When it comes to taking exams, there are two kinds of people. There are those who don’t get a wink of sleep the night before, feel increasingly jittery, and get a rush of nerves when the timer begins; and there are the people who fly by the seat of their pants, strutting in at the last minute ready to go. 

Regardless of which category you typically fall into, taking an exam online is a bit different. For the most part, it’s better. Online proctoring provides a safer and less stressful alternative to traditional test-taking, especially during an era in which social distancing remains a priority. 

The vast majority of test-takers don’t encounter any issues. However, here are some ways that students and instructors alike can prepare for online proctored exams so that the entire process goes off without a hitch. 

What Is Online Proctoring And How Does It Work?

First things first: What is online proctoring? 

Online proctored exams consist of online tests you take while someone remotely monitors you and your computer using technologies such as your desktop, audio, and webcam video. Alternatively, your school may use proctoring software to accomplish the same task, or they may use a combination of both. 

There are three main types of online proctoring:

  1. Live online proctoring, which involves a proctor who observes students in real-time
  2. Record-and-review proctoring, which involves a proctor retroactively reviewing a test-taker’s recorded screen/video/audio
  3. Automated proctoring, which involves using artificial intelligence to monitor audio, video, and screen-share feeds to track any irregularities

Typically, the online proctor is on virtual standby for all of the following tasks:

  • To answer any questions students may have
  • To confirm students’ identities
  • To prevent, identify, and report negative behavior, such as cheating
  • To start and stop the timer if the exam is timed

Although the popularity of online proctoring has soared in recent months, it’s been used effectively by numerous schools for years. Moreover, there’s a growing body of research to show that:

  • Students rate onsite versus online proctoring the same
  • There’s no statistical difference in exam results
  • Test-takers are far less likely to cheat when online tests are proctored

What You Can Expect During an Online Exam

Taking an online proctored exam for the first time can be daunting, so it’s good to know what you can expect going into it. 

Here’s what you’ll need to have ready, depending on what your instructor requires:

  • A computer or laptop with reliable internet connectivity 
  • A signed honor pledge
  • A moveable webcam or a camera-equipped phone, iPad, tablet, or a similar device
  • A software capable of screen-sharing, such as Zoom 

When you register for the exam, there will be some information as to what you can expect. On exam day, be sure to log in and get set up early, read all directions carefully, and ask the proctor any questions you have before the timer is set. 

How to Prepare Your Test-Taking Area

Each instructor or proctor will have their own set of rules. Typically, you won’t be allowed to have any food, drinks (aside from water in a see-through container), papers, books, or your phone (if it’s not being used for recording purposes). You also won’t be permitted to leave your desk. 

If you happen to get interrupted at any point, your exam will likely be terminated. Prior to the test, make sure you go to the bathroom, get a snack, and alert anyone you’re living with not to bother you for the duration of the exam. However, if you require any accommodations, make sure you communicate with your instructor and proctor in advance. 

Ultimately, the goal is to mimic the same level of security and focus you would have in an onsite testing location. Therefore, avoid taking the test in a public place, if at all possible. However, your local library can probably provide you with a private meeting space if need be. Lastly, clear your desk and area of anything that may cause distractions or disruptions. 

How to Avoid Any Potential Issues

The foremost concern from students regarding online exams is running into technological issues. To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to run a system test on the computer you plan on using in the exact location you plan on using it. Do this at least 24 hours before the exam so that you have ample time to reschedule if your system doesn’t meet the requirements or if you encounter any technical issues. Additionally, make a backup plan for both technology and location in the case of last-minute issues. 

Last but certainly not least, you should study for your test just as you would if it were on-site! You’ve got this. 

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