Who Invented Exams? - Origin of Exams, History

  • By Aashruti Bhadoria
  • 20 March 2023

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Examinations have been an integral part of education systems for as long as we can remember. While the students may hate it or take them for granted, the exams are important to assess learning and improvement. Besides, the evolution of examinations over time is a fascinating topic. 

From simple oral exams in ancient China to standardised tests in the modern era, the development of exams sheds light on the way we assess knowledge and learning. For example, the assessment method for a BBA course may include continuous year-long assessment as well as a semester-end examination for theory courses. 

So, have you ever wondered who invented exams and why? Join us as we delve into the fascinating history of exams and explore the various ways in which these exams impact our lives.

Who Invented Exams: Henry or Henry

There are several sources that claim Henry A. Fischel is "the person who invented exams." However, since information about him needs to be clarified, it's advisable to approach this claim with caution.

According to historical records, Henry Fischel, an American businessman and philanthropist, is believed to be the person who invented exams in the late 1800s. Other experts also credit Henry Fischel, who was a religious studies professor at Indiana University in the early 1900s, with developing standardised assessments. Overall, it's worth mentioning that exams have a long history, having been used in ancient China and only later introduced to the Western world.

Who Invented Exam System: True Origin of Examinations

Throughout history, various forms of tests and testing systems that were informal, unofficial, and non-standardised existed. Oral exams were also conducted in different parts of the world, including ancient China. Let's take a further look at the history of examination:

  • The Imperial Examination System in Ancient China

The implementation of standardised written examinations can be traced back to China, where they were referred to as imperial examinations or keju. The concept of bureaucratic imperial examinations dates back to the year 605, during the brief Sui dynasty. These imperial examinations played a pivotal role in selecting scholar-officials who constituted the literati elite of society. 

  • Rise of Civil Service Examinations

The modern examination system for selecting civil servants evolved from the imperial examination system. China was the first country to implement a merit system. In 165 B.C., China established a competitive government examination system that became widespread. 

From that point until 1905, when the Empire came to an end, the majority of Chinese applicants for public office were required to pass one of these tests to demonstrate their abilities.

  • The Cambridge Examinations

In the late 19th century, England approached universities such as Oxford and Cambridge to standardise the testing process for males in the country. On December 14, 1958, the first Cambridge Assessment was administered to students in schools and churches. The subjects tested included English, mathematics, history, Latin, German, French, Latin, and geography.

Who Invented Exams in India

Back in 1853, a significant change was brought about in India when exams were introduced as the new method of selecting civil servants. Prior to this, the East India Company directors appointed civil servants based on nominations. However, with the abolition of the nomination system by the Parliament of England, exams became the new norm for selection. 

These exams were conducted every year in London, and to make the cut, candidates were also required to pass a horse-riding test - a mandatory part of the examination. With the decline of the East India Company, the British Civil Service came into being and took over the responsibilities. 

In order to make the process more efficient, social reforms were introduced, including the implementation of the Public Service Commission and the House of Commission Resolution. This made the rise of Indian civil service exams possible. 

Types of Exams in India 

In India, there are numerous exams that are conducted for various jobs, institutes, or organisations, apart from basic education exams. For instance, universities may consider grades or test scores from various types of BBA entrance exams when deciding whether to admit a student into their BBA program. Below are some of the top exams held in India:

  • Civil Services examination: This is a highly competitive, national-level exam in India conducted by UPSC (Union Public Service Commission). The candidates who qualify for this exam are recruited for various high-ranking posts in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Administrative Service (IAS), etc.
  • SSC: The Staff Selection Commission (SSC) holds a nationwide exam annually to recruit individuals for a range of government positions, including roles in the railways and Ministry of External Affairs. 
  • NDA: National Defence Academy Examination is conducted for recruiting candidates for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Candidates with a background in physics, chemistry, and mathematics their graduation can apply for the examination. It is also conducted by UPSC.
  • JEE: The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) is a national-level test organized by the National Testing Agency that enables aspiring candidates to apply for engineering and architecture programs in various institutes throughout India.
  • NEET: National Eligibility cum Entrance Test is conducted all over India for candidates who want to pursue MBBS/BDS courses. The exam is held once a year, and candidates who have studied biology, chemistry, physics, and English in their 12th grade are eligible to apply.
  • CAT: Common Admission Test is a national-level exam conducted once a year by the Indian Institute of Management for admission to various management courses.
  • GATE: Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering, or GATE, is conducted for admissions into various engineering courses, including undergraduate and post-graduate. It is considered one of the toughest exams in India.

[Also Read: Aptitude Test Preparation For BBA]


While there is some debate about who the true inventor of exams is, it is widely accepted that standardised assessments have greatly benefited education systems worldwide. In fact, many higher education institutions now require exams as a prerequisite for admission into their programs, including a Bachelor of Business Administration or BBA degree.

If you're considering pursuing a BBA degree, it's important to choose a reputable higher education services provider, such as Sunstone. With our expert instructors, we can help you with admission & placement support, fee-payment assistance, and more. By investing in your education with Sunstone, you can gain the skills and knowledge needed to excel in your BBA program.

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