Exams-Only Universities

Quality: fast write-up (~45 minutes); little researched

I want a university that only does exams, which would include a description of what you need to know for the exams. Bonus would be suggestions for textbooks and online classes to learn the material, but that’s optional.


The costs are:

  • Exam creation

  • Supervision

  • Scoring

Exam creation is a fixed cost per topic per round (you need to change the exam each year).

Supervision, if in person, is partly a fixed cost per location, and partly a variable cost. (Someone can supervise students doing exams on different topics.) Online supervision would also be an option ideally.

Scoring is partially a fixed cost (the part that can be automated) and partially a variable cost (the part that need to be reviewed manually).


Frequency of exams could change with demand, but, to start with, you could have one cheap exam per topic per year, timed with the end of normal school years. This would be the exam most people would take, so it would spread the fixed cost among more people. This might also be a more valuable test because it could position you on a normal curve more precisely given the greater amount of people taking it. There could also be more expensive tests throughout the year—more expensive given the fixed cost would be spread among fewer people.

Problem it solves

What this solves:

  1. Decouples learning and exams a) You can learn at your own pace (whether that’s more slowly of faster) b) You can learn from wherever you want (maybe you want to learn from different places for different topics)

  2. Creates standardized tests making it easier to compare the competency of students between different schools

Why wanting exams in the first place? Because many governments want them for immigration and many organizations want them for employees.

Questions I have

  1. Has this been done?

  2. Could this be done? Could you have a university that only does exams and emits degrees that are recognized by the US government?

Current state

There are universities that don’t require you to attend classes, but I still find those non-ideal because it’s:

  1. Bias: In my experience, students that attend have an unfair advantage—Not because they learn more, but because teachers literally (and even intentionally) give unfair hints about their exams to reward students for showing up and justifying their salary.

  2. Inconvenient:

a) You need to be in a specific location for a few years.

b) You can still do some exams only once per year, which prevents doing a degree faster.


While all I’m asking in this post is for non-zero universities to offer this so that the demand for it gets fulfilled, I also have the impression there would be significant benefits at a societal level from more fully decoupling exams and learning in general. It seems to me like test scores would become more meaningful, and it would become cheaper to get scored.