Given When Then Scenarios vs Test Fixtures

There are two common ways of writing automated tests which apply from unit to acceptance tests. These are typically known as test fixtures and Given-When-Then scenarios.

Test Fixture

  • Traditional method of writing tests.
  • The common JUnit/NUnit approach. Other languages have very similar concepts.
  • Single test fixture with multiple tests.
  • Test fixture is usually named after the subject under test.
  • Can grow large with many test cases.
  • Works well with data driven tests.
  • Suited to solitary tests such as integration tests where GWT syntax would be verbose or hard to include.



  • Behaviour driven approach (BDD style).
  • Made popular by tools such as RSpec.
  • Single test fixture per behaviour.
  • Test fixtures named after the functionality being tested.
  • Often nested within other test fixtures.
  • Smaller test fixtures but more verbose due to fixture per functionality.
  • Easy to see why a test failed due to naming convention - assertion message is optional.
  • Suited to sociable tests where the focus is on behaviour.
  • Given forms the pre-condition of the test.
  • When performs the action.
  • Then includes one or more related assertions.
  • GWT can be difficult to name in some cases, often more thought and discussion can be required around good naming conventions.
  • Can act as useful documentation on how the code is meant to function.



  • No single way of writing automated tests is better.
  • Favour single test fixtures for integration tests.
  • The core of your tests can use GWT style.
  • Mix and match where appropriate however.
  • Your choice of tooling and language may influence your approach.