Understanding Cyclomatic Complexity and Why it Matters for Testing

Omed Habib

July 6, 2023

Darkweb v2.0 public release is here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit lobortis arcu enim urna adipiscing praesent velit viverra sit semper lorem eu cursus vel hendrerit elementum morbi curabitur etiam nibh justo, lorem aliquet donec sed sit mi dignissim at ante massa mattis.

  1. Neque sodales ut etiam sit amet nisl purus non tellus orci ac auctor
  2. Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potent i
  3. Mauris commodo quis imperdiet massa tincidunt nunc pulvinar
  4. Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potenti

What has changed in our latest release?

Vitae congue eu consequat ac felis placerat vestibulum lectus mauris ultrices cursus sit amet dictum sit amet justo donec enim diam porttitor lacus luctus accumsan tortor posuere praesent tristique magna sit amet purus gravida quis blandit turpis.

All new features available for all public channel users

At risus viverra adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat nisl pretium fusce id velit ut tortor sagittis orci a scelerisque purus semper eget at lectus urna duis convallis. porta nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget neque laoreet suspendisse interdum consectetur libero id faucibus nisl donec pretium vulputate sapien nec sagittis aliquam nunc lobortis mattis aliquam faucibus purus in.

  • Neque sodales ut etiam sit amet nisl purus non tellus orci ac auctor
  • Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potenti
  • Mauris commodo quis imperdiet massa tincidunt nunc pulvinar
  • Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potenti
Coding collaboration with over 200 users at once

Nisi quis eleifend quam adipiscing vitae aliquet bibendum enim facilisis gravida neque. Velit euismod in pellentesque massa placerat volutpat lacus laoreet non curabitur gravida odio aenean sed adipiscing diam donec adipiscing tristique risus. amet est placerat in egestas erat imperdiet sed euismod nisi.

“Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum”
Real-time code save every 0.1 seconds

Eget lorem dolor sed viverra ipsum nunc aliquet bibendum felis donec et odio pellentesque diam volutpat commodo sed egestas aliquam sem fringilla ut morbi tincidunt augue interdum velit euismod eu tincidunt tortor aliquam nulla facilisi aenean sed adipiscing diam donec adipiscing ut lectus arcu bibendum at varius vel pharetra nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget dolor cosnectur drolo.

Do you want to know why cyclomatic complexity matters for testing? Understanding this concept is essential for any software developer or tester who wants to ensure their code is of the highest quality. In this post, we'll explore cyclomatic complexity, how to measure it, and how it relates to testing. We'll also discuss how AI can help manage cyclomatic complexity in testing.

What is cyclomatic complexity?

Cyclomatic complexity is essentially a way to measure uncessarily shitty complex code. To be more specific, it's a software metric that measures the structural complexity of a program.

Have you ever looked at a method call and thought to yourself, "Yikes, this function has more exit strategies than a Bond villain. I sure wish whoever wrote this code had given it a bit more forethought!" The pain of writing unit tests is real, but QA engineers have to face it with a stiff upper lip... and a good dose of ibuprofen.

The name 'cyclomatic complexity' was coined in 1976 by Thomas J. McCabe Sr., who defined it as "the number of linearly independent paths through a program module." This means that cyclomatic complexity measures the number of different execution paths through a given section of code. A higher cyclomatic complexity indicates more potential paths to disaster - and more potential errors that can occur when running the code.

Let's look at an example with code. Suppose you have a method that calculates the price based on different conditions:

High cyclomatic complexity

This method has a cyclomatic complexity of 7. There are 6 if/else paths and one return path. The same method can be rewritten to use a switch statement to simplify the logic, lowering the cyclomatic complexity:

Low cyclomatic complexity

This revised method has a cyclomatic complexity of 4. This reduction in complexity is due to the fact that each case in the switch statement is considered a single path, and the conditional logic within each case does not contribute to additional complexity. Therefore, the number of paths through the code has been reduced, making it easier to understand and test.

