Assertions and Java 7 Exceptions - OCP - OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide (Exams 1Z0-803 & 1Z0-804) (2015)

OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide (Exams 1Z0-803 & 1Z0-804) (2015)

Part 2. OCP

Chapter 7. Assertions and Java 7 Exceptions


• Test Invariants by Using Assertions

• Develop Code That Handles Multiple Exception Types in a Single catch Block

• Develop Code That Uses try-with-resources Statements (Including Using Classes That Implement the AutoCloseable Interface)

image Two-Minute Drill

Q&A Self Test

If you are coming back after having sat the OCA, congratulations! You are now ready to progress to the OCP. The assertion mechanism, added to the language with version 1.4, gives you a way to do testing and debugging checks on conditions you expect to smoke out while developing, when you don’t necessarily need or want the runtime overhead associated with exception handling.

If you do need or want exception handling, you’ll be learning about two new features added to exception handling in Java 7. Multi-catch gives you a way of dealing with two or more exception types at once. try-with-resources lets you close your resources very easily.


Working with the Assertion Mechanism (OCP Objective 6.5)

6.5 Test invariants by using assertions.

You know you’re not supposed to make assumptions, but you can’t help it when you’re writing code. You put them in comments:


You write print statements with them:


Added to the Java language beginning with version 1.4, assertions let you test your assumptions during development, without the expense (in both your time and program overhead) of writing exception handlers for exceptions that you assume will never happen once the program is out of development and fully deployed.

Starting with exam 310-035 (version 1.4 of the Sun Certified Java Programmer exam) and continuing through to the current exam 1Z0-804 (OCPJP 7), you’re expected to know the basics of how assertions work, including how to enable them, how to use them, and how not to use them.

Assertions Overview

Suppose you assume that a number passed into a method (say, methodA()) will never be negative. While testing and debugging, you want to validate your assumption, but you don’t want to have to strip out print statements, runtime exception handlers, or if/else tests when you’re done with development. But leaving any of those in is, at the least, a performance hit. Assertions to the rescue! Check out the following code:


Because you’re so certain of your assumption, you don’t want to take the time (or program performance hit) to write exception-handling code. And at runtime, you don’t want the if/else either because if you do reach the else condition, it means your earlier logic (whatever was running prior to this method being called) is flawed.

Assertions let you test your assumptions during development, but the assertion code basically evaporates when the program is deployed, leaving behind no overhead or debugging code to track down and remove. Let’s rewrite methodA() to validate that the argument was not negative:


Not only do assertions let your code stay cleaner and tighter, but because assertions are inactive unless specifically “turned on” (enabled), the code will run as though it were written like this:


Assertions work quite simply. You always assert that something is true. If it is, no problem. Code keeps running. But if your assertion turns out to be wrong (false), then a stop-the-world AssertionError is thrown (which you should never, ever handle!) right then and there, so you can fix whatever logic flaw led to the problem.

Assertions come in two flavors: really simple and simple, as follows:

Really simple:




The difference between the two is that the simple version adds a second expression separated from the first (boolean expression) by a colon—this expression’s string value is added to the stack trace. Both versions throw an immediate AssertionError, but the simple version gives you a little more debugging help, while the really simple version tells you only that your assumption was false.


Assertions are typically enabled when an application is being tested and debugged, but disabled when the application is deployed. The assertions are still in the code, although ignored by the JVM, so if you do have a deployed application that starts misbehaving, you can always choose to enable assertions in the field for additional testing.

Assertion Expression Rules

Assertions can have either one or two expressions, depending on whether you’re using the “simple” or the “really simple.” The first expression must always result in a boolean value! Follow the same rules you use for if and while tests. The whole point is to assert aTest, which means you’re asserting that aTest is true. If it is true, no problem. If it’s not true, however, then your assumption was wrong and you get an AssertionError.

The second expression, used only with the simple version of an assert statement, can be anything that results in a value. Remember, the second expression is used to generate a String message that displays in the stack trace to give you a little more debugging information. It works much like System.out.println() in that you can pass it a primitive or an object, and it will convert it into a String representation. It must resolve to a value!

The following code lists legal and illegal expressions for both parts of an assert statement. Remember, expression2 is used only with the simple assert statement, whereas the second expression exists solely to give you a little more debugging detail:



If you see the word “expression” in a question about assertions and the question doesn’t specify whether it means expression1 (the boolean test) or expression2 (the value to print in the stack trace), always assume the word “expression” refers to expression1, the boolean test. For example, consider the following question:

Exam Question: An assert expression must result in a boolean value, true or false?

Assume that the word “expression” refers to expression1 of an assert, so the question statement is correct. If the statement were referring to expression2, however, the statement would not be correct since expression2 can have a result of any value, not just a boolean.

