Understanding the Difference Between Tests and Specs

Understanding the Difference Between Tests and Specs

21 May 2024 Stephan Petzl Leave a comment Tech-Help

When delving into the world of software testing, particularly with tools like MiniTest, you may encounter terms such as “tests” and “specs.” While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they embody distinct philosophies and approaches to software verification. This article aims to clarify these concepts, helping you decide which approach suits your needs best.

Defining Tests and Specs

At their core, both tests and specs serve the same fundamental purpose: to verify that your code functions correctly. However, they differ in their approach and mindset:

  • Tests: These are typically more general and focus on the overall correctness of the code. The term “test” does not inherently suggest a specific methodology for how the code should be verified.
  • Specs: Short for specifications, specs originate from behavior-driven development (BDD). They emphasize defining “what” the software should do, encouraging a mindset that focuses on testing the interface and behavior rather than the implementation.

Why Use Specs?

Specs can make your tests read more naturally, almost like a description of the functionality. This can be particularly useful in collaborative environments where non-technical stakeholders need to understand the test cases. For example, RSpec in Ruby is a domain-specific language (DSL) designed to write tests that are easy to read and understand.

Using specs can also help reinforce good testing practices, such as focusing on the behavior and interface of the software rather than its internal implementation. This can lead to more robust and maintainable tests.

Practical Considerations

In practice, the choice between tests and specs often comes down to personal or team preference. Some developers find that specs make the code more readable and easier to understand, while others prefer the simplicity and directness of traditional tests.

It’s also worth noting that some testing frameworks support both approaches. For example, MiniTest allows you to write tests in a traditional manner or use a spec-like syntax. This flexibility can be beneficial, allowing you to choose the approach that best fits your project and team.


Ultimately, whether you choose to write tests or specs, the most important thing is to have an automated way of verifying the correctness of your code. This ensures you can proceed with confidence, knowing that your software behaves as expected.

For those looking to streamline their testing process, tools like Repeato can be invaluable. Repeato is a no-code test automation tool for iOS and Android that allows you to create, run, and maintain automated tests quickly and efficiently. With its intuitive test recorder and scripting interface, Repeato makes it easy to automate complex use cases and ensure your apps work flawlessly. Additionally, Repeato will soon support explicit web testing, making it even more versatile for your testing needs.

For more information on advanced testing techniques and best practices, be sure to check out our blog and documentation.

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