[java] How do you assert that a certain exception is thrown in JUnit 4 tests?

14 Answers

Edit Now that JUnit5 has released, the best option would be to use Assertions.assertThrows() (see my other answer).

If you haven't migrated to JUnit 5, but can use JUnit 4.7, you can use the ExpectedException Rule:

public class FooTest {
  public final ExpectedException exception = ExpectedException.none();

  public void doStuffThrowsIndexOutOfBoundsException() {
    Foo foo = new Foo();


This is much better than @Test(expected=IndexOutOfBoundsException.class) because the test will fail if IndexOutOfBoundsException is thrown before foo.doStuff()

See this article for details


How can I use JUnit4 idiomatically to test that some code throws an exception?

While I can certainly do something like this:

public void testFooThrowsIndexOutOfBoundsException() {
  boolean thrown = false;

  try {
  } catch (IndexOutOfBoundsException e) {
    thrown = true;


I recall that there is an annotation or an Assert.xyz or something that is far less kludgy and far more in-the-spirit of JUnit for these sorts of situations.

I tried many of the methods here, but they were either complicated or didn't quite meet my requirements. In fact, one can write a helper method quite simply:

public class ExceptionAssertions {
    public static void assertException(BlastContainer blastContainer ) {
        boolean caughtException = false;
        try {
        } catch( Exception e ) {
            caughtException = true;
        if( !caughtException ) {
            throw new AssertionFailedError("exception expected to be thrown, but was not");
    public static interface BlastContainer {
        public void test() throws Exception;

Use it like this:

assertException(new BlastContainer() {
    public void test() throws Exception {

Zero dependencies: no need for mockito, no need powermock; and works just fine with final classes.

IMHO, the best way to check for exceptions in JUnit is the try/catch/fail/assert pattern:

// this try block should be as small as possible,
// as you want to make sure you only catch exceptions from your code
try {
    fail(); // fail if this does not throw any exception
} catch(MyException e) { // only catch the exception you expect,
                         // otherwise you may catch an exception for a dependency unexpectedly
    // a strong assertion on the message, 
    // in case the exception comes from anywhere an unexpected line of code,
    // especially important if your checking IllegalArgumentExceptions
    assertEquals("the message I get", e.getMessage()); 

The assertTrue might be a bit strong for some people, so assertThat(e.getMessage(), containsString("the message"); might be preferable.

There are two ways of writing test case

  1. Annotate the test with the exception which is thrown by the method. Something like this @Test(expected = IndexOutOfBoundsException.class)
  2. You can simply catch the exception in the test class using the try catch block and assert on the message that is thrown from the method in test class.

    catch(exception to be thrown from method e)
         assertEquals("message", e.getmessage());

I hope this answers your query Happy learning...

The most flexible and elegant answer for Junit 4 I found in the Mkyoung blog. It have the flexibility of the try/catch using the @Rule. I like this approach because I need to read specific attributes of a customized exception.

package com.mkyong;

import com.mkyong.examples.CustomerService;
import com.mkyong.examples.exception.NameNotFoundException;
import org.junit.Rule;
import org.junit.Test;
import org.junit.rules.ExpectedException;

import static org.hamcrest.CoreMatchers.containsString;
import static org.hamcrest.CoreMatchers.is;
import static org.hamcrest.Matchers.hasProperty;

public class Exception3Test {

    public ExpectedException thrown = ExpectedException.none();

    public void testNameNotFoundException() throws NameNotFoundException {

        //test specific type of exception

        //test message
        thrown.expectMessage(is("Name is empty!"));

        //test detail
        thrown.expect(hasProperty("errCode"));  //make sure getters n setters are defined.
        thrown.expect(hasProperty("errCode", is(666)));

        CustomerService cust = new CustomerService();



How about this: Catch a very general exception, make sure it makes it out of the catch block, then assert that the class of the exception is what you expect it to be. This assert will fail if a) the exception is of the wrong type (eg. if you got a Null Pointer instead) and b) the exception wasn't ever thrown.

public void testFooThrowsIndexOutOfBoundsException() {
  Throwable e = null;

  try {
  } catch (Throwable ex) {
    e = ex;

  assertTrue(e instanceof IndexOutOfBoundsException);

In JUnit 4 or later you can test the exceptions as follows

public ExpectedException exceptions = ExpectedException.none();

this provides a lot of features which can be used to improve our JUnit tests.
If you see the below example I am testing 3 things on the exception.

