Observing the size of generated test data

By Nikos Baxevanis

QuickCheck has a function called sample which, given a generator, prints some examples values to the standard output (stdout).

It’s signature is:

sample :: Show a => Gen a -> IO ()

Example

Using the choose generator we can use sample to generate random integers in the inclusive range [0, 9] and print them:

λ sample $ choose (0, 9 :: Int)

Output:

1
5
0
2
3
4
6
5
5
4
1

The sample function defined in FsCheck

FsCheck also defines a sample function, though it behaves in a slightly different way, as it takes two additional arguments size and n:

val sample : size:int -> n:int -> gn:Gen<'a> -> 'a list

// `size` is the size of generated test data
// `n` is the number of samples (defaults to 11 in QuickCheck)

Let’s pause here and run sample by supplying different values for size.

Using 0 for size


open FsCheck.Gen

let sample'  = sample 0 11 // Size = 0, Number of samples = 11
let sample'' = sample' <| choose (0, 9)

Output:

Length = 11
    [0]: 4
    [1]: 0
    [2]: 4
    [3]: 0
    [4]: 3
    [5]: 9
    [6]: 3
    [7]: 9
    [8]: 2
    [9]: 8
    [10]: 2

However, since size is 0 the result should be:

Length = 11
    [0]: 0
    [1]: 0
    [2]: 0
    [3]: 0
    [4]: 0
    [5]: 0
    [6]: 0
    [7]: 0
    [8]: 0
    [9]: 0
    [10]: 0

Using 1000 for size

open FsCheck.Gen

let sample'  = sample 1000 11 // Size = 1000, Number of samples = 11
let sample'' = sample' <| choose (0, 9)

Output:

Length = 11
    [0]: 8
    [1]: 6
    [2]: 2
    [3]: 3
    [4]: 7
    [5]: 3
    [6]: 1
    [7]: 2
    [8]: 6
    [9]: 2
    [10]: 0

The above result looks incorrect, in fact it looks the same as the first result, where size was 0.

Since size is 1000 the result should look like:

Length = 11
    [0]: -78
    [1]: 347
    [2]: 242
    [3]: 707
    [4]: 414
    [5]: 49
    [6]: 551
    [7]: 45
    [8]: 897
    [9]: -99
    [10]: 77

At this point, we observed that if a generator ignores size (e.g. as choose does) then sample ignores it’s size parameter.


Just sample with a different generator, then.

Instead of the choose generator, the following example uses generate<int>.

Using 0 for size

open FsCheck.Arb
open FsCheck.Gen

let sample'  = sample 0 11 // Size = 0, Number of samples = 11
let sample'' = sample' <| generate<int>

The results are now looking good:

Length = 11
    [0]: 0
    [1]: 0
    [2]: 0
    [3]: 0
    [4]: 0
    [5]: 0
    [6]: 0
    [7]: 0
    [8]: 0
    [9]: 0
    [10]: 0

That’s because generate<int> takes size into account.

Using 1000 for size

open FsCheck.Arb
open FsCheck.Gen

let sample'  = sample 1000 11 // Size = 1000, Number of samples = 11
let sample'' = sample' <| generate<int>

The results are now looking good:

Length = 11
    [0]: -98
    [1]: 307
    [2]: 142
    [3]: 507
    [4]: 414
    [5]: 39
    [6]: 501
    [7]: 4
    [8]: 807
    [9]: -81
    [10]: 31

How to always control the size of test data, then?

That seems to be the purpose of the sized function.

For the sake of completeness, here’s the original example with choose rewritten to use sized:

sample and choose, using 0 for size

open FsCheck.Gen

let sample'  = sample 0 11 // Size = 0, Number of samples = 11
let sample'' = sample' <| (sized <| fun s -> choose (0, s))

Results to the following, which is now correct:

Length = 11
    [0]: 0
    [1]: 0
    [2]: 0
    [3]: 0
    [4]: 0
    [5]: 0
    [6]: 0
    [7]: 0
    [8]: 0
    [9]: 0
    [10]: 0

sample and choose, using 1000 for size

open FsCheck.Gen

let sample'  = sample 1000 11 // Size = 1000, Number of samples = 11
let sample'' = sample' <| (sized <| fun s -> choose (-s, s))

Results to the following, which now looks correct:

Length = 11
    [0]: 105
    [1]: 682
    [2]: -239
    [3]: 658
    [4]: -6
    [5]: 9
    [6]: 203
    [7]: -43
    [8]: 304
    [9]: -125
    [10]: -423

References

Appendix

The above F# examples use the backward pipe <| operator to look similar to the Haskell examples. In F#, it’s idiomatic to use the forward pipe operator instead.</p>

Using the forward pipe operator, the previous example would be:

let result =
    (fun s -> Gen.choose (-s, s))
    |> Gen.sized
    |> Gen.sample 1000 11