Software Testing Basics: Positive vs. Negative Software Testing

by Thijs Kok, on December 11, 2023

TestMonitor Blog #65

Summary: This article explores the differences between positive and negative testing methodologies and how a test management tool like TestMonitor can enhance and streamline testing processes for more efficient bug detection.


There are many benefits to software testing, but the primary purpose is to identify bugs, defects, or unsatisfied requirements before a customer does. In addition to helping your team produce a better product, catching these bugs can also eliminate costly and time-intensive fixes that could reduce customer trust and hurt your bottom line.

To formalize the software testing process, established best practices call for test runs made up of test cases, which are structured actions performed on software to verify it is working as defined.

Although your team likely has plenty of experience writing test cases, they may not know that there are two main ways of writing them: positive and negative.

What is the difference between positive and negative testing in software testing? And how can each approach benefit your software development?

This article will explore both types, provide some examples, and demonstrate how the right test management tool can help your team leverage both successfully.

What is positive software testing?

Positive software testing is a way of structuring test cases that assumes the expected result—such as a function, output, or data—will be produced. 

For example, positive test cases could be written like this:

  • If the “view reports” button is selected, all existing reports are displayed.
  • If a field in the tool requires a certain type of attachment, the tester will provide an acceptable file.
  • If the user provides the correct username and password, they are granted access to the system.

In other words, positive software testing is a quick and straightforward way to confirm that the original requirements defined during the design stage are represented in the developed product. This approach is another way to take the perspective of a potential user, providing the system with inputs and actions that it would expect to receive. 

What is negative software testing?

Negative software testing is another way to draft test cases to purposefully check the system for unexpected conditions or results, such as: 

  • Providing incorrect values.
  • Performing incorrect steps to see how the system responds.
  • Moving through a workflow without supplying the correct or required information.

Negative test cases could be written like this:

  • If a field is only meant to accept numeric values—such as a phone number or dollar amount—the tester will provide letters to see if it accepts the entry.
  • When incorrect credentials are provided, the system does not allow access.

Most software developers and quality assurance (QA) testers know how software is supposed to work, so negative testing intends to push the limits of the software. Negative tests can also replicate what a new user might experience, confirming that the checks in the workflow work as expected.

Take your software testing to the next level.

The great thing about software testing—especially when performed early and often in the software development lifecycle—is that teams can catch and fix bugs before they require costly reworks or new releases.

Also, testers can run both positive and negative test cases to provide an extra layer of validation to software performance. To introduce more efficiency and lower the administrative effort of this advanced blend of software testing, teams can use a modern test management tool like TestMonitor to set up a test plan, easily store pre-established test cases, and track and record the results.

Ready to take your software testing to the next level? Then we recommend you check out our latest resource, QA Testing: A Helpful Guide for Software QA Professionals.

QA Testing: A Helpful Guide for Software QA Professionals

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