Mutation 2000: Uniting the Orthogonal

Mutation 2000: Mutation Testing in the Twentieth and the Twenty First Centuries, pages 45--55, San Jose, CA, October 2000.

Jeff Offutt and Roland H. Untch


Mutation testing is a powerful, but computationally expensive, technique for unit testing software. This expense has prevented mutation from becoming widely used in practical situations, but recent engineering advances have given us techniques and algorithms for significantly reducing the cost of mutation testing. These techniques include a new algorithmic execution technique called schema-based mutation, an approximation technique called weak mutation, a reduction technique called selective mutation, heuristics for detecting equivalent mutants, and algorithms for automatic test data generation. This paper reviews experimentation with these advances and outlines a design for a system that will approximate mutation, but in a way that will be accessible to everyday programmers. We envision a system to which a programmer can submit a program unit, and get back a set of input/output pairs that are guaranteed to form an effective test of the unit by being close to mutation adequate. We believe this system will be efficient enough to be adopted by leading-edge software developers. Full automation in unit testing has the potential to dramatically change the economic balance between testing and development, by reducing the cost of testing from the major part of the total development cost to a small fraction.

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