Exams for Assessment

Exams can serve as useful tools for measuring student learning, including in the context of program assessment where they can be used at the start of a program to find out what students already know, at the middle to measure growth and pinpoint areas in need of more focus, and at the end to determine learning outcome achievement.

In addition to measuring learning, exams help to reinforce learning in three key ways:

  1. Students will study for exams, helping ensure that they understand the material.
  2. The act of taking an exam on studied material has been shown to lead to better longer-term retention of that material.1
  3. Exams can be used to give students feedback about their performance, which helps them understand their own learning.

This resource is designed to help you create exams to measure and reinforce learning outcomes, with particular emphasis on using exams for program assessment and designing exams that measure students’ content knowledge, not their ability to use logic or knowledge about the structure of exams (known as test-taking ability) to answer questions correctly.

Click on the links below to learn about exam design topics:


1 Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning. Psychological Science, 17 , 249-255. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01693.x