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Book Review: Advanced Software Testing, Vol. 1 by Rex Black

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The world of software quality assurance certifications is a complicated one in which several authorities offer multiple certifications in the field.  The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), offers the Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) certification and the Certified Tester Advanced Level (CTAL) certifications, which combined feature the highest number of certified professionals worldwide among testing certifications.  The Foundation Level exam establishes core competency, and the Advanced Level exam is broken into several sub-concentrations to cover different subject matter areas including test analysts, technical test analysts, and test managers.

Advanced Software Testing, Vol. 1 is a guide to the ISTQB Advanced Certification for Advanced Test Analysts.  In the ISTQB model, the Test Analyst is responsible for designing, writing and executing individual tests; a technical test analyst is primarily responsible for automation, and the test manager is responsible for things like test planning and resource scheduling.  In an attempt to provide relevant material for the targeted niche, the material is geared toward those designing tests and surrounding information from other related disciplines when software testing is omitted.

Rex Black is a leading consultant and is President of the ISTQB and its American counterpart the ASTQB, and is part of the team that developed the Advanced curriculum on which the exam (and study guide) is based.  That curriculum provides the outline of this study guide, down to the chapter and section; Black covers each section in order, and provides a brief notice for sections in which there are no study objectives for test analysts.  Because of this organization, it ensures no curriculum material is missed, but this introduces a drawback: the book is somewhat disjointed and does not flow from cover to cover. The material included, however, is explained effectively for those with a basic understanding of software testing.

Material covered in depth includes the analysis and design of tests from various source materials (test oracles), test implementation and execution, evaluation of exit criteria, risk-based testing as a way of managing the test effort, quality attributes, incident management, test tool concepts and categories, and a great number of specification, structure and experience-based test techniques to complete the tester’s toolkit. The section covering test techniques is particularly detailed, filled with examples and exercises that help the reader understand each technique and how it can be applied in practice.  This in-depth discussion of test techniques is easily the most valuable and takes up one third of the book, consuming 173 of 468 pages. 

In short, Rex Black’s guide delivers as promised.  Those looking for a general testing overview may be let down, but those using the text for its expressed purpose (preparing for the exam) will appreciate its thorough coverage of the material and the insight of an industry leader.

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