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Write Assertions First

Writing a test as part of the TDD process is simple.

  1. Arrange
  2. Act
  3. Assert

Many individuals recommend the process be reversed. Write assertions first. Then write the steps to perform the action. Followed by the required setup to complete the action.

  1. Arrange
  2. Act
  3. Assert


You will write just enough of the test to do the job. Its not far from doing TDD on the test itself. Using staticily compiled languages you would see compile time errors while performing this step. As you are writing the test in reverse this is normal and expected. Most text editors or IDE's can ease this process.

Implement just enough of the test to do your job. The opposite of this is large, copy/paste tests that require lines of setup code that can safely be removed or reduced.


You end up naming variables with more meaning. With a traditional approach variables can lack true, descriptive names. They are often called result or similar. By working in reverse you force yourself to think of what you are asserting upon. This forces better names out in the process. An example would be orderTotals if the purpose of the assertion was to check if the total of an order was as expected.

Writing assertions first can feel awkward but the benefits of this change are well worth the initial slowdown.


  1. Great technique, thanks for sharing!

    Without some extra effort I have found I frequently end with tests that verify a bit too much. Applying this had immediate positive impact :)


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