Testing for exceptions in JUnit 5

Testing for exceptions in JUnit has never been a very straightforward thing. I've often seen it misused or done wrong, especially in JUnit 4. I won't go directly into if and how Junit 5 improves this. Let's first remind ourselves how lousy JUnit 4 was when testing for exceptions.

Testing for exceptions in JUnit 4

There are two ways to test for exceptions in JUnit 4, either using the Test annotation itself or using the ExpectedException rule.

The Test annotation can get an additional expected parameter whose value is the class of the exception we are expecting.

    @Test(expected = DummyException.class)
    public void shouldTestForException() throws DummyException {
        ComponentUnderTest component = new ComponentUnderTest();

This has never been very straightforward or clear or obvious. I've almost always used the second approach with the ExpectedAnnotation rule.

    public ExpectedException expectedException = ExpectedException.none();

    public void shouldUseRuleToTestForException() throws DummyException {
        ComponentUnderTest component = new ComponentUnderTest();

This is much better and more flexible. It also offers the possibility to test for the exception cause or message.

Testing for exceptions in JUnit 5

In Junit 5, however, rules don't exist any more. So, they had to come up with a different way to do this. And they opted for using the assertion API.

    void shouldThrowException() {
        ComponentUnderTest componentUnderTest = new ComponentUnderTest();
        DummyException dummyException =
                assertThrows(DummyException.class, () -> componentUnderTest.exceptionThrowingMethod(-1));
        // Use different asserts on the exception object.

This approach gives you all the flexibility of using the rule in Junit 4 but without the inconvenience of having to create a rule object.

Testing for exceptions with AssertJ

The newly introduced assertion in JUnit 5 reminds me quite a lot of the AssertJ fluent API for asserting exceptions.

    public void testException() {
        ComponentUnderTest componentUnderTest = new ComponentUnderTest();
        assertThatThrownBy(() -> componentUnderTest.exceptionThrowingMethod(-1))

It can do all the things the Junit 5 assertion can do and probably even more. As a bonus, it can be used both with Junit 4 and JUnit 5.


JUnit 4 had two confusing ways for testing for exceptions. Junit 5 has one, much better way which is a real improvement. However, If you are already have AssertJ in your project, use it to test for exceptions as well. It is at least as better as the Junit 5 API and you will have a uniform approach to assertions.

Igor Stojanovski

A full-time Software Engineer and an agile development proponent. I take interest in all stages of the development process, how to optimize and improve them.

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