Enabling Assertions

If you want to use assertions, you have to think first about how to compile with assertions in your code and then about how to run with assertions enabled. Both require version 1.4 or greater, and that brings us to the first issue: how to compile with assertions in your code.

Identifier vs. Keyword

Prior to version 1.4, you might very well have written code like this:


Notice that in the preceding code, assert is used as an identifier. That’s not a problem prior to 1.4. But you cannot use a keyword/reserved word as an identifier, and beginning with version 1.4, assert is a keyword. The bottom line is this:

You can use assert as a keyword or as an identifier, but not both.


If, for some reason, you’re using a Java 1.4 compiler and you’re using assert as a keyword (in other words, you’re actually trying to assert something in your code), then you must explicitly enable assertion-awareness at compile time, as follows:


You can read that as “compile the class TestClass, in the directory com/geeksanonymous, and do it in the 1.4 way, where assert is a keyword.”

Use Version 7 of java and javac

As far as the exam is concerned, you’ll ALWAYS be using version 7 of the Java compiler (javac) and version 7 of the Java application launcher (java). You might see questions about older versions of source code, but those questions will always be in the context of compiling and launching old code with the current versions of javac and java.

Compiling Assertion-Aware Code

The Java 7 compiler will use the assert keyword by default. Unless you tell it otherwise, the compiler will generate an error message if it finds the word assert used as an identifier. However, you can tell the compiler that you’re giving it an old piece of code to compile and that it should pretend to be an old compiler! Let’s say you’ve got to make a quick fix to an old piece of 1.3 code that uses assert as an identifier. At the command line, you can type


The compiler will issue warnings when it discovers the word assert used as an identifier, but the code will compile and execute. Suppose you tell the compiler that your code is version 1.4 or later; for instance:


In this case, the compiler will issue errors when it discovers the word assert used as an identifier.

If you want to tell the compiler to use Java 7 rules, you can do one of three things: omit the -source option, which is the default, or add one of two source options:


If you want to use assert as an identifier in your code, you MUST compile using the -source 1.3 option. Table 7-1 summarizes how the Java 7 compiler will react to assert as either an identifier or a keyword.

TABLE 7-1 Using Various Java Versions to Compile Code That Uses assert as an Identifier or a Keyword


Running with Assertions

Here’s where it gets cool. Once you’ve written your assertion-aware code (in other words, code that uses assert as a keyword, to actually perform assertions at runtime), you can choose to enable or disable your assertions at runtime! Remember, assertions are disabled by default.

Enabling Assertions at Runtime

You enable assertions at runtime with

java -ea com.geeksanonymous.TestClass


java -enableassertions com.geeksanonymous.TestClass

The preceding command-line switches tell the JVM to run with assertions enabled.

Disabling Assertions at Runtime

You must also know the command-line switches for disabling assertions:

java -da com.geeksanonymous.TestClass


java -disableassertions com.geeksanonymous.TestClass

Because assertions are disabled by default, using the disable switches might seem unnecessary. Indeed, using the switches the way we do in the preceding example just gives you the default behavior (in other words, you get the same result, regardless of whether you use the disabling switches). But… you can also selectively enable and disable assertions in such a way that they’re enabled for some classes and/or packages and disabled for others while a particular program is running.

Selective Enabling and Disabling

The command-line switches for assertions can be used in various ways:

image With no arguments (as in the preceding examples) Enables or disables assertions in all classes, except for the system classes.

image With a package name Enables or disables assertions in the package specified and in any packages below this package in the same directory hierarchy (more on that in a moment).

image With a class name Enables or disables assertions in the class specified.

You can combine switches to, say, disable assertions in a single class but keep them enabled for all others as follows:


The preceding command line tells the JVM to enable assertions in general, but disable them in the class com.geeksanonymous.Foo. You can do the same selectivity for a package as follows:


The preceding command line tells the JVM to enable assertions in general, but disable them in the package com.geeksanonymous and all of its subpackages! You may not be familiar with the term subpackages, since there wasn’t much use of that term prior to assertions. A subpackage is any package in a subdirectory of the named package. For example, look at the following directory tree:


This tree lists three directories:


The subpackage of com.geeksanonymous is the twelvesteps package. Remember that in Java, the com.geeksanonymous.twelvesteps package is treated as a completely distinct package that has no relationship with the packages above it (in this example, the com.geeksanonymouspackage), except they just happen to share a couple of directories. Table 7-2 lists examples of command-line switches for enabling and disabling assertions.

TABLE 7-2 Assertion Command-Line Switches


Using Assertions Appropriately

Not all legal uses of assertions are considered appropriate. As with so much of Java, you can abuse the intended use of assertions, despite the best efforts of Oracle’s Java engineers to discourage you from doing so. For example, you’re never supposed to handle an assertion failure. That means you shouldn’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.

