The pitfalls in setting an exam

And tips for not falling for it.

The setting of exams is a topic that often comes up in exam regulations, quality assurance systems, labels and legislation. Sometimes it also defines who does it and what should happen during this determination. It therefore has all the appearance of a formality. Why, regardless of the rules, establish an exam? And can’t that just be a little faster and cheaper? We provide some practical tips for setting an exam and discuss pitfalls. Don’t fall for it and read on!

What is establishing?

Setting an exam is the step between construction and taking. This involves assessing and recording whether an exam or exam question meets the quality requirements.

When a developer or a construction group have done their work, the exam has often already been test checked. What then is the point of establishing? Setting rules aside, it sends a message to the outside world that exams are checked before they are deployed. “There is always a control step” and “the exam is always seen by more than one pair of eyes” are common statements.

In addition to perception, setting an exam also has some formal characteristics:

  • It is an official agreement from the examination board or an industry association;
  • It is the validation that an exam measures what it is supposed to measure, i.e. is relevant to the exam requirements and therefore to professional practice;
  • Determination prevents testing and content errors.

Thus, setting an exam is an important part of the exam development process. But there are also snags.


In the absence of specialists, don't take the easy way out

Of course, we all know that a fixer is not the same person as the structural engineer; after all, the butcher does not inspect his own meat either. But what do you do in the absence of specialists? The higher and more specialized the level, the harder it is to find enthusiasts who can do this work well and not charge a usual top rate for it. An alternative is to have constructors determine each other’s work, or better yet, look for budget increases or other monetary motives. Perhaps fixers want to establish a fine collaboration, expand their network, develop on a personal level or bond with your institution.

Do not draw negative conclusions about the quality of the constructor too quickly

There is a temptation, after part of the exam has been rejected, to doubt the constructor’s knowledge. But is that justified?

Be aware that developing an exam requires a different thought process than setting it. The fixer has the challenge and the “luxury” of being able to see from a distance, while the developer is in the middle of the process and by definition can see less objectively. In addition, constructors still need to grow technically.

Conclusion: Feedback findings and provide improvement recommendations. This is how we all get a little better and can continue to develop ourselves.

‘Determination we do by mail, which is a lot more efficient’

Tell me honestly, who has never thought this after a long determination meeting?

However, determining by mail quite often leads to the following problems:

  • The fixer is less sharp due to lack of discussion.
  • In the event of a disagreement, it is no longer clear how the decision-making process is going and whether it is still balanced. On the contrary, this may result in a longer process. So how does one finally tie the knot?

Adjustment? Be alert!

If a fixer comes up with on-the-spot improvements to the submitted questions, that is nice. Especially when development is under time pressure. Thus, the percentage of rejected questions decreases significantly. If the direction of demand changes too much, a new demand may need to be composed without a separate determination. The advantage of viewing the questions objectively as a determiner is then eliminated. As a result, errors can occur more easily. So be alert.

Does the exam meet the exam requirements?

Nothing has such dire consequences as exams that do not match the exam requirements. When the level is too high or contains things that are not part of the examination requirements, the confidence of students and other stakeholders decreases. They then feel the exam is no longer a fair or valid measurement. Focus not only on the testing and content details, but also on the exam as a whole. In the case of setting up an item bank, developing by item and not by exam: Check the exam through a sample draw. Is the exam relevant and correct in terms of its “look and feel”?



The place that determination has in the creation of exams is certainly justified. To avoid falling into the “pitfalls,” we give you the following practical tips:

  • Separate construction and determination; after all, a butcher does not judge his own meat;
  • Don’t be too quick to draw negative conclusions about the quality of the constructor. Establishing is simply different from constructing;
  • Determination by mail seems advisable, but is inadvisable;
  • Make sure the exam questions do not change direction too much. Otherwise, a new question must be developed without separate determination;
  • Don’t just focus on the technical and content details of the exam, but assess it as a whole.

Does the above raise something in your mind or would you like to spar about the design of the exam process? Leave your details and we’ll be happy to tell you more.

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