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I cannot seem to find an appropriate verb to use for a professor when he holds an exam, quiz, etc. so that students take it and get evaluated. Can we say a professor takes an exam? I suppose this is for the student side, right? Then, what is the verb for a professor?

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    I always need to think twice about this one, because in Spanish it is precisely the opposite: professors take the exam and students give it. Dec 6, 2016 at 12:01

3 Answers 3

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There is no direct correlating verb for what a professor is doing whilst the students are taking the exam.

If the professor is overseeing the exam, making sure that the exam is being conducted properly, then he/she could be said to be invigilating at the exam; he/she is an invigilator.

She/he may be invigiliating at an exam that she/he has set and that his/her students are taking.

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    Note that invigilating will not be known to a speaker of American English. I've been heavily involved in academia over the years, and I've never heard it. Although it seems a perfect fit in this case, note that it is "chiefly British", so be mindful of this if you choose to use it.
    – Cody Gray
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:20
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    Can't speak for my American friends, but invigilate/invigilator is pretty standard in Canada. Dec 6, 2016 at 11:59
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    American English speaker here: I have never heard the word "invigilate" before in my life. Fascinating, these differences between our "common" languages!
    – stangdon
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:35
  • Same for proctor - in BE it's an officer as certain universities, mainly having responsibilities for discipline.Not used in the context of overseeing exams etc at school level although may be used in higher education.
    – Steve Ives
    Dec 6, 2016 at 16:39
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The general term is administer. This includes the entire process of scheduling, writing, and giving the exam.

A professor administers an exam to her students.

My professor administered an exam in our class yesterday.

Are you going to administer that exam today?

Dr. Thompson is administering an exam in Room 212; please be quiet!

Sometimes "administer" is also used to refer to the actual process of giving the exam, but technically, the correct term for this is proctor. This would describe what the teacher is doing while the students are sitting and taking the exam.

When I proctor exams, I always display a clock at the front of the room.

Although Dr. Smith was supposed to be proctoring the chemistry exam, he was surfing the web instead!

In colloquial speech, you inevitably hear give. This works fine, and everyone will know what you are saying, but it is not quite as descriptive.

I have to give an exam this afternoon to my Biology class.

Dr. Brown is giving an exam this period, so he won't be able to have lunch with us.

When the exam is given, will it include essay questions?

When will we get grades for the exam that you gave last Thursday?

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  • @Rompey I would say: "set an exam, then mark it".
    – D. Nelson
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:32
  • @D.Nelson - Mark an exam is okay too, maybe it's mostly used in BrE
    – Victor B.
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:38
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    "Mark" is primarily British English, but it would probably be understandable to a speaker of American English. "Grade" and "score" are the common terms in American English.
    – Cody Gray
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:39
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A professor sets an exam, then his students take the exam.

So the verb you were looking for is set.

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  • So, can we say "Today, the professor set a very hard exam for us, and I estimate that half of the class will fail!"? Dec 6, 2016 at 10:32
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    Yes, that's correct.
    – D. Nelson
    Dec 6, 2016 at 10:33
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    Note, as an AmE speaker, I've never heard this term.
    – Catija
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:05
  • Using the verb "sets" implies "a date for", so the statement would be "The professor set a date for the exam." It doesn't make any sense for an abstract professor to set an exam, as you've phrased it here.
    – Cody Gray
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:13
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    @CodyGray incorrect. The professor can both set the date, and also set the questions. If unspecified, "setting" the exam would normally refer to the latter.
    – Brondahl
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:17

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