So who gets to decide what’s appropriate? Oracle. The exam uses Oracle’s “official” assertion documentation to define appropriate and inappropriate uses.

Don’t Use Assertions to Validate Arguments to a public Method

The following is an inappropriate use of assertions:



If you see the word “appropriate” on the exam, do not mistake that for “legal.” “Appropriate” always refers to the way in which something is supposed to be used, according to either the developers of the mechanism or best practices officially embraced by Oracle. If you see the word “correct” in the context of assertions, as in, “Line 3 is a correct use of assertions,” you should also assume that correct is referring to how assertions SHOULD be used rather than how they legally COULD be used.

A public method might be called from code that you don’t control (or from code you have never seen). Because public methods are part of your interface to the outside world, you’re supposed to guarantee that any constraints on the arguments will be enforced by the method itself. But since assertions aren’t guaranteed to actually run (they’re typically disabled in a deployed application), the enforcement won’t happen if assertions aren’t enabled. You don’t want publicly accessible code that works only conditionally, depending on whether assertions are enabled.

If you need to validate public method arguments, you’ll probably use exceptions to throw, say, an IllegalArgumentException if the values passed to the public method are invalid.

Do Use Assertions to Validate Arguments to a private Method

If you write a private method, you almost certainly wrote (or control) any code that calls it. When you assume that the logic in code calling your private method is correct, you can test that assumption with an assertion as follows:


The only difference that matters between the preceding example and the one before it is the access modifier. So, do enforce constraints on private methods’ arguments, but do not enforce constraints on public methods. You’re certainly free to compile assertion code with an inappropriate validation of public arguments, but for the exam (and real life), you need to know that you shouldn’t do it.

Don’t Use Assertions to Validate Command-Line Arguments

This is really just a special case of the “Do not use assertions to validate arguments to a public method” rule. If your program requires command-line arguments, you’ll probably use the exception mechanism to enforce them.

Do Use Assertions, Even in public Methods, to Check for Cases That You Know Are Never, Ever Supposed to Happen

This can include code blocks that should never be reached, including the default of a switch statement as follows:


If you assume that a particular code block won’t be reached, as in the preceding example where you assert that x must be 1, 2, or 3, then you can use assert false to cause an AssertionError to be thrown immediately if you ever do reach that code. So in the switch example, we’re not performing a boolean test—we’ve already asserted that we should never be there, so just getting to that point is an automatic failure of our assertion/assumption.

Don’t Use assert Expressions That Can Cause Side Effects!

The following would be a very bad idea:


The rule is that an assert expression should leave the program in the same state it was in before the expression! Think about it. assert expressions aren’t guaranteed to always run, so you don’t want your code to behave differently depending on whether assertions are enabled. Assertions must not cause any side effects. If assertions are enabled, the only change to the way your program runs is that an AssertionError can be thrown if one of your assertions (think assumptions) turns out to be false.


Using assertions that cause side effects can cause some of the most maddening and hard-to-find bugs known to man! When a hot-tempered QA analyst is screaming at you that your code doesn’t work, trotting out the old “well, it works on MY machine” excuse won’t get you very far.


Working with Java 7 Exception Handling (OCP Objectives 6.2 and 6.3)

6.2 Develop code that handles multiple exception types in a single catch block.

6.3 Develop code that uses try-with-resources statements (including using classes that implement the AutoCloseable interface).

Use the try Statement with multi-catch and finally Clauses

Sometimes we want to handle different types of exceptions the same way. Especially when all we can do is log the exception and declare defeat. But we don’t want to repeat code. So what to do? In the previous chapter’s section “Handling an Entire Class Hierarchy of Exceptions,” we’ve already seen that having a single catch-all exception handler is a bad idea. Prior to Java 7, the best we could do was:


You may be thinking that it is only one line of duplicate code. But what happens when you are catching six different exception types? That’s a lot of duplication. Luckily, Java 7 made this nice and easy with a feature called multi-catch:


No more duplication. This is great. As you might imagine, multi-catch is short for “multiple catch.” You just list out the types you want the multi-catch to handle separated by pipe (|) characters. This is easy to remember because | is the “or” operator in Java. Which means the catchcan be read as “SQLException or IOException e.”


You can’t use the variable name multiple times in a multi-catch. The following won’t compile:


It makes sense that this example doesn’t compile. After all, the code in the exception handler needs to know which variable name to refer to.


This one is tempting. When we declare variables, we normally put the variable name right after the type. Try to think of it as a list of types. We are declaring variable e to be caught and it must be one of Exception1 or Exception2 types.

