[academic vs. medical] exam

SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
I.74

exam - from (academic) examination (but not the verb examine or examination in the medical sense)
[...]
Even stronger evidence for the acquisition by clipped forms of a quite specific lexicalization is indicated by the parenthesized restriction we have shown where relevant. [...] The examination of a patient by a doctor is not an
exam.
(A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language; R. Quirk)

I have a sneaking suspicion that it might have changed since the book was published (1985).
If this is so, I wonder whether you remember a time when it was indeed the case (exam not being the examination of a patient by a doctor)?

Thanks.
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I think that exam is still almost always an academic test. So "a medical exam" does exist, but it's the test a student has to take in order to become a doctor.

    The shortened version of "a medical exam" in the sense of a check-up by one's GP is often "a medical". E.g: "If you want to get into the army you have to take a medical, and also some written exams."
     

    SuprunP

    Senior Member
    Ukrainian & Russian
    So, would the following sound 'foreign' or even totally unacceptable to you:

    exam

    If you have a medical exam, a doctor looks at your body, feels it, or does simple tests in order to check how healthy you are. [mainly AM]
    Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary

    American English a set of medical tests:
    an eye exam
    Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 5th Ed

    (NAmE) a medical test of a particular part of the body
    an eye exam
    Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 8th Edition

    [with adj. or noun modifier] a medical test of a specified kind
    routine eye exams
    Oxford Dictionary of English

    a medical examination
    MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners 2nd Edition

    Thanks.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Exam is used in the context of medical examinations in AE but not BE (as confirmed on oxforddictionaries.com).
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    [with adj. or noun modifier] a medical test of a specified kind
    routine eye exams
    Oxford Dictionary of English
    When I looked at Oxford Dictionaries online I found
    2 North American [with adjective or noun modifier] A medical test of a specified kind.

    ‘routine eye exams’
    The two words you left out are rather important.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm not sure who you're referring to here, or what point you're making?
    At the risk of stating what is commonly called "the bleeding obvious" I could point out that my post starts with the words "SuprunP said", which might explain who "you" is, and it shouldn't take a huge amount of effort to spot the difference between his citation of a dictionary entry and mine. However, as you didn't manage that, I'll help you "North American".
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'd call being looked at and prodded by a doctor an 'examination', but calling it an 'exam' is far from rare, even in Britain. Most people would probably say 'exam' is simply a shortened form of 'examination' and the two can be used interchangeably. You can be given a written examination in English and you can be given a ear exam by the doctor. In both cases you are 'examined' and few people would stop to consider the two uses have different meanings. After all, an eye test and a spelling test share the same word, so why not with exam?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Re post 11

    I really really really wouldn't say "I was given an ear exam by the doctor", Uncle Jack.

    'Exam' to this BrE-speaker definitely means academic test.:)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I really really really wouldn't say "I was given an ear exam by the doctor", Uncle Jack.

    'Exam' to this BrE-speaker definitely means academic test.:)
    :thumbsup:
    I get a test/tested for my eyes/sight, my blood and my hearing.
    "I'm going for a sight/blood/hearing test."
     

    pismo

    Senior Member
    English -- USA
    This is interesting to me.

    As an AmEng speaker, every single example in Post #4 is acceptable and sounds natural.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is interesting to me.
    As an AmEng speaker, every single example in Post #4 is acceptable and sounds natural.
    It's interesting to me too. And to everyone, I'm sure. I'd never thought about this before. But it's clear from this thread that while in BE a medical exam (as opposed to a medical examination) automatically brings to mind an exam of the type that a medical student has to pass on his/her way to entering the medical profession, in AE the contraction "exam" can apply to both types of examination.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The OED shows the American "medical examination" originating in the late 19th century, so no contributor here is likely to remember a time when it didn't have that meaning. :) The OED also cites a recent BE source - the Sun (of London) newspaper in 2016.
    Sun (Nexis) 1 May 40 One in five children under the age of 12 have never had an eye exam.
    There's also one from a letter written in 1915
    R. Leighton Let. 1 May in Lett. Lost Generation (2012) 100 They are hard up for officers in the Regulars now and will allow Territorials..to transfer if recommended by a Brigadier or greater nut and able to pass the Medical Exam.
    That's clearly BE, but I'm not convinced that it is the word "exam" rather than the abbreviated form of "examination". The British National Corpus contains two examples of "medical exam", one in a school essay about flying, the other in an oral record talking about lifeboatmen in Orkney. Mind you, the essay contained an appalling number of spelling errors. The BNC has 100 examples of "medical examination".

    So it is creeping into BE.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I have to admit I don't understand the Quirk discussion in the OP. He is saying that "exam" is only used in academic settings and never to refer to a doctor's examination. So is a medical "examination" perfectly normal in BE?
     
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