Summary of the blog: Discover the captivating history behind exams. Delve into their origins and significance in education systems worldwide. From Henry A.... Fischel, who invented exams in the 1900s, to China's Imperial Examination, England’s civil service examination, and today’s exams, learn about the countries and individuals who have shaped the exam concept. Uncover how exams evolved in ancient history, particularly in India under British rule. Know of the diverse exam systems today in the USA, including standardized tests for various academic levels. Embrace the necessity of exams and quench your curiosity about their invention.

Exams play a crucial role in education systems. Through exams, you can assess the depth and potential of the learning process you have honed throughout your academic career. You must undergo various exams to move ahead in your career. 

Sometimes, students get fed up giving lots of exams to propel their educational dreams; it happens to me too. I felt irritated when I went to give the TOEFL, a language assessment exam that has to be passed to study at US universities. 

One day, humming, I told my mother, Who invented exams, with a glowing face. After that, I searched the Internet to know who invented exams and why. This blog will give us some ideas. 

A Brief History of Who Invented Exams

 The answer to “who invented exams” is Henry A. Fischel, an American businessman, who invented the idea of an exam in the early 1900s. Some experts claim that another person with a similar name, Henry Mishel Henry Mishel-American a professor of religion and culture at Indiana University during the early twentieth century, brought the same concept of an exam or test into the educational system.

person who invented exams

Which Country was the First to Adopt the Exam Concept in its Educational System?  

China was the first country to organize a national-level exam, the Imperial Examination. This exam selected deserving students to work in government organizations.   

Candidates qualifying in this Imperial Examination were eligible to join under the leadership of Emperor Yang of Sui (581618). This exam tested candidates’ depth of knowledge in their specific subjects. 

Later, in 1905, after more than 1,300 years since its inception, the Qing dynasty abolished this concept of conducting exams. However, the British accepted this examination concept in their educational system in 1806 for an exam called the “Majesty’s Civil Service”; gradually, it was adopted by the world as the Henry Mishel exams system.

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Origin of the Exam in Ancient History

In 313 BC, Chanakya, or Vishnugupta, wrote the Kautilya Arthashastra during the Mauryan period, the first essay that stated the qualifications for appointing civil servants. However, some historians disagree with the identity of Kautilya, arguing that both Chanakya and Vishnugupta were the same person. 

In 1853, India introduced the concept of an examination. Back then, India was governed by British rule. Until 1853, the East India Company directors appointed civil servants in India through nomination. In 1853, the English Parliament removed the nomination process and started selecting civil servants through competitive tests, regardless of race. The test was conducted once every year in August only in London. 

Gradually, when East India’s business collapsed, the  Indian civil service exam was held in India and London simultaneously. 

Gradually, Europe accepted the essay-type exam. In contrast, the USA and Latin America conducted examinations based on multiple-choice tests to reduce pressure on students.  

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Evolution of Exam Systems in the USA

Evolution of exam systems in the USA

Earlier, oral exams were the norm, followed by multiple-choice questions. Exams lacked standardization.

The introduction of letter grades led to conducting standardized tests: the same questions to all students, unlike essay-type examinations. In the early 1900s, the Thorndike Handwriting Scale assessed handwriting ability. In the following years, the Stone Arithmetic Test emerged, one of the first standardized math tests in the US.

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Various standardized exams in the USA assess students’ potential and abilities today. Some examples of such exams: 

  • Olympiad exams: For classes 1 to 12
  • SAT/ACT/IELTS/GRE/GMAT/LSAT/MCAT: For undergraduates
  • TOEIC/ TOEFL/ IELTS: For graduates and postgraduates who want to assess their English language proficiency
  • USMLE / Dental Admission Test (DAT): For medical aspirants

 For more ideas about Cumulative vs. Comprehensive Exams, click the given link. 


Giving exams is of utmost need; in every phase of your academic career, you must interpret your students’ success by their passing tests. A student can’t escape from exams! To succeed and move on, one must pass exams. Sometimes, this exaggeration of giving exams provokes us to know who invented exams. This blog answers some of your questions about the history of exams. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who gave the first exam?

China was the first country to conduct an organized national-level exam: the Imperial Examination.

2. Who invented studies?

Henry A. Fischel invented studies.

The origin of studying has evolved, dating back to the earliest forms of human learning. We learn orally and practically by observing our surroundings, experimenting with tools, and sharing our ideas and feelings through songs and dance.

3. Who created homework?

Roberto Nevilis was an Italian teacher who invented homework in 1905 for his students as a punishment.

4. Who was Henry Fischel?

Henry Fischel, an American professor of religion and culture at Indiana University during the early twentieth century, invented exams.

5. Who made i-Ready Math?

i-Ready was invented in 2011 by Curriculum Associates to impart fair online learning in math.

6. Why is it called homework?

It is called homework because a teacher gives tasks to be done outside the classroom.

Paul Erick Ivey