Acceptance Criteria Presentation

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation about acceptance criteria and agile testing to a team of developers I’m working with.

Some of the developers were familiar with agile processes & test driven development, but some were not. I introduced the idea of behavior driven development, with both rspec “it should” and gherkin “given/when/then” style syntax. I stressed that the exact syntax is not important, but consistency helps with understanding and can also help avoid “testers block”.

It’s a Java shop, but I didn’t get into the details of JBehave, Cucumber or any other frameworks.  I pointed out that you can write tests this way without implementing the automation steps and still get value — with the option of completing the automation later.  This is particularly valuable in a system that is difficult to test, or has external dependencies that aren’t easily mocked.

Here are the slides:

Acceptance Criteria Presentation [PDF] or [PPTX]

And a rough approximation below:

Acceptance Criteria


how to make it easier to know if what you’re doing is what they want you to do

What are Acceptance Criteria?


By any other name…

● Requirements
● Use Cases
● Features
● Specifications
● User Stories
● Acceptance Tests
● Expected Results
● Tasks, Issues, Bugs, Defects,Tickets…

What are Acceptance Criteria?


…would smell as sweet

 ● A way for business to say what they want
● A way for customers to describe what they need
● A way for developers to know when a feature is done
● A way for testers to know if something is working right

The “Agile” definition

User Stories

As a … [who]
I want to … [action]
So that I can … [result]

Acceptance Criteria

Given … [some precondition]
When … [action is performed]
Then … [expected outcome]

(Gherkin style)

Acceptance Criteria

Describe [the system] … [some context]

It (the system) should … [expected result]

(“should” syntax)

Shh…don’t tell the business guys

it’s programming


but can be compiled by humans…and computers!

Inputs and Outputs

if I enter X + Y
then the result should be Z

f(x,y) = z


 Not a proof

or a function
or a test
or a requirement
or …

It’s just a way to help everyone understand

It should

  1. Describe “it”
  2. Give steps to perform
  3. List expected results

Show your work


● Provide examples
● List preconditions
● Specify exceptions

A conversation not a specification


● use plain English
● be precise
● be specific


● worry about covering everything
● include implementation details
● use jargon
● assume system knowledge


If you’re interested in learning how to turn your manual testing process into an agile automated test suite,  I can help.

contact me

Aaron Evans




Are you suffering from vague specifications?

I was reading a comment on the  QA & Test Management Solutions group on LinkedIn this morning.  There was a question with a pain we’ve all felt as testers.

Are you suffering something similar?

Software specifications with “maybe can do….” or “It coud be located there or maybe there” are not specific at all. If a SQA manager accept that kind of non-specific speficications, He must be going to work to a casino (That is the place for multiple possibilities and unespecific results) 

Here is my response, which got rather wordy, so I posted it here.

I would ask for examples. BDD encourages “specification by example” and while not everyone is a fan of the syntax, it can help to be specific (and somewhat rigid)

As a… [user role]
I want to… [do this thing]
So that I can… [accomplish this goal]

If they can’t describe the user and the goal, then maybe the task isn’t important.

Then, you can describe specific scenarios:

Given… [these pre-conditions]
When… [some action is performed]
[with this specific data]
Then… [some result]

And press a little further (though you don’t want them dictating implementation details) to help describe what they expect the result to achieve

Verified by… [these post-conditions]

You can build your test assertions based on the post-conditions.

It should… [have this state]

Have them describe several scenarios until you think you’ve got it or they’re sure they have all the bases covered. Suggest alternate scenarios as you see them and see if they’re valid or important (at the risk of making more work for you). Then give them a time-frame to implement and negotiate features versus time.

It works rather well if everyone is willing to work together and goes into it with an honest and non-antagonistic approach.

You don’t have to use the exact verbiage. Given/When/Then is called “gherkin” syntax (gherkin is a type of cucumber — I think If/Then/Else is just as suitable (and business types won’t even know it’s programming.)

The important thing is the feedback loop of communication and iteration, and examples are a great way to encourage concrete thinking and clarify misconceptions.