With multi-catch, order doesn’t matter. The following two snippets are equivalent to each other:


Just like with exception matching in a regular catch block, you can’t just throw any two exceptions together. With multi-catch, you have to make sure a given exception can only match one type. The following will not compile:


You’ll get a compiler error that looks something like:

The exception FileNotFoundException is already caught by the alternative IOException

Since FileNotFoundException is a subclass of IOException, we could have just written that in the first place! There was no need to use multi-catch. The simplified and working version simply says:


Remember, multi-catch is only for exceptions in different inheritance hierarchies. To make sure this is clear, what do you think happens with the following code:

catch(IOException | Exception e)

That’s right. It won’t compile because IOException is a subclass of Exception. Which means it is redundant and the compiler won’t accept it.

To summarize, we use multi-catch when we want to reuse an exception handler. We can list as many types as we want so long as none of them have a superclass/subclass relationship with each other.

Multi-catch and catch Parameter Assignment

There is one tricky thing with multi-catch. And we know the exam creators like tricky things!

The following LEGAL code demonstrates assigning a new value to the single catch parameter:



Don’t assign a new value to the catch parameter. It isn’t good practice and creates confusing, hard-to-maintain code. But it is legal Java code to assign a new value to the catch block’s parameter when there is only one type listed, and it will compile.

The following ILLEGAL code demonstrates trying to assign a value to the final multi-catch parameter:


At least you get a clear compiler error if you try to do this. The compiler tells you:


Since multi-catch uses multiple types, there isn’t a clearly defined type for the variable that you can set. Java solves this by making the catch parameter final when that happens. And then the code doesn’t compile because you can’t assign to a final variable.

Rethrowing Exceptions

Sometimes, we want to do something with the thrown exceptions before we rethrow them:


This is a common pattern called “handle and declare.” We want to do something with the exception—log it. We also want to acknowledge we couldn’t completely handle it, so we declare it and let the caller deal with it. (As an aside, many programmers believe that logging an exception and rethrowing it is a bad practice, but you never know—you might see this kind of code on the exam.)

You may have noticed that couldThrowAnException() doesn’t actually throw an exception. The compiler doesn’t know this. The method signature is key to the compiler. It can’t assume that no exception gets thrown, as a subclass could override the method and throw an exception.

There is a bit of duplicate code here. We have the list of exception types thrown by the methods we call typed twice. Multi-catch was introduced to avoid having duplicate code, yet here we are with duplicate code.

Lucky for us, Java 7 helps us out here as well with a new feature. This example is a nicer way of writing the previous code:


Notice the multi-catch is gone and replaced with catch(Exception e). It’s not bad practice here, though, because we aren’t really catching all exceptions. The compiler is treating Exception as “any exceptions that the called methods happen to throw.” (You’ll see this idea of code shorthand again with the diamond operator when you get to generics.)

This is very different from Java 6 code that catches Exception. In Java 6, we’d need the rethrow() method signature to be throws Exception in order to make this code compile.

In Java 7, } catch (Exception e) { doesn’t really catch ANY Exception subclass. The code may say that, but the compiler is translating for you. The compiler says, “Well, I know it can’t be just any exception because the throws clause won’t let me. I’ll pretend the developer meant to only catch SQLException and IOException. After all, if any others show up, I’ll just fail compilation on throw e;—just like I used to in Java 6.” Tricky, isn’t it?

At the risk of being too repetitive, remember that catch (Exception e) doesn’t necessarily catch all Exception subclasses. In Java 7, it means catch all Exception subclasses that would allow the method to compile.

Got that? Now why on earth would Oracle do this to us? It sounds more complicated than it used to be! Turns out they were trying to solve another problem at the same time they were changing this stuff. Suppose the API developer of couldThrowAnException() decided the method will never throw a SQLException and removes SQLException from the signature to reflect that.

Imagine we were using the Java 6 style of having one catch block per exception or even the multi-catch style of:


Our code would stop compiling with an error like:


It is reasonable for code to stop compiling if we add exceptions to a method. But we don’t want our code to break if a method’s implementation gets LESS brittle. And that’s the advantage of using:


Java infers what we mean here and doesn’t say a peep when the API we are calling removes an exception.


Don’t go changing your API signatures on a whim. Most code was written before Java 7 and will break if you change signatures. Your callers won’t thank you when their code suddenly fails compilation because they tried to use your new, shiny, “cleaner” API.

You’ve probably noticed by now that Oracle values backward compatibility and doesn’t change the behavior or “compiler worthiness” of code from older versions of Java. That still stands. In Java 6, we can’t write catch (Exception e) and merely throw specific exceptions. If we tried, it would still complain about:


Backward compatibility only needs to work for code that compiles! It’s OK for the compiler to get less strict over time.

To make sure you understand what is going on here, think about what happens in this example:


Table 7.3 summarizes handling changes to the exception-related parts of method signatures in Java 6 and Java 7.

