An online proctored exam is one that you take online and has either a person or algorithm to watch video of you, to ensure the integrity of your score as well as protect the exam itself (posting exam items on the internet is downright theft). Online proctored exams have existed for at least a decade, but they have become far more common since the onset of the pandemic. From K-12 assessments to university to pre-employment to high stakes, most people now accept that online proctored exams are part of life. If you are scheduled to take one and it is your first time, you’re likely curious about the experience. This post will provide a brief intro about what to expect and how to do as well as you can.
Types of online proctored exams
First, you must understand that there are actually several types of online proctored exams, and they can differ widely in the experience that you should expect!!!
|Type||Security Level||What to expect|
|Live Stream||High||You will have a live human watching your video stream at all times. Sometimes, there are two video streams: your computer, and your phone on a shelf (see example here). This human is usually a trained proctor, but sometimes it is just university staff. This approach is the most secure, because not only can they catch you cheating, but they can stop the test immediately.|
|Record & Review:||Medium-High||Your video will be recorded onto a server, for watching later by a human. They will record any flags they see.|
|Autoproctored/AI||Medium||Your video is recorded onto a server and “watched” by an AI algorithm, which flags you for clearly definable events: no faces on the screen, two faces on the screen, human voices, etc.|
|Lockdown Browser||Low||There is no video, but the test is delivered in a browser that locks down your computer so that you cannot visit other websites, run screen capture software, etc. This is usually used in conjunction with the other three, and often with in-person proctoring as well.|
Sometimes, there is a blend of these as well. You might have a live human to verify your ID and check you in, and then after that it is recorded for later review by human or AI.
How to pass an online proctored exam
Read that candidate/student handbook: This actually VERY important. It will not only tell you what to expect, but also tell you important information about the exam itself.
Practice test: If available, make sure to do this. It will help you understand the process, and feel much more confident come Exam Day.
Download beforehand: Some software for an online proctored exam will require you to download something, such as a secure browser or Chrome plugin. Make sure to do this before Exam Day. Sometimes, it is part of the Practice Test.
Watch instructional videos: Videos like the example above will help you see what to expect.
System check: Similarly, some software to deliver an online proctored exam will perform an automated system check to make sure that you have enough internet bandwidth, that your video is streaming well, etc. Do this before Exam Day, and sometimes it is also part of the Practice Test.
Know the rules: Make sure you are aware of the rules for your particular exam. Are you allowed a bottle of water? Bathroom breaks? Open-book?
Prepare the area: Once you know the rules, make sure your desk area is ready. Do you need to clean the top of your desk from all books and papers? Obtain an external webcam or microphone? Ask your roommates to leave? There are many things like this which might be required, and more than you can do in 30 seconds as you log into your exam.
Have water: If you are allowed water, make sure you have it ready, just in case.
Study: YES!!!!! Obviously, this is more important than anything else… if you actually know the material, you are more likely to pass. Cheating is not the way to go; it isn’t worth the risk if you could just take that effort and put it into actually studying.
Nathan Thompson, PhD, is CEO and Co-Founder of Assessment Systems Corporation (ASC). He is a psychometrician, software developer, author, and researcher, and evangelist for AI and automation. His mission is to elevate the profession of psychometrics by using software to automate psychometric work like item review, job analysis, and Angoff studies, so we can focus on more innovative work. His core goal is to improve assessment throughout the world.
Nate was originally trained as a psychometrician, with an honors degree at Luther College with a triple major of Math/Psych/Latin, and then a PhD in Psychometrics at the University of Minnesota. He then worked multiple roles in the testing industry, including item writer, test development manager, essay test marker, consulting psychometrician, software developer, project manager, and business leader. He is also cofounder and Membership Director at the International Association for Computerized Adaptive Testing (iacat.org). He’s published 100+ papers and presentations, but his favorite remains https://scholarworks.umass.edu/pare/vol16/iss1/1/.