I think every tester should take the BBST course series

It was a beautiful spring in 2013. I was in the testing business for three years part-time and one-year full time: a good time for me to take a course in testing and consolidate what I was doing in practice. My testing mentors, Oana, Alex, and Ru, recommended the BBST courses. Two of them had taken the classes and it changed their perspective on testing. I followed their advice and as foretold, BBST changed my perspective on testing as well.

BBST comes from Black Box Software Testing and consists of a series of courses: Foundations, Bug Advocacy, Test Design, and Domain Testing. The names are not impressive, but the content and teaching methods are surprisingly good. I took the first two courses: Foundations and Bug Advocacy and started the third, Test Design.

BBST Content

One of the main focuses I’ve seen in Foundations and Bug Advocacy is exposing key challenges in testing.

For example, the Foundations course approaches aspects like the impossibility of complete testing, the importance but difficulty of measurement, the complexity of coverage that even when we get 100% code coverage the software is still prone to have critical bugs, or the fallibility of oracles, our guides in test evaluation.

The Bug Advocacy course brings up subjects like irreproducible bugs, anticipating and dealing with objections, balancing the time spent between clarifying the bug and finding new bugs, dealing with conflicts of interest among stakeholders, presenting problems to people under stress, preserving credibility and integrity, and provides tools to work with.

All the above are challenges that I often face in my day to day job. Having them studied meticulously in a course by domain professionals brought me clarity in understanding the bigger picture. With clarity, I gained confidence and trust to approach difficult situations that came on my plate. The extra wisdom also made it easier to find the right words to be credible and better understood by the others.

BBST Teaching method

In terms of teaching, I highly value three characteristics: relevant content, practice, and feedback.

The content relevancy and much more is already checked off this list by the section above :).

Before I get into practice and feedback, I will provide some context about how the courses are organized. They are online and one course lasts one month. The last week is focused on the final exam. The exam questions are available from the start together with the course material. Each half week is built around a topic and has its own video lecture, slide support, quiz, assignment, and peer review.

When it comes to practice, unlike other courses that ask to reproduce what already exists in the course, the BBST assignments are built to stimulate the thought process.

Feedback is received through quiz instant result, peer reviews on your assignment, instructor’s feedback per assignment, and interactive grading one-on-one with an instructor on the exam submission. The instructor evaluates your work with you on the call, which gives you the chance to clarify your answers.

Intelligently build your own practices to exactly match your situation

The BBST approach is context-driven. This means acknowledging that no solution is bulletproof and that working with diverse contexts calls for diverse practices.

With this in mind, the course does not offer “best practices”.

The course studies valuable information and presents it in an honest way, without generalizing. It challenges the mind, offers different viewpoints, invites to analyze, compare, contrast with the goal of deepening the understanding of the subject.

By doing so, the course offers thinking methods and stirs skill development so that you get the tools to intelligently build your own practices that exactly match your situation.

Think like a tester

BBST has played a major role in how I think today and I find it an excellent course on how to “think like a tester”.

I recommend this course to everyone in the domain and I think every tester should take BBST. I challenge you to experience it.

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