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Middle English, from Anglo-French examiner, from Latin examinare, from examen - to weigh accurately, test, try, inquire into


transitive verb
  • 1 a : to inspect closely
b : to test the condition of
c : to inquire into carefully : investigate
  • 2 a : to interrogate closely <examine a prisoner>
b : to test by questioning in order to determine progress, fitness, or knowledge
  • intransitive verb : to make or give an examination

For lessons on the related topic of Inquiry, follow this link.


To examine somebody or something is to inspect it closely; hence, an examination is a detailed inspection or analysis of an object or person.

In an academic or professional context, examinations (or exams for short) are tests or assessments which aim to determine the ability of a student or a prospective practitioner. Exams are usually written tests, although some may be practical or have practical components, and vary greatly in structure, content and difficulty depending on the subject, the age group of the tested persons and the profession. A person who passes an examination receives a diploma, a driving or professional license, depending on the examination's objectives.

A competitive examination is an examination where applicants compete for a limited number of positions, as opposed to merely having to reach a certain level to pass.

A comprehensive examination is a specific type of exam taken by graduate students, which may determine their eligibility to continue their studies.

In the UK an examination is usually supervised by an invigilator. The invigilator is responsible for the smooth running of the examination, and for ensuring that there is no cheating.