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Software-based self-test strategies have been mainly proposed to tackle microprocessor testing issues, but may also be applied to peripheral testing. However, testing highly embedded peripherals (e.g., DMA or Interrupt controllers) is a challenging task, since their observability and controllability are even more reduced compared to microprocessors and to peripherals devoted to I/O communication (e.g., serial or parallel ports). In this paper we describe an approach to develop functional tests for system peripherals embedded in SoCs that can be used for both design validation and testing. The presented methodology requires two correlated phases: module configuration and module operation. The first one prepares the peripheral on the different operation modes, whereas, the second one is in charge of exciting the whole device and observing its behavior. A methodology for generating suitable test programs is proposed, and preliminary experimental results demonstrating the method effectiveness for an embedded DMA controller are finally reported.