Unit Testing


Unit tests are fitness tests for individual parts of a software program, the part here being the smallest possible testable component. The farther down the lifecycle of a product/service a bug is discovered, the greater the cost of fixing it. Unit testing code provides one means to ensure any product/system is tested early enough in the development lifecycle and so reduces the cost in the long run.

Unit testing is limited to testing the smallest possible part in the code - could be a simple class or even a really small group of classes with high cohesion. Other types of automated tests such as integrations tests that span multiple layers of the system, while though invaluable are not considered as unit tests. The scope of the document is limited to guidelines around unit testing only.

Best Practices

Following are some of the good practices that are applicable regardless of the development style in place - TDD or otherwise.

Focused Tests

Ensure the tests are against a very specific behavior of the unit in question, try to have one logical assertion per test and avoid repeated assertions in many tests.

Isolated Tests

Make each test completely independent of other tests in the test suite. Use isolation frameworks to mock/stub out all external dependencies to the subject under test.

Isolate the tests such that:

  1. There is no assumption on the order in which the tests are run
  2. Failures in one tests should not result in failure of another test.
  3. There is no interdependency between tests, intentional or otherwise.

Consistent naming

Choose a consistent naming convention for the tests that will reflect subject under test, the behavior that is being verified and result that is expected. For example in a Counter unit test, a possible test name could be shouldIncreaseCountByOneWhenTicked. Whatever be the style, make sure that it is consistent across your test suite and a look at the test reports should tell you what is tested and what is not.

Integrate with a build system

If the focus of the unit tests is to ensure better quality of your product/system, then it is imperative that these tests are part of a continuous build system. While all unit tests should be run and found to be passing prior to being merged into and branches where other team members are working, deployment processes in place should ensure that all tests are passed prior to deployments.

Fix failures

Have a process in place to notify the primary developers of the system in case of a failure in the tests. Ensuring that all tests are repaired to pass whenever they are found to be broken is key to having a successful unit testing culture.

Deterministic tests

A key characteristic of a good automated test suite is determinism. Ensure that tests do not provide false positives or false negatives. Flaky tests if any should be sufficiently quarantined and processes should be put in place to ensure that these tests are made deterministic as early as possible.

Test Coverage, Measurements, and Goals

While the specific Unit Test Coverage goals will be highly dependent on the team & codebase, the act of measuring Unit Test Coverage in a continuous way, and monitoring how you are performing against your team goals is a recommended best practice.

In general all teams should operate under the minimum rule of “Leave the unit testing coverage better than you found it”.


Following are some of the good practices that are applicable regardless of the development style in place - TDD or otherwise.

Language Unit testing Isolation framework Reporting tool
C# NUnit
NUnit mocks
C++ Google Test
Google Mock
Google Test Adapter
Java JUnit
Test NG
Surefire plugin
JavaScript Jest
Jasmine Jest
Python pytest pytest-mock
wrapper for mock