Acceptance Criteria Testing

Acceptance criteria serve to illustrate how a specific feature can be utilized from the viewpoint of an end user.

It emphasizes the business significance, delineates the limits of the feature’s extent, and steers both development and automation testing. These criteria are specific to each user story and lay the groundwork for user story acceptance testing, setting the parameters for the feature’s success.

By establishing boundaries, acceptance criteria aid team members in comprehending what falls within or outside the user story’s scope. 

Acceptance Criteria Testing

Not only does it outline product behavior in ideal scenarios, but it also directs the user experience when operations don’t proceed as intended. It articulates what the acceptance tests will verify.

What constitutes Acceptance Criteria?

Within Agile methodologies, acceptance criteria delineate the predefined prerequisites necessary to consider a user story as accomplished. These criteria, at times dubbed the “definition of done,” establish the parameters and conditions developers must fulfill to regard the user story as complete.

For individuals assuming roles like product manager or product owner, composing acceptance criteria for the stories listed in the product backlog might fall under their responsibilities. This piece aims to elucidate acceptance criteria, showcase a few examples, and delve into recommended practices for crafting them.

In Agile methodologies, acceptance criteria embody a set of established requisites crucial for concluding a user story’s fulfillment. They serve as a form of documentation for Agile requirements. However, as is common in Agile practices, various interpretations of acceptance criteria exist.

Also Read: How Do You Handle Incomplete Behavior-Driven Development Requirements?

What characteristics define effective acceptance criteria?

  • Testability: Acceptance criteria should facilitate straightforward testing to define completion for your engineers. The test results should be unambiguous, providing clear yes/no or pass/fail outcomes.
  • Clarity and Conciseness: Avoid overly detailed documentation; instead, ensure simplicity and directness in your criteria. Keep them clear and easily comprehensible.
  • Universal Understanding: For acceptance criteria to be valuable, they must be understandable by all, especially your developers. If uncertainty exists about clarity, take the necessary steps to seek clarification and make adjustments until comprehension is universal.
  • User-Centric Perspective: Acceptance criteria serve as a lens through which the problem is viewed from the customer’s standpoint. Thus, they should be crafted considering the real user’s experience and the context of their needs.

Who drafts the Acceptance Criteria?

The task of defining acceptance criteria typically falls to the product owner or product manager, as they often shape the functionality. Nevertheless, virtually any team member can craft acceptance criteria for user stories. It’s crucial that the writer ensure these criteria reflect the end user’s perspective, making the product owner, considered the voice of the customer, a common choice for this duty.

However, current practices emphasize a collaborative approach where all team members—be it developers, testers, or QA personnel—participate in this process. Encouragingly, this inclusive approach fosters a comprehensive team understanding of the feature’s scope. The more diverse roles engaged in this task, the richer the opportunities for team-wide collaboration and discussions.

Pooling various perspectives contributes to better outcomes. One person might overlook a functionality, dependency, or scenario that another identifies due to their different viewpoints. Thus, involving multiple team members leverages collective expertise, enhancing the quality of the work produced.

When is the ideal time to draft the User Story Acceptance Criteria?

Many product managers and owners typically craft acceptance criteria during backlog grooming sessions and subsequently bring these criteria to sprint planning meetings for discussion and refinement alongside developers. However, there are no strict guidelines dictating the specific timing for this task.

At the latest, acceptance criteria must be established before the commencement of development to fully reap their benefits. Conversely, writing criteria too early might pose challenges. Agile methodology encourages frequent reprioritization based on emerging insights, allowing user stories to shift between sprints.

One approach to managing this uncertainty is to formulate acceptance requirements when moving items into the sprint backlog. This strategy prevents investing time in detailing specifications for stories that could later be deprioritized. Once stories are moved into the sprint backlog, there’s a higher certainty of their upcoming implementation. Hence, loosely outlining acceptance criteria can occur at this stage, followed by thorough discussions and finalization during sprint planning meetings.

How do you structure user story acceptance criteria?

