Types of Exams

Examinations are an inseparable part of a student’s life. These are designed to assess the student’s knowledge and the understanding of the course. The name “examination” is feared by majority of students and is one of the major reasons of stress and nervousness among them. However this stress and nervousness can be very easily relieved by knowing what kind of examination you are going to attend and how to prepare for it. With changing time, requirements and demands, examinations have also evolved in structure, strategy and composition. Let us have a look at the most common different types of examinations a student might face in his/her life.

Written Exams

This is the most common and the traditional way of assessing a student’s knowledge and expertise they have attained during the study course in their chosen subject. As the name suggests, students are expected to provide written answers to the questions. Based on the structure and composition, the written exams can be sub-divided into following different types:

1.  Closed book exams

Without help of text books or teacher’s notes students have to write the answers of a set of given questions and explain the reasons for their chosen answer.  These exams are normally set in an examination hall and only stationery (e.g. pen, pencil eraser etc.) is allowed inside the hall. In some cases a calculator and other equipments might also be allowed depending upon the subject of examination. These types of exams may include all types of questions like short answer, long answer, true or false, fill in the blanks and multiple choice type questions.

2.  Open book exams

These types of examinations are not often conducted and are unusual. Students are allowed to use textbooks, notes, other study materials and sometimes even internet to answer the questions. The aim of these exams is to judge a student’s over-all understanding of the subject which is not limited by his/her capability to memorize and recall. However, open book exams can prove to be a trap as most pupil think they do not need to revise and study as hard they would have to if it was a closed book examination.

3.  Short and long answer exams

These types of examinations contain a set of questions which expect short answers ranging from one word to a sentence or a bit longer answer ranging from 2-3 sentences to a small paragraph. Typical questions are definition and key concept questions. It is a good idea to look at past exam papers to get an idea of the type of questions generally asked.

4.  Essay exams

Examinations conducted for certain subjects for e.g. Humanities consist of questions which should be answered only by an essay. Writing an essay requires time, good writing speed and sharp memory. Time constraints during an examination make essay writing a particular skill. These types of exams are designed not only to judge your knowledge of the subject but also how well you can recall i.e. your memory power. It is advisable to look into past exam papers for the expected questions and then research over the topic to collect as much information as possible. It would also be good to make mind maps of essay structure, summarize the important points and practise writing a test essay at home before taking the exam.

5.  Multiple choice exams

The aim of these types of examinations is to judge a student’s ability to recall, recognise and connect the right answer with the asked question. As the name suggests the exam consists of many questions having a number of answers for each one. The task is to choose the correct/best answer without giving any explanation. Textbooks and other study materials are not allowed and the examination is completely based on the candidate’s recalling capacity. Almost all type of entrance examination follow this pattern these days.

6.  Take home exams

Open book exams and take home exams are both unusual and very much similar in the sense that the students are allowed to use textbooks, study material and even internet to research, collect information and answer the questions. The only difference is that the question paper can be taken home and the answers can be worked upon from the comfort zone of home rather than under the time pressure in an examination hall. These types of tests are mistaken to be easy, which is one of the major reasons of poor performance.

7.  Problem or case based exams

The aim of these examinations is to test your analytical skills as well as your ability to evaluate, deal and respond to certain problems and situations. One of the hardest parts of these exams is to understand what the question is asking you to do. This problem can be solved by practicing a number of problems at home in a stepwise manner. The purpose of these tests is to judge how your brain functions, your skills to apply your knowledge for problem solving and not your ability to mug things up.

Oral exams

Oral exams are designed to judge a student’s depth of knowledge through spoken interaction between the student and the examiner. This is also a test to judge the confidence level, presentation and communication skills of the candidate and can very well be a good practice for the job interviews. Oral examinations can be of many different types for e.g.:

1.  One-to-one oral exams

This is the traditional type of oral exam where there is one-to-one interaction between the student and the examiner. Student’s memory power is put to strict test here as the time to respond is normally lesser as compared to in the written test. Body language plays a major role and clear speech is absolute pre-requisite to clear any oral examination. Science and linguistic are the major areas where these sort of exams are used to access a student’s credibility.

2.  Group discussions

During a group discussion a particular topic is given to a small group (4-5) of students and they are asked to talk and discuss about the topic. Such type of oral exam is most common in assessment centres and entrance exams for courses which mainly need organisational and leadership skills. The aim of this type of exam is to find out your ability to put your point forward, stress on to it and power to convince others.

3.  Presentations/Viva

The most common example of this type of exam is the PhD viva examination where the PhD candidate presents his/her thesis work in front of a panel of experts. The experts ask questions and put forward their doubts and the candidate has to answer in a satisfying manner. That is why sometimes PhD viva exam is also called as “Defence”. Such types of exams check your skill in your subject area, your presentation skills and ability to convince people and clear their doubts with your knowledge.

4.  Observational exams

As the name suggests the student is observed by the examiner or the panel of examiners for the practical demonstration of skills. BEd. examination is a very good example for observational types of exams where, the would be teacher is observed by the examiners for his/her teaching skills.

Practical Exams

Demonstration of practical skills is an in-separable part of science exams. Be it physics, chemistry of biology students have to perform laboratory practical to understand the theoretical concepts. These exams play a major role in medicine where the student doctors have to practise and then later in life perform operations on the patients. These types of examinations judge the capability of a student to apply the theoretical knowledge into the practical world.

Reading and Listening comprehension exams

Reading and listening comprehension type of exams are most common in the linguistic field. The first steps in learning a language are to be able to read it and understand it. Reading comprehension test is performed to check your pronunciation of the language and the stress is mainly on phonetics while listening comprehension is the test to judge your ability to understand a language and be able to extract the important information provided.
No matter what type of exam it is the aim is to access a candidate for his/her knowledge of the chosen subject. To ace any examination it is very important to be well prepared by studying hard, regularly and by exploring outside the syllabus. Revision is a magic world and is a very useful tool for exam preparation.


 (Getemail alerts when others member replies)