TABLE 7-3 Exceptions and Signatures


There is one more trick. If you assign a value to the catch parameter, the code no longer compiles:


As with multi-catch, you shouldn’t be assigning a new value to the catch parameter in real life anyway. The difference between this and multi-catch is where the compiler error occurs. For multi-catch, the compiler error occurs on the line where we attempt to assign a new value to the parameter, whereas here, the compiler error occurs on the line where we throw e. It is different because code written prior to Java 7 still needs to compile. Since the multi-catch syntax is brand new, there is no legacy code to worry about.

Autocloseable Resources with a try-with-resources Statement

When we learned about using finally in Chapter 6, we saw that the finally block is a good place for closing files and assorted other resources. The examples made this clean-up code in the finally block look nice and short by writing // clean up. Unfortunately, real-world clean-up code is easy to get wrong. And when correct, it is verbose. Let’s look at the code to close our one resource when closing a file:


That’s a lot of code just to close a single file! But it’s all necessary. First, we need to check if the reader is null on line 7. It is possible the try block threw an exception before creating the reader, or while trying to create the reader if the file we are trying to read doesn’t exist. It isn’t until line 9 that we get to the one line in the whole finally block that does what we care about—closing the file. Lines 8 and 10 show a bit more housekeeping. We can get an IOException on attempting to close the file. While we could try to handle that exception, there isn’t much we can do, thus making it common to just ignore the exception. This gives us nine lines of code (lines 6–14) just to close a file.

Developers typically write a helper class to close resources or they use the open-source, Apache Commons helper to get this mess down to three lines:


Which is still three lines too many.

Lucky for us, Java 7 introduced a new feature called Automatic Resource Management using “try-with-resources” to get rid of even these three lines. The following code is equivalent to the previous example:


No finally left at all! We don’t even mention closing the reader. Automatic Resource Management takes care of it for us. Let’s take a look at what happens here. We start out by declaring the reader inside the trydeclaration. The parentheses are new. Think of them as a forloop in which we declare a loop index variable that is scoped to just the loop. Here, the reader is scoped to just the try block. Not the catch block; just the try block.

The actual try block does the same thing as before. It reads from the file. Or, at least, it comments that it would read from the file. The catch block also does the same thing as before. And just like in our traditional try statement, catch is optional.

Remembering back to the section “Using finally” in Chapter 6, we learned that a try must have catch or finally. Time to learn something new about that rule.

We remember this is ILLEGAL code because it demonstrates a try without a catch or finally:


The following LEGAL code demonstrates a try-with-resources with no catch or finally:


What’s the difference? The legal example does have a finally block; you just don’t see it. The try-with-resources statement is logically calling a finally block to close the reader. And just to make this even trickier, you can add your own finally block to try-with-resources as well. Both will get called. We’ll take a look at how this works shortly.

Since the syntax is inspired from the for loop, we get to use a semicolon when declaring multiple resources in the try. For example:


There is something new here. Our declaration calls methods. Remember that the try-with-resources is just Java code. It is just restricted to only be declarations. This means if you want to do anything more than one statement long, you’ll need to put it into a method.

To review, Table 7-4 lists the big differences that are new for try-with-resources.

TABLE 7-4 Comparing Traditional try Statement to try-with-resources


AutoCloseable and Closeable

Because Java is a statically typed language, it doesn’t let you declare just any type in a try-with-resources statement. The following code will not compile:


You’ll get a compiler error that looks something like:


AutoCloseable only has one method to implement. Let’s take a look at the simplest code we can write using this interface:


There’s also an interface called Closeable, which is similar to AutoCloseable but with some key differences. Why are there two similar interfaces, you may wonder? The Closeable interface was introduced in Java 5. When try-with-resources was invented in Java 7, the language designers wanted to change some things but needed backward compatibility with all existing code. So they created a superinterface with the rules they wanted.

One thing the language designers wanted to do was make the signature more generic. Closeable allows implementors to throw only an IOException or a RuntimeException. AutoCloseable allows any Exception at all to be thrown. Look at some examples:


In your code, Oracle recommends throwing the narrowest Exception subclass that will compile. However, they do limit Closeable to IOException, and you must use AutoCloseable for anything more.

The next difference is even trickier. What happens if we call the close() multiple times? It depends. For classes that implement AutoCloseable, the implementation is required to be idempotent. Which means you can call close() all day and nothing will happen the second time and beyond. It will not attempt to close the resource again and it will not blow up. For classes that implement Closeable, there is no such guarantee.

If you look at the JavaDoc, you’ll notice many classes implement both AutoCloseable and Closeable. These classes use the stricter signature rules and are idempotent. They still need to implement Closeable for backward compatibility, but added AutoCloseable for the new contract.

To review, Table 7-5 shows the differences between AutoCloseable and Closeable. Remember the exam creators like to ask about “similar but not quite the same” things!

