Who Invented Exams?

Who Invented Exams?: Exams are a common way of assessing students’ knowledge and skills in various subjects. But have you ever wondered who came up with the idea of exams and why? In this blog post, we will explore the origin and history of exams, from ancient China to modern times.

The First Exams in Ancient China

According to historical data, exams as a concept were invented in Ancient China. The Sui Dynasty introduced what is known as the Imperial Examination System or the ‘Imperial Review’ in 605 AD to recruit candidates for specific government posts. The system was considered to select people based on merit rather than by birth. Candidates, if qualified, would become part of a prestigious group of government officials under the leadership of Emperor Yang of Sui.

Who Invented Exams?

The Tang Dynasty introduced the concept of written examinations to select candidates under Empress Wu Zetian. She also introduced reforms to the imperial review wherein members of the elite bureaucracy came from humble beginnings. The imperial examination system lasted for more than a thousand years until it was abolished in 1905.

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The Spread of Exams to Other Countries

The imperial examination system influenced other countries that had cultural or political ties with China, such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. These countries adopted similar systems of selecting officials based on written tests.

In the West, exams were not widely used until the 19th century. One of the earliest examples of exams in Europe was Her Majesty’s Civil Service Examination, which was introduced in Britain in 1855 to reform the inefficient and corrupt system of appointing staff by patronage or purchase. The civil service exam was based on merit and open to anyone who met the minimum qualifications.

The Modern Development of Exams

In the late 19th century, an American businessman and philanthropist named Henry Fischel is believed to have invented the concept of exams as we know them today. He devised tests to measure students’ general knowledge and ability to apply that information. He also donated money to establish schools and colleges that used exams as a method of evaluation.

Some experts also credit another expert with the same name, Henry Fischel, who was a professor of religious studies at Indiana University in the early 20th century, with developing standardized assessments. He was interested in measuring students’ learning outcomes and comparing them across different institutions.

Since then, exams have become a common feature of education systems around the world. They are used for various purposes, such as admission, promotion, certification, licensing, immigration, and competition. Exams can be administered verbally, on paper, on a computer, or in a practical setting. They can also vary in style, format, difficulty, and content.


Exams are a fascinating topic that reveals a lot about the history and culture of different societies. They have evolved from a way of selecting government officials in ancient China to a way of assessing students’ knowledge and skills in modern times. Exams have both advantages and disadvantages, depending on how they are designed and used. They can motivate students to learn, provide feedback, ensure quality standards, and create opportunities. They can also cause stress, anxiety, cheating, inequality, and bias. Therefore, it is important to use exams wisely and responsibly.

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