Test Doubles

💻 software 🌿 budding 🧠 information

Five types of test double

There are five types of test double as per folks like Martin Fowler.

Much like Kickstarter reward tiers, as they increase in complexity, you tend to “get” things from the lower tiers as well (as in, a Spy is a Stub with additional functionality and a Mock is Spy with extra functionality).


A dummy is made to break if invoked. It’s a null value, thing that throws an exception, whatever. It’s there to fill up space in an argument list but should never be invoked or called.


A Stub returns a set value. It can be hard-coded one time, or separately for every test, or anything else.


A Spy returns a set value, like a Stub, but also exposes methods that allow us to ask it what it was called with or how many times it was called or other useful questions.


A Mock is just like a Spy, except it has built-in verification. You can ask a Mock to self-verify whether it was used correctly. This allows us to extract repeat assertions on a Spy that we do in multiple tests into its own object.


A Fake is meant to replicate the behavior of the real thing that it pretends to be. A good example is an in-memory database, where we actually assert against its state. Since a Fake mimics the precise behavior of the real, it must be tested using the same tests as the real implementation to ensure it can be trusted.

Using test doubles

We use test doubles when we want to avoid using “the real thing” in a test context. Often (especially if you have a classicist TDD 1 approach), this happens with external integrations with APIs and databases where we don’t want to use the real version of an object in a test.

More Resources

  1. I'm sure I'll add more on the classicist/mockist (ie, "Detroit"/"London") styles at some point, but for now, I recommend the Martin Fowler post as a starting point.  

Notes mentioning this note