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Ultimate Guide to System Testing vs End-to-End Testing in '24

Updated on Jan 3
4 min read
Written by
Altay Ataman
Altay Ataman
Altay Ataman
Altay is an industry analyst at AIMultiple. He has background in international political economy, multilateral organizations, development cooperation, global politics, and data analysis.

He has experience working at private and government institutions. Altay discovered his interest for emerging tech after seeing its wide use of area in several sectors and acknowledging its importance for the future.

He received his bachelor's degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Bilkent University and he received his master's degree in International Politics from KU Leuven.

Altay is part of the AIMultiple benchmark team, specializing in dynamic application security testing (DAST) and workload automation. He works closely with fellow AIMultiple industry analysts and the tech team to conduct thorough and precise assessments, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of various technologies and their applications.
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System and end-to-end testing are key testing practices in the software development life cycle. Each software testing practice has benefits over the other for particular use cases. That’s why it’s important for businesses to know the difference between system testing and end-to-end testing, and when to choose one over the other.

However, determining the differences between the two testing practices can sometimes confuse businesses and their quality assurance (QA) teams.

This article explains each software practice’s benefits, similarities, and differences.   

Methods of software testing 

To understand the positioning of system testing and end-to-end testing, we can look at the three types of software testing (Figure 1):

  1. Black-box

Black-box testing is a software testing method that evaluates the functionality of an application. Knowledge of the internal working structures is not required for this type of testing. It is based on software requirements and primarily concentrates on the input and output of software programs.

  1. White-box

White-box testing examines an application’s internal components or mechanisms in contrast to testing its functionality. Designing test cases for white-box testing involves viewing the system from within.1 Thus, knowledge of the internal working structure is required for this type of testing. The tester selects inputs to test various code paths and identifies expected results.

  1. Gray-box

Gray box testing is a combination of white box and black box testing. With this method, testers approach the software from an end-user perspective while having partial knowledge of the code internals.

Figure 1: Types of software testing

Types of Testing

Source: Security Boulevard 2

What is system testing?

System testing verifies a fully integrated and finished piece of software. Through system testing, a QA team assesses how the various application components interact with one another in a complete, integrated system or application. 

System testing falls under black box testing since it examines how the software functions externally from the viewpoint of the user.

In system testing, testers:

  • Check for desired outputs by thoroughly checking each input in the application.
  • Evaluate the user’s experience of the application and the user interface (UI).
  • Examine all application components to ensure they work thoroughly and uniformly as a whole.

When is system testing performed?

Testers often carry out system testing after integration testing and before acceptance testing. See figure 2 to understand better where integration testing is placed. 

Figure 2: Levels of Software Testing

Levels of Software Testing

What are the benefits of system testing?

  1. Identifying potential problems: System testing can be used to determine program weaknesses and pinpoint areas in need of repair.
  2. Ensuring compliance: Testers can determine whether the software meets the program’s criteria and objectives.
  3. Complete testing: System testing tests the entire piece of hardware or software, allowing testers to quickly find any flaws or problems that may have slipped through integration and unit testing.
  4. Reducing reliance on hard-to-hire technical skills: Testers don’t need additional programming expertise to perform system testing.
  5. Accurate testing: The testing environment is similar to the production or business setting.

How is system testing done?

  1. Prepare a testing plan: Make a thorough document detailing the testing procedure’s main goals. It’s crucial to develop a detailed guideline so testers can comprehend a project’s scope.
  2. Prepare the testing environment: Establish testing conditions suitable for system testing to achieve higher-quality testing.
  3. Write test cases: To evaluate a system, create a number of specific test cases for each program feature and employ various system tests.
  4. Execute testing protocols: Execute written test cases and test data. 
  5. Defect reporting: After the executed testing protocols, defects will be visible to the testers.
  6. Regression testing: Testers can execute regression testing finally to examine the side effects of the system testing.

What is end-to-end (E2E) testing?

End-to-end (E2E), also known as chain testing, is methodology for ensuring that software is functioning as intended and that data flow is preserved for all user tasks and processes. 

End-to-end testing aims to simulate a complete production environment by thoroughly testing the entire software for dependencies, data integrity, and communication with other systems, interfaces, and databases. 

It is also a key testing practice when a product is required to function collectively with the other systems in various environments. In such scenarios, validation of data processing from upstream and downstream systems is required to maintain accurate interaction across different platforms & environments.

When is end-to-end (E2E) performed? 

End-to-end (E2E) testing is usually performed after system testing. It is especially useful to identify system dependencies considering that it tests both the software system and the connected systems.

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What are the benefits of end-to-end (E2E) testing?

End-to-end testing can provide the following benefits:

  1. Increased test coverage: It adds more thorough test cases than other testing techniques like unit and functional testing, which helps teams increase their test coverage. 
  2. Reducing overall cost: Decreases the time needed to test software, thereby lowering the overall cost of building and maintaining software.
  3. Determining priorities: End-to-end testing assists managers in setting priorities for tasks in the development backlog by determining the significance of a workflow to the user in the real world. 

To better understand end-to-end testing, check our article, “7 End-to-End Testing Best Practices in 2023”

End-to-end testing (E2E) vs. System Testing 

While end-to-end testing (E2E) and system testing may seem similar in terms of what they provide, their forms and test coverage differ. 

We can list the difference between system testing and end-to-end testing as follows:

System TestingEnd-to-End Testing
System testing is done to determine whether a product complies with functional requirements.
End-to-end testing searches for deviations from expected outcomes in both input and output. 
The tester tests the whole system, that is, all of a product’s components.
The tester tests the software’s behavioral flow.
Only a specific software system is tested during system testing
End-to-end testing examines both the connected systems and the software system.
Functional and non-functional testing is involvedAll interfaces and backend systems are tested. 
System testing can be automated
End-to-end testing checks external interfaces, which can be complex to automate. 
System testing is initially a superset of end-to-end testing. End-to-testing is a subset of system testing.

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Altay Ataman
Altay is an industry analyst at AIMultiple. He has background in international political economy, multilateral organizations, development cooperation, global politics, and data analysis. He has experience working at private and government institutions. Altay discovered his interest for emerging tech after seeing its wide use of area in several sectors and acknowledging its importance for the future. He received his bachelor's degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Bilkent University and he received his master's degree in International Politics from KU Leuven. Altay is part of the AIMultiple benchmark team, specializing in dynamic application security testing (DAST) and workload automation. He works closely with fellow AIMultiple industry analysts and the tech team to conduct thorough and precise assessments, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of various technologies and their applications.

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