Test Specifications : Everything You Need to Know

Test Specifications

What Is Test Specification?

Test Specification is a detailed summary of what scenarios will be tested, how they will be tested, how often they will be tested, and so on and so forth, for a given feature. Test runners use test specification strings to identify tests.

These specifications are essentially written guidelines as to which test suites to run and which to skip. Specifications should include the objective of the specific test, a list of required inputs as well as expected results, techniques for test execution, and finally benchmarks for deciding acceptance.

It’s important to remember that including all Editor or Window management features in a single test specification can make it too large to effectively read & understand. 

What Are Test Case Specification Identifiers?

Test case specification identifiers are the unique identifiers or recognizers allocated to individual test case specifications. These identifiers also include a link to the associated test plan.

Specification identifiers allow you to identify a test case in a unique way. It provides an overview of the functionality that will be tested using this test case. There are several test case specification identifiers such as:

Test Case Objectives


This states the purpose or objective of executing a specific test case.

Test Items

Test items are basically a list of all the documents you need for executing a test case such as Software Requirement Specifications, Software Design Documents, user manual, code, etc. It defines the features and requirements that must be met before, during, and after testing.

Test Procedure Specification

This section describes the step-by-step procedure for running the test cast case.

Input Specifications 

This identifier indicates the inputs to be provided while running a specific test case. The crucial thing to remember when specifying input values is to give precise values and not to generalize them. 

Output Specifications

It is a description of what the result of test case execution would look like. The success or failure of a test case is determined by comparing output specifications to the actual outputs obtained. Output specifications, like input specifications, should be stated precisely.

Environmental Needs 

In this identifier, any special environmental needs such as hardware tools, software applications, and specific interfaces are listed.

Special procedural requirements

If there are any special constraints or conditions that must be fulfilled for executing the test case, you must describe them here.

Intercase dependencies

In some cases, two or more test cases could be dependent on each other for proper execution. You must mention these intercase dependencies here.

What Is Test Case Specification In Software Testing

Test specification in software testing is a blueprint of overall test design. Test case specification is entirely based on the test plan. You have to first choose the software feature to be tested and then refine the approach stated in the test plan into detailed test specifications.

Writing effective test case specification is a crucial part of the software testing life cycle. No matter how good your test cases are, if testers don’t understand them clearly, you won’t get the expected results. And test procedure specifications are what help the testers properly understand your test cases.

So what does a test specification document include? We’ve discussed some of the components you’ll find in a software test specification.

Contents Of A Test Specification Example


Revision History

This section contains information like who created the test specification. When was it created? When was the last time it was updated?

Feature Description

A brief description of what area is being tested.

What is tested?

An overview of what scenarios are tested.

What is not tested?

Are there any areas that are not being tested? There can be several reasons like being covered by different people or any test limitations etc. If so, include this information as well.

Nightly Test Cases 

A list of the test cases and a high-level description of what is tested whenever a new build becomes available.

Breakout of Major Test Areas

It is the most interesting part of the test specification where testers arrange test cases according to what they are testing.

Specific Functionality Tests 

Tests to verify the feature is working according to the design specification. This area also includes verifying error conditions.

Security tests 

Any tests that are related to security.

Accessibility Tests 

Any tests that are related to accessibility.

Performance Tests 

This section includes verifying any performance requirements for your feature.

Localization / Globalization 

Tests to ensure you’re meeting your product’s Local and International requirements.

Why Are Test Specifications Important? 

Test specification defines the exact setup, inputs, and outputs for a test case. Writing good, detailed yet to-the-point test specifications is critical for efficient software testing.

    • First and foremost, test specifications are written at the unit level for each individual test case. As a result, test runners may clearly grasp the purpose of the test case and hence execute it successfully.

    • Test developers can reuse earlier test specs to construct new versions of a test. The specs serve as guides for comparing new versions to prior versions.

    • Additionally, using the test specification, you may immediately determine why a test has failed. If the specification is well-written, comparing the test specification and the test assertion will indicate the reason for failure.

    • The exact details of test case and test procedure specification has a significant impact on the effectiveness of testing. Having the test cases explained in the form of a test specification document ensures that the original requirements are fulfilled without missing any points.

    • Test specification includes details of each test case. Hence, it allows us to find out if we’ve missed any crucial features to be tested and ensures excellent test coverage.

