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Open Access Software

Integrating personalized medical test contents with XML and XSL-FO

Dennis Toddenroth1*, Martin Dugas2 and Thomas Frankewitsch1

Author Affiliations

1 IT-Zentrum of the Medical Faculty, University of Münster, Domagkstraße 5, 48149 Münster, Germany

2 Institute of Medical Informatics, University of Münster, Domagkstraße 9, 48149 Münster, Germany

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-8

Published: 1 March 2011



In 2004 the adoption of a modular curriculum at the medical faculty in Muenster led to the introduction of centralized examinations based on multiple-choice questions (MCQs). We report on how organizational challenges of realizing faculty-wide personalized tests were addressed by implementation of a specialized software module to automatically generate test sheets from individual test registrations and MCQ contents.


Key steps of the presented method for preparing personalized test sheets are (1) the compilation of relevant item contents and graphical media from a relational database with database queries, (2) the creation of Extensible Markup Language (XML) intermediates, and (3) the transformation into paginated documents.


The software module by use of an open source print formatter consistently produced high-quality test sheets, while the blending of vectorized textual contents and pixel graphics resulted in efficient output file sizes. Concomitantly the module permitted an individual randomization of item sequences to prevent illicit collusion.


The automatic generation of personalized MCQ test sheets is feasible using freely available open source software libraries, and can be efficiently deployed on a faculty-wide scale.