Software testing is a crucial aspect of the development process that ensures the reliability and correctness of your code. Python provides several testing frameworks, but pytest and unittest are two of the most popular choices. 

Pytest vs. Unittest Explained

  • Pytest: pytest is a Python testing framework that requires installation and emphasizes simplicity, scalability and ease of use. It also offers extensive plugin support.
  • Unittest: unittest is a testing framework that’s part of Python’s standard library. It’s inspired by xUnit and is compatible with older versions of Python.  

We’ll delve into the features of pytest and unittest, explore how to test with each framework and compare them.


What Is Pytest?

Pytest is a testing framework that offers a more concise and intuitive way of writing tests compared to unittest. It emphasizes simplicity, scalability and ease of use, making it a favored choice among developers. Pytest provides extensive plugin support, allowing you to customize and extend its functionality according to your project requirements.

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What Is Unittest?

Unittest, also known as the built-in Python testing framework, is part of the standard library. It’s inspired by the xUnit style of testing and provides a robust set of features for writing and executing test cases. Unittest is known for its simplicity and compatibility with older versions of Python, making it a reliable choice for many developers.


How to Write Tests With Pytest

First, you need to install pytest using pip:

$ pip install pytest

Pytest discovers and runs tests by searching for files named test_*.py or * in your project directory and subdirectories. Let’s look at an example test using pytest:


def add_numbers(a, b):
    return a + b

def test_add_numbers():
    assert add_numbers(2, 3) == 5
    assert add_numbers(5, 7) == 12

In the above example, we define a function add_numbers and write a test case test_add_numbers using the assert statement to check if the function produces the expected results.

Simply execute the following command in your project directory to run tests in pytest:

$ pytest

Pytest automatically discovers and runs all the test files, reporting the test results with detailed information. It also provides advanced features like fixtures, parameterization and test discovery, which enable you to write more complex and efficient tests.


How to Write Tests With Unittest

Unittest follows a more object-oriented approach for writing tests. Here’s an example of a unittest test case:

import unittest

def add_numbers(a, b):
    return a + b

class TestAddNumbers(unittest.TestCase):
    def test_add_numbers(self):
        self.assertEqual(add_numbers(2, 3), 5)
        self.assertEqual(add_numbers(5, 7), 12)

In the above example, we create a subclass of unittest.TestCase and define test methods within it. The assertions, such as self.assertEqual, are used to check if the actual output matches the expected output.

Execute the following command to run the unittest tests:

$ python -m unittest

Unittest will discover and run the test cases defined in the specified file. It provides detailed test result reports, including information about failures and errors, making it easier to identify and fix issues in your code.


Pytest vs. Unittest

Now that we have seen how to write tests with both frameworks, let’s compare pytest and unittest based on six factors:

  1. Syntax and simplicity
  2. Test discovery
  3. Fixtures and plugins
  4. Test parameterization
  5. Assertion handling
  6. Compatibility and Ecosystem


1. Syntax and Simplicity

  • Pytest: offers a more concise and readable syntax compared to unittest, making tests easier to write and understand.


2. Test Discovery

  • Pytest: Automatically discovers test files and test cases without requiring explicit subclassing or naming conventions. 
  • Unittest: follows a stricter discovery mechanism.


3. Fixtures and Plugins

  • Pytest provides a powerful fixture mechanism that simplifies test setup and teardown. Fixtures allow you to define reusable setup and cleanup code for your tests, enhancing your test organization and reducing code duplication. Additionally, pytest offers a wide range of plugins that extend its functionality, such as test coverage, mocking and parameterization.


4. Test Parameterization

  • Pytest: Has built-in support for test parameterization, which allows you to run the same test with different inputs or configurations. This feature is useful for testing different scenarios without duplicating test code. 
  • Unittest: Requires more manual handling to achieve parameterization.


5. Assertion Handling

  • Pytest: Provides more expressive and flexible assertion handling compared to unittest. Its assert statement allows for more detailed failure messages, making it easier to diagnose issues. 
  • Unittest: Its assertion methods, while comprehensive, can be more verbose.


6. Compatibility and Ecosystem

  • Unittest: Part of the Python standard library and is compatible with older versions of Python. 
  • Pytest: Requires installation but offers a vast ecosystem of plugins and community support.
A comparison of pyttest and unittest. | Video: Pluralsight

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Advantages of Pytest and Unittest

Both pytest and unittest are capable testing frameworks in Python, each with its own set of advantages. Pytest shines in terms of simplicity, flexibility and plugin support, making it an excellent choice for projects of any size. As a built-in framework, unittest offers simplicity and compatibility, making it a reliable choice, especially for smaller projects or environments with strict limitations.

Ultimately, the choice between pytest and unittest depends on your project requirements, team preferences and testing needs. You can also consider using both frameworks in combination, leveraging the strengths of each where they are most suitable.

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