Unit Testing in Software Development


The developer carries out unit testing in order to check if the particular module or unit of code is working fine. The Unit Testing comes at the very basic level as it is carried out as and when the unit of the code is developed or a particular functionality is built.


Unit testing deals with testing a unit as a whole. This would test the interaction of many functions but confine the test within one unit. The exact scope of a unit is left to interpretation. Supporting test code, sometimes called scaffolding, may be necessary to support an individual test. This type of testing is driven by the architecture and implementation teams. This focus is also called black-box testing because only the details of the interface are visible to the test.

Limits that are global to a unit are tested here. In the construction industry, scaffolding is a temporary, easy to assemble and disassemble, frame placed around a building to facilitate the construction of the building. The construction workers first build the scaffolding and then the building. Later the scaffolding is removed, exposing the completed building.

Similarly, in software testing, one particular test may need some supporting software. This software establishes an environment around the test. Only when this environment is established can a correct evaluation of the test take place. The scaffolding software may establish state and values for data structures as well as providing dummy external functions for the test. Different scaffolding software may be needed from one test to another test. Scaffolding software rarely is considered part of the system. Sometimes the scaffolding software becomes larger than the system software being tested. Usually the scaffolding software is not of the same quality as the system software and frequently is quite fragile.

A small change in the test may lead to much larger changes in the scaffolding. Internal and unit testing can be automated with the help of coverage tools. A coverage tool analyzes the source code and generates a test that will execute every alternative thread of execution. It is still up to the programmer to combine this test into meaningful cases to validate the result of each thread of execution. Typically, the coverage tool is used in a slightly different way. First the coverage tool is used to augment the source by placing informational prints after each line of code. Then the testing suite is executed generating an audit trail. This audit trail is analyzed and reports the percent of the total system code executed during the test suite. If the coverage is high and the untested source lines are of low impact to the system’s overall quality, then no more additional tests are required.

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