In American English, a "quiz" is like a "test" or "exam," but it is typically shorter (in length and duration) and less heavily weighted. In Spanish class I learned "test" was examen and "quiz" was prueba. Do these Spanish words carry the same connotations as the English words? Or does the distinction not exist in the same way in Spanish as it does in English?

  • 1
    In British English the distinction is between test and exam, and a quiz is non-academic (gameshow-style). Commented May 9, 2012 at 17:09

5 Answers 5


In Spain, in the schools I attended examen was used for the final test/exam at the of the term or the year. The quizes during the terms, usually about just one lesson, were called controles.

EDIT: A control usually was taken at school, and it could mean that you don't have to take any examination on this anymore as happens in primary school, or you had to take this part anyway in final exam at the end of the term or the year. It's just for "controlling" the progress of the pupil or student. A parcial it's an exam of a part of the subject/course, and can include one or more lessons. In high school and university, a parcial it's an exam on a part of the subject/course and it's organized during the course, like a control. When passing a parcial means that you don't have to take that part of the subject/course anymore and it won't be included for you in the final exam, then it's called parcial liberatorio.

  • +1 The same applies to some Chilean universities.
    – dusan
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 1:43

At least when I was in school, the two words were always used interchangeably. Even if you look the term "prueba" in RAE one of its definitions is:

Examen que se hace para demostrar o comprobar los conocimientos o aptitudes de alguien.

Exam that is performed to demonstrate someone's knowledge or skills.

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    Some RAE definitions are really hopeless. All exams are carried out to ascertain the knowledge or skills of someone! I wouldn't rely on RAE for this kind of nuanced matters.
    – CesarGon
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 18:07
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    @CesarGon, not true. An examen could be a medical examination to ascertain the state of someone's health. Commented May 9, 2012 at 17:07
  • @PeterTaylor: Well, that's another meaning of examen, isn't it. :-) You can also use prueba in that case; see e.g. "prueba de alcoholemia" or "prueba de embarazo". They are still synonyms.
    – CesarGon
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 2:30

In Mexico this short exam is called "parcial".



  1. m. Examen que el alumno hace de una parte de la asignatura.
  • Same in Spain, but passing a parcial in university or high school usually means that you don't have to take that part in the final exam.
    – JoulSauron
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 6:45

In Spain, when your are going to have a "test", normally means that the exam will be short and most of times of type "Check the right answer: a, b, c or d"

If you are going to have "just an exam", normally you should expect be asked to write down a quite elaborated answer to each question in the exam.

  • 1
    And what Spanish words are used for "test" and "just an exam"?
    – jrdioko
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 16:17

Yes, the translations you mention DO carry the same connotations.

A mnemonic to possibly help remember:

If you take a look at the word prueba, you'll notice that it's stem has changed from o => ue. If you reverse it, you will get proba... or for the sake of argument, "Probe."

Probing something is like poking it with a stick..as well as other "alien"-ated denotations. Let's just say the word "poke" from now on. Regardless, when you poke something, it is usually short lived. I've never heard of anyone poking a snake for days on end, much less poking my girlfriend. Eventually you gotta get up and eat or take a nap.


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