How to unit test abstract classes: extend with stubs?

I was wondering how to unit test abstract classes, and classes that extend abstract classes.

Should I test the abstract class by extending it, stubbing out the abstract methods, and then test all the concrete methods? Then only test the methods I override, and test the abstract methods in the unit tests for objects that extend my abstract class?

Should I have an abstract test case that can be used to test the methods of the abstract class, and extend this class in my test case for objects that extend the abstract class?

Note that my abstract class has some concrete methods.

Asked by: Rafael966 | Posted: 28-01-2022

Answer 1

There are two ways in which abstract base classes are used.

  1. You are specializing your abstract object, but all clients will use the derived class through its base interface.

  2. You are using an abstract base class to factor out duplication within objects in your design, and clients use the concrete implementations through their own interfaces.!

Solution For 1 - Strategy Pattern


If you have the first situation, then you actually have an interface defined by the virtual methods in the abstract class that your derived classes are implementing.

You should consider making this a real interface, changing your abstract class to be concrete, and take an instance of this interface in its constructor. Your derived classes then become implementations of this new interface.


This means you can now test your previously abstract class using a mock instance of the new interface, and each new implementation through the now public interface. Everything is simple and testable.

Solution For 2

If you have the second situation, then your abstract class is working as a helper class.


Take a look at the functionality it contains. See if any of it can be pushed onto the objects that are being manipulated to minimize this duplication. If you still have anything left, look at making it a helper class that your concrete implementation take in their constructor and remove their base class.

Motor Helper

This again leads to concrete classes that are simple and easily testable.

As a Rule

Favor complex network of simple objects over a simple network of complex objects.

The key to extensible testable code is small building blocks and independent wiring.

Updated : How to handle mixtures of both?

It is possible to have a base class performing both of these roles... ie: it has a public interface, and has protected helper methods. If this is the case, then you can factor out the helper methods into one class (scenario2) and convert the inheritance tree into a strategy pattern.

If you find you have some methods your base class implements directly and other are virtual, then you can still convert the inheritance tree into a strategy pattern, but I would also take it as a good indicator that the responsibilities are not correctly aligned, and may need refactoring.

Update 2 : Abstract Classes as a stepping stone (2014/06/12)

I had a situation the other day where I used abstract, so I'd like to explore why.

We have a standard format for our configuration files. This particular tool has 3 configuration files all in that format. I wanted a strongly typed class for each setting file so, through dependency injection, a class could ask for the settings it cared about.

I implemented this by having an abstract base class that knows how to parse the settings files formats and derived classes that exposed those same methods, but encapsulated the location of the settings file.

I could have written a "SettingsFileParser" that the 3 classes wrapped, and then delegated through to the base class to expose the data access methods. I chose not to do this yet as it would lead to 3 derived classes with more delegation code in them than anything else.

However... as this code evolves and the consumers of each of these settings classes become clearer. Each settings users will ask for some settings and transform them in some way (as settings are text they may wrap them in objects of convert them to numbers etc.). As this happens I will start to extract this logic into data manipulation methods and push them back onto the strongly typed settings classes. This will lead to a higher level interface for each set of settings, that is eventually no longer aware it's dealing with 'settings'.

At this point the strongly typed settings classes will no longer need the "getter" methods that expose the underlying 'settings' implementation.

At that point I would no longer want their public interface to include the settings accessor methods; so I will change this class to encapsulate a settings parser class instead of derive from it.

The Abstract class is therefore: a way for me to avoid delegation code at the moment, and a marker in the code to remind me to change the design later. I may never get to it, so it may live a good while... only the code can tell.

I find this to be true with any rule... like "no static methods" or "no private methods". They indicate a smell in the code... and that's good. It keeps you looking for the abstraction that you have missed... and lets you carry on providing value to your customer in the mean time.

I imagine rules like this one defining a landscape, where maintainable code lives in the valleys. As you add new behaviour, it's like rain landing on your code. Initially you put it wherever it lands.. then you refactor to allow the forces of good design to push the behaviour around until it all ends up in the valleys.

Answered by: Carina925 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 2

Write a Mock object and use them just for testing. They usually are very very very minimal (inherit from the abstract class) and not more.Then, in your Unit Test you can call the abstract method you want to test.

You should test abstract class that contain some logic like all other classes you have.

Answered by: Adelaide953 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 3

What I do for abstract classes and interfaces is the following: I write a test, that uses the object as it is concrete. But the variable of type X (X is the abstract class) is not set in the test. This test-class is not added to the test-suite, but subclasses of it, that have a setup-method that set the variable to a concrete implementation of X. That way I don't duplicate the test-code. The subclasses of the not used test can add more test-methods if needed.

Answered by: Dainton218 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 4

To make an unit test specifically on the abstract class, you should derive it for testing purpose, test base.method() results and intended behaviour when inheriting.

You test a method by calling it so test an abstract class by implementing it...

Answered by: Julian961 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 5

If your abstract class contains concrete functionality that has business value, then I will usually test it directly by creating a test double that stubs out the abstract data, or by using a mocking framework to do this for me. Which one I choose depends a lot on whether I need to write test-specific implementations of the abstract methods or not.

The most common scenario in which I need to do this is when I'm using the Template Method pattern, such as when I'm building some sort of extensible framework that will be used by a 3rd party. In this case, the abstract class is what defines the algorithm that I want to test, so it makes more sense to test the abstract base than a specific implementation.

