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PHPUnit by Sebastian Bergmann is an advanced unit testing framework for PHP. It is installed as Composer dependency and is not part of Moodle installation. To run PHPUnit tests, you have to manually install it on your development computer or test server.

Read the excellent guide at

Installation of PHPUnit via Composer

Install the composer.phar file to your moodle folder.

  • Execute Composer installer
cd /your/moodle/dirroot
php composer.phar install

If that gives you connection problems try

php composer.phar install --prefer-source


  • On Windows if you are behind a proxy you will need to setup an environment variable called HTTP_PROXY with a value detailing your HTTP Proxy address and port before composer will correctly download files.
  • You may be prompted for github credentials when installing composer dependencies.
    • This is used to generate an personal access token to avoid being rate limited by github.
    • If you have Two Factor Authentication enabled on your github account, or do not wish to supply your own credentials you will need to generate a token manually:
    • ( See composer issue #2280 for further details of this bug.)

Detailed instructions:

PHPUnit versions

The following table shows what PHPUnit version is installed in which Moodle version when using the default composer setup.

Moodle versionPHPUnit versionLinks
Moodle 4.4PHPUnit 9.6Documentation
Moodle 3.11 - 4.3PHPUnit 9.5Documentation
Moodle 3.10PHPUnit 8.5Documentation
Moodle 3.7 - 3.9PHPUnit 7.5Documentation
Moodle 3.4 - 3.6PHPUnit 6.5Documentation
Moodle 3.2 - 3.3PHPUnit 5.5Documentation
Moodle 3.1PHPUnit 4.8.27Documentation 4.8

Initialisation of test environment

Our PHPUnit integration requires a dedicated database and data root folder. First, add a new data root directory and prefix into your config.php, you can find examples in config-dist.php.

 $CFG->phpunit_prefix = 'phpu_';
$CFG->phpunit_dataroot = '/home/example/phpu_moodledata';

Some PHPUnit tests require a live internet connection. If your system does not have a direct connection to the Internet, you also need to specify your proxy in config.php - even though you normally specify it by using the admin settings user interface. (If you do not use a proxy, you can skip this step.) Check the settings on the relevant admin settings page, or from the mdl_config table in your database, if you are unsure of the correct values.

 // Normal proxy settings
$CFG->proxyhost = '';
$CFG->proxyport = 80;
$CFG->proxytype = 'HTTP';
$CFG->proxybypass = 'localhost,,';
// Omit the next lines if your proxy doesn't need a username/password:
$CFG->proxyuser = 'systemusername';
$CFG->proxypassword = 'systempassword';

You can also provide specific database settings for unit testing (if these are not provided, the standard database settings will be used):

$CFG->phpunit_dbtype    = 'pgsql';      // 'pgsql', 'mariadb', 'mysqli', 'mssql', 'sqlsrv' or 'oci'
$CFG->phpunit_dblibrary = 'native'; // 'native' only at the moment
$CFG->phpunit_dbhost = ''; // eg 'localhost' or '' or IP
$CFG->phpunit_dbname = 'mytestdb'; // database name, eg moodle
$CFG->phpunit_dbuser = 'postgres'; // your database username
$CFG->phpunit_dbpass = 'some_password'; // your database password

Then you need to initialise the test environment using following command.

 cd /home/example/moodle
php admin/tool/phpunit/cli/init.php

This command has to be repeated after any upgrade, plugin (un)installation or if you have added tests to a plugin you are developing:

NOTE: make sure that your php cli executable (or the one you want to use) is correctly on your path as the individual init scripts will call it repeatedly. Also, ensure en_AU locale is installed on your server.


If you want to run LDAP unit tests you must have a working, configured LDAP environment on your test server. There must be a basic LDAP tree structure in place or tests will fail with "Search: No such object". Build an LDAP tree structure in a new shell prompt:

ldapadd -H ldap:// -D "cn=admin,dc=yourcomputer,dc=local" -W

In config.php tell Moodle where to look for your test LDAP environment:

// Constants for auth/ldap tests.
define('TEST_AUTH_LDAP_HOST_URL', 'ldap://');
define('TEST_AUTH_LDAP_BIND_DN', 'cn=admin,dc=yourcomputer,dc=local');
define('TEST_AUTH_LDAP_BIND_PW', '*');
define('TEST_AUTH_LDAP_DOMAIN', 'dc=yourcomputer,dc=local');

