Test levels – Component Testing

For each of the test levels, the following can be identified: their generic objectives, the work product(s) being referenced for deriving test cases (i.e. the test basis), the test object (i.e. what is being tested), typical defects and failures to be found, test harness requirements and tool support, and specific approaches and responsibilities.

Component testing searches for defects in, and verifies the functioning of, software (e.g. modules, programs, objects, classes, etc.) that are separately testable. It may be done in isolation from the rest of the system, depending on the context of the development life cycle and the system. Stubs, drivers and simulators may be used.

Component testing may include testing of functionality and specific non-functional characteristics, such as resource-behaviour (e.g. memory leaks) or robustness testing, as well as structural testing (e.g. branch coverage). Test cases are derived from work products such as a specification of the component, the software design or the data model.

Typically, component testing occurs with access to the code being tested and with the support of the development environment, such as a unit test framework or debugging tool, and, in practice, usually involves the programmer who wrote the code. Defects are typically fixed as soon as they are found, without formally recording incidents.

One approach to component testing is to prepare and automate test cases before coding. This is called a test-first approach or test-driven development. This approach is highly iterative and is based on cycles of developing test cases, then building and integrating small pieces of code, and executing the component tests until they pass.

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