Exception testing

Marc Philipp edited this page Jan 11, 2017 · 18 revisions

Expected Exceptions

How do you verify that code throws exceptions as expected? Verifying that code completes normally is important, but making sure the code behaves as expected in exceptional situations is vital too. For example:

new ArrayList<Object>().get(0);

This code should throw an IndexOutOfBoundsException. The @Test annotation has an optional parameter "expected" that takes as values subclasses of Throwable. If we wanted to verify that ArrayList throws the correct exception, we would write:

@Test(expected = IndexOutOfBoundsException.class) 
public void empty() { 
     new ArrayList<Object>().get(0); 

The expected parameter should be used with care. The above test will pass if any code in the method throws IndexOutOfBoundsException. For longer tests, it's recommended to use the ExpectedException rule, which is described below.

Deeper Testing of the Exception

The above approach is useful for simple cases, but it has its limits. For example, you can't test the value of the message in the exception, or the state of a domain object after the exception has been thrown.

Try/Catch Idiom

To address this you can use the try/catch idiom which prevailed in JUnit 3.x:

public void testExceptionMessage() {
    try {
        new ArrayList<Object>().get(0);
        fail("Expected an IndexOutOfBoundsException to be thrown");
    } catch (IndexOutOfBoundsException anIndexOutOfBoundsException) {
        assertThat(anIndexOutOfBoundsException.getMessage(), is("Index: 0, Size: 0"));

ExpectedException Rule

Alternatively, use the ExpectedException rule. This rule lets you indicate not only what exception you are expecting, but also the exception message you are expecting:

public ExpectedException thrown = ExpectedException.none();

public void shouldTestExceptionMessage() throws IndexOutOfBoundsException {
    List<Object> list = new ArrayList<Object>();

    thrown.expectMessage("Index: 0, Size: 0");
    list.get(0); // execution will never get past this line

The expectMessage also lets you use Matchers, which gives you a bit more flexibility in your tests. An example:

thrown.expectMessage(Matchers.containsString("Size: 0"));

Moreover, you can use Matchers to inspect the Exception, useful if it has embedded state you wish to verify. For example

import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.hasProperty;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.is;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.startsWith;

import javax.ws.rs.NotFoundException;
import javax.ws.rs.core.Response;
import javax.ws.rs.core.Response.Status;

import org.junit.Rule;
import org.junit.Test;
import org.junit.rules.ExpectedException;

public class TestExy {
    public ExpectedException thrown = ExpectedException.none();

    public void shouldThrow() {
        TestThing testThing = new TestThing();
        thrown.expectMessage(startsWith("some Message"));
        thrown.expect(hasProperty("response", hasProperty("status", is(404))));

    private class TestThing {
        public void chuck() {
            Response response = Response.status(Status.NOT_FOUND).entity("Resource not found").build();
            throw new NotFoundException("some Message", response);

For an expanded discussion of the ExpectedException rule, see this blog post.