What is a Test Plan in Software Testing? - Examples & Definition

Instructor: Lonny Meinecke

Lonny was once a software programmer (video game industry). He now teaches psychology at King University. He has a bachelor's in IT and a PhD in psychology.

This lesson will explain what a test plan is in the field of software testing. We'll also go through an example plan that highlights the various sections usually found in a software test plan.

What Is a Test Plan?

A test plan for software describes what's going to happen, how long it will take, who is going to do it, what it will be done to, and what we expect to come of it. Think of it as a very detailed way to carry out the testing of a piece of software so we can be sure we have covered all the angles. The overall software testing process also has many other formal procedures, but the plan is where we begin.

The plan is very important, because it summarizes the testing process. The plan is broken down into manageable pieces so we know how to deal with each aspect of that process. And it's a record of our objectives, so we can look back and see how we did.

An Example of a Test Plan

The exact format of a test plan will vary from need to need, but you can bet that there are some features you will find in most any plan. Here are some of those features:

  • Introduction
  • Objectives
  • Scope
  • Strategy
  • Requirements
  • Risks
  • Schedule
  • Roles/Resources
  • Procedures
  • Musts/Must-Nots
  • Milestones/Sign-Offs


The introduction is written last. It's simply a summary of the test plan to give readers an idea of the entire process.


Like it sounds, this section states the objectives (or goals) of the plan. Any evaluation of the outcome of the plan will look back on this section to see how the plan fared.


A big thing in the software world is 'scope'. It really just means the main expectations that bound this plan so we can start chopping it up into manageable and measurable steps. Failure to assess the scope of a project can be disastrous because you can miss major problems, like having a plan that's reaching too far to meet the schedule, or no one knowing for sure where it stops. Knowing where to stop is just as important as knowing where to begin, and a scope section lets you gauge how you are doing.


This is your battle plan. The strategy section is a large section devoted to fully outlining the overall approach. Just as the scope tells us how big the plan is forecast to be, the strategy highlights what we expect to happen and what we are setting out to do.


Just as no one sets out to do battle without looking at how many troops they have, no one sets out on a test plan without stating what will be needed and making sure those are available. These requirements often include equipment like computers and assorted peripheral devices, and a place to house these things that is favorable to executing the plan.


You may not think of risks as a requirement, but you ought to. Risks are a requirement because this is the step when you look around before the unexpected happens, and form your backup plans. By thinking about the risks, you can include requirements you might not have thought about. Emergency backup plans are sometimes just as good as having resources. If you can identify risks now that you cannot imagine dealing with later, you should rethink your strategy.


As you can imagine, the schedule is a big deal. People, time, and resources need to be carefully accounted for on a realistic schedule that helps us estimate the do-ability of the plan. The schedule also helps us gauge our progress and adapt as needed, so that we do not fall behind. The release date for software can be very important, and the last thing we want is to fall behind on testing and miss our Christmas deadline.

Roles / Resources

Roles describe what folks will do, just as the schedule tells us when they will have it done. People are usually listed as resources just like any other need, and this section is needed to clarify their roles and responsibilities so that nothing is accidentally left out or duplicated.

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