Keeping Mutation Test Suites Consistent and Relevant with Long-Standing Mutants
This program is tentative and subject to change.
Mutation testing has been demonstrated to be one of the most powerful fault-revealing tools in the tester’s tool kit. Much previous work implicitly assumed it to be sufficient to re-compute mutant suites per release. Sadly, this makes mutation results inconsistent; mutant scores from each release cannot be directly compared, making it harder to measure test improvement. Furthermore, regular code change means that a mutant suite’s relevance will naturally degrade over time. We measure this degradation in relevance for 143,500 mutants in 4 non-trivial systems finding that, on overage, 52% degrade. We introduce a mutant brittleness measure and use it to audit software systems and their mutation suites. We also demonstrate how consistent-by-construction long-standing mutant suites can be identified with a 10x improvement in mutant relevance over an arbitrary test suite. Our results indicate that the research community should avoid the re-computation of mutant suites and focus, instead, on long-standing mutants, thereby improving the consistency and relevance of mutation testing.