// Constants for enrol/ldap tests.
define('TEST_ENROL_LDAP_HOST_URL', 'ldap://');
define('TEST_ENROL_LDAP_BIND_DN', 'cn=admin,dc=yourcomputer,dc=local');
define('TEST_ENROL_LDAP_BIND_PW', '*');
define('TEST_ENROL_LDAP_DOMAIN', 'dc=yourcomputer,dc=local');

// Constants for lib/ldap tests.
define('TEST_LDAPLIB_HOST_URL', 'ldap://');
define('TEST_LDAPLIB_BIND_DN', 'cn=admin,dc=yourcomputer,dc=local');
define('TEST_LDAPLIB_BIND_PW', '*');
define('TEST_LDAPLIB_DOMAIN', 'dc=yourcomputer,dc=local');

Test execution

To execute all test suites from main configuration file execute the vendor/bin/phpunit script from your $CFG->dirroot directory.

 cd /home/example/moodle

The rest of examples uses phpunit, please substitute it with vendor/bin/phpunit or create a shortcut in your $CFG->dirroot. In IDEs, you may need to specify the path to the PHPUnit configuration file. Use the absolute path to phpunit.xml from your $CFG->dirroot.

How to run only some tests

Running a single test quickly (PHPUnit 9)

The fastest way to run a single test in PHPUnit 9.5 and higher (Moodle 3.11 and higher) is to use the filter argument:

vendor/bin/phpunit --filter tool_dataprivacy_metadata_registry_testcase

To run all tests provided by the single component, use suite and the name it has in the phpunit.xml file. Example:

vendor/bin/phpunit --testsuite workshopform_accumulative_testsuite

Alternatively if you have config files built for each component:

vendor/bin/phpunit -c mod/workshop/form/accumulative/

You can also run a single test by using test file path:

vendor/bin/phpunit my/tests/filename.php

so, run this command in the CLI to see a real test in action:

vendor/bin/phpunit cohort/tests/lib_test.php

You can also run a single test method inside a class:

vendor/bin/phpunit --filter test_function_name path/to/file.php

Note: You should be careful because it may be possible to run tests this way which are not included in the normal run if, for example, the file is not placed in the correct location. If you use this method, do at least one full test run (or --group run, as below) to ensure the test can be found.

Filters can also be applied to capture a group of similar tests across all testsuites:

vendor/bin/phpunit --filter test_flag_user

It is also possible to run all tests in a component (subsystem or plugin) by using the testsuite option:

vendor/bin/phpunit --testsuite mod_forum_testsuite
vendor/bin/phpunit --testsuite core_privacy_testsuite
vendor/bin/phpunit --testsuite core_privacy_testsuite --filter test_component_is_compliant

Using the @group annotation

If you add annotations like

namespace qtype_stack;
* Unit tests for {@link stack_cas_keyval} @ qtype/stack/tests/cas_keyval_test.php.
* @group qtype_stack
class cas_keyval_test extends \basic_testcase {

to all the classes in your plugin, then you can run just the tests for your plugin by doing

 phpunit --group qtype_stack

Therefore, it is suggested that you annotate all your tests with the Frankenstyle name of your plugin.

Using multiple phpunit.xml files

It's easy to create alternative phpunit.xml files defining which tests must be run together. For reference, take a look to the default phpunit.xml available in your base directory once the testing environment has been initialised. After creating the custom file you will be able to run those tests with

 vendor/bin/phpunit -c path/to/your/alternative/phpunit/file.xml

Also, for commodity, you can use this command:

 php admin/tool/phpunit/cli/util.php --buildcomponentconfigs

It will, automatically, create one valid phpunit.xml file within each component (plugin or subsystem) and other important directories, so later you will be able to execute tests like

 vendor/bin/phpunit -c mod/forum[](/phpunit.xml)  // Note that it's not needed to specify the name of the file (if it is 'phpunit.xml').
vendor/bin/phpunit -c question
vendor/bin/phpunit -c question/type/calculated
vendor/bin/phpunit -c backup
vendor/bin/phpunit -c lib/dml

or, also

 cd directory/with/phpunit.xml

External test resources

By default Moodle phpunit tests contact server when testing curl related functionality. Optionally you may checkout a local copy of the test scripts and access it instead:

  1. clone to web directory
  2. add to your config.php or modify phpunit.xml file
define('TEST_EXTERNAL_FILES_HTTP_URL', 'http://localhost/moodle-exttests');

Writing new tests

PHPUnit support in IDEs

Common Unit Test Problems

Common unit test problems

Command line tips

  • Display each test name before running it (useful e.g. if it crashes before the end and you want to know which test it was running at that point)
vendor/bin/phpunit --debug

(you will probably want to redirect this to a file as it gets very long).