How do you develop a high-quality exam?

Developing a high-quality exam

Which testing form is most suitable? Where and when does the examination take place? These are all aspects that come into play when developing an exam. The most important part of this is obtaining good quality examination questions. An examination agency or training institute always strives to develop exams of the highest quality. Whether it is an individual assessment or in a group, every (educational) institution has its own way of working.

Test construction process

In general, the following starting points play a role when you have to make a choice about who you use in the test construction process at what time:

  • Work efficiently and quickly, at the lowest possible cost.
  • Enough, but not too many control checks
  • Testing for a profession or professional group in line with professional practice
  • Winning stakeholder support

We distinguish two stages in test construction: test development or design and test review. This blog is limited to test design. You can read more about test review in another blog.

The developer

Most examination agencies have a working method in which the content expert, based on his own work experience or specialist knowledge, provides test content. The content expert is of course best placed to indicate which mistakes are most often made in practice. If you ask questions about these elements, you can be sure that the examination covers relevant subject matter. Only in the case of lower levels or general knowledge does an educational, testing or language expert write the questions.

Both options are fine, of course. Experience shows that an education, testing or language expert is never as knowledgeable as someone with practical experience of the profession. Also, never underestimate the support that is created with substantive experts who are known as specialists in the professional field.

Most examination agencies work with content experts


Working with a construction group; the advantages

Construction groups are often used for extended courses. This is a composition of a number of content experts in cooperation with a test expert. This has the advantage of improving the quality of the examination. Before the questions are included in the setting, they have already been viewed by several people. You may expect that most of the mistakes will have been removed by then. In addition, a group often has more knowledge than one person.

Another advantage of a construction group over an individual test developer is the level of support it creates among stakeholders: it is often easier to accept tests and test results if it is known that a group of experts has been involved in their development.

Before a construction group can be assembled, a number of important conditions must be met:

  • The applicable frameworks must be clear, and the group must be disciplined in its discussions or have a strong chairperson.
  • Members of construction groups must be able to meet at short notice and regularly for extended sessions. Otherwise, the goal – to have good examinations ready on time, will be undermined by the means – to develop tests together.


In general, the choice for a content expert makes excellent sense. Not only because of the knowledge of the field, but also because of the support created among stakeholders. In case of a long-term course, set up construction groups. If the conditions cannot be met, the use of individual test developers makes sense. However, it is advised to include an extra control step, in which a content reviewer provides critical commentary.


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