  1. The Type of exception thrown
  2. The exception Message
  3. The cause of the exception

public class MyTest {

    public ExpectedException exceptions = ExpectedException.none();

    ClassUnderTest classUnderTest;

    public void setUp() throws Exception {
        classUnderTest = new ClassUnderTest();

    public void testAppleisSweetAndRed() throws Exception {

        exceptions.expectMessage("this is the exception message");

        classUnderTest.methodUnderTest("param1", "param2");


Now that JUnit 5 has released, the best option is to use Assertions.assertThrows() (see the Junit 5 User Guide).

Here is an example that verifies an exception is thrown, and uses Truth to make assertions on the exception message:

public class FooTest {
  public void doStuffThrowsIndexOutOfBoundsException() {
    Foo foo = new Foo();

    IndexOutOfBoundsException e = assertThrows(
        IndexOutOfBoundsException.class, foo::doStuff);


The advantages over the approaches in the other answers are:

  1. Built into JUnit
  2. You get a useful exception message if the code in the lambda doesn't throw an exception, and a stacktrace if it throws a different exception
  3. Concise
  4. Allows your tests to follow Arrange-Act-Assert
  5. You can precisely indicate what code you are expecting to throw the exception
  6. You don't need to list the expected exception in the throws clause
  7. You can use the assertion framework of your choice to make assertions about the caught exception

A similar method will be added to org.junit Assert in JUnit 4.13.

I wanted to comment with my solution to this problem, which avoided needing any of the exception related JUnit code.

I used assertTrue(boolean) combined with try/catch to look for my expected exception to be thrown. Here's an example:

public void testConstructor() {
    boolean expectedExceptionThrown;
    try {
        // Call constructor with bad arguments
        double a = 1;
        double b = 2;
        double c = a + b; // In my example, this is an invalid option for c
        new Triangle(a, b, c);
        expectedExceptionThrown = false; // because it successfully constructed the object
    catch(IllegalArgumentException e) {
        expectedExceptionThrown = true; // because I'm in this catch block
    catch(Exception e) {
        expectedExceptionThrown = false; // because it threw an exception but not the one expected


  • pre-JDK8 : I will recommend the old good try-catch block.

  • post-JDK8 : Use AssertJ or custom lambdas to assert exceptional behaviour.

the long story

It is possible to write yourself a do it yourself try-catch block or use the JUnit tools (@Test(expected = ...) or the @Rule ExpectedException JUnit rule feature).

But these way are not so elegant and don't mix well readability wise with other tools.

  1. The try-catch block you have to write the block around the tested behavior, and write the assertion in the catch block, that may be fine but many find taht this style interrupts the reading flow of a test. Also you need to write an Assert.fail at the end of the try block otherwise the test may miss one side of the assertions ; PMD, findbugs or Sonar will spot such issues.

  2. The @Test(expected = ...) feature is interesting as you can write less code and then writing this test is supposedly less prone to coding errors. But ths approach is lacking a some areas.

    • If the test needs to check additional things on the exception like the cause or the message (good exception messages are really important, having a precise exception type may not be enough).
    • Also as the expectation is placed around in the method, depending on how the tested code is written then the wrong part of the test code can throw the exception, leading to false positive test and I m not sure that PMD, findbugs or Sonar will give hints on such code.

