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A testable design is a design that can be easily validated, falsified and maintained. Because testing is a rigorous effort and requires significant time and cost, design for testability is also an important design rule for software development.

For reliability estimation

Software reliability has important relations with many aspects of software, including the structure, and the amount of testing it has been subjected to. Based on an operational profile (an estimate of the relative frequency of use of various inputs to the program), testing can serve as a statistical sampling method to gain failure data for reliability estimation.

Software testing is not mature. It still remains an art, because we still cannot make it a science. We are still using the same testing techniques invented 20-30 years ago, some of which are crafted methods or heuristics rather than good engineering methods. Software testing can be costly, but not testing software is even more expensive, especially in places that human lives are at stake. Solving the software-testing problem is no easier than solving the Turing halting problem. We can never be sure that a piece of software is correct. We can never be sure that the specifications are correct. No verification system can verify every correct program. We can never be certain that a verification system is correct either.

Test levels

The target of the test

Software testing is usually performed at different levels along the development and maintenance processes. That is to say, the target of the test can vary: a single module, a group of such modules (related by purpose, use, behavior, or structure), or a whole system. Three big test stages can be conceptually distinguished, namely Unit, Integration, and System. No process model is implied, nor are any of those three stages assumed to have greater importance than the other two.

Unit testing

Unit testing verifies the functioning in isolation of software pieces which are separately testable. Depending on the context, these could be the individual subprograms or a larger component made of tightly related units. A test unit is defined more precisely in the IEEE Standard for Software Unit Testing (IEEE1008-87), which also describes an integrated approach to systematic and documented unit testing. Typically, unit testing occurs with access to the code being tested and with the support of debugging tools, and might involve the programmers who wrote the code.

Integration testing

Integration testing is the process of verifying the interaction between software components. Classical integration testing strategies, such as top-down or bottom-up, are used with traditional, hierarchically structured software.

Modern systematic integration strategies are rather architecture-driven, which implies integrating the software components or subsystems based on identified functional threads. Integration testing is a continuous activity, at each stage of which software engineers must abstract away lower-level perspectives and concentrate on the perspectives of the level they are integrating. Except for small, simple software, systematic, incremental integration testing strategies are usually preferred to putting all the components together at once, which is pictorially called “big bang” testing.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Software engineering. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10790/1.1
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