TABLE 7-5 Comparing AutoCloseable and Closeable


A Complex try-with-resources Example The following example is as complicated as try-with-resources gets:


Running the preceding code will print:


It’s actually more logical than it looks at first glance. We first enter the try block on line 11, and Java creates our two resources. Line 12 prints Try. When we throw an exception on line 13, the first interesting thing happens. The try block “ends” and Automatic Resource Management automatically cleans up the resources before moving on to the catch or finally. The resources get cleaned up, “backwards” printing Close – Two and then Close – One. The close() method gets called in the reverse order in which resources are declared to allow for the fact that resources might depend on each other. Then we are back to the regular try block order, printing Catch and Finally on lines 15 and 17.

If you only remember two things from this example, remember that try-with-resources is part of the try block, and resources are cleaned up in the reverse order they were created.

Suppressed Exceptions

We’re almost done with exceptions. There’s only one more wrinkle to cover in Java 7 exception handling. Now that we have an extra step of closing resources in the try, it is possible for multiple exceptions to get thrown. Each close() method can throw an exception in addition to thetry block itself.


We know that after the exception in the try block gets thrown on line 4, the try-with-resources still calls close() on line 3 and the catch block on line 5 catches one of the exceptions. Running the code prints:


This tells us the exception we thought we were throwing still gets treated as most important. Java also adds any exceptions thrown by the close() methods to a suppressed array in that main exception. The catch block or caller can deal with any or all of these. If we remove line 4, the code just prints Closing.

In other words, the exception thrown in close() doesn’t always get suppressed. It becomes the main exception if there isn’t already one existing. As one more example, think about what the following prints:


The answer is:


Up until try-with-resources calls close(), everything is going just dandy. When Automatic Resource Management calls b2.close(), we get our first exception. This becomes the main exception. Then, Automatic Resource Management calls b1.close() and throws another exception. Since there was already an exception thrown, this second exception gets added as a second exception.

If the catch or finally block throws an exception, no suppressions happen. The last exception thrown gets sent to the caller rather than the one from the try—just like before try-with-resources was created.


Assertions, added to the language in version 1.4, are a useful debugging tool. You learned how you can use them for testing by enabling them, but keep them disabled when the application is deployed. If you have older Java code that uses the word assert as an identifier, then you won’t be able to use assertions, and you must recompile your older code using the -source 1.3 flag. Remember that for Java 7, assertions are compiled as a keyword by default, but must be enabled explicitly at runtime.

You learned how assert statements always include a boolean expression, and if the expression is true, the code continues on, but if the expression is false, an AssertionError is thrown. If you use the two-expression assert statement, then the second expression is evaluated, converted to a String representation, and inserted into the stack trace to give you a little more debugging info. Finally, you saw why assertions should not be used to enforce arguments to public methods, and why assert expressions must not contain side effects!

Exception handling was enhanced in version 7, making exceptions easier to use. First you learned that you can specify multiple exception types to share a catch block using the new multi-catch syntax. The major benefit is in reducing code duplication by having multiple exception types share the same exception handler. The variable name is listed only once, even though multiple types are listed. You can’t assign a new exception to that variable in the catch block. Then you saw the “handle and declare” pattern where the exception types in the multi-catch are listed in the method signature and Java translates “catch Exception e” into that exception type list.

Next, you learned about the try-with-resources syntax where Java will take care of calling close() for you. The objects are scoped to the try block. Java treats them as a finally block and closes these resources for you in the opposite order to which they were opened. If you have your own finally block, it is executed after try-with-resources closes the objects. You also learned the difference between AutoCloseable and Closeable. Closable was introduced in Java 5, allowing only IOException (and RuntimeException) to be thrown. AutoCloseable was added in Java 7, allowing any type of Exception.


Here are some of the key points from the certification objectives in this chapter.

Test Invariants Using Assertions (OCP Objective 6.5)

image Assertions give you a way to test your assumptions during development and debugging.

image Assertions are typically enabled during testing but disabled during deployment.

image You can use assert as a keyword (as of version 1.4) or an identifier, but not both together. To compile older code that uses assert as an identifier (for example, a method name), use the -source 1.3 command-line flag to javac.

image Assertions are disabled at runtime by default. To enable them, use a command-line flag: -ea or -enableassertions.

image Selectively disable assertions by using the -da or -disableassertions flag.

image If you enable or disable assertions using the flag without any arguments, you’re enabling or disabling assertions in general. You can combine enabling and disabling switches to have assertions enabled for some classes and/or packages, but not others.

image You can enable and disable assertions on a class-by-class basis, using the following syntax: java -ea -da:MyClass TestClass

image You can enable and disable assertions on a package-by-package basis, and any package you specify also includes any subpackages (packages further down the directory hierarchy).

image Do not use assertions to validate arguments to public methods.

image Do not use assert expressions that cause side effects. Assertions aren’t guaranteed to always run, and you don’t want behavior that changes depending on whether assertions are enabled.

image Do use assertions—even in public methods—to validate that a particular code block will never be reached. You can use assert false; for code that should never be reached so that an assertion error is thrown immediately if the assert statement is executed.

