Understanding Requirements, Use Cases, and Scenarios in Software Testing

Understanding Requirements, Use Cases, and Scenarios in Software Testing

3 July 2024 Stephan Petzl Leave a comment QA

When diving into software testing, it is crucial to understand the distinctions between requirements, use cases, and scenarios. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they have specific roles in the software development lifecycle. In this article, we will clarify these concepts and provide practical examples to illustrate their differences.


A requirement is a general statement that outlines what a system should do. It represents the needs or conditions that a new or altered system must satisfy. Requirements are typically gathered from stakeholders and serve as the foundation for further development and testing processes.

Example: “The system shall provide an API that converts a CSV file into a tab-separated file.”

Use Cases

Use cases are specific scenarios that demonstrate how a user might interact with a system to achieve a particular goal. They are derived from requirements and provide a detailed description of the system’s functionality from an end-user perspective. Use cases help developers understand the flow of the system and guide the design process.

Example: “If the input file is empty, the output file will also be empty.”


Scenarios are specific instances or sets of steps that describe the context in which a use case occurs. They provide background assumptions and conditions that put a use case into perspective. Scenarios help in testing the system under various conditions and ensure that it behaves as expected.

Example: “John is a Java developer who deals with potentially large CSV files that are sometimes empty.”

Practical Example

Let’s consider a practical example to better understand these concepts:

  • Requirement: The system should allow the restriction of access to data and actions to specific groups of people.
  • Use Case: As a salesperson, I want to access the list of clients assigned to me so I can view their orders. (Acceptance Criteria: The list of clients assigned to the salesperson should be displayed.)
  • Scenario: A salesperson logs in to the system, clicks on the “Show me the list of clients” menu item, and verifies that only their assigned clients are displayed.


Understanding the differences between requirements, use cases, and scenarios is essential for effective software testing and development. Clear definitions and practical examples help ensure that all stakeholders have a common understanding of the system’s functionality and testing requirements.

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