Ever since we (Test Engineering Alliance Melbourne) started our meetup in June 2015, both Dr. Lee Hawkins and I have spoken about the great experience we had learning from James Bach and Michael Bolton through our direct interactions with them and also by attending Rapid Software Testing class (RST). So, when we organised an RST course in Melbourne for May 2016, there were many questions from people who wished to attend but were confused about the course and wanted to know more. Some people had genuine financial concerns and needed ammo for their business cases; for that I would suggest you read this post.
Since I had been planning to write a blog post after I attended the 3-day course in Sydney last year, I took these questions as an opportunity to complete that post by expanding the mindmap that I created while in the class.

What is Rapid Software Testing?

RST is a mindset, a methodology created and taught primarily by James Bach & Michael Bolton. You may wonder whether it is similar to other training courses which offer you a certificate. Simple answer is no, it is not a certification course and it goes far beyond any other training courses that are offered in Melbourne. Although the organisers may provide you with a course completion certificate to show that you attended the course.

RST does not teach you about testing through reading and memorising from a catalog or glossary. There is less emphasis on theory and more on learning by doing. Imagine learning to cook by reading a cookbook and passing an exam to prove your competence. You may learn some terminology but unless you really cook, experiment with food, make mistakes and probably also burn your hand, you may not learn cooking. RST takes a different approach; you learn or improve on your testing skills by performing tests on the software. You are asked to apply cognition while doing testing. The course is based on Socratic method. That is, you understand the concept by answering questions or through arguments & dialog with the teachers.

What makes RST different?

As I said earlier, unlike other testing courses this class is not just about teaching testing through theory. The RST class is based on learning through experiments, practicals, discussions and hot-seat exercises.

There is a lot to learn and 3-days (or 1-day for managers preferably after taking 3-days RST class) are probably not enough. But an important aspect of the RST mindset is self-learning. The information available online helps in continuous self learning. This course equips testers with critical and lateral thinking skills that most other testing courses do not. Testers learn about testing through heuristics and oracles.

The course teaches:

  • test modelling & designing

  • how to test when time is limited

  • what to look for when you are testing a new product and you are not sure of what to do

  • questioning skills, judgement, observation, conjecturing and much more

  • improved cognitive abilities through games of critical & lateral thinking

The list above is not exhaustive. There is so much more in the training if an attendee is willing to learn and comes with an open mind. The course aims at making you a better tester and lifts you up from having a shallow understanding of testing to having a deep comprehension.

Another important aspect of this training is to teach attendees about the distinction between testing and checking. If you have not heard about the discussion of testing and checking, a starting point is here.

You learn more about focusing on your mission, on your client, asking questions, risks and most importantly, cheating.
Testers learn about time saving techniques like mind-mapping which not only helps them build their test ideas, but also reduces time instead of writing a magnitude of documentation. Another important thing that one learns is bug and test reporting (no, your automated reporting tool does not do what you learn here).

As managers, bug reporting and coaching testing techniques to our testers are important skills. Knowing when to do MIPing (mention-in-passing) and when to do black-flagging certainly goes in testing team’s favor. It is worthwhile attending the 1-day manager’s course which also focuses on test management aspects.  

One of the questions that someone recently asked me was why they should attend RST in person while all the material is available online and there is also an online training. This is true. These days almost everything is available online. Not just for this course, but also for performing surgeries to bomb making. Would you become a surgeon by watching videos online? The other one might be easier although (but the end might not be).
The online RST course information is concentrated. Unless you have read all written work of James and Michael, and have discussed those with them, it is often not as easy to assimilate the content.

The online RST course is a refresher or an advanced study course for those who have already attended detailed RST class. The online class runs for few hours and is online. The RST 3-day class is face to face and is delivered in a classroom setting. The manager’s class is for 1 day and it is recommended that they attend the 3-day class before attending the manager’s class.

Here are some other blog posts that talk about RST and why you should do it: