A test or an examination (or "exam") is an assessment, often administered on paper or on the computer, intended to measure the test-takers' or respondents' (often a student) knowledge, skills, aptitudes, or classification in many other topics (e.g., beliefs). Tests are often used in education, professional certification, counseling, psychology (e.g., MMPI), the military, and many other fields. The measurement that is the goal of testing is called a test score, and is "a summary of the evidence contained in an examinee's responses to the items of a test that are related to the construct or constructs being measured." Test scores are interpreted with regards to a norm or criterion, or occasionally both. The norm may be established independently, or by statistical analysis of a large number of subjects.
A standardized test is one that is administered and scored in a consistent matter to ensure legal defensibility. A large proportion of formal testing is standardized. A standardized test with important consequences for the individual examinee is referred to as a high stakes test.
The basic component of a test is an item, which are stored in an item bank. Items are often colloquially referred to as "questions," but not every item is phrased as a question; it may be such things as a true/false statement or a task that must be performed (if a performance test).
The earliest known standardized tests (which included both practical and written components) are the Chinese Imperial Examinations which began in 587.
In Europe, traditionally school examinations were conducted orally. Students would have to answer questions posed by teachers in Latin, and teachers would grade them on their answers. The first written exams in Europe were held at Cambridge University, England in 1792 by professors who were paid a piece rate and realized that written exams would earn them more money.