Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) fluorometry, based on chlorophyll a fluorescence, is a frequently used technique in algal bioassays to assess toxicity of single compounds or complex field samples. Several test conditions can influence the test results, and because a standardized test protocol is currently lacking, linking the results of different studies is difficult. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to gain insight into the effects of test conditions of laboratory algal bioassays using PAM fluorometry on the outcome of toxicity tests. To this purpose, we described the results from several pilot studies on test development in which information is provided on the effects of the main test factors during the pretest phase, the test preparation, the exposure period, and the actual measurement. The experiments were focused on individual herbicides and complex field samples and included the effects of culturing conditions, cell density, solvent concentration, exposure time, and the presence of actinic light. Several of these test conditions were found to influence the outcome of the toxicity test, and the presented information provides important background information for the interpretation of toxicity results and describes which test conditions should be taken into account when using an algal bioassay with PAM fluorometry. Finally, the application of PAM fluorometry in algal toxicity testing is discussed. Environ Toxicol Chem 2014;33:1017-1022. © 2014 SETAC.