Well, this is a bit of a rant – but seriously.

I don’t like people calling an activity exploratory testing when it’s actually ad hoc testing.
Get it right.
I think using the term “exploratory testing” loosely – takes away from the value that actual exploratory testing can add to a project.

Below are a few questions to ask yourself, to see if you are actually doing exploratory testing (or if it’s in fact ad hoc testing)

  • Are you doing concurrent test design and test execution at the same time?
  • Are past findings influencing what you do next? 
  • Have you written some test ideas or goals in mind – to help you explore the application?
  • Are you documenting your test session?
  • Are you focussing on both positive and negative scenarios? (if you’re just looking for bugs – this is likely to be ad hoc testing)
  • Can you explain the process/what you did during the test session to someone else?
  • Are you a skilled tester? (ad hoc can be done by anyone, doing proper exploratory testing is a skill in itself)
  • Are you doing SBTM (Session Based Test Management)? This is a way to structure your exploratory testing. If you are doing SBTM, this is a good way to indicate you are doing Exploratory Testing. BUT, if you’re not doing SBTM, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not doing Exploratory Testing.
Updated: I  have updated this blog post to help explain the difference between ad hoc testing and exploratory testing by posing a few questions