    • What’s more, test specification documents make maintenance of the test phase easier.

    • Finally, test specifications ensure effective testing and as a result, improved bug-free software. High-quality software in turn satisfies the customers and accelerates company profits.


specification types

Types Of Test Specification


There are mainly 2 types of test specifications. One is High-level Test Specifications and the other is Developer-level Test Specifications. Here’s a brief description of when to write which type of test specification.


High-level Test Specifications


When you have to perform an end-to-end test on the software, high-level specifications are required. End-to-end tests include high-level functions and your test specifications must match that level of detail and precision.


High-level specifications are written in more detail so that even non-technical people can understand them. These specifications are mainly handed over to project managers for assurance and future use.


Developer-level Test Specification


Developer-level specifications are written by developers as the name suggests. Software developers write these specifications when they are running unit tests. Unit tests are run while developing the product and these are low-level specifications.

Also, as these specifications are generally used by developers, they are not really detailed or comprehensive. They might not make sense to non-technical people or even to people other than developers. It is the documentation for future developers who might need to check the unit tests.


Writing Test Specifications – A Step-By-Step Guide

  1. The first step of writing test specifications is choosing the test case or function you will be writing specifications for.
  2. Then, go through the test plan to clearly understand the goal of this test.
  3. Decide on which features need to test and which can be excluded from testing.
  4. Keep your test specifications short and precise. Ideally, they should be under 150 characters.
  5. Specifications should always be written in the current tense. Writing in the present tense makes the specs easier to read.
  6. If you think the original test plan needs refinement, describe what changes and why they are needed.
  7. Write the input criteria and list specific inputs that will be used while executing the test. 
  8. Also, write the expected outputs for each input. Try to be as specific as possible while determining these so that you don’t miss out on any bugs. Follow the pattern of “Output will be — when input is —“
  9. Do not use filler words while writing test specifications. Be concise and to the point.
  10. Describe the pass/fail criteria for the tests. There can be 3 types of discrepancies when running a test: Critical, Major, and Minor. Make sure to list pass/fail criteria for all three types.
  11. Make sure you’ve assigned unique identifiers to the test specification.
  12. Lastly, describe the environmental needs such as hardware, software, or interface that are crucial for running the test.
Test Specification Vs Test Plan

Test Specification Vs Test Plan

Test Specification is a detailed summary of what scenarios will be tested, how they will be tested, how often they will be tested, and so on and so forth, for a given feature. On the other hand, a test plan is a detailed document that describes all of the software testing areas and activities. It outlines everything from test strategy, goals, timetable, required human, hardware, and software resources, estimation, and finally test deliverables. It is basically a base for software testing.

Test Specifications are written based on the test plan. So, test specification is dependent on the test plan.

But the test plan holds all the test specifications for a given area. The test plan contains a high-level overview of what is tested for the given feature area. So, a test plan is not dependent on test specifications. 

Test plan is derived from the Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document while test specifications are derived from test cases. Also, test plan is decided by the test lead or QA manager but test specification is written by the testers.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Which Is Not Part Of Specification Testing?

Manual testing is not a part of specification testing.

2. What Is A Good Test Case? 

A test case that has a high likelihood of detecting undiscovered bugs from a software product is known as a good test case. 

3. What Is the Goldilocks Rule For Test Specification Writing?

Goldilocks rule for test specification writing is that your test specification inputs and expected outputs must not be too general or too specific. You must find a balance between specific and general for effective test specification.

4. How Does Test Specification Help In Identifying Reasons For Test Failure?

By comparing well-written test specification with test assertions, you can identify reasons for test failure immediately.

Wrapping Up

Test specifications are a significant part of the STLC. Ensuring your testers are writing effective test specification will increase the chance of producing higher-quality products. We’ve discussed all the details you need to know to write efficient test specifications. 

Additionally, your test specification document should be in such a manner that should prioritize the test case easily like nightly test cases, weekly test cases and the full test passes, etc. Nightly test cases must run whenever a new build is available. On the other hand, major functionality tests run once every three or four builds weekly. Lastly, low-priority specifications must be run at least once for every major coding milestone.

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Rahnuma is a technical content writer at software testing stuff. A software engineer by degree and a dynamic content creator by passion, she brings to table over 3 years of writing experience in tech niche. Combining her enthusiasm for writing and technology, she loves to share her thoughts on the latest tech trends.

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