Down the rabbithole

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Unit testing abstract classes in React

In unit testing with Jest and Enzyme, a shallow render is a good way to test whether a component works like it should. But with abstract classes[1] that don’t have a render() method (like one I’m trying to test right now), this fails. So how can we test abstracts?

A simple abstract class *

Our abstract may look something like this calculator. For the sake of simplicity, it can only do one operation (but that, it can do very well!)

abstract class AbstractCalculator extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    this.state = {result: 0};
    this.addOne = this.addOne.bind(this);

  addOne() {
    const result = this.state.result + num;

This class could be used as follows:

class Calculator extends AbstractCalculator {
  constructor(props) {

  render() {
    return (
        <button onClick={this.props.addOne}> +1 </button>

The fun part: testing! *

Normally, a test for a React class using Jest and Enzyme would look something like this:

describe('Calculator', () => {
  const props = {/* add some props here */};
  const calc = shallow(<Calculator {...props} />);

  it('works', () => {

This will not work for abstracts.

If we try to use any of Enzyme’s renderers, e.g. shallow(<AbstractComponent {...props} />), we will get an error like this: TypeError: this._instance.render is not a function. Indeed, it is not. But we should still be able to test the rest of AbstractComponent’s methods.

We could test the class Calculator that implements AbstractCalculator, but that would not allow for isolated testing of our abstract.

So let’s approach this as testing a class, rather than a React component. Instead of shallow rendering, we just create a new instance and test its methods on this instance.[2] As for the props, they are, in essence, the parameters of the constructor function for the class, so we will just pass them as params when creating the test instance.

import AbstractCalculator from 'path/to/AbstractCalculator';

describe('AbstractCalculator', () => {
  const props = {/* some test props */};
  const calculator = new AbstractCalculator(props);

  it('works', () => {

Voilà! It works.

As for state changes, we will have to mock the abstract’s setState method, otherwise we get Warning: Can’t call setState on a component that is not yet mounted.

it('adds correctly', () => {
  calculator.setState = jest.fn();
  calculator.state.result = 7;


  expect(calculator.setState).toBeCalledWith({result: 8});  

Thatʼs all — to be honest, the solution was simpler and more straightforward than I had imagined. In essence, an abstract class is just a class that can be reused easily, so it behaves just like a class in TypeScript. In our oversimplified example, that is. :)

  1. See the TypeScript Handbook for more explanation of abstract classes (youʼll have to scroll down a little.) ↩︎

  2. Note that creating an instance with new from an abstract class should not be done anywhere else, as abstract classes are there for other classes to implement. ↩︎

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