Generics in .NET are wonderful, but sometimes when doing Test-Driven Development against a generic class I've felt frustrated because I've been feeling that dropping down to the lowest common denominator and testing against, say, Foo<object> doesn't properly capture the variability inherent in generics. On the other hand, writing the same test for five different types of T have seemed too wasteful (not to mention boring) to bother with.

That's until it occurred to me that in (and possibly other unit testing frameworks) I can define a generic test class. As an example, I wanted to test-drive a class with this class definition:

public class Interval<T>

Instead of writing a set of tests against Interval<object> I rather wanted to write a set of tests against a representative set of T. This is so easy to do that I don't know why I haven't thought of it before. I simply declared the test class itself as a generic class:

public abstract class IntervalFacts<T>

The reason I declared the class as abstract is because that effectively prevents the test runner from trying to run the test methods directly on the class. That would fail because T is still open. However, it enabled me to write tests like this:

[Theory, AutoCatalogData]
public void MinimumIsCorrect(IComparable<T> first, 
    IComparable<T> second)
    var sut = new Interval<T>(first, second);
    IComparable<T> result = sut.Minimum;
    Assert.Equal(result, first);

In this test, I also use AutoFixture's extension, but that's completely optional. You might as well just write an old-fashioned unit test, but then you'll need a SUT Factory that can resolve generics. If you don't use AutoFixture any other (auto-mocking) container will do, and if you don't use one of those, you can define a Factory Method that creates appropriate instances of T (and, in this particular case, instances of IComparable<T>).

In the above example I used a [Theory], but I might as well have been using a [Fact] as long as I had a container or a Factory Method to create the appropriate instances.

The above test doesn't execute in itself because the owning class is abstract. I needed to declare an appropriate set of constructed types for which I wanted the test to run. To do that, I defined the following test classes:

public class DecimalIntervalFacts : IntervalFacts<decimal> { }
public class StringIntervalFacts : IntervalFacts<string> { }
public class DateTimeIntervalFacts : IntervalFacts<DateTime> { }
public class TimSpanIntervalFacts : IntervalFacts<TimeSpan> { }

The only thing these classes do is to each pick a particular type for T. However, since they are concrete classes with test methods, the test runner will pick up the test cases and execute them. This means that the single unit test I wrote above is now being executed four times - one for each constructed type.

It's even possible to specialize the generic class and add more methods to a single specialized class. As a sanity check I wanted to write a set of tests specifically against Interval<int>, so I added this class as well:

public class Int32IntervalFacts : IntervalFacts<int>
    [InlineData(0, 0, 0, true)]
    [InlineData(-1, 1, -1, true)]
    [InlineData(-1, 1, 0, true)]
    [InlineData(-1, 1, 1, true)]
    [InlineData(-1, 1, -2, false)]
    [InlineData(-1, 1, 2, false)]
    public void Int32ContainsReturnsCorrectResult(
        int minimum, int maximum, int value,
        bool expectedResult)
        var sut = new Interval<int>(minimum, maximum);
        var result = sut.Contains(value);
        Assert.Equal(expectedResult, result);
    // More tests...

When added as an extra class in addition to the four ‘empty' concrete classes above, it now causes each generic method to be executed five times, whereas the above unit test is only executed for the Int32IntervalFacts class (on the other hand it's a parameterized test, so the method is actually executed six times).

It's also possible to write parameterized tests in the generic test class itself:

[InlineData(-1, -1, false)]
[InlineData(-1, 0, true)]
[InlineData(-1, 1, true)]
[InlineData(0, -1, false)]
[InlineData(0, 0, true)]
[InlineData(0, 1, true)]
[InlineData(1, -1, false)]
[InlineData(1, 0, false)]
[InlineData(1, 1, false)]
public void ContainsReturnsCorrectResult(
    int minumResult, int maximumResult,
    bool expectedResult)
    // Test method body

Since this parameterized test in itself has 9 variations and is declared by IntervalFacts<T> which now has 5 constructed implementers, this single test method will be executed 9 x 5 = 45 times!

Not that the number of executed tests in itself is any measure of the quality of the test, but I do appreciate the ability to write generic unit tests against generic types.

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Monday, 09 May 2011 12:37:17 UTC


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Published: Monday, 09 May 2011 12:37:17 UTC