How do you develop a quality exam?

Which form of assessment fits best? Where and when does the exam take place? These are all aspects that come into play when developing an exam. The most important part here is getting quality exam questions. An examination company or training institute always strives to develop exams of the highest quality. Whether done alone or in groups, each educational institution has its own way of doing things.

In general, the following principles come into play when you need to make a choice about who to use at what point in the assessment construction process:

  • Working efficiently and quickly, at the lowest possible cost
  • Sufficient, but not too many control checks
  • Assessment for a profession or professional group in connection with professional practice
  • Winning stakeholder support

We distinguish two stages in assessment construction: assessment development and determination. This blog is limited to assessment development. Read more about setting an exam in another blog.

The developer

Most examination agencies have a process where the subject matter expert, based on their own work experience or specialized knowledge, provides assessment content. The subject matter expert can, of course, best point out which mistakes are most often made in practice. Asking questions on these sections will ensure that the exam covers relevant subject matter. Only at lower levels or general knowledge does a teaching, testing or language expert write the questions.

Both options are fine, of course. Experience shows that a teaching, testing or language expert is never as immersed in the subject matter as someone who actually practices or has practiced the profession. In addition, do not underestimate the support that is created with subject matter experts known as specialists in the professional field.

Working with a construction group; the benefits

Construction groups are often used in long-term trajectories. This is a composition of a number of content experts in collaboration with a assessment expert. This has the advantage of improving the quality of the exam. Before the questions enter the determination, they have already been reviewed once by several people. You would expect most of the errors to be out 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 support among involved parties: it is often easier to accept tests and test results if it is known that a group of experts was involved in the development.

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

  • The frameworks within which to work must already be clear and the group must have discipline in discussing or have a strong chairperson.
  • Members of construction groups must be able to meet on short notice and regularly for full days or parts of the day. Otherwise, the end – having good tests in a timely manner, will perish over the means, developing tests together.


In general, choosing a content expert is the most obvious choice. Not only because of the knowledge of the field, but also the support created by stakeholders. Should this be a long-term project, set up construction groups. When conditions cannot be met, the use of individual assessment developers makes sense. However, it is then recommended that an additional monitoring step be included, with a content reviewer providing critical comments.


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