What's the difference between a use case and a test case?

Is there a way to leverage the work from our requirements effort when it's time for testing? What's the difference between a use case and a test case?
It's fairly common to hear the terms "use case" and "test case" used interchangeably. And, in fact, use cases and test cases can both be used to identify the ways users interact with the system to achieve a specific result. The differences lie in their purpose and scope.

A use case captures business and user requirements related to system functions—that is, how the users interact with the system. The goal of a use case is to help the development team understand precisely what the users will expect the system to do.

A use case describes all the possible paths through a given user/system interaction, including the basic path and any alternative or exception paths. The basic (or "happy") path is the one that meets the user's needs. "Alternative paths" are additional paths that are acceptable but aren't the most common, frequent, or desirable. "Exception paths" are those that fail to meet the user's needs because of errors like missing information or invalid data. A single use case may describe many different paths.

Test cases are used to validate that the requirements have been met. The quality assurance analyst will probably want to test the system thoroughly by setting up an individual test case for each path described in a use case. At a minimum, they would set up separate test cases for the "happy path," each alternative path, and each exception path. There would probably also be multiple test cases for the happy path—one for each situation that would cause different business rules to be invoked.

Use cases are provided to developers so that they can develop the solution, and test cases are provided to testers so that they can validate that the solution matches the requirements. Thus, use cases often supply input for developing test cases. But while the two documents may overlap quite a bit, they aren't exactly the same thing.

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