Edge and corner cases, and integration testing
OverviewTeaching: 15 min
Exercises: 10 minQuestions
What considerations are there when testing problems with boundaries?
What are unit and integration tests?Objectives
Understand what edge and corner cases are, and how to test them.
Understand the difference between unit and integration tests, and the importance of both.
So far we have been testing simple functions that take, at most, two parameters as arguments. There are no complex algorithms or logic at work, so the functions shouldn’t behave differently depending on the input. The failure of these functions is down to oversights during programming, rather than anything fundamentally complicated in their workings.
In practice, this is often not the case. Functions might require many parameters and their execution and output can vary wildly depending on the input. In many cases there might be a normal range of parameter space where the function output is easy to predict, then other regions where the behaviour can be much more complex. When writing tests it is important that you cover as many cases as possible. You should push the boundaries of your software to make sure that it works as expected across the entire range of input under which it is meant to operate. This is known as having good code coverage, and will be discussed later.
Testing extreme values is often referred to as covering edge and corner cases. Typically, edge cases test situations where one parameter is at an extreme, while corner cases test two (or more in a multidimensional problems) edge cases simultaneously. However, sometimes the definition isn’t so clear. (The principle of testing unusual input holds, though.)
In this episode we will make use of the provided
$ cd ../grid
This provides functionality for working with cells in a two-dimensional grid,
like the 4×4 one shown below. (The values in each cell indicate the
y) position of the cell within the grid.)
Let’s import the Cell class from the package and see how it works.
from grid import Cell help(Cell)
We’ll now create a
Cell object that sits in the bulk of the grid and test that
its neighbours are correct.
def test_bulk(): """ Test that a cell in the bulk of the grid is correct. """ # Instantiate a cell in the bulk of a 4x4 grid. c = Cell(2, 2, 4, 4) # Make sure that the cell has 4 neighbours. assert c.neighbours() == 4 # Check the coordinates of the neighbours. assert c.left() == (1, 2) assert c.right() == (3, 2) assert c.up() == (2, 3) assert c.down() == (2, 1)
Here we’ve instantiated a cell that sits at position
(2, 2) in a 4×4
grid. Like Python, we choose to index from
Now let’s check the neighbours of the cell. It should have 4 neighbours:
2) to the left,
(3, 2) to the right,
(2, 1) below, and
(2, 3) above.
Let’s run the unit test with
$ pytest test/test_cell.py::test_bulk
Great, everything worked as expected. Of course, the results are not unexpected, and we could have worked out the neighbours directly from the cell position by adding and subtracting 1 to the two indices.
Now let’s check a cell on the left-hand edge of the grid at position
This should have 3 neighbours: one to the right, one below, and one above.
def test_left_edge(): """ Test that a cell on the left edge of the grid is correct. """ # Instantiate a cell on the left edge of a 4x4 grid. c = Cell(0, 2, 4, 4) # Make sure that the cell has 3 neighbours. assert c.neighbours() == 3 # Check the coordinates of the neighbours. assert c.left() == None assert c.right() == (1, 2) assert c.up() == (0, 3) assert c.down() == (0, 1)
$ pytest grid/test/test_cell.py::test_left_edge
Fantastic, it works! The behaviour of the
Cell object was fundamentally
different because of the input (we triggered a different set of conditions). Had
we done what we suggested above and assumed we could always add/subtract 1 from
an index to go to the next cell, this test would have failed, as we would exceed
the size of the grid.
Let’s now check a cell at the bottom left-corner. This should only have two neigbours: one to the right, and one above.
def test_bottom_left_corner(): """ Test that a cell on the bottom left corner of the grid is correct. """ # Instantiate a cell at the bottom left corner of a 4x4 grid. c = Cell(0, 0, 4, 4) # Make sure that the cell has 2 neighbours. assert c.neighbours() == 2 # Check the coordinates of the neighbours. assert c.left() == None assert c.right() == (1, 0) assert c.up() == (0, 1) assert c.down() == None
$ pytest grid/test/test_cell.py::test_bottom_left_corner
Once again a different condition has been triggered by our change of input. Here we have tested a corner case.
Corner cases are especially important to test, as it is very easy for two pieces of code we have written for dealing with different edges to conflict with one another. For example, triggering the right edge code could prevent the bottom edge code from executing. Explicitly testing corner cases guards against this kind of error.
So far we have been testing functions and objects in isolation, so called unit testing. However, it is likely that you will write software with multiple objects that need to work together in order to do something useful. The process of checking that different pieces of code work together as intended is often called integration testing.
grid module also contains a
Grid class that generates a matrix of
objects and stores them internally. The user can then manipulate the cells by
filling or emptying them. Let’s import the class and see how it works.
grid = Grid(10, 10) grid.fill(0, 0) assert grid.nFilled() == 1
grid.fill(3, 7) assert grid.nFilled() == 2
grid.empty(0, 0) assert grid.nFilled() == 1
assert grid.cell(3, 7).occupied()
assert not grid.cell(0, 0).occupied()
Cellhere are “classes”, which you may not yet be familiar with. More detail on what these are, how they’re used, and how you can build your own, can be found in the Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming in Python lesson.
Run the complete set of unit tests for the
You will see a bug in
grid.py. Fix this bug, and verify that the tests pass. Do the tests pass when the grid isn’t square?
For problems with nearest-neighbours, a good place to look would be where the checks are made in
In line 156, the check of the top edge is compared with
w, when it should be with
h - 1.`
Create a new file
test/test_grid.pyto test the
Gridclass. You should test that the
emptyfunctions behave as expected. The rules are that any cell in the grid can only be filled once.
Fix any bugs that you find in this process, and verify that the fixes work and all tests pass.
def test_grid_fill(): """ Test the fill method for the grid class. """ # Intialise a 10x10 grid. g = Grid(10, 10) # Tally counter for the number of filled cells. n = 0 # Let's check that the fill method works for all # cells in the grid. Probably overkill, but what the heck! # Loop over the width of the grid. for w in range(0, g.width()): # Loop over the height of the grid. for h in range(0, g.height()): # Increment the number of cells. n += 1 # Fill the cell. g.fill(w, h) # Check that the number of filled cells is correct. assert g.nFilled() == n # Check that this cell is marked as filled. assert g.cell(w, h).occupied() # Try filling the cell again. (Not allowed!) g.fill(w, h) # Check that the number of filled cells is correct. assert g.nFilled() == n def test_grid_empty(): """ Test the empty method for the grid class. """ # Intialise a 10x10 grid. g = Grid(10, 10) # Let's check that the empty method works for all # cells in the grid. Probably overkill, but what the heck! # Loop over the width of the grid. for w in range(0, g.width()): # Loop over the height of the grid. for h in range(0, g.height()): # Fill the cell. g.fill(w, h) # Check that their is one filled cell. assert g.nFilled() == 1 # Check that this cell is marked as filled. assert g.cell(w, h).occupied() # Empty the cell. g.empty(w, h) # Check that their are no filled cells. assert g.nFilled() == 0 # Check that this cell is marked as empty. assert not g.cell(w, h).occupied()
In problems that have fixed boundaries, an edge case is where a parameter sits on one of the boundaries.
In multidimensional problems with fixed boundaries, a corner case is where more than one parameter sits on one of the boundaries simultaneously.
Edge and corner cases need specific tests separate from the tests that apply across the whole problem.
Unit tests test the smallest units of functionality, usually functions.
Integration tests test that these units fit together correctly into larger programs.