Java Programming - Assertions - Discussion


Which statement is true about assertions in the Java programming language?

[A]. Assertion expressions should not contain side effects.
[B]. Assertion expression values can be any primitive type.
[C]. Assertions should be used for enforcing preconditions on public methods.
[D]. An AssertionError thrown as a result of a failed assertion should always be handled by the enclosing method.

Answer: Option A


Option A is correct. Because assertions may be disabled, programs must not assume that the boolean expressions contained in assertions will be evaluated. Thus these expressions should be free of side effects. That is, evaluating such an expression should not affect any state that is visible after the evaluation is complete. Although it is not illegal for a boolean expression contained in an assertion to have a side effect, it is generally inappropriate, as it could cause program behaviour to vary depending on whether assertions are enabled or disabled.

Assertion checking may be disabled for increased performance. Typically, assertion checking is enabled during program development and testing and disabled for deployment.

Option B is wrong. Because you assert that something is "true". True is Boolean. So, an expression must evaluate to Boolean, not int or byte or anything else. Use the same rules for an assertion expression that you would use for a while condition.

Option C is wrong. Usually, enforcing a precondition on a public method is done by condition-checking code that you write yourself, to give you specific exceptions.

Option D is wrong. "You're never supposed to handle an assertion failure"

Not all legal uses of assertions are considered appropriate. As with so much of Java, you can abuse the intended use for assertions, despite the best efforts of Sun's Java engineers to discourage you. For example, you're never supposed to handle an assertion failure. That means don't catch it with a catch clause and attempt to recover. Legally, however, AssertionError is a subclass of Throwable, so it can be caught. But just don't do it! If you're going to try to recover from something, it should be an exception. To discourage you from trying to substitute an assertion for an exception, the AssertionError doesn't provide access to the object that generated it. All you get is the String message.

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