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Alternative terms: short-case studies, long-case studies, applied knowledge test, case-file test

What is it?

  • It is a test based on an authentic case: a description of a situation in a professional context. It describes events, issues or problems typical of your future profession. You will solve these cases or assess the situation.
  • The cases are open-ended, i.e. the situation has not yet been resolved or concluded. As in real-life professional practice, multiple approaches, interests and insights are applicable. Case studies are complex rather than straightforward, the purpose of which is to challenge you and provoke your interest.
  • Case studies can be assigned at any point in the programme, from the first year to the final year. They must always be compatible with the students' prior knowledge. In addition, the level of complexity must match the level of the students' cognitive development and the challenges you are capable of at this stage in your degree programme.
  • Case studies can be assigned at the end of a project or a period focusing on a particular problem. They can also be used at the end of seminars or other active study methods
  • One variety is a short-case study. These are used when accurate and reliable answers are required and when you only encounter the case for the first time during the interim examination itself. They can be used after lectures and offer theory-based questions that have been put into a particular context. They mainly assess your knowledge, without requiring problem-solving skills to any great extent.

What do you learn from case studies?

  • You gain greater insight into the relevance and applicability of what you have learned so far.
  • Carrying out a case study enables you to practise recognising and solving practical problems.
  • You learn to analyse situations and view the problem from different perspectives.
  • You may also discover gaps in your knowledge, enabling you to set extra educational objectives for yourself.
  • It calls upon your creativity as you must realise solutions (both standard and original) and contribute ideas.
  • It prepares you well for the internship and graduation phase.

As you have already practised this a great deal during your studies, you will have an advantage when you eventually enter the professional field.

What is tested?

  • Firstly, the case study must assess your problem-solving skills, and secondly, it must gauge the degree to which you apply knowledge and skills from different disciplines.
  • Problem-solving skills relate to your ability to define, analyse and solve problems (metacognitive level). The case study tests whether you can conduct these competencies at a sufficient level.
  • It also assesses whether you possess the specific knowledge, principles, working models etc. and can apply these adequately in order to solve problems encountered in professional practice (knowledge and skills level).
  • Finally, it assesses whether you are capable of justifying the selected answers/solutions based on relevant theory, methods and standards. This contributes to the generic HBO (higher professional education) competencies such as problem-solving, analysis, communication, attitude development and processing of information

How will I be tested?

This depends on how the case study is administered

  • If there is one fixed assessment time, then the case study is presented to every individual student.
  • If the test involves group work, then it will be completed over a longer period of time with the aid of problem-solving methods. For PBE (problem-based education), a fixed seven-step system can be used. Your work on the case study will be assessed orally or in writing.

How will I be assessed?

You must show that you:

  • Can recognise problems relevant to the profession.
  • Are capable of investigating and analysing situations.
  • Can apply a variety of knowledge and instruments in order to devise a solution.
  • Are able to ascertain what the actual problem was.
  • Are able to ascertain what the actual problem was.
  • Are capable of applying concepts, terms and principles in an adequate and sensible manner.
  • Can provide solid arguments supporting the answers and solutions you provided.
  • Have independently formed a conclusion and can substantiate the method used and the quality of the conclusion.
  • Are capable of independently devising new theoretical or methodical concepts.
  • Have applied the seven-step system or a similar methodology and explained how you have done this (if applicable).

What feedback will I receive?

  • Assessment via a mark.
  • Review or final interview with an explanation of:
    * The quality of the analysis/diagnosis.
    * The quality of the solution.
    * The substantiation of the knowledge and skills applied.
    * The working method.
    * The group-working process and your individual role in this (if applicable).
  • You may also receive feedback from fellow students, a specialist lecturer and/or a client

How do I prepare for the test?

  • Ensure in advance that you are clear about the how, the what and the when of the case study. If you are not certain about anything, ask for more information.
  • Make sure you are aware of what knowledge is required in order to understand the case study.
  • Ask for practice case studies and practise them together with fellow students.
  • If necessary, ask for support in developing skills such as cooperation, knowledge sharing, problem analysis, creative thinking and systematic working, e.g. via the seven-step system.

How can I achieve the highest score possible?

  • Ensure that you have a clear picture of what the real problem is.
  • Don't forget to carefully examine the material provided.
  • Clearly map out the problem. Don't give your emotions, prejudices or assumptions the chance to take you by surprise.
  • Analyse, reason, argue.
  • Feel free to call upon the knowledge of other students or experts.
  • Stick to the assignment at hand.
  • Use – whether instructed to or not – the seven-step system (at the very least as a checklist).

For group assignments:

  • Draw up an effective distribution of tasks.
  • Lay down any agreements made among the group in writing.
  • Stick to the agreements made and ensure that the others do so as well.


  • Students frequently skip ahead to solving the problem to avoid running out of time. However, doing so misses out or rushes an important phase of the assignment: problem orientation and definition. As a result, you can get into trouble later on. For example, it may turn out that you have made the wrong choice of solution as you didn't have sufficient understanding of what the actual problem is.
  • Ensure that you justify your decisions. In principle, there are no wrong answers as long as you can underpin your reasons for selecting a particular solution!
  • Don't be afraid to take a step back every now and then. Don't cling desperately to a selected strategy if you have the feeling that it is the wrong one. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is useful to reassess exactly what the problem is and whether you can adopt a different solution strategy.

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