Open Access Highly Accessed Technical advance

Good exams made easy: The item management system for multiple examination formats

Achim Hochlehnert1*, Konstantin Brass2, Andreas Möltner2, Jobst-Hendrik Schultz2, John Norcini3, Ara Tekian4 and Jana Jünger12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychosomatic and General Internal Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Medical Clinic, Heidelberg, Germany

2 Centre of Excellence for Medical Assessment, University of Heidelberg, Medical School, Heidelberg, Germany

3 Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER), Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA

4 College of Medicine at Chicago, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, 60612, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:63  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-63

Published: 2 August 2012



The development, implementation and evaluation of assessments require considerable resources and often cannot be carried out by a single faculty/institution. Therefore some medical faculties have founded cooperation projects which mainly focus on the exchange of multiple choice questions (MCQs).


Since these cooperation projects do not entirely support all relevant processes in terms of preparation, implementation and evaluation of assessment, in 2006 the Medical Assessment Alliance (MAA) was founded for mutual support. In addition to MCQs the MAA started to develop innovative assessment formats and facilitate content through a coordinated exchange of experiences. To support cooperation within this network, the web-based Item Management System (IMS) was developed which supports all processes of the assessment workflow as an all-in-one working platform.


At present, the Alliance has 28 partner faculties in Europe. More than 2.800 users in 750 working groups are collaborating. Currently 90.000 questions have been stored in the IMS. Since 2007, nearly 4.600 examinations have been successfully conducted.


This article describes in detail the unique features of the IMS and contrasts it with the item management systems of other associations.

Assessment alliance; Quality control