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This paper proposes a general testing model for instruments and several testing approaches to test instruments in integrated circuit (IC) equipment. Three levels of mirror models are built to describe the hierarchical construction of units under test in IC equipment, which is used to simulate the internal structure and component relationship of tested instruments. By using different types of data acquisition (DAQ) cards and corresponding drivers, a concept of virtual pin is proposed to establish a bridge between the software and hardware aspects of the automatic test system (ATS). To improve the flexibility of the ATS, the testing procedure for a single instrument or equipment is divided into mirror model configuration and runtime control. By this way, the same mirror model can be adapted to different testing applications. To meet the needs of reusability of mirror models and transportability of testing applications, various configurations are serialized and deserialized via Extensible Markup Language files. Based on industrial personal computer and DAQ cards, an ATS prototype named IC Equipment Tester (ICETester) was developed to support the proposed mirror model and testing methods. The prototype was implemented for the development of plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) equipment, which proved that ICETester is efficient and flexible to test instruments in the PECVD equipment.