How to Write Tests

Tests are Rust functions that verify that the non-test code is functioning in the expected manner. The bodies of test functions typically perform these three actions:

  1. Set up any needed data or state.
  2. Run the code you want to test.
  3. Assert the results are what you expect.

Let’s look at the features Rust provides specifically for writing tests that take these actions, which include the test attribute, a few macros, and the should_panic attribute.

The Anatomy of a Test Function

At its simplest, a test in Rust is a function that’s annotated with the test attribute. Attributes are metadata about pieces of Rust code; one example is the derive attribute we used with structs in Chapter 5. To change a function into a test function, add #[test] on the line before fn. When you run your tests with the cargo test command, Rust builds a test runner binary that runs the functions annotated with the test attribute and reports on whether each test function passes or fails.

When we make a new library project with Cargo, a test module with a test function in it is automatically generated for us. This module helps you start writing your tests so you don’t have to look up the exact structure and syntax of test functions every time you start a new project. You can add as many additional test functions and as many test modules as you want!

We’ll explore some aspects of how tests work by experimenting with the template test generated for us without actually testing any code. Then we’ll write some real-world tests that call some code that we’ve written and assert that its behavior is correct.

Let’s create a new library project called adder:

$ cargo new adder --lib
     Created library `adder` project
$ cd adder

The contents of the src/lib.rs file in your adder library should look like Listing 11-1:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    #[test]
    fn it_works() {
        assert_eq!(2 + 2, 4);
    }
}

Listing 11-1: The test module and function generated automatically by cargo new

For now, let’s ignore the top two lines and focus on the function to see how it works. Note the #[test] annotation before the fn line: this attribute indicates this is a test function, so the test runner knows to treat this function as a test. We could also have non-test functions in the tests module to help set up common scenarios or perform common operations, so we need to indicate which functions are tests by using the #[test] attribute.

The function body uses the assert_eq! macro to assert that 2 + 2 equals 4. This assertion serves as an example of the format for a typical test. Let’s run it to see that this test passes.

The cargo test command runs all tests in our project, as shown in Listing 11-2:

$ cargo test
   Compiling adder v0.1.0 (file:///projects/adder)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.22 secs
     Running target/debug/deps/adder-ce99bcc2479f4607

running 1 test
test tests::it_works ... ok

test result: ok. 1 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

   Doc-tests adder

running 0 tests

test result: ok. 0 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

Listing 11-2: The output from running the automatically generated test

Cargo compiled and ran the test. After the Compiling, Finished, and Running lines is the line running 1 test. The next line shows the name of the generated test function, called it_works, and the result of running that test, ok. The overall summary of running the tests appears next. The text test result: ok. means that all the tests passed, and the portion that reads 1 passed; 0 failed totals the number of tests that passed or failed.

Because we don’t have any tests we’ve marked as ignored, the summary shows 0 ignored. We also haven’t filtered the tests being run, so the end of the summary shows 0 filtered out. We’ll talk about ignoring and filtering out tests in the next section, “Controlling How Tests Are Run.”

The 0 measured statistic is for benchmark tests that measure performance. Benchmark tests are, as of this writing, only available in nightly Rust. See the documentation about benchmark tests to learn more.

The next part of the test output, which starts with Doc-tests adder, is for the results of any documentation tests. We don’t have any documentation tests yet, but Rust can compile any code examples that appear in our API documentation. This feature helps us keep our docs and our code in sync! We’ll discuss how to write documentation tests in the “Documentation Comments” section of Chapter 14. For now, we’ll ignore the Doc-tests output.

Let’s change the name of our test to see how that changes the test output. Change the it_works function to a different name, such as exploration, like so:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    #[test]
    fn exploration() {
        assert_eq!(2 + 2, 4);
    }
}

Then run cargo test again. The output now shows exploration instead of it_works:

running 1 test
test tests::exploration ... ok

test result: ok. 1 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

Let’s add another test, but this time we’ll make a test that fails! Tests fail when something in the test function panics. Each test is run in a new thread, and when the main thread sees that a test thread has died, the test is marked as failed. We talked about the simplest way to cause a panic in Chapter 9, which is to call the panic! macro. Enter the new test, another, so your src/lib.rs file looks like Listing 11-3:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    #[test]
    fn exploration() {
        assert_eq!(2 + 2, 4);
    }

