Informal and formal testing reviews

Software quality assurance – testing reviews

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A Test Manager’s Guide is your essential resource created by industry experts to take you beyond the software testing basics to key strategies and metrics.

A review is a type of static testing during which a work product or process is evaluated by one or more individuals to detect issues and to provide improvements. When done properly, reviews are the single biggest, and most cost-effective, contributor to overall delivered quality. This is why a test manager must know about and assess what reviews add the most value in the testing process.


The Informal review is a review without a formal or documented procedure. Same as: buddy check, pairing, pair review.

  • Main purpose: detecting potential defects
  • Can also generate ideas, solutions or quickly solve minor problems.

During an informal review we may have the below:

  • review meeting
  • documented results
  • use checklists
  • be performed by a colleague or a group of people


A walkthrough is a review in which an author leads members of the review through a work product and the members ask questions and make comments about possible issues.

  • Main purpose: find defects, improve the product, consider alternative implementations, evaluate conformance to a standard or specification.
  • Can also: facilitate the exchange of ideas, training the participants, achieving consensus

A walkthrough can vary from very formal to informal, but during a walkthrough we must have:

  • review meeting
  • scribe for the review meeting

And we may:

  • have individual preparation before the meeting
  • use checklists
  • use potential defect logs and reports
  • present it as scenarios, dry runs or simulations


A Technical review is a formal review type executed by a team of technically-qualified personnel that examines the suitability of a work product for its intended use and identifies discrepancies from specifications and standards

  • Main purpose: gaining consensus, detecting potential defects
  • Can also: evaluate quality and build confidence in the product, generate new ideas, motivate and enable authors to improve, consider alternative options

During a technical review we must have:

  • individual preparation before the meeting
  • scribe which is not the author

And we should have:

  • reviewers as technical peers of the author
  • reviewers as technical experts in the same or other discipline
  • product potential defect logs and review reports

While we may:

  • hold a review meeting
  • use checklists


An inspection is a formal review type used to identify issues in a work product, which provides measurement to improve the review process and the software development process.

  • Main purpose: detecting potential defects, evaluating quality and building confidence in the product, preventing future similar defects through author learning and root cause analysis
  • Can also: motivate and enable authors to improve future work products and the software development process, achieving consensus.

There is a defined process with formal documented outputs, based on rules and checklists. We must:

  • have clearly defined mandatory roles
  • have individual preparation
  • reviewers as peers of the author or experts in disciplines relevant for the work product
  • specified entry and exit criteria
  • have a scribe
  • have a trained facilitator lead the review meeting (not the author)
  • never have the author as leader, reader or scribe
  • product potential defect logs and review reports
  • collect metrics and use them to improve the entire software development process


The management review is a systematic evaluation of:

  • software acquisition
  • supply
  • development
  • operation
  • maintenance process

Performed by or on behalf of management that:

  • monitors progress
  • determines the status of plans and schedules
  • confirms requirements and their system allocation
  • evaluates effectiveness of management approaches

To achieve fitness for purpose Management reviews are used to:

  • monitor progress
  • assess status
  • make decisions

This approach is also used as decision support for:

  • adapting the level of resources
  • implementing corrective actions
  • changing the scope of the project

Management reviews have the following key traits:

  • Conducted by or for managers having direct responsibility for the project or system
  • Check consistency with and deviations from plans
  • Check if management procedures are adequate
  • Assess project risks
  • Evaluate impact of actions and ways to measure them

An output of this review consists of lists of action items, issues to be resolved and decisions made.

Test Manager should participate in and may initiate management reviews of testing processed and should consider such reviews as an integral part of process improvement (ex: management review of processed, project retrospectives, lessons learned, etc.).


An audit is an independent examination of a work product, process, or set of processes that is performed by a third party to assess compliance with specifications, standards, contractual agreements, or other criteria.

Audits are usually:

  • performed to demonstrate conformance to a defined set of criteria
  • Conducted and moderated by a lead auditor
  • provide evidence of compliance collected through interviews, witnessing and examining documents
  • have documented results

This article is based on the ISTQB Advanced Syllabus version 2012 and it also references the ISTQB Foundation Syllabus version 2018. It uses terminology definitions from the ISTQB Glossary version 3.2.

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