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Section: Scientific Foundations

Keywords : Test data, Testing criterion, Testing hypothesis, oracle, unit testing, integration testing, structural and functional testing (functional testing, structural testing).

Program testing


Test data

A test datum is a complete valuation of all the input variables of a program.

Test set

A test set is a non-empty finite set of test data.

Testing criterion

A testing criterion defines finite subsets of the input domain of a program. Testing criteria can be viewed as testing objectives.

Successful test set

A test set is successful when the execution of the program with all the test data of a test set has given expected results

A reliable criterion

A testing criterion is reliable iff it only selects either successful test set or unsuccessful test set.

A valid criterion

A testing criterion is valid iff it produces unsuccessful test set as soon as there exists at least one test datum on which the program gives an incorrect result.

Ideal test set

A test set is ideal iff it is unsuccessful or if it is successful then the program is correct over its input domain.

Fundamental theorem of structural testing

A reliable and valid criterion selects only ideal test sets.


Program Testing involves several distinct tasks such as test data generation, program execution, outcome checking, non-regression test data selection, etc. Most of them are based on heuristics or empirical choices and current tools lack help for the testers. One of the main goal of the research undertaken by the Lande Project in this field consists in finding ways to automate some parts of the testing process. Current works focus on automatic test data generation and automatic oracle checking. Difficulties include test criteria formalization, automatic source code analysis, low-level specification modeling and automatic constraint solving. The benefits that are expected from these works include a better and deeper understanding of the testing process and the design of automated testing tools.

Program testing requires to select test data from the input domain, to execute the program with the selected test data and finally to check the correctness of the computed outcome. One of the main challenge consists in finding techniques that allow the testers to automate this process. They face two problems that are referenced as the test data selection problem and the oracle problem .

Test data selection is usually done with respect to a given structural or functional testing criterion. Structural testing (or white-box testing) relies on program analysis to find automatically a test set that guarantees the coverage of some testing objectives whereas functional testing (or black-box testing) is based on software specifications to generate the test data. These techniques both require a formal description to be given as input : the source code of programs in the case of structural testing ; the formal specification of programs in the case of functional testing. For example, the structural criterion all_statements requires that every statement of the program would be executed at least once during the testing process. Unfortunately, automatically generating a test set that entirely cover a given criterion is in general a formally undecidable task. Hence, it becomes necessary to compromise between completeness and automatization in order to set up practical automatic testing methods. This problem is called the test data selection problem .

Outcome checking is usually done with the help of a procedure called an oracle that computes a verdict of the testing process. The verdict may be either pass or fail. The former case corresponds to a situation where the computed outcome is equal to the expected one whereas the latter case demonstrates the existence of a fault within the program. Most of the techniques that tend to automate the generation of input test data consider that a complete and correct oracle is available. Unfortunately, this situation is far from reality and it is well known that most programs do not have such an oracle. Testing these programs is then an actual challenge. This is called the oracle problem .

Partial solutions to these problems have to be found in order to set up practical testing procedures. Structural testing and functional testing techniques are based on a fundamental hypothesis, known as the uniformity hypothesis . It says that selecting a single element from a proper subdomain of the input domain suffices to explore all the elements of this subdomain. These techniques have also in common to focus on the generation of input values and propositions have been made to automate this generation. They fall into two main categories :

The main goal of the Lande project in this area consists in designing automated tools able to test complex imperative and sequential programs. An interesting technical synergy comes from the combination of several techniques including program analysis and constraint solving to handle difficult problems of Program Testing.


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