Difference Wiki

Exam vs. Test: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 4, 2024
An exam is a formal, often comprehensive test, usually written, to assess knowledge or proficiency, while a test is a broader term for any method of evaluating skills, knowledge, or performance.

Key Differences

An exam is typically a more formal, structured, and comprehensive assessment, often covering a wide range of material. In contrast, a test can be less formal and may cover a specific or limited area of study.
Exams are often used in educational settings for significant assessments like end-of-term evaluations. Tests can be used in various contexts, including education, but also in fields like software development or medical diagnostics.
Exams usually have a longer duration and require extensive preparation. Tests can be shorter and may not always require extensive study, as they can assess immediate knowledge or ability.
The results of an exam often have a significant impact on academic or professional qualifications. Tests can be used for regular assessments and may not always carry the same weight as exams.
Exams are generally perceived as more stressful due to their comprehensive nature and higher stakes. Tests, depending on their nature, might be less stressful and more routine.

Comparison Chart


More formal and structured
Can be formal or informal


Often for significant academic evaluations
Broader, including various fields


Typically longer
Can be shorter


High impact on qualifications
May vary in impact

Stress Level

Generally higher
Can be less, depending on context

Exam and Test Definitions


A formal test of knowledge in academic or professional fields.
She studied hard for her final exam in biology.


Can be used in various contexts, from education to diagnostics.
Blood tests are crucial for diagnosing medical conditions.


Can determine academic progression or professional qualification.
Passing the medical board exam is crucial for becoming a doctor.


May focus on a specific area or skill.
The test will cover the first three chapters of the textbook.


Typically has a significant impact on grades or certifications.
Her performance in the exam will affect her scholarship eligibility.


Not always as comprehensive or high-stakes as exams.
The software test will check for bugs before the product launch.


Often comprehensive, covering a wide range of material.
The bar exam covers multiple areas of law.


Can be less formal and shorter than exams.
We have a weekly spelling test in our English class.


Usually involves extensive preparation and study.
He began preparing for his exams months in advance.


An assessment to evaluate knowledge, skill, or performance.
The driving test assesses your ability to operate a vehicle safely.


An examination; a test.


(informal) examination, especially when meaning test or in compound terms.


(sciences) Shortened form


A set of questions or exercises evaluating skill or knowledge;
When the test was stolen the professor had to make a new set of questions


Are exams only used in schools?

Mostly, but also in professional certifications.

How long is an exam compared to a test?

Exams are usually longer; tests can be shorter.

What is a test?

Any evaluation method for skills, knowledge, or performance.

Can tests be informal?

Yes, tests can range from informal to formal.

Do exams have a significant impact?

Yes, especially on academic and professional qualifications.

What is an exam?

A formal, often comprehensive test, usually in writing.

Are tests used outside of education?

Yes, in various fields like health, IT, and more.

Can a test be part of an exam?

Yes, exams can consist of multiple tests.

Are exams always written?

Mostly, but some include oral or practical components.

Do exams require more preparation than tests?

Generally, exams require more extensive preparation.

Can a test lead to certification?

Yes, but it's more common with exams.

What's an example of a professional exam?

The bar exam for lawyers.

Can anyone create a test?

Yes, whereas exams are usually standardized.

Is the stress level higher in exams?

Typically, due to their nature and stakes.

What's a common example of a test?

A quiz in a classroom.

Do tests happen more frequently than exams?

Generally, tests are more frequent, especially in education.

Do exams affect final grades more than tests?

Yes, exams usually have a larger impact on final grades.

Can tests be diagnostic?

Yes, like a blood test in medicine.

Are exams more formal than tests?

Yes, exams are typically more formal.

Is an exam a type of test?

Yes, an exam is a specific, formal type of test.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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