Understanding Pair Testing

Me: What is Pair testing?

Her: The term is self-explanatory.

Me: If it is self-explanatory, then why do we need the amount of content available on the Internet explaining the “Self-explanatory” term Pair testing.

Her: Probably because the content on the Internet is not necessarily driven by the demand of understanding it but maybe just because it is so easier to write upon.

Me: Makes sense!

This is how our Pair testing session started. The two of us (Me: Amit Vyas and Her: Himansha Tyagi) decided to execute a test session through pair testing. Even though as a team all of us are always discussing what we are testing and I believe that is also Pair testing but in this particular case the two of us wanted to sit together, draw a scope of work, use one system & agree on a time period.

Towards the end of our pair test session & constant debates, we found the path (which we like to believe) to ‘Pair Test’.

The following are the few outputs we wanted to share with all of you. Hope it helps.

What is Pair Testing?

  • Pair Testing is a technique wherein a group of people (not necessarily two) get to learn about the ‘product/process/topic’ (the session is about) via the understanding or the thought process of the other people involved.
  • In the context of two people, the above definition can be simplified to “It is a technique where two people get to learn about a product with the help of each other’s thought processes”.

How is it useful?

  • The most important take away in a pair test session is never (read – should be never) limited to increase the understanding of the product under test but it is the learning of a different point of view, the learning of a different thought process, the learning of the way other people/tester thinks.
  • The expertise of a tester to a lot of extent is the result of his/her thought process, the more the pair test sessions, the more the introduction to newer thought processes, the more the interaction with people from varying backgrounds, the better the tester gets at testing by pairing.

Read the following as ‘Chandler Bing would say’:

Can I interest you in a Myth Buster or two?

We feel a lot of things on the Internet about Pair testing are not completely true, some of the things that we have learned from our experience with Pair testing is that:

  • A Pair Test session is not limited to two people sitting in the same system.
  • A Pair does mean two – but in the context of a Pair test session there can be more than two people involved. We don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s a learning experience, why just two? Yes, it’s possible that with two the learning of thought process of EACH OTHER might be at the maximum level, but it is also true that when there are more than two people, the learning will be more diversified and more in comparison to a lesser number. Nobody can call you out for a test session with more than two people.
  • This rule can be followed with a number of people in a test session, lesser the number of people more the Vertical Learning (i.e, more understanding of 1 thought process), more the number of people more the Horizontal learning (less understanding of 1 thought process).
  • There is no rule (by the way who is making those rules?) that says one of the people involved in the driver while the other is…umm what a passenger? or is it passive?
  • Everyone involved in a pair test session can be as much a driver as anybody else is. Who gets to be a more dominant partner in the crime of pair test would depend on two things:
    • Level of enthusiasm for the session.
    • Level of prior understanding of the subject of the session.
  • There is also no rule to have one system, one keyboard, one mouse. The idea is if more than one person is sitting on the same system they will be able to look at the same thing (which is also not necessarily true) and communicate better. The crux is “Communicate Better” In order to make the communication better, we use one system, However, it is completely OK, if the people involved are working on different systems and still communicating better. Finally, it comes down to communicating better. That’s It, That’s the magic potion.

The above pointers do not nullify what the world of testing and fellow testers speak of Pair testing. Yes, Pair testing can be a session between two people where one just sits and observes while the other drives the flow, a pair testing session can also be when one person hits the accelerator while the other person helps with steering the wheel. It can also be when both work on the accelerator and the wheel as and when they want. All of it but not limited to just that, this is pair testing.

How would you describe Pair Testing?

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