Test selection examples

Test selection works a little differently from other resource selection. This makes it very easy to:

  • run tests on a particular model
  • run tests on all models in a subdirectory
  • run tests on all models upstream / downstream of a model, etc.

Like all resource types, tests can be selected directly, by methods and operators that capture one of their attributes: their name, properties, tags, etc.

Unlike other resource types, tests can also be selected indirectly. If a selection method or operator includes a test's parent(s), the test will also be selected.


This can be complex for tests with multiple parents (e.g. relationships, or custom tests that ref() multiple models). To prevent tests from running when they aren't wanted, a test will be indirectly selected only if ALL of its parents are included by the selection criteria. If any parent is missing, that test won't run. On the other hand, if ANY parent is excluded, the test will be aggressively excluded as well.

We've included lots of examples below:

Direct selection


Run generic (schema) tests only:

$ dbt test --models test_type:schema

Run bespoke (data) tests only:

$ dbt test --models test_type:data

In both cases, test_type checks a property of the test itself. These are forms of "direct" test selection.

Indirect selection

$ dbt test --models customers
$ dbt test --models orders

These are examples of "indirect" selection: customers and orders select models (whether by name or path). Any tests defined on customers or orders will be selected indirectly, and thereby included.

If a test depends on both customers and orders (e.g. a relationships test between them), it will not be selected indirectly in the example above. Instead, it would only be selected indirectly if both parents are selected:

$ dbt test --models customers orders

Syntax examples

The following examples should feel somewhat familiar if you're used to executing dbt run with the --models option to build parts of your DAG:

# Run tests on a model (indirect selection)
$ dbt test --models customers
# Run tests on all models in the models/staging/jaffle_shop directory (indirect selection)
$ dbt test --models staging.jaffle_shop
# Run tests downstream of a model (note this will select those tests directly!)
$ dbt test --models stg_customers+
# Run tests upstream of a model (indirect selection)
$ dbt test --models +stg_customers
# Run tests on all models with a particular tag (direct + indirect)
$ dbt test --models tag:my_model_tag
# Run tests on all models with a particular materialization (indirect selection)
$ dbt test --models config.materialized:table

The same principle can be extended to tests defined on other resource types. In these cases, we will execute all tests defined on certain sources via the source: selection method:

# tests on all sources
$ dbt test --models source:*
# tests on one source
$ dbt test --models source:jaffle_shop
# tests on one source table
$ dbt test --models source:jaffle_shop.customers
# tests on everything _except_ sources
$ dbt test --exclude source:*

More complex selection

Through the combination of direct and indirect selection, there are many ways to accomplish the same outcome. Let's say we have a data test named assert_total_payment_amount_is_positive that depends on a model named payments. All of the following would manage to select and execute that test specifically:

$ dbt test --models assert_total_payment_amount_is_positive # directly select the test by name
$ dbt test --models payments,test_type:data # indirect selection, v0.18.0
$ dbt test --models payments --data # indirect selection, earlier versions

As long as you can select a common property of a group of resources, indirect selection allows you to execute all the tests on those resources, too. In the example above, we saw it was possible to test all table-materialized models. This principle can be extended to other resource types, too:

# Run tests on all models with a particular materialization
$ dbt test --models config.materialized:table
# Run tests on all seeds, which use the 'seed' materialization
$ dbt test --models config.materialized:seed
# Run tests on all snapshots, which use the 'snapshot' materialization
$ dbt test --models config.materialized:snapshot

Note that this functionality may change in future versions of dbt.

Run tests on tagged columns

Because the column order_id is tagged my_column_tag, the test itself also receives the tag my_column_tag. Because of that, this is an example of direct selection.

version: 2
- name: orders
- name: order_id
tags: [my_column_tag]
- unique
$ dbt test --models tag:my_column_tag

Currently, tests "inherit" tags applied to columns, sources, and source tables. They do not inherit tags applied to models, seeds, or snapshots. In all likelihood, those tests would still be selected indirectly, because the tag selects its parent. This is a subtle distinction, and it may change in future versions of dbt.

Run tagged tests only

This is an even clearer example of direct selection: the test itself is tagged my_test_tag, and selected accordingly.

version: 2
- name: orders
- name: order_id
- unique:
tags: [my_test_tag]
$ dbt test --models tag:my_test_tag