Any test management system that does not let you define lots of states is never going to get my vote, even though, like @azza554 , I prefer minimal too. (Management tools that only allow a small set of states, often have rigid workflows that may cramp your process style later on.)
- Pass/Fail : In an ideal world, tests either pass for fail, there is no in between.
- Skip : This creates 2 problems, it ignores time, which is where skipping of tests, and needing to make test-code , documentation changes, or make environment changes before a test can be run hide Debt. “Not-run” is not a valid exit state or result, for me it falls into Unknown, because it got skipped. It’s valid to say you don’t want to run this test now - for example it’s an expensive full-regression case, so technically you are skipping it.
- Not Yet Run : I do plan to run it, or to skip it. This is the initial state of all tests.
When I look at test states, I am thinking of 2 things, Testing is fundamentally about what we know, and what we don’t know, and the other thing is what to do with failures. We will always be happy with not knowing a few things, I put these into my “skipped” (unknown) bucket, and that leaves me with Passes and Fails. Nobody cares about tests that Pass, which means I want to be running tests that will Fail as early as possible. I get left with
Lately I’m behind on automating, so I do a lot of manual testing, at the end of any release, I basically start in the area in my list where the last release found bugs, I explicitly mark things as skipped as I go if they will take too long, or if there is high confidence they did not break. When it gets to the end of the day, I mark anything I did not test as skipped. I don’t like to leave blanks for tests I did not run. When someone else reads your test report, there will not be enough space to explain why you did not run lots of tests anyway. (That’s another topic altogether.)
- Retest : This is a test case which has not been run in the intended environment (maybe the developers gave you a new build.) And I’m going to optimise a bit here, don’t retest code that has not changed. Restest a thing only if it’s in the “headline”.
Being able to easily and intuitively order things so that test cases that cover features touched in a release first can be run often enough to give you confidence. I tend to run test cases that are likely to have been broken by a release twice anyway, it’s a comfort thing.
The goal for me is to find bugs, and the extra amount of cognitive time spent by having 5 nice test states instead of just 3 or 4, takes time away from me finding a bug. As Aaron points out , don’t let the tool get in your way. And finally, thank you for a brilliant question Blazej .