Picture Picture

for Software
Test Engineers

by Steve Devinney
and Lisa Grzeszczak

During the early days of software development, testing was not considered a significant part of the process. In fact, testing was rarely discussed, and training opportunities remained another 30 years in the future.


Software developers believed the need for testing diminished as development methods were defined, deployed and improved. No one could envision the growth of, and dependence upon, application development that we have experienced during the last 15 years.

Normally performed by programmers or technicians, early tests included unit, integration, regression and system checks. Throughout the 1980s, software testing grew in importance and prestige. However, the improved development methods that had been envisioned simply did not develop in many organizations.

Unlike early software, today's existing and newly developed applications are mission-critical. Imagine operating a company without technology and quality application software. The simple truth is you cannot. Failures result in loss of business and revenue.

Although many information services personnel continue to ignore software testing's importance, 50 percent of an application solution's deployment cost is expended on software testing. Thus, the need for testing continues to grow in importance.

About QAI

Quality Assurance Institute is an international organization consisting of member companies in search of effective methods for detection-software quality control and prevention-software quality assurance. Governed by an international board of directors and dedicated to partnering with the information quality profession, QAI provides leadership and state-of-the-art solutions in the form of consulting, education services and assessments. The Certified Quality Analyst and Certified Software Test Engineer certification programs offered by the institute are recognized worldwide.

For more information, contact QAI at 7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Suite 350, Orlando, FL 32819-7273; telephone (407) 363-1111; fax (407) 363-1112. Visit the institute's Web site at www.qaiusa.com.


The Quality Assurance Institute was one of the first professional organizations to recognize testing as a profession. In 1996, QAI started the first certification program for the test professional, the Certified Software Test Engineer. The CSTE certification, which is earned through a combination of education, work experience and, beginning Jan. 1, 1999, a self-study exam, gives the profession recognition and credibility, and sets the standard for individuals engaged in software testing. This certification is founded on a code of ethics, a common body of knowledge, an examination program and a continuing education program.

One company has found CSTE certification beneficial for its employees. Senior Managing Consultant Jacob Roitman oversees the one-year-old certification program at the New York branch of Interim Technology, The Consulting Group, an information technology and business management consulting firm. "We encourage our consultants to become certified through awareness of the CSTE designation, sponsorship of the designation, review of CSTE applications and supporting documentation, and payment of fees related to the program," states Roitman.

CSTE code of ethics

As part of the CSTE certification, QAI developed the following international certification code of ethics:

Qdbullet  One distinguishing mark of a profession is acceptance by its members of responsibility to the interests of those it serves. Those certified must maintain high standards of conduct in order to effectively discharge their responsibility.

Qdbullet  Acceptance of any certification designation is a voluntary action. By acceptance, those certified assume an obligation of self-discipline above and beyond the requirements of laws and regulations.

  The standards of conduct set forth in this code of ethics provide basic principles in the practice of information services quality assurance. Those certified should realize that their individual judgment is required in the application of these principles.

Qdbullet  Those certified shall use their respective designations with discretion and in a dignified manner, fully aware of what the designation denotes. The designation shall also be used in a manner consistent with all statutory requirements.

Qdbullet  Those certified who are determined by the Certification Board of QAI to be in violation of the standards of conduct of the code of ethics shall be subject to forfeiture of their designation.


A common body of knowledge

The CSTE certification program's common body of knowledge represents what the certification board and leading software testing practitioners believe quality practice should be. The CBOK helps to achieve these professional objectives:

Qdbullet  Define the profession--The CBOK permits test engineers to explain their profession through the knowledge domains needed in that profession.

Qdbullet  Define the needed knowledge domains--The CBOK for any profession defines the minimum level of proficiency needed for effective performance within the profession. Rather than embodying all the knowledge domains that quality practitioners might need during their lifetimes, the CBOK focuses on the knowledge needed by any entry-level quality professional to perform effectively.

Qdbullet  Lead the profession--Changes to the CBOK should precede changes in the practice of professional activities. Including new areas within the body of knowledge helps prepare professionals for inevitable challenges and allows them to perform effectively.

Qdbullet  Support certification--The examination that individuals must pass to become certified draws from the knowledge domains within the CBOK.

Qdbullet  Maintain proficiency--The CBOK describes the educational areas an individual should pursue--such as self-study, on-the-job training and work experience--in order to maintain proficiency. The certified software test engineer, like most other professional designations, requires 40 hours per year of continuing professional education credit to maintain the professional designation.


