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Test Plan vs Test Strategy: Purpose & Differences

By Shormistha Chatterjee, Community Contributor -

Table of Contents

Two key terms are often used in the context of the QA process, namely, the term ‘Test Strategy’ & ‘Test Plan’. These crucial terms are often misunderstood and used interchangeably, which can confuse them. Let’s glance at what test plan vs test strategy is, and what the terms truly mean, so we can prevent this from happening.

The test strategy and test plan are technical documents that facilitate and enhance STLC but on distinct levels. And as there is confusion about these two concepts, let’s dive into both terms, exploring their purposes, nature, components, and logic.

What is a Test Strategy?

Test strategy is a high-level and comprehensive document describing the software testing approach. It comprises various components like scope, objectives, customer communication strategy, documentation formats, test processes, etc. 

The test strategy defines how the risks should be alleviated at the test level, what criteria are needed to apply, and the type of testing that must be performed. It lets the project head, software developers, plus QA experts know of the critical issues of the process. 

Purpose of Test Strategy

The main purpose of a Test Strategy is to produce an understanding of the complete approach, tools, targets, and timing of test activities to be performed. It should clarify the core tasks and challenges of the particular test project. A good test strategy must be specific to requirements, simple to understand, practically appropriate, and have achievable targets. 

Types of test strategiesSource

The test team should appropriately write the test strategy, analyze the necessities, and review the plan with the QA project team. This is done to eradicate any confusion or conflicts that may arise as the product moves into the following stages of its testing and launch.

A test strategy generally answers the “what” questions like:

  • What forms of testing are in the scope? 
  • What is not in scope? 
  • What are the top-level test objectives? 
  • What is the main objective of testing to perform this testing?
  • What are the guidelines that are required to be followed to perform testing?
  • What are necessary for testing, such as resources, test scenarios, functional requirements, etc.?
  • What are the responsibilities of each function to complete a test? 
  • What will be the main deliverable of this testing?

Importance of Test Strategy in Software Testing

The following are the crucial uses of a test strategy:

  • Along with identifying the errors, a perfect testing strategy assesses the usability and portability of the software. 
  • Test strategies follow a qualified metrics/approach to specifying software necessities such as the software effectiveness, output, and average time to failure.
  • It improves testing methods and facilitates continuous process improvement to make them more effective.
  • Also, an effective test strategy allows the development of robust software that can test itself using smart debugging methods.

Key Elements of a Test Strategy Document

  • Overview and Scope 
  • Industry standards to follow
  • Testing metrics
  • Testing tools
  • Test Approach
  • Test deliverables
  • Risk and mitigation
  • Requirement Traceability Matrix
  • Test summary
  • Reporting tool

What is a Test Plan?

The test plan (often termed a QA test plan) is a base of software testing. It is a descriptive document that comprises numerous testing attributes such as test scope, objectives, template, test schedule, required resources (software, hardware, and human resources), test environment, test deliverables, test estimation, risk, defect tracking, mitigation plan, entry and exit criteria, etc., which defines software testing activities and areas.  

Ideally, test plans feature the threats foreseen in the QA project, so product managers may prioritize the test process by risk.

test plan attriutesSource

Purpose of Test Plans

The primary purpose of a test plan is to generate documentation that describes how the QA tester will authenticate that the system works as planned. The document mainly defines how it will be tested, what requires to be tested, and who’s responsible for doing so.  

Test Plan also confirms all Functional and Design Necessities are executed as specified in the documentation. By shaping up a test plan, all team members can give effort in unison and communicate their responsibilities and roles to one another. 

The test plan generally answers the “how” questions such as:

  • How will the functional tests occur? 
  • How the test strategy will be implemented from a tactical point of view?
  • How many cycles of tests will there be? 
  • How will you manage threats that can arise?
  • How would testing be performed or executed?
  • How is the set of conditions and activities fulfilled to conclude testing? 

For instance: Planning Setup of Test Environment

The test environment refers to the hardware and software setup on which QA engineers run their tests.

  • Ideally, test environments must be real devices so that QA testers can monitor software behavior in real-time user conditions.
  • Whether it is manual testing or automated testing, nothing beats actual devices installed with real OSs, and browsers are non-negotiable as test environments.
  • Therefore, don’t compromise your test outputs with emulators or simulators.

App automate 1

Importance of Test Plan in Software Testing: 

The following are the crucial uses of a test plan:

  • Test Plan ensures that software meets the overall necessities that guide its design and development.
  • Test Plan assists the whole team apart from the testing team i.e., managers, developers, and clientele, to understand the testing specifics.
  • It makes the whole release go smoothly and ensures that QA engineers aren’t missing any glitches.
  • Risk management is a crucial facet of test planning. A test plan guides software testers through the risk mitigation process to stop risk incidents

Key Components of the Test Plan document

  • Approach
  • Test Plan Identifier
  • Test Items
  • Pass/Fail Criteria
  • Features To Be Tested
  • Features Not To Be Tested
  • Test Deliverables
  • Testing Tasks
  • Approvals
  • Environmental Needs
  • Responsibilities
  • Schedule
  • Risks and Contingencies

Relationship between Test Strategy & Test Plan

When it comes to the hierarchy between the test strategy and test plan, there are two ways they can relate. The crucial difference could count in the enterprise’s size or the internal decision. If the test strategy is designed separately, it becomes the crucial file for future/ further testing. The document, in this circumstance, impacts how the test plans will be composed.

On the flip side, in some organizations test strategy can be simply a fragment of the test plan document, classifying the test approach for the concrete project. For example, small enterprises may not run multiple projects simultaneously, so designing the test strategy as an individual document isn’t effectual resource-wise.

Difference between Test Plan and Test Strategy

ParameterTest StrategTest Plan
ObjectivesThe prime objective is to define the principles to be followed during the QA test procedure.The prime objective here is to outline how to test a product, when and what to test it, who will test it, and who will authenticate the results.
PurposeIt is a plan of deed in the testing procedure on a long-term basis.It is performed to find possible inconsistencies in the end product and alleviate them through the test process.
ScopeIt only focuses on higher-level testing techniques and strategies.It comprehensively defines the entire testing activities
TypesDifferent types of test strategies are standard-compliant, methodical, model-based, analytical, reactive, consultative, & regression-averse strategy.Different test plans are type-specific, level-specific, & master test plans.
Level of detailTest strategy is a segment of a test plan. It defines the approaches in testing.

Test strategy is derived from BRS (business requirement specification).

A test plan presents individually. It defines the common specifications in the testing of a precise object. The test plan is mainly derived from SRS (software requirement specification).
Performed byA test strategy is performed by the project manager. It says which module to test and what kind of method to follow.The test plan is performed by a lead or testing manager that describes when to test, who will test, how to test, and what to test.


Test planning and test strategy in software testing are the backbones of the complete project. Without a sufficiently extensive strategy and a well-crafted plan, QAs will get confused with undefined goals, and vague deadlines, especially in rapidly evolving/changing environments.  This unnecessarily hinders accurate and fast testing, delaying release cycles and slowing results. 

Following the robust test plan and test strategy in any project gives superior quality software and a better user experience. Once a test plan and strategy is pinpointed, your next action plan should execute tests on real devices under real-time user conditions.

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