What is Acceptance Criteria and When Should You Use It?

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What is Acceptance Criteria and When Should You Use It?

In software development, acceptance criteria is a list of specific conditions that must be met in order for a user story or requirement to be accepted as complete. Acceptance criteria can be used during the requirements gathering stage to help flesh out user stories and ensure that everyone is on the same page about what is being built. It can also be used during the testing stage to help testers verify that a feature has been implemented correctly. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what acceptance criteria are and when you should use them. We’ll also share some tips on how to write effective acceptance criteria.



Acceptance Criteria Definition


Acceptance Criteria specify how a specific feature might be applied from the viewpoint of an end user. It specifies the feature’s scope boundary, focuses on business value, and directs development. These are specific to a user story and serve as the foundation for user story acceptance testing, which identifies the requirements for the feature’s success.


It could draw a line that makes it clear to team members what is and isn’t covered by the user story’s scope. In addition to guiding product behaviour in happy path scenarios, the user experience is also guided by the user narrative acceptance criterion when things don’t go as planned. It outlines what the acceptance tests would confirm.


Importance of Acceptance Criteria


A well-articulated AC removes ambiguity about the functionality to be built. The development team will be clear about the client requirements and what the final deliverable should look like.


Writing acceptance criteria helps us to: –


Understand expectations:  It defines exactly what is expected from the feature and how it should behave. This helps team members to accurately assess if a feature meets user needs and expectations.


Saves time: Writing it upfront helps to avoid costly rework and saves development time. It also helps us to focus on the key feature requirements, instead of wasting time on features that are not critical for the project.


Prioritise: It can help us to prioritise user story tasks and make sure that we are working on the most important features first.


Account for edge cases: It can also help us to account for possible edge cases and other scenarios that are not part of the normal user flow.


Acceptance Criteria Examples

Acceptance criteria are the lowest level functional requirements


Acceptance Criteria can be written in two formats-

  1. Scenario-oriented (Given/When/Then): Scenario-oriented are a subset of it that are described in the form of a scenario. The Given/When/Then technique is used, and it goes like this:


  • Scenario – the name for the behaviour that will be detailed
  • Given – the start status of the scenario
  • When – specific action taken by the user
  • Then – the result of the action in “When”
  • And – used to continue any of above three statements


Acceptance Criteria example (scenario-oriented):


Scenario: User Login

Given: A user is on the login page

When: The user enters their username and password

Then: The user is logged in to the system.

And: The user session is initiated.


  1. Rule-oriented Acceptance Criteria: Rule-oriented a provide a systematic and procedural way of writing it. It uses Boolean conditions to express rules which should be true in order for the story to pass.


This type of acceptance criteria is suitable when-


  • The developers do not require extensive test cases.
  • It is necessary to elaborate on software design
  • The user stories describe a degree of system capability that requires a distinct QA approach.


Acceptance Criteria example (rule-oriented):


User Login: The user must enter their username and password correctly in order to log in successfully. The system should display an error message if the username or password entered is incorrect. The user must be logged out after a certain period of time to ensure security. The system should alert the user before logging them out automatically.


These AC are clear, testable, and realistic. They also align with the business goal of providing a way for users to navigate to different pages on the site.


When You Should Use Acceptance Criteria ?


AC are an essential component of the product development process and should be used in various situations throughout the project lifecycle. Here are some key scenarios where it will play a crucial role:


  1. User Story Definition: It are used to define the specific requirements and expectations for a user story. They provide a clear and measurable definition of when a user story is considered complete and meets the desired outcome.


  1. Prioritisation and Backlog Management: It help product owners prioritize user stories in the product backlog. By having well-defined acceptance criteria, the product owner can evaluate the complexity and effort required for each story, making informed decisions on which ones to prioritise.


  1. Sprint Planning: During sprint planning, the development team reviews user stories and their associated acceptance criteria to estimate the effort needed for implementation. It aids in clarifying the scope and understanding the tasks required to fulfill the requirements of each user story.


  1. Communication and Collaboration: It serve as a means of effective communication between the product owner, development team, and other stakeholders. They provide a shared understanding of the expected outcome, reducing ambiguity and ensuring alignment among all parties involved.


  1. Quality Assurance and Testing: It serve as a basis for quality assurance and testing activities. Testers can use it to design test cases and verify whether the implemented functionality meets the specified requirements.


  1. Validation and User Acceptance testing: It provide a clear benchmark for validating the product’s functionality during user acceptance testing (UAT). Users or representatives from the target audience can refer to it to confirm whether the product meets their needs and expectations.


By using it effectively, you can enhance the overall clarity, collaboration, and quality of the product development process. They provide a common language and framework for understanding and evaluating the success of each user story, ensuring that the final product meets the desired outcomes and delivers value to the stakeholders.




Acceptance criteria are a critical component of the product development process. They provide a clear, measurable definition of requirements for user stories and help product owners prioritize tasks in the backlog. They also aid in communication among stakeholders, clarifying expectations and enabling teams to make informed decisions. Additionally, it can be used to design test cases, validate results during UAT, and ensure that the final product meets the desired outcomes. By taking advantage of these benefits, teams can ensure that the user stories they develop will deliver an effective solution to their customers.


If you’re interested in learning more about agile or becoming a product owner, then check out our courses on Agile. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with your friends and colleagues! Also, be sure to check out our other blogs for more scrum tips and tricks. Stay connected with us on Facebook and LinkedIn to stay updated on the latest news, resources, and upcoming courses.

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