to "write" a test (instead of to "take" a test)

olives

Senior Member
French (France)
Hello,

Usually, in English, you say "to take a test" or "to sit an exam" in order to say that you have to "do" or to "take part" in a test/an exam, meaning for example, you have to answer the questions in the test.

Many German people say "today I have to write a test" since you say in German "Ich schreibe einen Test (literally: I write a test)". But if I say "I have to write a test today", to me it means I am the teacher and I need to "prepare" a test, meaning, I mean to write down the questions for the test.

I saw on the Internet that it might be possible to say "to write a test" in the meaning "to take a test" in South Africa. I would like to stick, though, to British or American English.
Is it right or wrong to say "to write a test" in American or British English if you want to say "to take a test"?

Many thanks.
 
  • lordignus

    Senior Member
    British English
    As far as British English goes, you are correct in saying that "write a test" gives the impression that you are a teacher preparing a test, so would not be suitable for the meaning of "taking a test".
    Not 100% about American English, but I suspect the same applies.
     

    Hud214

    New Member
    English - America
    I would agree with was said, but I was wondering. There is a youtube clip of "Minnie Pearl - Jasper High on the Johnny Cash show" where the students sing ".....we were suppose to write a test." Which leads me to believe they meant "take a test" as in be tested. I was wondering maybe it is/was a Southern (American) and/or old fashioned expression, but I couldn't find anything on it.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I just watched a Canadian teacher who said "When you're in school, sometimes you have to write a test", and he meant students, not a teacher preparing a test. How come? Is that acceptable?
     

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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In BE we "take a test". You're right that we wouldn't normally say that we have to write a test.

    We're having an English test today.
    We're going to have a written test today.
    (rather than an oral test)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Exactly. Yes, we sit an exam or take a test. I'd understand 'write a test' as foreigner's talk for the same thing. In BrE, if you are preparing a test or exam, you say set a test or exam.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    would you think that it must have been a non-native to have said that?

    Not necessarily. For example, if it was a very young child and they were uncomfortable with written work, it could sound quite natural. It doesn't strike me as the kind of thing that only a non-native speaker would say. I might think it was a native speaker expressing themselves rather awkwardly. (It happens).
     

    tanna.ginger

    New Member
    Russian - Russia
    Hello everyone. I'm looking for the best way to describe what a homeschooled pupil does when "writing" a test. I know write a test sounds wrong in AE and BE, but take a test does not sound appropriate either. Or does it? The girl receives tests at home and has to provide answers in writing. It is not timed and she can use whatever help she wants to find the answers. What would you call it? Take a test evokes a formal setting to me
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    You could take a test in your pyjamas but you would still be taking a test, no matter how informal the circumstances.
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    English - SSBE Standard British
    'Take' is always your best bet for the verb to go with 'a test' or 'an exam' : it's meaningful everywhere.

    Regional variations are 'write' (Canada), 'sit' (UK) and 'give' (India).
     

    Triniguy80

    New Member
    Caribbean English
    I came across this forum because I am trying to understand why in some cultures it is common for people to use the expression “give a test”, or in the past tense “I gave a test”, or more understandably but still confusing “I cleared the test”, in reference to school, university, professional or other knowledge tests/examinations? I am native to the English-speaking Caribbean so we grew up under the British system where we simply say “sit a test”, “sit an exam”, “take the exam”, or less commonly “write the examination” or “do the exam”.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I don't know. It's just local custom.

    We don't generally say "sit" in the U.S. That is not our local custom. Teachers don't set tests either, generally. That's not our local custom.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Unfortunately, there's no obvious logic to many of the collocations with "test". I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk about having "cleared" a test in BE, and it's far more common in my experience for teachers to "set" a test rather than "write" one.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I came across this forum because I am trying to understand why in some cultures it is common for people to use the expression “give a test”, or in the past tense “I gave a test”, or more understandably but still confusing “I cleared the test”, in reference to school, university, professional or other knowledge tests/examinations?
    Welcome to the forum Triniguy (are you from Trinidad?)

    You sort of answered your own question when you used the word "cultures."
    The answer is the same for many cultural differences between English-speaking countries, e.g., Why:
    . . . do the British, Australians and Trinis ;) drive on the left side of the road and Americans and Canadians on the right?
    . . . does "knock [somebody] up" mean to rap on a door in the U.K. and to get a woman pregnant in the U.S.?
    . . . are "suspenders " in the U.S. called "braces" in the U.K.?
    . . . etc., etc.

    I always suggest learners just relax and enjoy the differences between our cultures. :)
     
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