Making TestNG @Listeners apply to only certain classes

TestNG defines a @Listeners annotation that is analogous to the listeners element in the test suite configuration xml file. This annotation can be put on any class but is not applied only to that class, but uniformly on all the tests in the test suite (which is in line with the purpose of the original XML element but it certainly is confusing to see an annotation on a class that has much wider influence but that single class).

On the other hand, I really like what the @Listeners annotation offers. It is a way to “favor composition over inheritance” – a famous recommendation of the GoF. It would be great, if there was a way of using the @Listeners annotation to specify “augmentations” of the tests in that precise test class so that I can implement the listeners in separation and I don’t have to compose awkward class hierarchies to get the behaviour I want in my test class.

Imagine a world where one could write a test like this:

@ClassListeners(JMockTest.class, BytemanTest.class, 
    RHQPluginContainerTest.class, DatabaseTest.class)
public class MyTests {
     @BMRule(... my byteman rule definition ...)
     @PluginContainerSetup(... RHQ plugin container setup ...)
     @DatabaseState(url = "", dbVersion = "2.100")
     public test() {
         Mockery context = TestNG.getClassListenerAccess(JMockTest.class);
         RHQPluginContainerAccess pc = TestNG.getClassListenerAccess(RHQPluginContainerTest.class);
         PluginContainerConfiguration config = pc.createMockedConfiguration(context);
         context.checking( ... my expectations ... );

         Connection dbConnection = TestNG.getClassListenerAccess(DatabaseTest.class)

         ... my test on the RHQ plugin container modified using the byteman rules ...

public @interface ClassListeners {
    Class<? extends IClassListener<?>>[] value();

public interface IClassListener<T> extends ITestNGListener {

      T getAccessObject(IInvokedMethod testMethod);

To get near that ideal state with the current TestNG (well, we’re using 5.13 in RHQ but as far as I checked there is nothing new in that regard in the latest TestNG) I had to do the following:

  1. Restrict my listeners to only apply themselves if they are defined as a listener on the class of the current test method (i.e. basically break the contract of the annotation as it is right now).
  2. Make the data that is available in the above example through the “access” objects accessible statically from a thread local storage. This is so that the test methodcan get to the data that is defined by the listener without having a reference to it.

Here is a short synthetic example of how I did it:

public class MyListener implements IInvokedMethodListener {
    private static ThreadLocal<AccessObject> ACCESS = new ThreadLocal<AccessObject>();

    public static AccessObject getAccess() {
        return ACCESS.get();

    public void beforeInvocation(IInvokedMethod method, ITestResult testResult) {
        //checking that the test actually wants the augmentation I provide
        if (!isListenerOnTestClass(method)) {
        ... do some setup stuff ...

        //setup the access object so that the test can get to the data I defined.
        ACCESS.set(new AccessObject());

    public void afterInvocation(IInvokedMethod method, ITestResult testResult) {
        if (!isListenerOnTestClass(method)) {
        ... tear down ...

    private boolean isListenerOnTestClass(IInvokedMethod method) {
        Class cls = method.getTestMethod().getTestClass().getRealClass();

        while (cls != null) {
            Listeners annotation = cls.getAnnotation(Listeners.class);
            if (annotation != null) {
                for(Class listener : annotation.value()) {
                    if (this.getClass().equals(listener)) {
                        return true;

            cls = cls.getSuperclass();

        return false;

public class MyTest {

     public void test() {
         AccessObject obj = MyListener.getAccess();
         ... my test ...

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