    #[test]
    fn another() {
        panic!("Make this test fail");
    }
}

Listing 11-3: Adding a second test that will fail because we call the panic! macro

Run the tests again using cargo test. The output should look like Listing 11-4, which shows that our exploration test passed and another failed:

running 2 tests
test tests::exploration ... ok
test tests::another ... FAILED

failures:

---- tests::another stdout ----
    thread 'tests::another' panicked at 'Make this test fail', src/lib.rs:10:8
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

failures:
    tests::another

test result: FAILED. 1 passed; 1 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

error: test failed

Listing 11-4: Test results when one test passes and one test fails

Instead of ok, the line test tests::another shows FAILED. Two new sections appear between the individual results and the summary: the first section displays the detailed reason for each test failure. In this case, another failed because it panicked at 'Make this test fail', which happened on line 10 in the src/lib.rs file. The next section lists just the names of all the failing tests, which is useful when there are lots of tests and lots of detailed failing test output. We can use the name of a failing test to run just that test to more easily debug it; we’ll talk more about ways to run tests in the “Controlling How Tests Are Run” section.

The summary line displays at the end: overall, our test result is FAILED. We had one test pass and one test fail.

Now that you’ve seen what the test results look like in different scenarios, let’s look at some macros other than panic! that are useful in tests.

Checking Results with the assert! Macro

The assert! macro, provided by the standard library, is useful when you want to ensure that some condition in a test evaluates to true. We give the assert! macro an argument that evaluates to a Boolean. If the value is true, assert! does nothing and the test passes. If the value is false, the assert! macro calls the panic! macro, which causes the test to fail. Using the assert! macro helps us check that our code is functioning in the way we intend.

In Chapter 5, Listing 5-15, we used a Rectangle struct and a can_hold method, which are repeated here in Listing 11-5. Let’s put this code in the src/lib.rs file and write some tests for it using the assert! macro.

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
#[derive(Debug)]
pub struct Rectangle {
    length: u32,
    width: u32,
}

impl Rectangle {
    pub fn can_hold(&self, other: &Rectangle) -> bool {
        self.length > other.length && self.width > other.width
    }
}

Listing 11-5: Using the Rectangle struct and its can_hold method from Chapter 5

The can_hold method returns a Boolean, which means it’s a perfect use case for the assert! macro. In Listing 11-6, we write a test that exercises the can_hold method by creating a Rectangle instance that has a length of 8 and a width of 7 and asserting that it can hold another Rectangle instance that has a length of 5 and a width of 1:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    fn larger_can_hold_smaller() {
        let larger = Rectangle { length: 8, width: 7 };
        let smaller = Rectangle { length: 5, width: 1 };

        assert!(larger.can_hold(&smaller));
    }
}

Listing 11-6: A test for can_hold that checks whether a larger rectangle can indeed hold a smaller rectangle

Note that we’ve added a new line inside the tests module: use super::*;. The tests module is a regular module that follows the usual visibility rules we covered in Chapter 7 in the “Modules as the Privacy Boundary” section. Because the tests module is an inner module, we need to bring the code under test in the outer module into the scope of the inner module. We use a glob here so anything we define in the outer module is available to this tests module.

We’ve named our test larger_can_hold_smaller, and we’ve created the two Rectangle instances that we need. Then we called the assert! macro and passed it the result of calling larger.can_hold(&smaller). This expression is supposed to return true, so our test should pass. Let’s find out!

running 1 test
test tests::larger_can_hold_smaller ... ok

test result: ok. 1 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

It does pass! Let’s add another test, this time asserting that a smaller rectangle cannot hold a larger rectangle:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    fn larger_can_hold_smaller() {
        // --snip--
    }

    #[test]
    fn smaller_cannot_hold_larger() {
        let larger = Rectangle { length: 8, width: 7 };
        let smaller = Rectangle { length: 5, width: 1 };

        assert!(!smaller.can_hold(&larger));
    }
}

Because the correct result of the can_hold function in this case is false, we need to negate that result before we pass it to the assert! macro. As a result, our test will pass if can_hold returns false:

running 2 tests
test tests::smaller_cannot_hold_larger ... ok
test tests::larger_can_hold_smaller ... ok

test result: ok. 2 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

Two tests that pass! Now let’s see what happens to our test results when we introduce a bug in our code. Let’s change the implementation of the can_hold method by replacing the greater-than sign with a less-than sign when it compares the lengths:

# fn main() {}
# #[derive(Debug)]
# pub struct Rectangle {
#     length: u32,
#     width: u32,
# }
// --snip--

impl Rectangle {
    pub fn can_hold(&self, other: &Rectangle) -> bool {
        self.length < other.length && self.width > other.width
    }
}

Running the tests now produces the following:

running 2 tests
test tests::smaller_cannot_hold_larger ... ok
test tests::larger_can_hold_smaller ... FAILED

failures:

---- tests::larger_can_hold_smaller stdout ----
    thread 'tests::larger_can_hold_smaller' panicked at 'assertion failed:
    larger.can_hold(&smaller)', src/lib.rs:22:8
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

failures:
    tests::larger_can_hold_smaller

test result: FAILED. 1 passed; 1 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

Our tests caught the bug! Because larger.length is 8 and smaller.length is 5, the comparison of the lengths in can_hold now returns false: 8 is not less than 5.

Testing Equality with the assert_eq! and assert_ne! Macros

A common way to test functionality is to compare the result of the code under test to the value you expect the code to return to make sure they’re equal. You could do this using the assert! macro and passing it an expression using the == operator. However, this is such a common test that the standard library provides a pair of macros—assert_eq! and assert_ne!—to perform this test more conveniently. These macros compare two arguments for equality or inequality, respectively. They’ll also print the two values if the assertion fails, which makes it easier to see why the test failed; conversely, the assert! macro only indicates that it got a false value for the == expression, not the values that lead to the false value.

In Listing 11-7, we write a function named add_two that adds 2 to its parameter and returns the result. Then we test this function using the assert_eq! macro.

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
pub fn add_two(a: i32) -> i32 {
    a + 2
}

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    fn it_adds_two() {
        assert_eq!(4, add_two(2));
    }
}

Listing 11-7: Testing the function add_two using the assert_eq! macro

Let’s check that it passes!

running 1 test
test tests::it_adds_two ... ok

test result: ok. 1 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

The first argument we gave to the assert_eq! macro, 4, is equal to the result of calling add_two(2). The line for this test is test tests::it_adds_two ... ok, and the ok text indicates that our test passed!

Let’s introduce a bug into our code to see what it looks like when a test that uses assert_eq! fails. Change the implementation of the add_two function to instead add 3:

# fn main() {}
pub fn add_two(a: i32) -> i32 {
    a + 3
}

Run the tests again:

running 1 test
test tests::it_adds_two ... FAILED

failures:

---- tests::it_adds_two stdout ----
        thread 'tests::it_adds_two' panicked at 'assertion failed: `(left == right)`
  left: `4`,
 right: `5`', src/lib.rs:11:8
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

failures:
    tests::it_adds_two

test result: FAILED. 0 passed; 1 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

Our test caught the bug! The it_adds_two test failed, displaying the message assertion failed: `(left == right)` and showing that left was 4 and right was 5. This message is useful and helps us start debugging: it means the left argument to assert_eq! was 4 but the right argument, where we had add_two(2), was 5.

Note that in some languages and test frameworks, the parameters to the functions that assert two values are equal are called expected and actual, and the order in which we specify the arguments matters. However, in Rust, they’re called left and right, and the order in which we specify the value we expect and the value that the code under test produces doesn’t matter. We could write the assertion in this test as assert_eq!(add_two(2), 4), which would result in a failure message that displays assertion failed: `(left == right)` and that left was 5 and right was 4.

The assert_ne! macro will pass if the two values we give it are not equal and fail if they’re equal. This macro is most useful for cases when we’re not sure what a value will be, but we know what the value definitely won’t be if our code is functioning as we intend. For example, if we’re testing a function that is guaranteed to change its input in some way, but the way in which the input is changed depends on the day of the week that we run our tests, the best thing to assert might be that the output of the function is not equal to the input.