It's important to note that cyclomatic complexity does not measure actual code quality but rather indicates where developers should focus their testing efforts - on areas with higher complexity that are more likely to contain errors or bugs. Furthermore, cyclomatic complexity can be used to identify areas of code that could use a little makeover.

Cyclomatic complexity can be calculated using several different methods. Still, the most widely accepted approach is to use McCabe's formula:

McCabe's formula

...where E represents edges (connections between nodes), N represents nodes (individual pieces of code), and P represents connected components (connected subgraphs). The resulting value is then compared against predefined thresholds to decide if further testing or refactoring should be done on the given section of code or program module.

How to calculate and interpret cyclomatic complexity

Cyclomatic complexity is calculated by examining the number of independent paths through a code base. To calculate cyclomatic complexity, you start by counting all the branches in your codebase. This includes decision points such as if-else statements, switch statements, loops, etc. Each branch statement adds one to your cyclomatic complexity score. After counting all branches in your codebase, you add one to get the final value. A higher value indicates more intricate control flows in your program, making it a real head-scratcher when it comes to testing and debugging.

When interpreting cyclomatic complexity values, it's essential to remember that different programming languages have different levels of granularity when measuring control flow structures like loops and conditionals. For example, some languages may allow more than one statement inside a loop or conditional block, while others may restrict this behavior, resulting in fewer branching points and, thus, lower cyclomatic complexity scores overall.

It's also important to remember that high cyclomatic complexities don't always indicate bad design – they point out areas where more careful testing should be done. High scores could indicate complex business logic or algorithms being implemented, which require extra attention when it comes to unit tests or integration tests. On the other hand, low scores could mean that certain sections are not appropriately tested due to their simplicity – so also bear this in mind when examining your results!

The link between cyclomatic complexity and testing

Cyclomatic complexity is an essential tool to consider when planning for testing. By considering the complexity of a codebase, developers can better prioritize which sections of the code need to be tested most thoroughly. Furthermore, understanding cyclomatic complexity metrics lets teams know where testing should be focused and how much time and resources should be allocated.

High cyclomatic complexity scores indicate more complex control flow structures, meaning that thorough testing of these areas is necessary because bugs may have been inadvertently introduced during development. When dealing with high cyclomatic complexity scores, programmers must ensure that all possible paths in the code are covered by unit tests. This will help them identify any issues early on and prevent unexpected behavior from slipping into production.

On the other hand, low cyclomatic complexity scores could point towards certain parts of the code that needed to be appropriately tested due to their simplicity or lack of branches. In this case, developers should pay extra attention to these sections and ensure they are adequately tested before releasing them into production.

Overall, measuring cyclomatic complexity can be very useful when writing effective software tests; however, it is essential to remember that many other factors are at play regarding software quality assurance and bug detection. Therefore, cyclomatic complexity metrics should only be used as part of a larger strategy for identifying potential issues in software development.

How AI helps manage cyclomatic complexity in testing

AI is quickly becoming integral to software development and testing, including its role in managing cyclomatic complexity. AI can be used to analyze code and detect potential issues with high levels of accuracy, saving you time and effort. As a result, it can be invaluable in reducing the risks associated with complex codebases, mainly when dealing with large projects that may have hundreds or even thousands of lines of code.

AI-powered tools such as static analysis can be used to identify areas of high cyclomatic complexity that require extra attention during the testing process. This allows developers to focus their efforts on these areas while avoiding wasting time on parts of the codebase that are less complex or already well-tested. AI can also predict how changes might affect cyclomatic complexity scores, allowing developers to decide which sections should be prioritized for testing.

AI-driven automated tests can help ensure that all aspects of a program are thoroughly tested, including those with higher levels of cyclomatic complexity. Automated tests powered by machine learning can quickly scan through a program's control flow structures and suggest test coverage based on its findings — giving developers more confidence in their tests and helping them catch issues earlier on in the process.

AI has tremendous potential in managing cyclomatic complexity during software development and testing. With the proper set of tools, developers can save time and energy by determining which parts of their codebase need extra TLC — resulting in top-notch software that users will love.