Who Invented Exams?

The one question that comes to the mind of every student, especially in the examination hall – who invented exams and imperial examination?

Who Invented Exams?

Henry Fischel invented exams, a businessman, and philanthropist in the 19th century. Students were given exams to gauge their overall knowledge in subjects and their ability to apply that knowledge in practical areas of study.

During the life of Henry Fischel, he visited many places around the world, from the United States to the United Kingdom. The main focus of his examination idea was both on the inside and the outside. He suggested that these assessments would measure student understanding of the material they have been taught. 

Several sources state that another person by the name of Henry Fischel invented the modern-day assessment system. During the early 20th century, he taught religious studies at Indiana University. Indiana University is a major multicampus public research institution, grounded in the liberal arts and sciences.

So you have your answer; it was Henry Fishel who invented exams. Which one? That’s a mystery.

Which Country Introduced Examination

The concept of a nationwide invention of standardized assessments was discovered in ancient China, and it was the first country to implement it as well. In 605 AD, the Sui dynasty conducted a royal review to select qualified candidates for various positions in government. This system allowed the officials to select people based purely on merit for specified governmental positions. The qualified candidates were supposed to be a part of a prestigious group of government officials of ancient China headed by Emperor Yang of Sui. This method, which had survived for nearly 1300 years, was abolished by the Qing dynasty in 1905.

However, it was already in use for the civil service exams in 1806 in England. This method was later applied to education. Through this method, the concept of examination was developed.

The Cambridge Assessments

Cambridge University is one of the most prestigious and sought-after educational institutions in the world, and it offers exams to schools across England. Most students who attend are known to become quite successful which is proven by their results and ability to pass examinations. The Cambridge Assessment is one of the most well-known in modern-day history.

Schools across England started approaching Cambridge and Oxford universities around the turn of the century to have standardized tests administered to male pupils. The first test was administered to boys only in 1858.

For the first time on December 14, 1958, the Cambridge Assessments test was offered to students in schools and churches (among other places where it was given). Among the subjects in the first Cambridge assessments were English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Latin, German and French, which are similar to today’s syllabi across institutions.

There was an expectation that students would know a great deal of information by heart during the 1850s. In addition to drawing maps of rivers, coastlines, and mountain ranges, students were also supposed to recall kings and queens and recount significant events in English history. 

It is believed that the examiners were looking for detailed and accurate knowledge. But they were quick to emphasize that students should not just memorize facts in order to pass. Unfortunately, the exam system created its own dynamics with its emphasis on performance. The reports of examiners realized that students had not demonstrated that they understood the material they had studied.

In a similar way to how exams are conducted today, invigilators were responsible for administering and monitoring these tests, travelling from Cambridge to various locations throughout the nation.

Examples of 1858 exam questions:

  • Obtain the sum of forty-six times seven thousand and twenty, seventeen times one million and one, and thirty-three times thirty-three.
  • Name in order the Queens and the children of Henry VIII. On what grounds was he divorced from his first wife?
  • In what three ways was our Lord tempted in the wilderness?

Would you have been able to solve the exam if you were present at that?

Her Majesty’s Civil Service Examination

A number of institutions were created during the 18th century as the British Empire grew, including the Office of Works and the Navy Board. Since the staff was appointed by patronage or purchase, these systems were not working by the end of the 19th century.

During the reign of Charles Grant, the East India Company established a training institute for its employees. After observing the Imperial Examination System in China, British officials recommended that this institution be established. Regarding the selection of government officials, it was intended to replace patronage with examinations.

Civil service commissions were created in 1855 to end patronage and to ensure the open recruitment of public officials.

How Exams Have Evolved Over Time

In the early days of America, educational assessment was usually performed orally. Instead of filling in multiple-choice bubbles, students recited passages, spelled words, and did arithmetic in their heads rather than filling in multiple-choice bubbles. Evaluations were not standardized like they are today.

As soon as letter grades were introduced, standardized assessments followed. A standardized test requires all students to show mastery by correctly answering a battery of the same questions, unlike the more subjective tools previously used. As early as the early 1900s, the Thorndike Handwriting Scale was used to assess handwriting ability. In the following year, the Stone Arithmetic Test emerged, one of the first standardized mathematics tests in America.

Today, modern assessments are referred to as holistic tests. Instead of focusing on specific components, holistic testing considers the whole picture. There are also many individual items taken into consideration in order to create a comprehensive picture depicting a candidate’s competence. Colleges and employers use these tests not just for recruitment but also for job interviews.

Therefore, holistic assessments are often enjoyable and exciting, and they are definitely distinct from the mundane examinations we usually encounter. Consequently, they help you find your calling, as well as point out areas for improvement. Furthermore, they are always able to assist corporates in looking for the best talent.

Are Exams Stressful?

Ask a medical student this question the night before his pathology exam, and you will probably get a big fat yes. 

You are not alone if you are concerned about exams, especially if you are being pressured by school or family. You may experience anxiety or depression during exam stress, which may affect your sleeping patterns or eating habits. If you recognize any of these feelings, or if you feel your life is being consumed by exam pressure, you are not alone. 

The following are some steps you can take to prepare for your exams:

  • Avoid distractions by finding a quiet place to study.
  • Prepare your study space. If you need anything, make sure it’s not too cluttered.
  • Learn everything you can about the exam so you can prepare for it.
  • If you are uncertain of what will be tested, ask your teacher.
  • Creating a mind map can help you collect ideas and thoughts, and the bright colors will help you remember the links.
  • Plan out what you want to accomplish in each study session. Consider breaking it down into small tasks and completing them one at a time.
  • Have regular short breaks – get a drink, eat a snack, or play with your pet during this time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If you’re struggling to understand something in your class, ask a teacher, sibling, or parent for help.


Now you know who invented exams – Henry Fischel!

We hope that our guide answered all your questions about the examination system and how it all started. If you have more information that you will like us to add to this guide, feel free to let us know in the comment section below!

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