There isn’t a definitive right or wrong way to articulate acceptance criteria for a user story. Ultimately, it’s crucial to establish a consistent format and process tailored to your team. If you’re new to this, anticipate a learning curve through trial and error. In the Agile sphere, most organizations tend to adopt one of two prevalent formats for their acceptance criteria:

Given/When/Then Acceptance Criteria: This style mirrors the traditional structure of user stories themselves. 

Verification List Acceptance Criteria:

Another feasible method involves outlining requirements as a checklist. This approach is straightforward—team collaboration determines a list of pass/fail statements necessary for functionality to be deemed complete.

Ultimately, the format of your acceptance criteria matters less than its utility. The key is ensuring that your team comprehends it and can effectively work with it. The practicality and comprehension of the criteria take precedence over their specific format.

Considerations for Crafting Acceptance Criteria:

Every product backlog item or user story ought to encompass at least one acceptance criterion. It’s essential not to underestimate the importance of drafting these criteria or consider skipping them.

  • Draft acceptance criteria before implementation—a step often overlooked by teams. Neglecting this process post-implementation results in missed advantages.
  • Each acceptance criterion should be independently testable. This practice ensures clarity and feasibility in testing.
  • Ensure acceptance criteria yield a straightforward Pass/Fail outcome. Complex and protracted sentences might jeopardize understanding and assessment.
  • Emphasize the result (What), not the solution approach (How). Focus on defining the desired outcome rather than specifying how it should be accomplished.
  • Incorporate both functional and pertinent non-functional criteria into the acceptance criteria.
  • Team members collaborate on writing acceptance criteria, followed by validation from the product owner. This verification confirms a shared understanding of the user story between the PO and the team.

How to Validate and Test Acceptance Criteria Pre and Post Development

  • Establish Clear and Testable Acceptance Criteria

The initial step involves defining acceptance criteria in a manner that is both clear and testable. This necessitates using straightforward language, avoiding ambiguity, and outlining the desired behavior and outcome of the feature. Employing structured formats like Given-When-Then or SMART aids in easy comprehension and verification. 

  • Review and Refine Acceptance Criteria with the Team

Following the definition, it’s crucial to review and refine acceptance criteria collectively with the team before commencing development. This collaborative step ensures alignment among team members, feasibility, coverage of various scenarios and edge cases, and validation from the product owner, developers, and testers. Techniques like Three Amigos or Definition of Ready facilitate this process, while tools like Jira or Trello aid in the documentation and tracking of acceptance criteria and user stories.

  • Develop Automated Tests Based on Acceptance Criteria

Subsequently, write automated tests aligned with your acceptance criteria. These tests help validate criteria before and after development, identify bugs or errors early on, and ensure the feature operates as intended. Tools like Cucumber or SpecFlow are useful for writing automated tests in formats matching acceptance criteria, such as Given-When-Then. 

Additionally, a cloud-based platform like LambdaTest offers support for automating browser-based tests, facilitating the simulation of user interactions with the feature across different browsers and environments. LambdaTest is an AI-powered test orchestration and execution platform that allows the execution of manual and automated tests on a large scale. 

The platform allows you to perform both real-time and automation testing across 3000+ environments and on real device cloud.

This comprehensive testing capability assists in verifying that the feature behaves consistently and as intended in various scenarios.

  • Perform Manual and User Acceptance Testing

Finally, conduct manual testing and user acceptance testing post-development to verify acceptance criteria. This step checks the feature’s usability and functionality and uncovers any issues that automated tests might overlook. It also ensures alignment with user needs and expectations. Tools like TestRail or TestLodge aid in managing and executing manual test cases and reporting results. Meanwhile, platforms like UserTesting or Validately facilitate user acceptance testing and gather feedback from actual users.

Also Read: How Do You Define Your Role as an Agile Tester?


Acceptance criteria stand as a crucial element within each user story tackled by an Agile team. It distinctly outlines the boundaries, intended results, and testing prerequisites for functionalities under development by the delivery team. Moreover, the formulation and consensus-building around acceptance criteria serve as an invaluable means of communication between developers and the product team.

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