DOI: 10.1145/360248.360252 ISSN:

Symbolic execution and program testing

James C. King
  • General Computer Science

This paper describes the symbolic execution of programs. Instead of supplying the normal inputs to a program (e.g. numbers) one supplies symbols representing arbitrary values. The execution proceeds as in a normal execution except that values may be symbolic formulas over the input symbols. The difficult, yet interesting issues arise during the symbolic execution of conditional branch type statements. A particular system called EFFIGY which provides symbolic execution for program testing and debugging is also described. It interpretively executes programs written in a simple PL/I style programming language. It includes many standard debugging features, the ability to manage and to prove things about symbolic expressions, a simple program testing manager, and a program verifier. A brief discussion of the relationship between symbolic execution and program proving is also included.