To examine somebody or something is to inspect it closely; hence, an examination is a detailed inspection or analysis of an object or person.
In an academic or professional context, examinations (or exams for short) are tests or assessments which aim to determine the ability of a student or a prospective practitioner. Exams are usually written tests, although some may be practical or have practical components, and vary greatly in structure, content and difficulty depending on the subject, the age group of the tested persons and the profession. A person who passes an examination receives a diploma, a driving or professional licence, depending on the examination's objectives.
A competitive examination is an examination where applicants compete for a limited number of positions, as opposed to merely having to reach a certain level to pass.
In the UK an examination is usually supervised by an invigilator. The invigilator is responsible for the smooth running of the examination, and for ensuring that there is no cheating.
Ancient China is the first country in the world that implemented the examination system nationwide for the selection of candidates of government officials. The ancient England adopted and modified this system, which later influenced other parts of the world and became the standard way (e.g.: regulations to prevent the markers from knowing the identity of candidates) to deliver examination today.