A Survey of Search Methodologies and Automated System Development for Examination Timetabling

R. Qu, E.K. Burke, B. McCollum, L.T.G. Merlot, S.Y. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

283 Citations (Scopus)


Exam timetabling is one of the most important administrative activities that takes place in academic institutions. In this paper we present a critical discussion of the research on exam timetabling in the last decade or so. This last ten years has seen an increased level of attention on this important topic. There has been a range of significant contributions to the scientific literature both in terms of theoretical andpractical aspects. The main aim of this survey is to highlight the new trends and key research achievements that have been carried out in the last decade.We also aim to outline a range of relevant important research issues and challenges that have been generated by this body of work.

We first define the problem and review previous survey papers. Algorithmic approaches are then classified and discussed. These include early techniques (e.g. graph heuristics) and state-of-the-art approaches including meta-heuristics, constraint based methods, multi-criteria techniques, hybridisations, and recent new trends concerning neighbourhood structures, which are motivated by raising the generality of the approaches. Summarising tables are presented to provide an overall view of these techniques. We discuss some issues on decomposition techniques, system tools and languages, models and complexity. We also present and discuss some important issues which have come to light concerning the public benchmark exam timetabling data. Different versions of problem datasetswith the same name have been circulating in the scientific community in the last ten years which has generated a significant amount of confusion. We clarify the situation and present a re-naming of the widely studied datasets to avoid future confusion. We also highlight which research papershave dealt with which dataset. Finally, we draw upon our discussion of the literature to present a (non-exhaustive) range of potential future research directions and open issues in exam timetabling research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-89
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Scheduling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Engineering(all)
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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