Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, software developer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

Unit Testing - Code Coverage and Separation of Layers

February 5, 2009

Lately I've been working with my team to understand and utilize good automated unit testing strategies with NUnit. A code release I was inspecting revealed a couple of good points that seem worth expanding on: the importance of testing each layer, and the need to pay attention to code coverage. This is a rather facile treatment; for more in-depth reasoning and details, I recommend xUnit Test Patterns.

Code coverage

Although there may be occasional exceptions, we need our tests to cover most of our code. 100% code coverage might be too high a goal to reach for right now, but we need to have a high percentage of the code we right covered in our testing. And what do I mean by covered? The WikiPedia entry on code coverage has a good summary:

There are a number of coverage criteria, the main ones being:

Function coverage - Has each function in the program been executed?

Statement coverage - Has each line of the source code been executed?

Decision coverage (also known as Branch coverage) - Has each control structure (such as an if statement) evaluated both to true and false?

Condition coverage - Has each boolean sub-expression evaluated both to true and false (this does not necessarily imply decision coverage)?

Modified Condition/Decision Coverage (MC/DC) - Has every condition in a decision taken on all possible outcomes at least once? Has each condition been shown to affect that decision outcome independently?

Path coverage - Has every possible route through a given part of the code been executed?

Entry/exit coverage - Has every possible call and return of the function been executed?

Layer Test

Summary from the book: “We write separate tests for each layer of the layered architecture”. Right now we have three layers:

  1. Domain
  2. DataMapper
  3. Service

Generally our domain layer does very little work – these objects basically just hold fields, but don’t perform any work on their own data. An exception to is the rare class which has public methods. These methods should be covered in tests of the domain layer, but I don’t see much point right now in trying to write tests that only run the constructor and inspect the properties. So, with the domain layer, we would try to write tests if there are custom methods but for now we would not need tests to cover properties or constructors.

The code supplied does a covers a number of methods in the DataMapper layer, so that’s good. But, the service layer is left out entirely; it has not been covered in the code tests, and therefore at this time we have no idea if the service layer works as expected.

 NCover is a useful tool for exploring how much of your code is covered by a single test or a suite of tests. It is an open source application, like NUnit, therefore free to download and use. The Visual Studio Team Test Edition also has a built-in code coverage tool.