The CBOK for software testing includes 16 knowledge domains grouped into four categories. These domains are further subdivided into key topical areas:

Qdbullet  Category 1--Test management: Under this category are four domains covering communication, professional development, testing concepts and test environment.

Qdbullet  Category 2--Test planning: Includes the four domains covering risk analysis, development methods and environment, test methods and techniques, and planning process.

Qdbullet  Category 3--Test execution: Includes the four domains covering verification methods, test tools, test case design and performing tests.

Qdbullet  Category 4--Test results analysis and reporting: Includes the four domains of defect tracking and management, evaluating test results, quantitative methods and test reporting.


The CSTE examination

Beginning Jan. 1, 1999, CSTE candidates must pass a professional examination. Consisting of four parts, the exam will be based on the 16 knowledge domains contained in the CSTE common body of knowledge. The multiple-choice questions will cover no fewer than 12 domains but may cover all 16.

To qualify for the CSTE certification, a candidate must receive a score of 75 percent or higher on all four parts of the examination. All exams are given in the presence of a CSTE at a site mutually agreeable to the candidate and a CSTE.

Each CSTE candidate will be furnished with a 400-page study guide, which contains information about all 16 domains. However, the guide is not intended to include the entire common body of knowledge, and questions will be included on the exam that are not covered in the study guide. The certification board believes that mastering the information from the study guide, when coupled with one or more years of software testing experience, should be sufficient to pass the CSTE examination.

CSTE applications are being accepted and must include demonstrations of proficiency through reference letters and résumés.

All successful candidates must participate in continuing professional education in order to maintain their certification. Forty CPE credits and a $20 administrative fee are required annually. Certification candidates are exempt from paying fees and submitting credits during their certification year. Detailed information and reporting forms are provided upon certification and at the beginning of each year.

Companies and clients benefit

Interim Technology's Software Quality Management practice employs more than 650 quality professionals nationally, most of whom have experience in testing. "We at Interim support certification for our consultants because we believe it sets our employees apart from the rest of the field," explains Roitman. "In the competitive situations we are engaged in, the CSTE certification can only serve to emphasize the fact that our consultants are talented, experienced and motivated to succeed."

CSTE certification offers Interim Technology and its consultants the following five benefits:

Qdbullet  It sets a standard whereby knowledge is better measured--i.e., number of years in the field is not the sole determining factor. Certification requires demonstrating a broad knowledge base, including proficiency in test planning, using test tools, test performance and defect management.

Qdbullet  The employee search process is enhanced because QAI performs an independent evaluation of an applicant's software-testing skills during its own certification process. This process ensures that only those individuals who demonstrate proficiency in testing skills will be certified.

Qdbullet  Having the CSTE designation displayed on a résumé provides applicants with an opportunity to explain the designation and criteria for attainment. This enhances the interview process and establishes immediate credibility.

Qdbullet  Employees are encouraged, through the recertification provision, to stay current, maintain their proficiency level and update their professional skills. The 40 hours per year of continuing professional education improves employees' skill levels.

Qdbullet  Certification establishes a level of credibility. Employees are motivated to display their certification plaques and use the CSTE designation on stationery and correspondence. Additionally, they are encouraged to spread the certification message to their co-workers.


Application process

Currently, four items are required for certification: an application, a signature attesting to the submitted data's validity, supporting evidence of skills proficiency as appropriate and an application fee.

The current provision is designed to certify candidates who have two years of test work experience as well as proficiency in six skills. Four skills are mandatory and include test planning, using test tools, test performance and defect management. Candidates must also demonstrate proficiency in two of the following four optional skills: risk analysis, measurement, test case design, and establishing and maintaining a test environment.

To demonstrate skills proficiency, candidates must present, in a neat and logical manner, a summary of their experience, highlighting each of the six skill categories; references and testimonials to support professional experience; and samples of work performed. A résumé also is needed to verify work experience.

About 60 days after QAI receives the application, a results letter will be mailed to each applicant.

The CSTE certification has been offered since 1996 and is quickly gaining recognition among software testing professionals in the industry. This designation represents a key requirement for all test professionals in the industry. Increasingly, corporations are requiring the designation as part of employment eligibility, and employees are finding it beneficial for personal growth and development.

About the authors

Steve Devinney is managing director of the Quality Assurance Institute; Lisa Grzeszczak is the company's director of marketing. They may be contacted by fax at (407) 363-1112 or by e-mail at sdevinney@qualitydigest.com or lgrzeszczak@qualitydigest.com.


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