Testing Abstract Classes In Isolation

In my post about guilt as a code smell, a comrade pointed out that it’s perfectly possible to test abstract classes in isolation, you just make a concrete derived class as part of the test (thanks Craig!). Having a distinct concrete subtype for testing is something I’m already doing a lot with endo-testing, so it’s not even totally without precedent.

It does still bother me, though, and I’m not 100% sure why. Some thoughts:

Let’s say your abstract class is using the Template Method pattern, where it has a public method which just delegates “downwards” to abstract methods with different overridden implementations. This is a perfectly good use of an abstract class, yet it seems kind of pointless to test in isolation, as you’re going to be testing each implementation and will be testing those base classes anyway. 

The scenario that I had in the other post had a different kind of abstract class, with no public methods, just protected ones. I’m just achieving zero redundancy by moving code logic upwards in the tree. Testing here becomes trickier, as there’s no publicly exposed design surface. Should I just make one up? The right solution, for me, for that time, was not to test the abstract class, but to move that logic into a distinct service class so I could work with it more directly.  It’s textbook “favor composition over inheritance” design patterns stuff.

In any case, I stand corrected. It’s absolutely possible to test an abstract class in isolation. It is impossible, however to test a base class in isolation without testing its abstract class. Which could make testing the abstract class in isolation kind of pointless.

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