Use the try Statement with Multi-catch and finally Clauses (OCP Objective 6.2)

image If two catch blocks have the same exception handler code, you can merge them with multi-catch using catch (Exception1 | Exception2 e).

image The types in a multi-catch list must not extend one another.

image When using multi-catch, the catch block parameter is final and cannot have a new value assigned in the catch block.

image If you catch a general exception as shorthand for specific subclass exceptions and rethrow the caught exception, you can still list the specific subclasses in the method signature. The compiler will treat it as if you had listed them out in the catch.

Autocloseable Resources with a try-with-resources Statement (OCP Objective 6.3)

image try-with-resources automatically calls close() on any resources declared in the try as try(Resource r = new Foo()).

image A try must have at least a catch or finally unless it is a try-with-resources. For try-with-resources, it can have neither, one, or both of the keywords.

image AutoCloseable’s close() method throws Exception and must be idempotent. Closeable’s close() throws IOException and is not required to be idempotent.

image try-with-resources are closed in reverse order of creation and before going on to catch or finally.

image If more than one exception is thrown in a try-with-resources block, it gets added as a suppressed exception.

image The type used in a try-with-resources statement must implement AutoCloseable.


The following questions will help you measure your understanding of the material presented in this chapter. Read all of the choices carefully, as there may be more than one correct answer. Choose all correct answers for each question. Stay focused.

1. Given two files:


And the four command-line invocations:


What is the result? (Choose all that apply.)

A. Only one compilation will succeed

B. Exactly two compilations will succeed

C. Exactly three compilations will succeed

D. All four compilations will succeed

E. No compiler warnings will be produced

F. At least one compiler warning will be produced

2. Which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. It is appropriate to use assertions to validate arguments to methods marked public

B. It is appropriate to catch and handle assertion errors

C. It is NOT appropriate to use assertions to validate command-line arguments

D. It is appropriate to use assertions to generate alerts when you reach code that should not be reachable

E. It is NOT appropriate for assertions to change a program’s state

3. Given:


Which are true? (Choose all that apply.)

A. Compilation succeeds

B. Compilation fails due to an error on line 6

C. Compilation fails due to an error on line 7

D. Compilation fails due to an error on line 8

E. Compilation fails due to an error on line 9

F. Compilation fails due to an error on line 10

4. Given:


What is the result?

A. ad

B. acd

C. cd

D. d

E. Compilation fails

F. An exception is thrown at runtime

5. Given:


Which inserted independently at // insert code here will compile and produce the output: b? (Choose all that apply.)

A. catch(Exception e) {

B. catch(FileNotFoundException e) {

C. catch(IOException e) {

D. catch(IOException | SQLException e) {

E. catch(IOException e | SQLException e) {

F. catch(SQLException e) {

G. catch(SQLException | IOException e) {

H. catch(SQLException e | IOException e) {

6. Given:


Which inserted independently at // insert code here will compile and produce the output error driving before throwing an exception? (Choose all that apply.)

A. catch(AnotherTrainComing e) {

B. catch(AnotherTrainComing | RanOutOfTrack e) {

C. catch(AnotherTrainComing e | RanOutOfTrack e) {

D. catch(Exception e) {

E. catch(IllegalArgumentException e) {

F. catch(RanOutOfTrack e) {

G. None of the above—code fails to compile for another reason

7. Given:



What is the result?

A. -t123t

B. -t12c3

C. -t123

D. -t1c3

E. -t1c23

F. None of the above; main() throws an exception

G. Compilation fails

8. Given:


What is the result?

A. 2glf

B. 2lgf

C. tglf

D. t2lgf

E. t2lgf

F. None of the above; main() throws an exception

G. Compilation fails

9. Given:


And the following possible changes:

C1. Replace line 2 with class Lamb implements AutoCloseable {

C2. Replace line 2 with class Lamb implements Closeable {

C3. Replace line 11 with } finally {}

What change(s) allow the code to compile? (Choose all that apply.)

A. Just C1 is sufficient

B. Just C2 is sufficient

C. Just C3 is sufficient

D. Both C1 and C3

E. Both C2 and C3

F. The code compiles without any changes

10. Given:


Which exceptions will the code throw?

A. IOException with suppressed RuntimeException a

B. IOException with suppressed RuntimeException c

C. RuntimeException a with no suppressed exception

D. RuntimeException c with no suppressed exception

E. RuntimeException a with suppressed RuntimeException c

F. RuntimeException c with suppressed RuntimeException a

G. Compilation fails

11. Given:


Which exceptions will the code throw?