      @Test(expected = WantedException.class)
      public void call2_should_throw_a_WantedException__not_call1() {
          // init tested
          tested.call1(); // may throw a WantedException
          // call to be actually tested
          tested.call2(); // the call that is supposed to raise an exception
  3. The ExpectedException rule is also an attempt to fix the previous caveats, but it feels a bit awkward to use as it uses an expectation style, EasyMock users knows very well this style. It might be convenient for some, but if you follow Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) or Arrange Act Assert (AAA) principles the ExpectedException rule won't fit in those writing style. Aside of that it may suffer from the same issue as the as the @Test way, depending where you place the expectation.

    @Rule ExpectedException thrown = ExpectedException.none()
    public void call2_should_throw_a_WantedException__not_call1() {
        // expectations
        // init tested
        tested.call1(); // may throw a WantedException
        // call to be actually tested
        tested.call2(); // the call that is supposed to raise an exception

    Even the expected exception is placed before the test statement, it breaks your reading flow if the tests follow BDD or AAA.

    Also see this comment issue on JUnit of the author of ExpectedException.

So these above options have all their load of caveats, and clearly not immune to coder errors.

  1. There's a project I became aware after creating this answer that looks promising, it's catch-exception.

    As the description of the project says, it let a coder write in a fluent line of code catching the exception and offer this exception for later assertion. And you can use any assertion library like Hamcrest or AssertJ.

    A rapid example taken from the home page :

    // given: an empty list
    List myList = new ArrayList();
    // when: we try to get the first element of the list
    // then: we expect an IndexOutOfBoundsException
            .hasMessage("Index: 1, Size: 0") 

    As you can see the code is really straightforward, you catch the exception on a specific line, the then API is an alias that will use AssertJ APIs (similar to using assertThat(ex).hasNoCause()...). At some point the project relied on FEST-Assert the ancestor of AssertJ. EDIT: It seems the project is brewing a Java 8 Lambdas support.

    Currently this library has two shortcomings :

    • At the time of this writing it is noteworthy to say this library is based on Mockito 1.x as it creates a mock of the tested object behind the scene. As Mockito is still not updated this library cannot work with final classes or final methods. And even if it was based on mockito 2 in the current version, this would require to declare a global mock maker (inline-mock-maker), something that may not what you want, as this mockmaker has different drawbacks that the regular mockmaker.

    • It requires yet another test dependency.

    These issues won't apply once the library will support lambdas, however the functionality will be duplicated by AssertJ toolset.

    Taking all into account if you don't want to use the catch-exception tool, I will recommend the old good way of the try-catch block, at least up to the JDK7. And for JDK 8 users you might prefer to use AssertJ as it offers may more than just asserting exceptions.

  2. With the JDK8, lambdas enter the test scene, and they have proved to be an interesting way to assert exceptional behaviour. AssertJ has been updated to provide a nice fluent API to assert exceptional behaviour.

    And a sample test with AssertJ :

    public void test_exception_approach_1() {
                .isThrownBy(() -> someBadIOOperation())
    public void test_exception_approach_2() {
        assertThatThrownBy(() -> someBadIOOperation())
    public void test_exception_approach_3() {
        // when
        Throwable thrown = catchThrowable(() -> someBadIOOperation());
        // then
  3. With a near complete rewrite of JUnit 5, assertions have been improved a bit, they may prove interesting as an out of the box way to assert properly exception. But really the assertion API is still a bit poor, there's nothing outside assertThrows.

    @DisplayName("throws EmptyStackException when peeked")
    void throwsExceptionWhenPeeked() {
        Throwable t = assertThrows(EmptyStackException.class, () -> stack.peek());
        Assertions.assertEquals("...", t.getMessage());

    As you noticed assertEquals is still returning void, and as such doesn't allow chaining assertions like AssertJ.

    Also if you remember name clash with Matcher or Assert, be prepared to meet the same clash with Assertions.

