Risk Based Testing: All you need to know

Risk Based Testing: All you need to know

Quality Assurance as a career always brings along its fair share of risks, threats, application vulnerabilities, and difficult decision-making regarding prioritization of tests, % coverage, timely execution, and what according to you is – the “Definition of Done.”

There can be so much negative impact on factors including cost, time, resources, unhappy customer, bad end-user experience and what not if the testing is not up to the mark. We have so many forms and types of testing to ensure the maximum coverage and a smooth running application.

But what if we could know the risks of failure of a particular feature, module or functionality well in advance and assess its impact on business and prioritize the test cases and coverage for the vulnerable spots at the earliest instead of getting to discover them later in the Software Test Lifecycle (STLC). What it will do is – Decrease the likelihood of failure manifolds. Thus, came into the spotlight, the technique of – ‘Risk Based Testing’.

Defining Risk

Risk can be defined as a situation involving the occurrence of an unpredictable event that could lead to the failure of a product / software or it not performing to an optimum. They can be considered as a parameter to plan and prioritize testing techniques, strategies to be implemented in order to attain success.

Risks can be categorized into 2 types:

  1. Positive Risks – These are the kind of risks which go on to prove themselves as opportunities in business growth and sustainability.
  2. Negative Risks – These are the kind of risks that can pose a threat to the business and these must be eliminated at the earliest for the smooth operations.
What is Risk based testing?

Risk Based Testing is a testing technique which is based upon the probability of occurrence of a risk. Assessment of risk is done on the basis of application complexity, business criticality, defect-prone functionalities and features. We have to strategize testing such that the defined / known risk is used to determine testing goals and executing them.

Risk Based Testing as a technique is not just limited to Testing, its scope can be further broadened to activities like – Test Analysis, Planning, Estimation, Design, Execution, Results reporting. In fact, it is a much favored approach in the Agile implementation model as the teams are pressed for time with such short sprints to develop, test and deliver, keeping check of high quality standards along the way of course.

The Process / Steps to perform Risk based testing

There are primarily 5 steps to narrow down the process of Risk Based Testing, which includes –

  1. Risk Identification – This involves the process of identification of risks by not just the testing team, but it rather includes the effort and analysis of all the stakeholders. Quite a number of risks can be detected at this step itself and the teams can gain more confidence by including activities like – conducting risk workshops, reviewing the lessons learnt and issues faced in previous projects which are similar in nature, stakeholders meetings etc. On the basis of these, we can create a Risk Register. Even though a number of threats / risks can be identified at this stage, that does not in any way guarantee that there will not be any issues at further stages of application.
  2. Risk Assessment – Assessing risks involves classification of risks, their categorization if they are high priority or low priority, the possibility of its occurrence and the impact of it on the application if it occurs. The evaluation at this stage helps the testers to prioritize which defect prone areas of the application to be targeted first and create the relevant test scenarios.
  3. Risk Mitigation – This step involves taking action of reducing the severity of the risks by dealing with them in an effective way through processes like – test creation, test execution and ensuring that the test strategy implemented prioritizes the defect prone functionalities and modules at the earliest, the project artifacts are reviewed, the QA team selected has the required skill set
  4. Risk Contingency – A contingency / backup plan is created to deal with worst case scenarios in the event of their occurrence. The preparation of a ready plan at the times of disaster helps in ensuring that there is no wastage of time when the situation occurs and the required action is taken quickly.
  5. Risk Monitoring & Control  – The identified risks are then monitored as well as controlled and the QA team keeps looking for the occurrence of new risks, analysis of risk triggers, creating risk response plans, updating risk register.
When and why we should implement Risk based testing?

The Risk Based Testing approach is most apt for the projects where the QA team is struggling with decision-making regarding the prioritization of tasks. Also, for the projects implementing the Agile model it is a really helpful testing approach as time is a constraint with such tighter schedules.

The benefits of implementing Risk Based Testing are:

  1. Customer Focused – As we know Risk Based Testing emphasizes on the prioritization of testing the features, modules which directly impact the business performance and the areas which are more prone to having defects. Thus it very well takes into account customer concerns and ensuring the delivery of what exactly the customer wants.
  2. Improved Software Quality – Considering that the Risk Based Testing approach works on the principal of identifying the risks first and prioritizing test execution of the important modules, features at the earliest, this helps to rule out missing the defects which might have cropped up at a later stage, hence improving the quality of software delivered.
  3. Increased Confidence – By tackling the negative risks and defect prone functionalities in the beginning of software test life cycle, the testing team gets more confident about their quality of testing.
  4. Well-Structured Testing – Risk Based Testing approach makes it easier to prioritize the test coverage areas, thus providing a well-defined structure to it rather than moving aimlessly from one functionality to another.
  5. Cost Effective – It is a cost effective approach towards testing as we can minimize the occurrence of defects at a later stage.

Tools, Techniques $ Artifacts for Risk based testing:


  1. Risk Management Plan
  2. Risk Response Plan
  3. Project Communication Plan
  4. Scope Definition and Documentation
  5. Risk Identification and Analysis
  6. Risk Response Audits
  7. Project Change Requests


  1. Product Risk Management (PRisMa)
  2. Pragmatic Risk Analysis and Management (PRAM)
  3. Systematic Software Testing (SST)


  1. Risk Matrix
  2. Decision Tree
  3. Bowtie Model
  4. Failure Model and Effects Analysis (FMEA)


With testing teams pressed for time due to the availability of n number of devices and platforms to test, fussy ever – demanding customers not knowing what exactly they want, it can become an uphill task for the testers sometimes to ensure maximum test coverage and prioritize what to test first.

This is where Risk Based Testing Technique comes into picture as it can be very helpful to determine the failure prone areas of an application first and increases the confidence of the team by uncovering the major chunk of problem areas at the earliest. 

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