Under the surface, the assert_eq! and assert_ne! macros use the operators == and !=, respectively. When the assertions fail, these macros print their arguments using debug formatting, which means the values being compared must implement the PartialEq and Debug traits. All the primitive types and most of the standard library types implement these traits. For structs and enums that you define, you’ll need to implement PartialEq to assert that values of those types are equal or not equal. You’ll need to implement Debug to print the values when the assertion fails. Because both traits are derivable traits, as mentioned in Listing 5-12 in Chapter 5, this is usually as straightforward as adding the #[derive(PartialEq, Debug)] annotation to your struct or enum definition. See Appendix C, “Derivable Traits,” for more details about these and other derivable traits.

Adding Custom Failure Messages

You can also add a custom message to be printed with the failure message as optional arguments to the assert!, assert_eq!, and assert_ne! macros. Any arguments specified after the one required argument to assert! or the two required arguments to assert_eq! and assert_ne! are passed along to the format! macro (discussed in Chapter 8 in the “Concatenation with the + Operator or the format! Macro” section), so you can pass a format string that contains {} placeholders and values to go in those placeholders. Custom messages are useful to document what an assertion means; when a test fails, you’ll have a better idea of what the problem is with the code.

For example, let’s say we have a function that greets people by name and we want to test that the name we pass into the function appears in the output:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
pub fn greeting(name: &str) -> String {
    format!("Hello {}!", name)
}

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    fn greeting_contains_name() {
        let result = greeting("Carol");
        assert!(result.contains("Carol"));
    }
}

The requirements for this program haven’t been agreed upon yet, and we’re pretty sure the Hello text at the beginning of the greeting will change. We decided we don’t want to have to update the test when the requirements change, so instead of checking for exact equality to the value returned from the greeting function, we’ll just assert that the output contains the text of the input parameter.

Let’s introduce a bug into this code by changing greeting to not include name to see what this test failure looks like:

# fn main() {}
pub fn greeting(name: &str) -> String {
    String::from("Hello!")
}

Running this test produces the following:

running 1 test
test tests::greeting_contains_name ... FAILED

failures:

---- tests::greeting_contains_name stdout ----
        thread 'tests::greeting_contains_name' panicked at 'assertion failed:
result.contains("Carol")', src/lib.rs:12:8
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

failures:
    tests::greeting_contains_name

This result just indicates that the assertion failed and which line the assertion is on. A more useful failure message in this case would print the value we got from the greeting function. Let’s change the test function, giving it a custom failure message made from a format string with a placeholder filled in with the actual value we got from the greeting function:

#[test]
fn greeting_contains_name() {
    let result = greeting("Carol");
    assert!(
        result.contains("Carol"),
        "Greeting did not contain name, value was `{}`", result
    );
}

Now when we run the test, we’ll get a more informative error message:

---- tests::greeting_contains_name stdout ----
        thread 'tests::greeting_contains_name' panicked at 'Greeting did not
contain name, value was `Hello!`', src/lib.rs:12:8
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

We can see the value we actually got in the test output, which would help us debug what happened instead of what we were expecting to happen.

Checking for Panics with should_panic

In addition to checking that our code returns the correct values we expect, it’s also important to check that our code handles error conditions as we expect. For example, consider the Guess type that we created in Chapter 9, Listing 9-10. Other code that uses Guess depends on the guarantee that Guess instances will contain only values between 1 and 100. We can write a test that ensures that attempting to create a Guess instance with a value outside that range panics.

We do this by adding another attribute, should_panic, to our test function. This attribute makes a test pass if the code inside the function panics; the test will fail if the code inside the function doesn’t panic.

Listing 11-8 shows a test that checks that the error conditions of Guess::new happen when we expect them to:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
pub struct Guess {
    value: i32,
}

impl Guess {
    pub fn new(value: i32) -> Guess {
        if value < 1 || value > 100 {
            panic!("Guess value must be between 1 and 100, got {}.", value);
        }

        Guess {
            value
        }
    }
}

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    #[should_panic]
    fn greater_than_100() {
        Guess::new(200);
    }
}

Listing 11-8: Testing that a condition will cause a panic!

