by Ben Yu

This article was adapted from a Google Testing on the Toilet (TotT) episode. You can download a printer-friendly version of this TotT episode and post it in your office.

Can you tell if this test is correct?

208: @Test public void testIncrement_existingKey() {
209: assertEquals(9, tally.get("key1"));
210: }

It’s impossible to know without seeing how the tally object is set up:

1:   private final Tally tally = new Tally();
2: @Before public void setUp() {
3: tally.increment("key1", 8);
4: tally.increment("key2", 100);
5: tally.increment("key1", 0);
6: tally.increment("key1", 1);
7: }
// 200 lines away
208: @Test public void testIncrement_existingKey() {
209: assertEquals(9, tally.get("key1"));
210: }

The problem is that the modification of key1‘s values occurs 200+ lines away from the assertion. Otherwise put, the cause is hidden far away from the effect.

Instead, write tests where the effects immediately follow the causes. It’s how we speak in natural language: “If you drive over the speed limit (cause), you’ll get a traffic ticket (effect).” Once we group the two chunks of code, we easily see what’s going on:

1:   private final Tally tally = new Tally();
2: @Test public void testIncrement_newKey() {
3: tally.increment("key", 100);
5: assertEquals(100, tally.get("key"));
6: }
7: @Test public void testIncrement_existingKey() {
8: tally.increment("key", 8);
9: tally.increment("key", 1);
10: assertEquals(9, tally.get("key"));
11: }
12: @Test public void testIncrement_incrementByZeroDoesNothing() {
13: tally.increment("key", 8);
14: tally.increment("key", 0);
15: assertEquals(8, tally.get("key"));
16: }

This style may require a bit more code. Each test sets its own input and verifies its own expected output. The payback is in more readable code and lower maintenance costs.