However, I think it's important that these tests should focus on the concrete implementations of real business logic only; you shouldn't unit test implementation details of the abstract class because you'll end up with brittle tests.

Answered by: Luke799 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 6

one way is to write an abstract test case that corresponds to your abstract class, then write concrete test cases that subclass your abstract test case. do this for each concrete subclass of your original abstract class (i.e. your test case hierarchy mirrors your class hierarchy). see Test an interface in the junit recipies book: or if you don't have a safari account.

also see Testcase Superclass in xUnit patterns:

Answered by: Catherine761 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 7

I would argue against "abstract" tests. I think a test is a concrete idea and doesn't have an abstraction. If you have common elements, put them in helper methods or classes for everyone to use.

As for testing an abstract test class, make sure you ask yourself what it is you're testing. There are several approaches, and you should find out what works in your scenario. Are you trying to test out a new method in your subclass? Then have your tests only interact with that method. Are you testing the methods in your base class? Then probably have a separate fixture only for that class, and test each method individually with as many tests as necessary.

Answered by: Brooke298 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 8

This is the pattern I usually follow when setting up a harness for testing an abstract class:

public abstract class MyBase{
  public abstract void VoidMethod(object param1);
  public abstract object MethodWithReturn(object param1);

And the version I use under test:

public class MyBaseHarness : MyBase{
  public Action<object> VoidMethodFunction;
  public override void VoidMethod(object param1){
  public Func<object, object> MethodWithReturnFunction;
  public override object MethodWithReturn(object param1){
    return MethodWihtReturnFunction(param1);

If the abstract methods are called when I don't expect it, the tests fail. When arranging the tests, I can easily stub out the abstract methods with lambdas that perform asserts, throw exceptions, return different values, etc.

Answered by: Julian783 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 9

If the concrete methods invoke any of the abstract methods that strategy won't work, and you'd want to test each child class behavior separately. Otherwise, extending it and stubbing the abstract methods as you've described should be fine, again provided the abstract class concrete methods are decoupled from child classes.

Answered by: Elian478 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 10

I suppose you could want to test the base functionality of an abstract class... But you'd probably be best off by extending the class without overriding any methods, and make minimum-effort mocking for the abstract methods.

Answered by: Madaline547 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 11

One of the main motivations for using an abstract class is to enable polymorphism within your application -- i.e: you can substitute a different version at runtime. In fact, this is very much the same thing as using an interface except the abstract class provides some common plumbing, often referred to as a Template pattern.

From a unit testing perspective, there are two things to consider:

  1. Interaction of your abstract class with it related classes. Using a mock testing framework is ideal for this scenario as it shows that your abstract class plays well with others.

  2. Functionality of derived classes. If you have custom logic that you've written for your derived classes, you should test those classes in isolation.

edit: RhinoMocks is an awesome mock testing framework that can generate mock objects at runtime by dynamically deriving from your class. This approach can save you countless hours of hand-coding derived classes.

Answered by: Daisy229 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 12

First if abstract class contained some concrete method i think you should do this considered this example

 public abstract class A 


    public boolean method 1
        // concrete method which we have to test.



 class B extends class A


      public boolean method 1
        // override same method as above.



  class Test_A 


    private static B b;  // reference object of the class B

    public void init()


      b = new B ();    


     public void Test_method 1


       b.method 1; // use some assertion statements.



Answered by: Byron121 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 13

If an abstract class is appropriate for your implementation, test (as suggested above) a derived concrete class. Your assumptions are correct.

To avoid future confusion, be aware that this concrete test class is not a mock, but a fake.

In strict terms, a mock is defined by the following characteristics:

  • A mock is used in place of each and every dependency of the subject class being tested.
  • A mock is a pseudo-implementation of an interface (you may recall that as a general rule, dependencies should be declared as interfaces; testability is one primary reason for this)
  • Behaviors of the mock's interface members -- whether methods or properties -- are supplied at test-time (again, by use of a mocking framework). This way, you avoid coupling of the implementation being tested with the implementation of its dependencies (which should all have their own discrete tests).

Answered by: Adelaide756 | Posted: 01-03-2022

Answer 14

Following @patrick-desjardins answer, I implemented abstract and it's implementation class along with @Test as follows:

Abstract class -

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

public abstract class ABC {

    abstract String sayHello();

    public List<String> getList() {
        final List<String> defaultList = new ArrayList<>();
        defaultList.add("abstract class");
        return defaultList;

As Abstract classes cannot be instantiated, but they can be subclassed, concrete class, is as follows:

public class DEF extends ABC {

    public String sayHello() {
        return "Hello!";

@Test class to test both abstract as well as non-abstract method:

import org.junit.Before;
import static org.hamcrest.MatcherAssert.assertThat;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.empty;
import static;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.not;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.contains;
import java.util.Collection;
import java.util.List;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.equalTo;

import org.junit.Test;

public class DEFTest {

    private DEF def;

    public void setup() {
        def = new DEF();

    public void add(){
        String result = def.sayHello();
        assertThat(result, is(equalTo("Hello!")));

    public void getList(){
        List<String> result = def.getList();
        assertThat((Collection<String>) result, is(not(empty())));
        assertThat(result, contains("abstract class"));

Answered by: Blake784 | Posted: 01-03-2022

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