Symbolic execution and the testing of COBOL programs

Coward, Philip David (1993). Symbolic execution and the testing of COBOL programs. PhD thesis The Open University.



The thesis is in two parts. Part one is a review of existing work in the area of software testing and more specifically symbolic execution. Part two is a description of the symbolic execution testing system for COBOL (SYM-BOL). Much of the work presented has been published or accepted for publication.
Part one commences by introducing the aims of software testing and is followed by a review of the tools and techniques of software testing that have been developed over the past 25 years. A simple taxonomy of software testing techniques is given. One potentially powerful technique is symbolic execution. The principles of symbolic execution are described followed by the problems in applying symbolic execution. Part one is completed by a review of existing symbolic execution testing systems. No symbolic execution testing system has previously been built for a commercial data processing language such as COBOL. Part two commences by outlining the features of the SYM-BOL system and describes the user strategies that may be employed when using the system.
The system generates an intermediate form in stages by transforming the source program into one that contains only a limited number of language constructs. Path selection can be automatic or undertaken by the user. In both cases the results of the symbolic execution already undertaken are available to the path selector to help reduce the likelihood of selecting an infeasible path. A description of how the Nag-library linear optimizer E04MBF is used for feasibility checking is given. Feasible solutions are turned into files of test cases. Simple assertions may be included in the source program which do not affect the normal execution of the software but which can be verified by inclusion in the symbolic execution.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions