Explain Mutation Testing

In mutation testing, the software is first tested by using an initial test suite built up from the different white box testing strategies. After the initial testing is complete, mutation testing is taken up. The idea behind mutation testing is to make few arbitrary changes to a program at a time. Each time the program is changed, it is called as a mutated program and the change effected is called as a mutant. A mutated program is tested against the full test suite of the program. If there exists at least one test case in the test suite for which a mutant gives an incorrect result, then the mutant is said to be dead. If a mutant remains alive even after all the test cases have been exhausted, the test data is enhanced to kill the mutant.

The process of generation and killing of mutants can be automated by predefining a set of primitive changes that can be applied to the program. These primitive changes can be alterations such as changing an arithmetic operator, changing the value of a constant, changing a data type, etc. A major disadvantage of the mutation-based testing approach is that it is computationally very expensive, since a large number of possible mutants can be generated. Since mutation testing generates a large number of mutants and requires us to check each mutant with the full test suite, it is not suitable for manual testing. Mutation testing should be used in conjunction of some testing tool which would run all the test cases automatically.

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