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In PL/SQL, the exception actually means when the PL/SQL engine encounters any instruction which it cannot execute due to an error that occurs at run-time. These errors will not be captured at the time of compilation and hence these needed to handle only at the run-time.

For example, if PL/SQL engine receives an instruction to divide any number by '0', which is not possible then the PL/SQL engine will throw these as an exception. The exception is only raised at the run-time by the PL/SQL engine.

In this tutorial, you will learn the following topics-


In real time processes often such exceptions are unavoidable. These errors will stop the program from executing further, so in order to avoid such condition they need to be captured and handled separately. This process is called as Exception-Handling, in which the programmer handles the exception that can possibly occur at the run time.

These exceptions are handled at the block level, i.e. once if any exception occurs in any block then the control will come out of execution part of that block. The exception will then be handled at the exception handling part of that block. After handling the exception, it is not possible to resend control back to the execution section of that block.

The below syntax explains how to catch and handle the exception.

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Syntax Explanation:

  • In the above syntax, the exception-handling block contains series of WHEN condition to handle the exception.
  • Each WHEN condition is followed by the exception name which is expected to be raised at the run time.
  • When any exception is raised at runtime then the PL/SQL engine will look in the exception handling part for that particular exception. It will start from the first 'WHEN' clause and sequentially it will search.
  • If it found the exception handling for the exception which has been raised, then it will execute that particular handling code part.
  • If none of the 'WHEN' clause is present for the exception which has been raised, then PL/SQL engine will execute the 'WHEN OTHERS' part (if present). This is the common for all the exception.
  • After executing the exception part control will go out of the current block.
  • Only one exception part can be executed for a block at run-time. After executing it, the controller will skip the remaining exception handling part and will go out of the current block.

Note: WHEN OTHERS should always be at the last position of the sequence. The exception handling part present after WHEN OTHERS will never get executed as the control will exit from the block after executing the WHEN OTHERS.

Predefined Exceptions

Oracle has predefined some common exception. These exceptions have a unique exception name and error number. These exceptions are already defined in the 'STANDARD' package in oracle. In code, we can directly use these predefined exception name to handle them.

Below are the few predefined exceptions

Exception Error Code Exception Reason
ACCESS_INTO_NULL ORA-06530 Assign value to the attributes of uninitialized objects
CASE_NOT_FOUND ORA-06592 None of the 'WHEN' clause in CASE statement satisfied and no 'ELSE' clause is specified
COLLECTION_IS_NULL ORA-06531 Using collection methods (except EXISTS) or accessing collection attributes on a uninitialized collections
CURSOR_ALREADY_OPEN ORA-06511 Trying to open a cursor which is already opened
DUP_VAL_ON_INDEX ORA-00001 Storing duplicate value in a database column that is constrained by unique index
INVALID_CURSOR ORA-01001 Illegal cursor operations like closing an unopened cursor
INVALID_NUMBER ORA-01722 Conversion of character to number failed due to invalid number character
NO_DATA_FOUND ORA-01403 When 'SELECT' statement that contains INTO clause fetches no rows.
ROW_MISMATCH ORA-06504 When cursor variable data type is incompatible with the actual cursor return type
SUBSCRIPT_BEYOND_COUNT ORA-06533 Referring collection by index number that is larger than the collection size
SUBSCRIPT_OUTSIDE_LIMIT ORA-06532 Referring collection by index number that is outside the legal range (eg: -1)
TOO_MANY_ROWS ORA-01422 When a 'SELECT' statement with INTO clause returns more than one row
VALUE_ERROR ORA-06502 Arithmetic or size constraint error (eg: assigning a value to a variable that is larger than the variable size)
ZERO_DIVIDE ORA-01476 Dividing a number by '0'

User-defined Exception

In Oracle, other than the above predefined exceptions, the programmer can create their own exception and handle them. They can be created at a subprogram level in the declaration part. These exceptions are visible only in that subprogram. The exception that is defined in the package specification is public exception, and it is visible wherever the package is accessible.

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Syntax Explanation:

  • In the above syntax, the variable 'exception_name' is defined as 'EXCEPTION' type.
  • This can be used as in the similar way as a predefined exception.

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Syntax Explanation:

  • In the above syntax, the variable 'exception_name' is defined as 'EXCEPTION' type in the package specification of <package_name>.
  • This can be used in the database wherever package 'package_name' can be called.

Raising an Exception

All the predefined exceptions are raised implicitly whenever the error occurs. But the user defined exceptions needs to be raised explicitly. This can be achieved using the keyword 'RAISE'. This can be used in any of the ways mentioned below.

  • If 'RAISE' is used separately in the program, then it will propagate the already raised exception to the parent block. Only in exception block can be used as shown below.

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Syntax Explanation:

  • In the above syntax, the keyword RAISE is used in the exception handling block.
  • Whenever program encounters exception "exception_name", the exception is handled and will be completed normally
  • But the keyword 'RAISE' in the exception handling part will propagate this particular exception to the parent program.

Note: While raising the exception to the parent block the exception that is getting raised should also be visible at parent block, else oracle will throw an error.

  • We can use keyword 'RAISE' followed by the exception name to raise that particular user-defined/predefined exception. This can be used in both execution part and in exception handling part to raise the exception.

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Syntax Explanation:

  • In the above syntax, the keyword RAISE is used in the execution part followed by exception "exception_name".
  • This will raise this particular exception at the time of execution, and this needs to be handled or raised further.

Example 1: In this example, we are going to see

  • How to declare the exception
  • How to raise the declared exception and
  • How to propagate it to the main block

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Exception Handling in PL/SQL

Code Explanation:

  • Code line 2: Declaring the variable 'sample_exception' as EXCEPTION type.
  • Code line 3: Declaring procedure nested_block.
  • Code line 6: Printing the statement "Inside nested block".
  • Code line 7: Printing the statement "Raising sample_exception from nested block."
  • Code line 8: Raising the exception using 'RAISE sample_exception'.
  • Code line 10: Exception handler for exception sample_exception in the nested block.
  • Code line 11: Printing the statement 'Exception captured in nested block. Raising to tmain block'.
  • Code line 12: Raising the exception to main block (propagating to the main block).
  • Code line 15: Printing the statement "Inside the main block".
  • Code line 16: Printing the statement "Calling nested block".
  • Code line 17: Calling nested_block procedure.
  • Code line 19: Exception handler for sample_exception in the main block.
  • Code line 20: Printing the statement "Exception captured in the main block."

Important points to note in Exception

  • In function, an exception should always either return value or raise the exception further, else Oracle will throw 'Function returned without a value' error at run-time.
  • Transaction control statements can be given at exception handling block.
  • SQLERRM and SQLCODE are the in-built functions that will give the exception message and code.
  • If an exception is not handled then by default all the active transaction in that session will be rolled back.
  • RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR (-<error_code>, <error_message>) can be used instead of RAISE to raise the error with user code and message. Error code should be greater than 20000 and prefixed with '-'.


After this chapter. you should be able to work for the following aspects of Pl SQL exceptions

  • Handling the exceptions
  • Define an exception
  • Raise the exception
  • Exception propagation



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