I have read three verb collocations with exam but cannot find the difference in meaning.

  1. sit an exam/test,
  2. do an exam/test, and
  3. take an exam/test

I would like to know the difference in meaning for each phrase. Secondly, What verb we use for teachers who design a test because I have learned that "make a test" is wrong. Then if I am a teacher and design a test for my students what shall I say,for instance, I .... a chemistry test yesterday. thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


Do a quiz is the least formal. "Buzzfeed™: What brand of beer is your boyfriend?" There are no consequences and the results are probably meaningless or just for fun. Young students may get an unannounced "pop quiz" as an incentive to read the assignments.

Take a test is what children do through middle school. They may take several tests each week to make sure they are keeping up with their homework and reading the assignments. A test typically will not take the entire class time to complete, and is announced ahead of time.

Sit for exams is the final for higher education like in college or university, or for a civil service promotion, or to earn a job license or career certification. The exam is strictly formal, including what type of pencil is used and how much time is allowed. It probably takes place in a location away from the daily classroom.

Test is interchangeable with both quiz and exam, but a quiz and an exam are opposite ends of the spectrum and not interchangeable. Take (a test) is universal, do is casual/informal, while sit is only used for certification or higher education.

As a teacher you will give the test to the class, but earlier you will write it.


It depends on your variety of English. In the US, we do not say sit an exam. As far as I can tell, sit for an exam is acceptable. The two common ways I can think of expressing this in AmE are with take and have:

  • I took an exam yesterday.
  • I had an exam yesterday.

This is what the Longman Dictionary has to say:

1 EXAM a set of questions, exercises, or practical activities to measure someone’s skill, ability, or knowledge
test on

  • We have a test on irregular verbs tomorrow.
  • Did you get a good mark in the test?

► You take or do a test. Don’t say ‘make a test’. To pass a test means to succeed in it, not simply to take it.

Personally, do an exam strikes me as odd. I wouldn't use it. But it's listed in the dictionary, so it certainly has currency.

As far as I can tell, sit an exam is BrE and perfectly acceptable among BrE users. Here's an entry from the Cambridge Dictionary:

sit verb (EXAM)
​[ T ] UK to take an exam:
After I've sat my exams, I'm going on holiday.
AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH I sat for my exams today.

I don't know what BrE users (and other varieties) think of to do an exam. Just to confuse you more, there is also write an exam (= take an exam). That's not used in the US, but I believe it is used elsewhere. Let's see what others say!

As for the second part, I disagree. Perhaps you misunderstood, but when the teacher or the professor creates the test, we can say that they make the test, in my opinion. I believe the dictionary entry above means that students take the test, but they don't make the test. In other words, the entry is trying to clarify that take the test and make the test are not the same.

It's also possible to say that the teacher writes the test (= creates the test). That's my AmE perspective. Again, let's see what others say!

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