13.4. Testing for success

The most fundamental part of unit testing is constructing individual test cases. A test case answers a single question about the code it is testing.

A test case should be able to...

Given that, let's build the first test case. You have the following requirement:

  1. toRoman should return the Roman numeral representation for all integers 1 to 3999.

Example 13.2. testToRomanKnownValues

class KnownValues(unittest.TestCase):                           1
    knownValues = ( (1, 'I'),
                    (2, 'II'),
                    (3, 'III'),
                    (4, 'IV'),
                    (5, 'V'),
                    (6, 'VI'),
                    (7, 'VII'),
                    (8, 'VIII'),
                    (9, 'IX'),
                    (10, 'X'),
                    (50, 'L'),
                    (100, 'C'),
                    (500, 'D'),
                    (1000, 'M'),
                    (31, 'XXXI'),
                    (148, 'CXLVIII'),
                    (294, 'CCXCIV'),
                    (312, 'CCCXII'),
                    (421, 'CDXXI'),
                    (528, 'DXXVIII'),
                    (621, 'DCXXI'),
                    (782, 'DCCLXXXII'),
                    (870, 'DCCCLXX'),
                    (941, 'CMXLI'),
                    (1043, 'MXLIII'),
                    (1110, 'MCX'),
                    (1226, 'MCCXXVI'),
                    (1301, 'MCCCI'),
                    (1485, 'MCDLXXXV'),
                    (1509, 'MDIX'),
                    (1607, 'MDCVII'),
                    (1754, 'MDCCLIV'),
                    (1832, 'MDCCCXXXII'),
                    (1993, 'MCMXCIII'),
                    (2074, 'MMLXXIV'),
                    (2152, 'MMCLII'),
                    (2212, 'MMCCXII'),
                    (2343, 'MMCCCXLIII'),
                    (2499, 'MMCDXCIX'),
                    (2574, 'MMDLXXIV'),
                    (2646, 'MMDCXLVI'),
                    (2723, 'MMDCCXXIII'),
                    (2892, 'MMDCCCXCII'),
                    (2975, 'MMCMLXXV'),
                    (3051, 'MMMLI'),
                    (3185, 'MMMCLXXXV'),
                    (3250, 'MMMCCL'),
                    (3313, 'MMMCCCXIII'),
                    (3408, 'MMMCDVIII'),
                    (3501, 'MMMDI'),
                    (3610, 'MMMDCX'),
                    (3743, 'MMMDCCXLIII'),
                    (3844, 'MMMDCCCXLIV'),
                    (3888, 'MMMDCCCLXXXVIII'),
                    (3940, 'MMMCMXL'),
                    (3999, 'MMMCMXCIX'))                        2

    def testToRomanKnownValues(self):                           3
        """toRoman should give known result with known input"""
        for integer, numeral in self.knownValues:              
            result = roman.toRoman(integer)                     4 5
            self.assertEqual(numeral, result)                   6
1 To write a test case, first subclass the TestCase class of the unittest module. This class provides many useful methods which you can use in your test case to test specific conditions.
2 This is a list of integer/numeral pairs that I verified manually. It includes the lowest ten numbers, the highest number, every number that translates to a single-character Roman numeral, and a random sampling of other valid numbers. The point of a unit test is not to test every possible input, but to test a representative sample.
3 Every individual test is its own method, which must take no parameters and return no value. If the method exits normally without raising an exception, the test is considered passed; if the method raises an exception, the test is considered failed.
4 Here you call the actual toRoman function. (Well, the function hasn't be written yet, but once it is, this is the line that will call it.) Notice that you have now defined the API for the toRoman function: it must take an integer (the number to convert) and return a string (the Roman numeral representation). If the API is different than that, this test is considered failed.
5 Also notice that you are not trapping any exceptions when you call toRoman. This is intentional. toRoman shouldn't raise an exception when you call it with valid input, and these input values are all valid. If toRoman raises an exception, this test is considered failed.
6 Assuming the toRoman function was defined correctly, called correctly, completed successfully, and returned a value, the last step is to check whether it returned the right value. This is a common question, and the TestCase class provides a method, assertEqual, to check whether two values are equal. If the result returned from toRoman (result) does not match the known value you were expecting (numeral), assertEqual will raise an exception and the test will fail. If the two values are equal, assertEqual will do nothing. If every value returned from toRoman matches the known value you expect, assertEqual never raises an exception, so testToRomanKnownValues eventually exits normally, which means toRoman has passed this test.