Unravelling the Mystery: Who Invented Exams

Uncover the history of exams in Australia, from origin to modern practices. Learn about pioneers, benefits & impact on education. Explore more at Oz Assignments

Published on: Feb 22, 2024


Students often get horrified with the term exams. Exam scares them as they do not consider it as an assessment rather they consider it to be something that needs to be graded. It is very obvious that these exams are used as a medium to display and analyse your academic growth. Most of our academic life is spent between the pillars of large examination halls and in clusters of papers. As the dates come near, the pressure of the exam disturbs a student’s code of conduct and obstructs exam preparation. Apart from juggling between the thoughts of scoring good, have you ever wondered who was the one who brought the concept of examination to the community, the basic idea of conducting exams and more. With the help of this blog we will uncover the origin and evolution of examination in Australia.


What is an examination?

For many people, exams are a sheet of paper that decides our future. Is it so? Not at all, An exam is a formal mode of assessment that basically helps in evaluating a person’s knowledge, skills, or proficiency in a particular subject or field of study. An examination paper for a particular subject is a series of questions and queries relevant to it designated to test an individual's understanding of the material covered in a course.

They are commonly used in educational settings, such as schools, colleges, and universities, to measure students' academic progress and determine their level of achievement. Examinations may also be used for attaining professional certificates, licensure, or employment purposes, providing a standardised method for assessing an individual's qualifications and competencies.


Are you curious to know who invented exams?

The concept of examination has a long and complex history, and it is difficult to attribute its invention to a single individual or a culture. Talking about the past, the mode to conduct examinations may vary but the goal behind them has always remained the same, that is to assess student’s performance. 


The earliest recorded instance of examination was traced back in ancient China, where examinations known as the "Imperial Examinations" were administered as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). The main purpose of these examinations was to choose a candidate based on their knowledge of Confucian classics and literary skills. England followed the same concept as China to evaluate candidates who are eligible for serving the Her Majesty Civil service. Later this concept came into progress as it became a popular tool used by teachers and instructors to check the knowledge of students during the academic session. 


Throughout history, diverse nations have developed and transformed the code to conduct exams as per their interest. They have customised their own methods of assessment and examination. The concept of examination has evolved over the decades and centuries influenced by a diverse range of culture, traditions and educational philosophies. 


Glimpse into the invention of examination in Australia

Emergence of formal examination in Australia

It was back in the colonial period in Australia when Europeans settlers established educational institutes across the continent. Before this settlement, the Australian community followed traditional ways to assess their skills and knowledge. But later on, with the introduction of formal examination, there was a significant shift in educational practices and standards. 

One of the earliest examples of formal examinations in Australia can be found in the establishment of the New South Wales Board of National Education in 1848. This board was responsible for setting standards for education and conducting examinations for primary and secondary students. 


As the educational system kept on developing within less time, formal examination became more widespread and standardised. The concept of formal examination became more versatile as it was influenced by the developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe and North America. The establishment of universities and the adoption of standardised testing methods further contributed to the evolution of examination practices in Australia. 


Over time, formal examinations became an integral part of the Australian education system, playing a central role in assessing students' academic achievement and determining their future educational and career paths. Today, examinations continue to be a cornerstone of education in Australia, albeit with ongoing debates and discussions surrounding issues such as exam stress, standardisation, and alternative assessment methods. Nonetheless, the emergence of formal examinations in Australia represents a significant milestone in the nation's educational history, reflecting its commitment to providing quality education and fostering academic excellence.


Pioneers in Australian Examination Development

Looking back in Australian history, there are certain individuals who stand out as pioneers as they effectively shaped the early examinations system. Their strategies and plans contributed towards laying the foundation of modern assessment standards. 


Highlighting Key Figures and Their Contributions:


1. David Syme: Syme played a pivotal role in shaping the educational policy in victory. His role has been major in the establishment of University of Melbourne and was significantly instrumental in designing the examination structure.Syme's vision for education emphasised practical skills and vocational training, laying the groundwork for modern curriculum development.

2. Ellen Wilkinson: Wilkinson efforts led to reforming educational practices in south Australia. She introduced progressive assessment methods that focused on holistic development and student centric approaches. Her reforms emphasised on personalised feedback and individualised instructions. 

3. John Anderson: If you have ever heard about “ open book examination” then you must know that it was Anderson who initiated this practice of assessment. This challenged the  traditional notions of rote memorisation and regurgitation. Anderson's innovative approach to assessment encouraged critical thinking and intellectual inquiry.


Benefits of conducting examinations across the continent

Conducting examinations in academic session not just plays an important role but it does offer numerous benefits to students, educators, and educational institutions. Exams serve as a cornerstone of learning and assessment, while there are few scholars who might not favour the practice of conducting exams.  The debates regarding exams may continue, but its importance in measuring learning outcomes, providing feedback, and recognising achievements cannot be overstated. 

As we navigate the complexities of education in Australia, let us recognize the value of examinations in fostering academic excellence and promoting student success.

1. Acknowledging academic progress of a student: Be it at any level of education, exams provide a standardised method to evaluate student’s progress and understanding of the course material. These not only benefit students but teachers too as they get an insight of where the students are lagging, and the areas where they may require proper instructions.

2. Preparation for real world challenges: Not just in theoretical knowledge but exams simulates real world challenges by acquiring students to apply their critical thinking problem-solving skills, and time management techniques under pressure. Solving case studies turns out to be an effective way to observe students' approach towards real-time problems. 

3. Measurement of learning outcomes: Teachers and instructors find exams as a best way to measure learning outcomes, and assess whether the students have achieved the desired outcome. The evaluation process serves as a benchmark to highlight the academic growth of a student.

4. Feedback and reflection: How will you find out your weak points and strong points without any evaluation? Therefore, these semester exams or exams at intervals serve as a medium to reflect on the learning process, identify areas of weakness, and develop strategies for growth and development.

5. Recognition of achievement: The best way to highlight one’s strength and get recognition in the classroom is through exams. Students receive recognition for their hard work, dedication, and academic excellence. This adds to little progress in their journey as it keeps them motivated to strive for continuous success. 



The blog serves as a helpful resource for academic content writing, as it lays down the discovery of the invention of the concept of education, how the methodologies have been evolving over a century now. Exams establish a means of evaluating academic progress, promoting accountability, and preparing students for real-world challenges. Not denying the fact that exams provide students with feedback, recognition, and a tangible measure of achievement, motivating them to strive for excellence in their studies. The history of exams in Australia is a testament to the evolution of education and assessment practices. While the origins of exams may remain a mystery, their role in shaping education and society is undeniable. As we continue to navigate the complexities of assessment, let us reflect on the past and embrace the future of learning and evaluation. In the pursuit of academic excellence and support, platforms like Oz Assignments stand as pillars of guidance and assistance, offering specialized services tailored to meet the diverse needs of students and scholars. Explore Oz Assignments today for expert assistance in your academic journey!

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