since 受ける is the same verb associated with "sustaining damage", "incurring losses", "suffering injury", all 3 seemingly have negative nuances, I'm wondering when we use it (受ける) with 試験, does 受ける imply anything on the 試験? are there any clues to the listener what kind of 試験 it is?

Or is it the case that we cannot derive any traits of the 試験 just by the phrase 試験を受ける because by itself the phrase is a neutral one?

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    Of note: 試験を受ける = 受験する – istrasci Aug 3 '11 at 1:12
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    受ける is neutral as in Derek's answer, and there is a verb meaning 'receive' with negative connotation: 被る. – user458 Aug 3 '11 at 4:06

受ける does not by itself imply a negative outcome:

注文を受ける receive an order

援助を受ける receive aid

ボールを手で受ける catch a ball in the hand

Therefore 試験を受ける does not tell you anything about the type of exam or whether it is a difficult or easy exam. It simply means to "undergo (take) an exam".

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    Just to add to this answer... As we all know, at its heart 受ける simply means to "receive" or "get". I think the negative interpretations Pacerier have found in the dictionary are simply extensions by conventional usage, the same way "to take" in English is neutral, but can be used to imply something negative happened. "I'm not going to take it anymore," or "take that!" – Questioner Aug 3 '11 at 1:33
  • @Dave M G: Good point. I'm sure there's no end to the list of words like this in Japanese. 及ぼす comes to mind. On the one hand, we have 影響を及ぼす, which simply means to exert an influence (good or bad), but the same verb is used in 被害を及ぼす, "inflict damage". When you think about it, it's interesting that English, even though "damage" is already negative, carries that negative connotation into the verb as well. – Derek Schaab Aug 3 '11 at 12:39

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