Project exam

A project exam is based on a project report which is handed in as the result of a project work.

Before the project exam the student has (alone or as part of a group) produced and handed in a report on a specific topic (the project outline). The topic is either given or formulated by the student(s) in cooperation with a supervisor. The project outline entails various demands on academic and process outcomes. A description of the project process is often a part of the final report.

The topic is normally based on a theme and/or the course that the student(s) follow(s) at the given time. The project is regarded as a learning enhancing tool to obtain the knowledge and skills objectives of the course, but serves also the purpose of training the students in cooperation and the report to obtain communication skills.

The procedure of a project exam is normally that the students briefly present their project report and afterwards the individual student is questioned. The student is both examined in both the content of the report and the process of the project. A project exam can however, also be conducted as a purely individual exam. In both cases, the individual student is questioned in the entire project report and hence must be confident with parts of the report written by peers.

Learning objective that can be addressed using this assessment method
Knowledge of theory, method and practice X
Understanding and reflecting on theory, method and practice X
Applying methods and tools X
Assessing problem definitions and selecting solution models X
Communicate and discuss academic issues X
Dealing with complex situations – in the context of studying or work X
Ability to independently initiate collaboration X
Taking responsibility for personal learning and development X

X indicates that this assessment method is suitable for testing the learning outcome. (X) indicates that this assessment method is of only limited use for this.

Evaluating the method of assessment

Assessment Criteria
Validity As project and project report usually only deals with part of the syllabus, the content validity for the written element is not usually very high.

The report outline help to determine whether the exam tests the classificatory level demanded via the description of learning targets. Thus, there is scope for relatively high construct validity.
Reliability As a general rule, the more topics covered, the greater the reliability. Thus, the project with its traditional focus on a simple, relatively open project outline (possibly with sub-questions) makes achieving reliability difficult.

In the effort to make the type of project exam consistent in order to distinguish between good performances and poor performances basically the same project outline must be given to all students. If the outline is formulated independently by the student(s) or if students are given various outlines, e.g. on the basis of different interests or at random, the actual outline also needs to be included in the marking in order to ensure reliability.  
Backwash effect from testing to teaching Project work sets the scene for deep reflection and in-depth understanding in general. This can motivate students to be highly active throughout the course.

Openly-formulated project outlines can give students a sense of ownership of the project, and this can stimulate and boost their learning.

Throughout the teaching process, it is important to discuss/go over the quality criteria on which the project report will be examined. See Rubrics as an example of a tool to obtain this (1).

If students formulate their own project outline, there is a risk that they will opt out of dealing with content that is not directly relevant to their project. Thus, they can choose to avoid reading texts outside their chosen topic area or cease to turn up for teaching altogether.
Resources This type of exam is resource-intensive. The wording of the project outline may not take very long to produce; however, the report takes a long time to read. 
Digitisation Opting out of invigilation paves the way for plagiarism. In this context, electronic solutions can be used to check the originality of the report retrospectively, for example via the SafeAssign function in 
Acceptance The project exam is regarded as an authentic type of exam closely resembling a real-life work situation. The combination of written report and oral defence increases its acceptance, as both students and examiners are of the opinion that it gives students a fair chance to demonstrate what they can do without giving preference to either form of communication. In addition, the oral defence is regarded as a fair feedback situation for students, allowing students to experience their work being taken seriously.



  • Andrade, H. G. (2005). Teaching with rubrics. The good , the bad and the ugly. College teaching, 53 (1), 27-30
  • Reddy, Y. M., Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (4), 435-448