Test Cases vs. Test Plans: What's the Difference Between the Two?There are a lot of terms associated with software quality assurance. People who work in this industry are bombarded with different terminology, and are sometimes bewildered as to what these varying expressions mean. Two of the major ones that cause confusion are test plan and test case.

Here we break down what these terms mean and their differences.

What is a Test Case?

A test case is typically defined as a document that lays out the following:

  • Test data
  • Procedures/inputs
  • Scenarios
  • Descriptions
  • Testing environment
  • Expected results
  • Actual results

It’s used to for a singular test scenario. As a rule, there are usually both a positive and negative test case for each scenario.

The purpose of a test case is two-fold: It’s designed to find any errors or bugs within the software application, and it’s also designed to show how the application should be executed if it performs correctly. It also demonstrates real-world use of the product and whether it fits the customer needs.

What is a Test Plan?

While a test case is only designed to test a particular scenario, a test plan is a comprehensive document that lays out all major activities associated with a particular testing project. A test plan includes:

  • Scope of the project
  • Objectives
  • Target market
  • Assumptions
  • Testing cycle start/end dates
  • Major roles and responsibilities/overall resources
  • Testing environment
  • Deliverables
  • Major risks and how to handle these risks
  • Defect reporting and mitigation
  • Testing end date

This document is designed to be a resource for both the testing teams and other teams or stakeholders. A test plan shouldn’t be overly long or complicated. It should lay out specifics, i.e. both the OS and the edition/version as opposed to simply the OS. It must also be updated as conditions change or more data is obtained.

Think of the differences this way: A test case is the equivalent to a piece of pie that relates to a particular scenario. The test plan, on the other hand, would be the recipe for making the pie.

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