I'd like to conclude that today (2017-03-03) AssertJ's ease of use, discoverable API, rapid pace of development and as a de facto test dependency is the best solution with JDK8 regardless of the test framework (JUnit or not), prior JDKs should instead rely on try-catch blocks even if they feel clunky.

This answer has been copied from another question that don't have the same visibility, I am the same author.

Additionally to what NamShubWriter has said, make sure that:

  • The ExpectedException instance is public (Related Question)
  • The ExpectedException isn't instantiated in say, the @Before method. This post clearly explains all the intricacies of JUnit's order of execution.

Do not do this:

public ExpectedException expectedException;

public void setup()
    expectedException = ExpectedException.none();

Finally, this blog post clearly illustrates how to assert that a certain exception is thrown.

With Java 8 you can create a method taking a code to check and expected exception as parameters:

private void expectException(Runnable r, Class<?> clazz) { 
    try {
      fail("Expected: " + clazz.getSimpleName() + " but not thrown");
    } catch (Exception e) {
      if (!clazz.isInstance(e)) fail("Expected: " + clazz.getSimpleName() + " but " + e.getClass().getSimpleName() + " found", e);

and then inside your test:

expectException(() -> list.sublist(0, 2).get(2), IndexOutOfBoundsException.class);


  • not relying on any library
  • localised check - more precise and allows to have multiple assertions like this within one test if needed
  • easy to use

To solve the same problem I did set up a small project: http://code.google.com/p/catch-exception/

Using this little helper you would write

verifyException(foo, IndexOutOfBoundsException.class).doStuff();

This is less verbose than the ExpectedException rule of JUnit 4.7. In comparison to the solution provided by skaffman, you can specify in which line of code you expect the exception. I hope this helps.

As answered before, there are many ways of dealing with exceptions in JUnit. But with Java 8 there is another one: using Lambda Expressions. With Lambda Expressions we can achieve a syntax like this:

public void verifiesTypeAndMessage() {
    assertThrown(new DummyService()::someMethod)
            .hasMessage("Runtime exception occurred")

assertThrown accepts a functional interface, whose instances can be created with lambda expressions, method references, or constructor references. assertThrown accepting that interface will expect and be ready to handle an exception.

This is relatively simple yet powerful technique.

Have a look at this blog post describing this technique: http://blog.codeleak.pl/2014/07/junit-testing-exception-with-java-8-and-lambda-expressions.html

The source code can be found here: https://github.com/kolorobot/unit-testing-demo/tree/master/src/test/java/com/github/kolorobot/exceptions/java8

Disclosure: I am the author of the blog and the project.

Java 8 solution

If you would like a solution which:

  • Utilizes Java 8 lambdas
  • Does not depend on any JUnit magic
  • Allows you to check for multiple exceptions within a single test method
  • Checks for an exception being thrown by a specific set of lines within your test method instead of any unknown line in the entire test method
  • Yields the actual exception object that was thrown so that you can further examine it

Here is a utility function that I wrote:

public final <T extends Throwable> T expectException( Class<T> exceptionClass, Runnable runnable )
    catch( Throwable throwable )
        if( throwable instanceof AssertionError && throwable.getCause() != null )
            throwable = throwable.getCause(); //allows "assert x != null : new IllegalArgumentException();"
        assert exceptionClass.isInstance( throwable ) : throwable; //exception of the wrong kind was thrown.
        assert throwable.getClass() == exceptionClass : throwable; //exception thrown was a subclass, but not the exact class, expected.
        @SuppressWarnings( "unchecked" )
        T result = (T)throwable;
        return result;
    assert false; //expected exception was not thrown.
    return null; //to keep the compiler happy.

(taken from my blog)

Use it as follows:

public void testThrows()
    RuntimeException e = expectException( RuntimeException.class, () -> 
            throw new RuntimeException( "fail!" );
        } );
    assert e.getMessage().equals( "fail!" );