BBST Foundations Week 2 In Review

So here we are at the end of week 2, halfway through BBST Foundations Course. If you want to see the how the rest of this process has been you can check out:
Week 1 In Review
Week 3 In Review
Week 4 In Review

I’m still here glad I signed up, but its been a bumpy week…

Oracle Heuristics, and a Computer Science Primer

We mainly focused on the consistency heuristic. If you aren’t familiar with it you can read more on Michael Boltons’ Blog. That post also contains a link to the original paper.

As testers we often know or do things based upon our instincts or intuitions from experience with the current product or from other products we’ve worked on. While valid and useful, you need to be able to talk about these ideas in a concrete way. I’ve struggled with that in the past, it can be hard to explain why what you are doing isn’t just “playing” with the software. It’s a skill and skill’s have vocabulary around them that helps make communicating easier. So high level concepts, like oracles and heuristics are helpful. More specific implementations like the “FEW HICCUPPS” mnemonic for the consistency heuristic are even better.

It’s great to read about these concepts, but its even better to get a chance to utilize them. The group project allowed us to discuss image consistency for 3 different companies. Actually writing out answers makes the experience more real, and more likely to be remembered.

We also jumped into an introduction to computer science concepts especially fixed vs floating point numbers. I understand why it’s important, I’m enrolled in comp. sci. classes for that very reason but it just seemed like an interesting choice for such a constrained timeline.


I consider myself a good test taker, but these quizzes are rough. They are multiple choice, but its like multiple choice on steroids. There are almost always 6 or 7 choices, sometimes more. The choices also include various combinations of answers. It’s good, it forces you to try and understand the material. Although some of the combination answers really make you question your answer, you can get a little too in your head and its caused me to make some mistakes.

The quizzes are also open book, which you might think would make it easier. I am learning that when a resource is made available to you in this course, you will be expected to use it. The questions are detailed and precise. They also aren’t explicitly tied to the lecture, reading, or slides. The content is there for you, but its not like you can search the slides for a phrase and get the answer.

Length of Class

The class is 4 weeks long, and at this point that feels like a bit of a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because if the pace of this class is so intense. Since the weeks are broken into two sections, if you are late or have other obligations you are quickly under the gun. Or worse, you are putting more stress on your group and possibly taking away value from other peoples experience, and learning. The assignments require a great deal of critical thinking and detail. In addition they are often a little broadly defined, so it really helps to have a group and share ideas. You learn from each other as you peer review your work.

Its also a curse for the class to be so short because it can be very difficult to dedicate the time this course requires. The suggested 12 hours a week is probably a minimum. I did a fair amount of the reading in advance, but I still struggle to fit the work in. Don’t get me wrong, the class is very good. I enjoy the work, I like thinking through my answers but I feel sometimes very constrained by time. It feels like the last days before a release deadline, I’m scrambling to get things done as best I can but I wish I had more time.


If you read my week 1 review, you’ll know I had some initial reservations about working on assignments as a group. Those concerns seemed unfounded as I progressed through week1 and into week 2. However, the number of participants in the class seems to be shrinking. A post from one of the instructors offering encouragement and congratulations, indicated we are down over 30%. I am in a group of 5 and we only had 2 people (myself included) participating in the latest assignment. I had a busy week that included some prior commitments and I didn’t could give immediate attention to the assignment. So, I can completely understand how others might feel like their only option is to drop out of the class.

We will see how this affects the class going forward, one of the things I enjoyed most so far has been the collaboration. I am getting quite a bit of value from working in my group even without full group participation. Plus you are encouraged to interact and comment with other groups, so you can still share ideas and learn from others even if your group is quiet.

The Struggle is Real

I think the common thread so far is this class is consistently difficult. Challenging is probably a better word for it. It’s rewarding, and none of it so far has felt like busy work or unrelatable to the real world.

There is already a dedicated forum for the final exam. The exam is essay style, and all questions on the exam will be pulled from the pool available in the forum. The goal being you start working on your answers now and peer review as you go to get higher responses. From working in this class so far, I know I’ll NEED to start answering those questions, if I hope to do well on the final. So I am off yo try and get started on this weeks work and some exam prep.

Tune in next week for part 3 in this series, same bat time, same bat channel.

  • Loren Dunlop

    Hoping to take this course in the future so really appreciate the rolling updates. Maybe if the weeks were divided by ‘retrospective’ weeks, where you could mull over what you’ve been through, and more importantly solidify the lessons before moving on? As amazing as it sounds, it seems very familiar with the ISTQB ‘force feed’ of material before exam, which most forward thinking testers are so critical of. Because its not about saying ‘I passed an exam/ got a cert’ its about ‘hey, I really learned something and am a better tester. At least that was my personal hope.

    Sorry about the lack of paragraphs, on the ole phizone.

    • Glad to hear the progress reports help. I haven’t done ISTQB but the BBST approach seems very focused on learning and applying the materials. The final exam is just evidence of being able to apply the concepts in written form. I don’t feel so much like I’m cramming for a traditional final, it feels more like the matrix where a ton of information is being loaded into you. Its what makes it hard, you actually have to learn this stuff and its not rote memorization.

      I actually listened to webinar given by an ISTQB person today, and it felt very formal. Lots of talk of test plans and test strategies, it all sounded very heavy. BBST seems to be less formulaic, more concept driven. If your interested I’d really encourage you to try it, just be prepared to give it plenty of attention.

  • Nicola

    it’s great to read another person’s experiences on the BBST Foundations course 🙂 Sorry to hear your group has shrunk considerably. I found the group work quite rewarding as the other people offered interesting, different perspectives

    • The group work was great, I just missed out a little as for a couple exercises including the final peer review some of the group response was a little quiet. It was a great experience. Thanks for reading!