A. IOException with suppressed RuntimeException a

B. IOException with suppressed RuntimeException c

C. RuntimeException a with no suppressed exception

D. RuntimeException c with no suppressed exception

E. RuntimeException a with suppressed RuntimeException c

F. RuntimeException c with suppressed RuntimeException a

G. Compilation fails

12. Given:


What will this code print?

A. a

B. ab

C. ac

D. abc

E. bc

F. Compilation fails


1. image B and F are correct. class One will compile (and issue a warning) using the 1.3 flag, and class Two will compile using the 1.4 flag.

image A, C, D, and E are incorrect based on the above. (OCP Objective 6.5)

2. image C,D, and E are correct statements.

image A is incorrect. It is acceptable to use assertions to test the arguments of private methods. B is incorrect. While assertion errors can be caught, Oracle discourages you from doing so. (OCP Objective 6.5)

3. image E is correct. When an assert statement has two expressions, the second expression must return a value. The only two-expression assert statement that doesn’t return a value is on line 9.

image A, B, C, D, and F are incorrect based on the above. (OCP Objective 6.5)

4. image E is correct. catch (IOException e | SQLException e) doesn’t compile. While multiple exception types can be specified in the multi-catch, only one variable name is allowed. The correct syntax is catch (IOException | SQLException e). Other than this, the code is valid. Note that it is legal for blowUp() to have IOException in its signature even though that Exception can’t be thrown.

image A, B, C, D,and F are incorrect based on the above. If the catch block’s syntax error were corrected, the code would output cd. The multi-catch would catch the SQLException from blowUp() since it is one of the exception types listed. And, of course, the finally block runs at the end of the try/catch. (OCP Objective 6.2)

5. image C,D, and G are correct. Since order doesn’t matter, both D and G show correct use of the multi-catch block. And C catches the IOException from fileBlowUp() directly. Note that databaseBlowUp() is never called at runtime. However, if you remove the call, the compiler won’t let you catch the SQLException since it would be impossible to be thrown.

image A is incorrect because it will not compile. Since there is already a catch block for Exception, adding another will make the compiler think there is unreachable code. B is incorrect because it will print c rather than b. Since FileNotFoundException is a subclass of IOException, the thrown IOException will not match the catch block for FileNotFoundException. E and H are incorrect because they are invalid syntax for multi-catch. The catch parameter e can only appear once. F is incorrect because it will print c rather than b. Since the IOException thrown by fileBlowUp() is never caught, the thrown exception will match the catch block for Exception. (OCP Objective 6.2)

6. image B,D, and F are correct. B uses multi-catch to identify both exceptions drive() may throw. D still compiles since it uses the new enhanced exception typing to recognize that Exception may only refer to AnotherTrainComing and RanOutOfTrack. F is the simple case that catches a single exception. Since main throws AnotherTrainComing, the catch block doesn’t need to handle it.

image A and E are incorrect because the catch block will not handle RanOutOfTrack when drive() throws it. The main method will still throw the exception, but the println() will not run. C is incorrect because it is invalid syntax for multi-catch. The catch parameter e can only appear once. G is incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objective 6.2)

7. image E is correct. After the exception is thrown, Automatic Resource Management calls close() before completing the try block. From that point, catch and finally execute in the normal order.

image F is incorrect because the catch block catches the exception and does not rethrow it. A, B, C, D, and G are incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objective 6.3)

8. image G is correct. System.out.println cannot be in the declaration clause of a try-with-resources block because it does not declare a variable. If the println was removed, the answer would be A because resources are closed in the opposite order they are created.

image A, B, C, D, E, and F are incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objective 6.3)

9. image A and D are correct. If the code is left with no changes, it will not compile because try-with-resources requires Lamb to implement AutoCloseable or a subinterface. If C2 is implemented, the code will not compile because close() throws Exception instead of IOException. Unlike the traditional try, try-with-resources does not require catch or finally to present. So the code works equally well with or without C3.

image B, C, E, and F are incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objective 6.3)

10. image D is correct. While the exception caught by the catch block matches choice A, it is ignored by the catch block. The catch block just throws RuntimeException c without any suppressed exceptions.

image A, B, C, E, F, and G are incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objective 6.3)

11. image A is correct. After the try block throws an IOException, Automatic Resource Management calls close() to clean up the resources. Since an exception was already thrown in the try block, RuntimeException a gets added to it as a suppressed exception. The catch block merely rethrows the caught exception. The code does compile even though the catch block catches an Exception and the method merely throws an IOException. In Java 7, the compiler is able to pick up on this.

image B, C, D, E, F, and G are incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objective 6.3)

12. image F is correct. The exception variable in a catch block may not be reassigned when using multi-catch. It CAN be reassigned if we are only catching one exception.

image C would have been correct if e = new PowerOutage(); were removed. A, B, D, and E are incorrect because of the above. (OCP Objectives 6.2 and 6.4)