Writing Effective Acceptance Criteria: A step-by-step guide

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If you’ve ever worked on a project with other people, you know that one of the most important aspects of success is communication. In software development, one of the key ways to ensure effective communication is to agree on what we’re building before we start building it. This is where acceptance criteria come in. In this article, we’ll discuss what acceptance criteria are and how to write them effectively, using examples from real-world projects.


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.


Acceptance criteria 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.


The development of the user story is deemed successful when the product owner confirms specific user story acceptance criteria and the generated feature passes it. Acceptance Criteria can use pass/fail results as the foundation for building tests that can be automated and run.

Importance of Acceptance Criteria


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A well-articulated acceptance criteria 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:  Acceptance criteria define 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 acceptance criteria 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: Acceptance criteria 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: Acceptance criteria 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 can be written in two formats-

  1. Scenario-oriented acceptance criteria (Given/When/Then)

Scenario-oriented acceptance criteria are a subset of acceptance criteria 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 acceptance criteria provide a systematic and procedural way of writing acceptance criteria. 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 acceptance criteria 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.


Best Practices For Writing Acceptance Criteria

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  1. Make sure the acceptance criteria is testable: Acceptance criteria should be written in such a way that it can easily be tested and verified. If a particular criterion cannot be tested, then there is no point in including it in the acceptance criteria.


  1. Keep acceptance criteria focused and concise: The goal of writing acceptance criteria is to define the feature and what it should do, not how it should be done. The criteria should also be written in a manner that is easy to understand and follow.


  1. Have clear priorities: Make sure to prioritise your acceptance criteria so that you know which ones are most important. This will help you focus on the key features and move on to the other features as quickly as possible.


  1. Involve stakeholders: All stakeholders should be involved in creating acceptance criteria, as their input is essential for making sure that the feature meets user needs and expectations.


  1. Revisit and update regularly: Acceptance criteria should be revisited and updated regularly to make sure that they are still relevant and up-to-date. This will help ensure that the feature remains aligned with business goals and user needs.


By following these best practices, you can ensure that your acceptance criteria are clear, testable, and accurate. This will help you develop a high quality product that meets user needs and expectations.



Acceptance criteria are an important part of any software development project. By taking the time to write effective acceptance criteria, you can ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page and that the final product meets your expectations. Writing acceptance criteria can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice it will become second nature. And once you get into the habit of writing acceptance criteria, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them! Please feel free to share this blog post if you found it helpful.  :)Thanks for reading!


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