I just stumbled upon the three words 實驗 (shíyàn), 測驗 (cèyàn), and 試驗 (shìyàn). Looking them up on mdbg.net and on Google Translate, they all translate to "test/experiment". So I was wondering: what (if any) is the difference between them? Are they exact synonyms or is there a subtle difference in meaning?

PS I wss looking for but it doesn't exist. I'm not sure if there are better tags for this post. If you know any, feel free to edit.

2 Answers 2


Here are the common definitions for these words:

實驗 - experiment (lit: practical test)
e.g. 物理實驗 - physics experiment

測驗 - test as in exam (lit: test/measure test)
e.g. 英語能力測驗 - English skill test

試驗 - test as in tryout/trial (lit: try test)
e.g. 臨床試驗 - Clinical trial

By the way, I suggest don't use any translation engine if you want to study that language, use actual dictionaries. I believe translation engines are just to get a grasp of the input. At this point in time, humans are needed to finalize the translated outputs.

  • So cèyàn is close to 考试, right? Are they interchangeable?
    – MickG
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 9:28
  • 1
    @MickG As I understand the both words, they can be interchangeable on the meanings layer, however, modern schools use 測驗 for smaller scaled tests and 考試 for greater ones. Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 9:31
  • 测验:quiz jukuu.com/search.php?q=quiz , 考试 examination; test; exam, bkrs.info/slovo.php?ch=%E8%80%83%E8%AF%95
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:04
  • 實驗: this word is commonly used to indicate scientific trials. The first character means concrete, and we call a lab by appending a character for room to it, which becomes "實驗室". On the other hand, a experimental theater is usually translated into "實驗劇場".

  • 測驗: is normally applied to indicate examinations or assessments, such as SAT would be likely associated with this word. The character means assessing.

  • 試驗: is less common than the first two words, and we see this word appearing at some medical/pharmacological/agricultural areas.

They are not exact synonyms, but we would apply different terms according to related domains, so it is very rare to see 試驗 being used to indicate normal exams at schools.

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