Appendix: Writing a Test Case

What is a Test Case?

A Test Case outlines a set of conditions, or variables, under which the tester determines whether an application or software system meets the specifications.

Test Case details:

  • The goals of the test.

  • The results the test should produce.

  • The circumstances in which the test should run.

  • How the test should be implemented.

A sound Test Case is:

  • Accurate: A Test Case assesses the summary points.

  • Economical: A Test Case has only the essential steps.

  • Repeatable: A Test Case is a controlled experiment. The test should produce the same results each time it is executed.

  • Appropriate: A Test Case has to be appropriate for the testers and the environment. This includes future maintenance and regression testing.

  • Traceable: The requirements of the Test Case must be outlined.

  • Self Cleaning: Returns the test environment to the pre-test state.

Components of a Test Case

A Test Case must include:

  • Summary

  • Action

  • Effect

  • Test Data (if required)


The Summary contains the essence of the Test Case including the functional area and purpose of the test, and goals of the Test Case.

When writing the summary:

  • Use Verb + Object Phrase structure.

  • Use sentence case, that is, only the first word of the summary begins with a capital letter.

  • Be concise, the summary should be less than 60 characters.

  • Good examples:

    • Summary: Launch Firefox by icon on the panel.

    • Summary: Initiate chat from the conversation window.

  • Bad examples:

    • Summary: Save attachments

    • Summary: Compose Window – Add Attach Files – File Number

    • Summary: Offline setting

    • Summary: Send Unsent Messages


The Action covers the circumstances in which the test will run and how the test should be implemented. The first step is to define any prerequisites for the test. For example, the testing environment, test data, and the Test Cases. The second is to list the steps a tester must follow to execute the test.

When writing the action:

  • Use plain English, keep the language simple and specific.

  • Write steps clearly and at a low level. Assume the tester has no experience and is executing the tests independently.

  • Keep to less than 15 steps per Test Case. If a Test Case requires more than 15 steps it may need to be separated into two or more Test Cases.


The Effect covers the results of the test. The Results are the expected behaviour of the system following verification/validation of any Test Case. For example, this could include: screen pop-ups, data updates, display changes, or any other event or transaction on the system that is expected to occur when the Test Case step is executed.

When writing the effect:

  • Use accurate terms to describe the expected behavior. Do not use vague descriptions such as, ‘works fine’, ‘works normally’, or ‘opens successfully’.

  • Write effects clearly, using a low level of language. Assume the tester has no experience and the effect is the only standard to pass or fail a test.

  • Break down the verification according to the steps outlined in Action.