12 Terms for Tests and Related Expressions

By Mark Nichol

What’s the difference between an acid test and a litmus test? Can you test-drive something that can’t be driven, or test-fire something that can’t be fired? Here are literal and figurative definitions of some phrases that include the word test.

1. Acid test: a chemical test used to distinguish gold from other metals; by analogy, a very important or intense test of character or performance
2. Alpha test: a test of an early version of a company’s software or hardware by company employees or by consultants
3. Beta test: a test of a beta, or revised, version of a company’s software or hardware by people outside the company (often, a sample of prospective customers) before it is finalized and generally released for sale
4. Litmus test: a test for acidity using litmus, an organic dye absorbed onto a medium called litmus paper that changes color when exposed to chemicals; by analogy, a test in which one component or factor determines the outcome, or the posing of a question whose answer indicates the respondent’s suitability, or lack thereof, for a position, or an action whose result determines whether one or more other actions should be taken
5. Test ban: a self-imposed prohibition of nuclear weapons testing by mutual agreement between two or more countries
6. Test bed: a vehicle used to test equipment; by analogy, any thing, place, or method for testing a product or an idea
7. Test board: a sample piece of cardboard or other packing material for testing strength or resistance to damage, or a console for testing electronics (also, an organization that administers academic examinations)
8. Test case: a legal or similar case pursued with the intent of establishing a precedent for similar decisions; by analogy, an action undertaken to determine the likely outcome for such actions
9. Test check: auditing of sample data (also, as a verb, test-check, to audit sample data)
10. Test drive: use of a vehicle to evaluate its performance; by analogy, evaluation of any device or of implementation of a policy or procedure (also, as a verb, test-drive, to test a vehicle or other device, or a policy or procedure)
11. Test fire: testing of a weapon to evaluate its performance (also called a firing test); by analogy, to introduce or launch a policy or product to determine how it will be received (as a verb, test-fire, to test a weapon or launch a policy or product)
12. Test market: a region or group selected for limited release of a product (also, as a verb, test-market, to make a product available on a limited basis to evaluate its appeal)

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1 Response to “12 Terms for Tests and Related Expressions”

  • DHH

    I love these lists!
    Remember “high test” for ethyl gasoline (if you’re old enough), which was the premium grade of fuel.
    Also the dreaded “pop test!”

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