Today I heard someone say “pass the QA” and in this post I will share why I believe that we should cross out this phrase from all dictionaries where it is included because it is just a wrong use of definitions.

Let’s break this phrase into two parts: QA and pass.

What is QA?

I am not the biggest fan of QA being translated into Quality Assurance, but it’s the most usual definition, and, often what people mean by saying QA. So, let’s leave my rant on the word “assurance” for another post, and, let’s look into what is quality assurance?

A lot of people mix up QA and testing on a daily basis. There have been various discussions about it and I mostly lean towards the point of Michael Bolton in his post Testers: Get Out of the Quality Assurance Business. It was an eye opening blog post for me: my first job as a tester even had it in the title “Software Quality Assurance Analyst”. Later on, I turned into QA Engineer. However, most of the times I was a tester.

Michael Bolton in that blog post gives so many valid points. It is one of my favorite posts about testing. There basically you can find a stress on the fact that as a tester you cannot really assure quality. You just inspect it and help to improve it. You test. You provide feedback on quality.

Quality Assurance is not a person or the department of certain type of professionals. It is a task of everyone in the company to work towards assuring quality. Testers may play a huge part in it, but the actual “action” assurers of quality often are programmers because they are making changes. And, let’s not forget the main part:

Assuring quality is an ongoing task/goal of the company.

What does it mean to pass?

In testing passing the test means that the test has passed based on its acceptance criteria.

Test may be built from multiple specific test cases (more “traditional” approach) or lead by charters. What I tend to say is that testing is simply experiments. Experiments have a goal, in the case of testing it often can be meeting the acceptance criteria.

Passing of tests could be related to the common question in testing: how much is it enough to test? Sometimes the answer is not that obvious. There may be various scenarios, explorations to be made and a common standard should be discussed with product management team on what are the requirements and if edge cases should be addressed for the initial release/iteration.

Why don’t I like the phrase “pass the QA”?

After explaining both parts of this phrase, I can say that for me saying “pass the quality assurance” makes almost no sense.

Quality assuring is an ongoing task, so it is never going to end. You cannot pass the quality assurance as it is, but you can pass the test.

I do understand the intent of this phrase and why it was used: it was meant to say that testing will be completed with no show-stopper issues and tests will pass (reflecting that the acceptance criteria was met).

Let’s not underestimate the power of wording. Saying “pass the QA” can definitely be misleading. However, sad news are that this term is quite popular to describe the teams of testers. In this case, let’s spread the awareness of the differences between Quality Assurance and testing – we all are doing Quality Assurance in the company, but often only testers do testing as their full time job (programmers do a fair deal of testing as well, but it is not their main responsibility usually).