How To Test A Toaster

Here’s some help on how to get through a common interview question. How to test a… well anything.

Such questions are asked to test your curiosity and approach to testing. They may sound stupid, but will hopefully reveal how a tester thinks and works.

This post will help you figure out how to test a toaster or any other random household appliance (yay!).

It follows in the footsteps of other post like 20 Types of Software Testing and 20 More Types of Software Testing.

Let’s see…where to begin?

Start With The Requirements

Requirements! You want to start with requirements. There’s not point in testing something that you don’t have some idea how it should work. It’s not impossible to do, but just because somethings possible doesn’t mean you should do it.

The good thing is most interviews will select a boring common every day item in this question. Chair, table, pen, toaster, coffee cup…well you get the idea. But by not asking for requirements you’re leave yourself up to get blindsided. Don’t know about you but I like to see problems coming before they happen.

Should the toaster really support having three bread slots? Not normally, but what if it’s a toaster for Big Macs (cheese burger with three buns). Now that changes things! See get those requirements.

Create A Test Plan

Now that you know how your toaster should work resist the urge to buy a bunch of bread, butter and jelly. It’s time to come up with a plan. You’ve got some scope on the project so this shouldn’t be a problem.

All the details aren’t needed just a quick outline will do. Answering the following questions help:

  • What’s the approach
    • How will you test the application. Will you mainly be doing automation test? Running mostly manual test? a combination of both? Figure this out.
  • Tasks and deliverables
    • Decide who’s going to be doing what & how you’ll know when they’ve done it.
  • Estimations
    • This is not just how long you’ll think everything will take. You’ll also want to estimate the total work done by the team. Sounds like the same thing but it’s not.
  • Testing phases
    • The main phases are – Test Design, Code (for Automation), Unit Testing, Integration Testing, System Testing, “Customer” Testing (Alpha / Beta), Ship it! Nail down what you want to do.
  • Time table / Schedule
    • You’ll want to pencil in some time in the calendar. When does the code freeze need to happen to give QA enough time. Answer questions like that.
  • Completion criteria
    • How will you know when you’ve done all that you need to do? If you can get this figured out ahead of time you’ll be a really good spot.
  • Environments, team roles, and responsibilities
    • You want to make sure that you have everything you need to test the system effectively.

Work The Plan

After the requirements are known and you have a plan it’s time for execution. Execution of the plan, and you’ve got it. You’ve now successfully tested a toaster (or whatever else you’ve been asked to test).

Believe it or not software testing is a creative field which gives you leverage to be a little inventive with your answer. So follow these guidelines but show a little bit of personality. It will go a long way.

If anyone ask you how to test a toaster, pen, microwave, vending machine during your next interview you’re all set.

You probably wont need to got into this much detail but hey you get the idea.

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