We place the #[should_panic] attribute after the #[test] attribute and before the test function it applies to. Let’s look at the result when this test passes:

running 1 test
test tests::greater_than_100 ... ok

test result: ok. 1 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

Looks good! Now let’s introduce a bug in our code by removing the condition that the new function will panic if the value is greater than 100:

# fn main() {}
# pub struct Guess {
#     value: i32,
# }
#
// --snip--

impl Guess {
    pub fn new(value: i32) -> Guess {
        if value < 1  {
            panic!("Guess value must be between 1 and 100, got {}.", value);
        }

        Guess {
            value
        }
    }
}

When we run the test in Listing 11-8, it will fail:

running 1 test
test tests::greater_than_100 ... FAILED

failures:

failures:
    tests::greater_than_100

test result: FAILED. 0 passed; 1 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

We don’t get a very helpful message in this case, but when we look at the test function, we see that it’s annotated with #[should_panic]. The failure we got means that the code in the test function did not cause a panic.

Tests that use should_panic can be imprecise because they only indicate that the code has caused some panic. A should_panic test would pass even if the test panics for a different reason than the one we were expecting to happen. To make should_panic tests more precise, we can add an optional expected parameter to the should_panic attribute. The test harness will make sure that the failure message contains the provided text. For example, consider the modified code for Guess in Listing 11-9 where the new function panics with different messages depending on whether the value is too small or too large:

Filename: src/lib.rs

# fn main() {}
# pub struct Guess {
#     value: i32,
# }
#
// --snip--

impl Guess {
    pub fn new(value: i32) -> Guess {
        if value < 1 {
            panic!("Guess value must be greater than or equal to 1, got {}.",
                   value);
        } else if value > 100 {
            panic!("Guess value must be less than or equal to 100, got {}.",
                   value);
        }

        Guess {
            value
        }
    }
}

#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    use super::*;

    #[test]
    #[should_panic(expected = "Guess value must be less than or equal to 100")]
    fn greater_than_100() {
        Guess::new(200);
    }
}

Listing 11-9: Testing that a condition will cause a panic! with a particular panic message

This test will pass because the value we put in the should_panic attribute’s expected parameter is a substring of the message that the Guess::new function panics with. We could have specified the entire panic message that we expect, which in this case would be Guess value must be less than or equal to 100, got 200. What you choose to specify in the expected parameter for should_panic depends on how much of the panic message is unique or dynamic and how precise you want your test to be. In this case, a substring of the panic message is enough to ensure that the code in the test function executes the else if value > 100 case.

To see what happens when a should_panic test with an expected message fails, let’s again introduce a bug into our code by swapping the bodies of the if value < 1 and the else if value > 100 blocks:

if value < 1 {
    panic!("Guess value must be less than or equal to 100, got {}.", value);
} else if value > 100 {
    panic!("Guess value must be greater than or equal to 1, got {}.", value);
}

This time when we run the should_panic test, it will fail:

running 1 test
test tests::greater_than_100 ... FAILED

failures:

---- tests::greater_than_100 stdout ----
        thread 'tests::greater_than_100' panicked at 'Guess value must be
greater than or equal to 1, got 200.', src/lib.rs:11:12
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.
note: Panic did not include expected string 'Guess value must be less than or
equal to 100'

failures:
    tests::greater_than_100

test result: FAILED. 0 passed; 1 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

The failure message indicates that this test did indeed panic as we expected, but the panic message did not include the expected string 'Guess value must be less than or equal to 100'. The panic message that we did get in this case was Guess value must be greater than or equal to 1, got 200. Now we can start figuring out where our bug is!

Using Result<T, E> in tests

So far, we’ve written tests that panic when they fail. We can also write tests that use Result<T, E> too! Here’s that first example, but with results instead:


# #![allow(unused_variables)]
#fn main() {
#[cfg(test)]
mod tests {
    #[test]
    fn it_works() -> Result<(), String> {
        if 2 + 2 == 4 {
            Ok(())
        } else {
            Err(String::from("two plus two does not equal four"))
        }
    }
}
#}

Here, we’ve changed the it_works function to return a result. And in the body, rather than assert_eq!, we return Ok(()) for the success case, and an Err with a String inside for the failure case. As before, this test will fail or succeed, but instead of being based on panics, it will use the Result<T, E> to make that determination. Because of this, you can’t use #[should_panic] with one of these functions; you should have it be returning an Err instead!

Now that you know several ways to write tests, let’s look at what is happening when we run our tests and explore the different options we can use with cargo test.