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How to Test a Spoon?

How to Test a Spoon - Adventures in QA

A couple of months ago I stumbled up on a blog post or tweet (Sorry, but I really can’t remember and find it again) about a very funny and interesting software testing interview question.
The question is:

How to Test a Spoon?

This question sounds strange in the first place, but if you think about it, it is a brilliant software testing question. But why?
The goal of this question is not to see the possible candidate to break the spoon, instead it is more about the reaction and the thinking process about this question.

I would love to get some questions back from the candidate to see how he or she will get more information out of this testing challenge.

Some brilliant answers would be:

  • What is the purpose of this spoon?
    • Will it be used as a normal spoon for soup or will it be used for example in a chemical environment for acid liquids?
  • What is the area of operation of this spoon?
    • Will it be used in a hot or cold environment?
  • What material is it made of?
    • Is it made of plastic, metal or wood?
  • What is the shape of the spoon?
    • Is the shape important for the use case of this spoon? Maybe it has a square, round or rectangle shape.
  • Who will use it? Children, adults or older people?
    • Are there sharp edges, are those edges intended to be sharp?

I will ask this question in one of my next software testing interviews, if you were lucky enough you have read this post before :).

But please just hand out a spoon no fork or knife, for your own safety :).

What do you think about this question? Will you use it in one of your upcoming interviews or do you have some similar questions?

Happy Testing!

Image Source: https://openclipart.org/image/300px/svg_to_png/206173/1418358989.png

27 comments

  1. Wes says:

    If someone asked me how to test a spoon, then I would ask to see the specs. I would not try to guess what the spoon is, or how it should be used. I would test it against the specs. Now, if the specs are wrong, then that is whole other testing platform. To build the spec you would have to understand the environment the spoon will be used in and its purpose.

    • Wed says:

      In addition, we need to know what the spoon will be used for in order to know what is important to test. You dont want to pay for tests that are non needed. Why test electrical resistance when it will just be a big wooden spoon wall decoration?

    • Tim says:

      Many agile shops will not provide you with specs. The specs and requirements are formulated on the fly and you need to adapt to it. So while you are thinking about the best way to test a spoon the business side already wonders if it isn’t better to make a fork or a jack hammer.
      If I’d interview a QA candidate and the person would ask me for specs right out of the gate it is a sign that he or she missed the developments in the industry.
      In that regard, the question “How to test a spoon?” has limited merit. As tester it is way more important to have industry knowledge and previous exposure to customers. The goal is not to satisfy some QA theory, but to get working software out the door that satisfies the needs of the customers.

      • Daniel says:

        Hi Tim,

        you mentioned good points, and yes the requirements in agile development are changing often. However, the change in agile projects should not be chaos. I totally agree with you to get working software out of the door and to satisfy the customer. This must be number 1 priority. I use this question to see how candidates are reacting to it, and how they start to think about it :).

        Greets,
        Daniel

  2. James says:

    The desired answers you listed seem to be additional clarifying questions, which is great, and gets to the need to have QA Engineers who can adequately understand specifications in their entirety (and along the way point out requirements that should be documented).

    Ultimately, as a hiring manager, I would also want to hear an answer to the question “How would you test a spoon” that address a methodical approach to testing. Maybe something that included details about testing positive variations (eat soup) , negative variations (eat soup with spoon upside down), limit variations (eat lots of soup, or dig a hole), accessibility variations (can someone with a prosthetic use the spoon), etc.

  3. Wendy says:

    My favorite interview question to ask is:

    If you must have toast everyday for breakfast, and for some reason one day your toast is still bread/soft after toasting it. What do you do?

    A real tester will test/check the toaster,
    is it plugged in?
    Will it work in another outlet, etc.
    Not just say they’ll go to McDonalds on their way to work…

    • TimT says:

      The tester should just report the results of the test and let development determine the cause. Testing is not debugging, that is a development task. When a tester gets involved with the troubleshooting and determining of the root cause, they develop a bias to the issue. The tester should understand what was changed to correct the problem and test to see if the change was done just to pass the test or to actually fix a problem.

      Here is a question for you:
      The requirement for the application states that if you enter a value of 4, the application will crash.
      During your testing of the requirement you enter a value of 4 and the application crashes.

      Did the test pass or fail?

      • Daniel says:

        Hi Tim,

        well in this case I would say pass. However, I would ask questions why the application needs to crash when entering 4 and what must happen when enter other numbers and non integer numbers or strings.

        Greets,
        Daniel

  4. Wes says:

    I would have a spoon test. Balance 5 spoons on a peg. You have 5 minutes. During the event, a secretary comes in and has to have paperwork filled out right now because they are leaving.

    How does the person act when interrupted? How does the person handle the situation when they find out a spoon is missing (the secretary stole it). Do they put 4 on peg or they get frustrated?

    • Wes says:

      Ok I eould try another test. The case of the missing spoon, where who ever solves the problem gets the job. Everyone shows up on time and sits at the table. No one ever comes to deliver the test. Last person still waiting in the room gets the job.

  5. Hivzo says:

    Nice article.
    However, when I read the title the first thing I thought about is: “how to test the obvious?”.
    Maybe it does not have much with this article to do, but it could be material for your future article :-).

  6. TREE says:

    I use a similar type of question to understand the mindset and thinking when interviewing: (Show a picture of a basic log in web page – company logo, “Log In” with edit field, “Password” with edit field, and “Submitt” button.)

    Then ask “How would you test this page?”.

    It is interesting to see how they answer.
    — Do they answer with “Types” of testing? Positive, negative, boundary testing…
    — Actual test cases? Enter valid login and password and click “Submitt” button…
    — Do they address only the basics or common testing? or do they think of other/outside the box stuff? SQL Injection, Clicking logo image, Dragging images…

    … Did they catch the mistake in the page? (Did you? – “Submitt” has two t’s)

    but to the question about “How to test a spoon”, a couple questions that I often find people (not just QA, but Business and Development) is “What issue is this Spoon Solving? And How does this spoon solve your problem?”

    This goes to the point of is the “solution” you are being asked to build is it the correct solution? Understanding the initial Issue and clients perceived / requested solution allows for correction before building/testing the wrong thing.

    • Daniel says:

      Hi Tree,

      funny, I am also using the login example as well. I also put in the address field some like “https://domain.com/login” to see if the candidate is using this information for further testing like ssl encryption, manipulation of the URL and so on.

      Greets,
      Daniel

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