RSpec supports filtering examples and example groups in multiple ways, allowing you to run a targeted subset of your suite that you are currently interested in.

Filtering by Tag

Examples and groups can be filtered by matching tags declared on the command line or options files, or filters declared via RSpec.configure, with hash key/values submitted within example group and/or example declarations. For example, given this declaration:

RSpec.describe Thing, :awesome => true do
  it "does something" do
    # ...

That group (or any other with :awesome => true) would be filtered in with any of the following commands:

rspec --tag awesome:true
rspec --tag awesome
rspec -t awesome:true
rspec -t awesome

Prefixing the tag names with ~ negates the tags, thus excluding this group with any of:

rspec --tag ~awesome:true
rspec --tag ~awesome
rspec -t ~awesome:true
rspec -t ~awesome

Filtering by Example description

RSpec provides the --example (short form: -e) option to allow you to select examples or groups by their description. All loaded examples whose full description (computed based on the description of the example plus that of all ancestor groups) contains the provided argument will be executed.

rspec --example "Homepage when logged in"
rspec -e "Homepage when logged in"

You can specify this option multiple times to select multiple sets of examples:

rspec -e "Homepage when logged in" -e "User"

Note that RSpec will load all spec files in these situations, which can incur considerable start-up costs (particularly for Rails apps). If you know that the examples you are targeting are in particular files, you can also pass the file or directory name so that RSpec loads only those spec files, speeding things up:

rspec spec/homepage_spec.rb -e "Homepage when logged in"
rspec -e "Homepage when logged in" spec/homepage_spec.rb

Note also that description-less examples that have generated descriptions (typical when using the one-liner syntax) cannot be directly filtered with this option, because it is necessary to execute the example to generate the description, so RSpec is unable to use the not-yet-generated description to decide whether or not to execute an example. You can, of course, pass part of a group's description to select all examples defined in the group (including those that have no description).

Filtering by Example Location

Examples and groups can be selected from the command line by passing the file and line number where they are defined, separated by a colon:

rspec spec/homepage_spec.rb:14 spec/widgets_spec.rb:40 spec/users_spec.rb

This command would run the example or group defined on line 14 of spec/homepage_spec.rb, the example or group defined on line 40 of spec/widgets_spec.rb, and all examples and groups defined in spec/users_spec.rb.

If there is no example or group defined at the specified line, RSpec will run the last example or group defined before the line.


RSpec supports configuration options that make it easy to select examples by temporarily tweaking them. In your spec_helper.rb (or a similar file), put this configuration:

RSpec.configure do |config|
  config.filter_run_when_matching :focus

This configuration is generated for you by rspec --init in the commented-out section of recommendations. With that in place, you can tag any example group or example with :focus metadata to select it:

it "does something" do
# becomes...
it "does something", :focus do

RSpec also ships with aliases of the common example group definition methods (describe, context) and example methods (it, specify, example) with an f prefix that automatically includes :focus => true metadata, allowing you to easily change it to fit (think "focused it"), describe to fdescribe, etc in order to temporarily focus them.

Options files and command line overrides

Command line option declarations can be stored in .rspec, ~/.rspec, $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/rspec/options or a custom options file. This is useful for storing defaults. For example, let's say you've got some slow specs that you want to suppress most of the time. You can tag them like this:

RSpec.describe Something, :slow => true do

And then store this in .rspec:

--tag ~slow:true

Now when you run rspec, that group will be excluded.


Of course, you probably want to run them sometimes, so you can override this tag on the command line like this:

rspec --tag slow:true


Location and description filters have priority over tag filters since they express a desire by the user to run specific examples. Thus, you could specify a location or description at the command line to run an example or example group that would normally be excluded due to a :slow tag if you were using the above configuration.


You can also store default tags with RSpec.configure. We use tag on the command line (and in options files like .rspec), but for historical reasons we use the term filter in RSpec.configure:

RSpec.configure do |c|
  c.filter_run_including :foo => :bar
  c.filter_run_excluding :foo => :bar

These declarations can also be overridden from the command line.

Silencing filter announcements

By default, RSpec will print a message before your specs run indicating what filters are configured, for instance, it might print "Run options: include :focus=>true" if you set config.filter_run_including :focus => true.

If you wish to prevent those messages from appearing in your spec output, you can set the silence_filter_announcements config setting to true like this:

RSpec.configure do |c|
  c.filter_run_including :foo => :bar
  c.silence_filter_announcements = true