. These are the scenarios that can significantly affect the success of your application. They ensure that the essential features work as expected.

4. Independent: They are usually separate from each other. This independence allows you to cover various functions without getting lost in the details.

5. Not Too Detailed: Unlike test cases, test scenarios don't contain step-by-step instructions or specific data inputs. They provide a high-level description of what should happen without going into the specifics.

Best Practices for Creating Test Scenarios

Both test scenarios" and "test cases", aim to make testing easier, enhance clarity and structure, and prioritize understanding customer requirements.

  • Focus on the end-user perspective. Consider what actions the user will most likely take while using the software being tested. This crucial question forms the foundation for every test scenario.

  • Associate one test scenario with one user requirement. Simplify the process and avoid clutter by dedicating each test scenario to a single user requirement.

  • Prioritize test scenarios based on customer needs. In cases where there are numerous test scenarios to execute, especially with complex software, prioritize them according to customer priorities.

Test Cases: The Detailed Playbook

Now, let's zoom in a bit and talk about test cases. If test scenarios are the architects, test cases are the detailed instructions for carrying out a specific test. Test cases break down the broader scenarios into specific actions and results you can check.

1. Specific Actions: Test cases specify the exact steps a tester should follow to perform a particular test. For instance, if you're testing a login function, a test case might include steps like "Enter your username" and "Enter your password."

2. Expected Outcomes: Test cases define what should happen at each step. This is essential because it lets you determine whether the software passed or failed the test. For our login example, the expected outcome might be "You successfully log in."

3. Input Data: Test cases often include specific information that needs to be used during testing, such as the values to be entered or the conditions to be met. For our login test case, input data could be your username and password.

4. Reproducible: Test cases are designed to be repeatable. Anyone should be able to follow the steps and get the same results. This ensures consistency in testing.

5. Cover Everything: Test cases collectively cover all aspects of a test scenario. They make sure you check all the details of the functionality you're testing.

Best Practices for Writing Test Cases

Creating test cases involves carefully thinking about how to test the software, making sure it does what it's supposed to do, to guarantee the software application's functionality and performance. Using the best practices for generating test cases can help streamline the testing process effectively

  • Emphasize simplicity: Ensure that the test cases are easy to understand and can be set up for execution quickly, without the need for testers to search for additional information.

  • Consider the end-user perspective: Consider the end-user when drafting test cases. Understand their preferences, needs, and priorities, and design test steps accordingly to assess how well the software meets their requirements.

  • Follow naming conventions: Use an established naming convention for test cases to maintain traceability per the requirements.

  • State assumptions and preconditions: Clearly outline all assumptions and preconditions for each specific test to provide context and ensure accurate testing.

  • Cover each step of the user path: Mention every step involved in the user’s interaction with the feature being tested, guiding the tester through the entire process.

  • Aim for reusability: Where possible, design test cases to be reusable by minimizing dependencies and conflicts that could make them interdependent rather than independent.

  • Prioritize test cases: Rank test cases based on their priority, prioritizing critical features and scenarios and ensuring they are tested first.

  • Define expected results: Clearly describe the expected outcomes of the test and how the software should appear after a particular feature has been triggered (post-conditions).

  • Run test cases across various environments: Always execute your test cases in real browsers, devices, and platforms. Therefore, ensuring your software applications work seamlessly in various real environments.

AI-powered test and mock/stubs generation tools like Keploy allow you to perform automation testing for web and mobile apps. It also offers integration with a wide range of testing frameworks, like Junit, Go Test, Jest and PyTest, to execute test cases effectively.

Moreover, you can execute test cases on a real device cloud to test your website or mobile app in real-user conditions.

The Relationship Between Scenarios and Cases

Think of test scenarios as the overall plan and test cases as the specific actions you take to carry out that plan. Test scenarios guide your testing strategy, while test cases give you step-by-step instructions.

To make it clearer, imagine you're testing a social media platform. Your test scenario might be "A user creates a new post," giving you the general idea. Then, you create several test cases within this scenario, each focusing on a specific part, like "A user uploads an image," "A user adds text content," or "A user tags friends." These test cases together cover the complete scenario.

Test Cases vs Test Scenario

When to Use Test Scenarios vs. Test Cases

Now, let's talk about when to use each of these testing components.

Test Scenarios: You'll typically define test scenarios early in the testing process when you're planning your testing strategy. They help you set the direction and priorities for your testing efforts. Use them when you need an overview of what you're testing and why.

Test Cases: Test cases come into play when you're doing the testing. You've already set your test scenarios, and now you need specific instructions for testers to follow. Use test cases when you want to check specific functions and need clear steps and expected outcomes.

A Real-Life Example

Let's bring it all together with a real-life example: testing a weather forecasting app.

Test Scenario: "A user checks the current weather."

In this scenario, you want to make sure users can get accurate weather information. It's a big-picture goal.

Test Cases: Within this scenario, you create individual test cases for different parts of checking the weather:

  • Test Case 1: "A user enters a valid city name."

    • Step 1: Open the app.

    • Step 2: Enter 'New York' as the city.

    • Expected Outcome: The app shows the current weather in New York.

  • Test Case 2: "A user enters an invalid city name."

    • Step 1: Open the app.

    • Step 2: Enter 'Xyz123' as the city.

    • Expected Outcome: The app displays an error message, saying the city is not found.

Each test case breaks down the specific actions, input data, and expected outcomes, making sure the app's weather-checking function is thoroughly tested.


So there you have it, the core differences between test scenarios and test cases. They are the crucial components of software testing methodology and quality assurance.

Test scenarios give you the big picture, outlining what needs to be tested and why. Whereas, Test cases, on the other hand, are the detailed instructions for testing a specific part of the scenario. Both are essential parts of a solid testing plan. Using them together ensures comprehensive testing helps you find the bugs before your users do and ensures the quality and performance of the software application.



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