Toward Rigorous Object-Code Coverage Criteria

Date of Submission: 
June 13, 2017
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Object-branch coverage (OBC) is often used as a measure of the thoroughness of tests suites, augmenting or substituting source-code based structural criteria such as branch coverage and modified condition/decision coverage (MC/DC). In addition, with the increasing use of third-party components for which source-code access may be unavailable, robust object-code coverage criteria are essential to assess how well the components are exercised during testing. While OBC has the advantage of being programming language independent and is amenable to non-intrusive coverage measurement techniques, variations in compilers, and the optimizations they perform can substantially change what is seen as an object branch, which itself appears to be an informally understood concept. To address the need for a robust object coverage criterion, this paper proposes a rigorous definition of OBC such that it captures well the semantic of source code branches for a given instruction set architecture. We report an empirical assessment of these criteria for the Intel x86 instruction set on several examples from embedded control systems software. Preliminary results indicate that object-code coverage can be made robust to compilation variations and is comparable in its bug-finding efficacy to source level MC/DC.