Documentation for course staff

Running exams

Things to consider when running exams

Communication between course staff during an exam

It is extremely important for proctors and instructors to have a channel of communication during the exam. We recommend a messaging system such as Slack or Discord. This will allow for instant communication among all course staff involved in the exam, especially when many sessions are occurring simultaneously.

For larger exams (three or more simultaneous sessions), consider assigning one lead proctor to monitor this messaging system. This lead proctor is not assigned to a specific session. Their role is to make sure all sessions are running consistently and smoothly, and to provide help to session proctors in real-time. For example, if a student is having irregular behavior, you may need to move the student to a breakout room to talk to them. The lead proctor can monitor the main room, while the assigned session proctor goes to the breakout room to talk with the student. Some instructors may take on this lead proctor role.

What should a student do if they have a technical question?

For online exams: They should be instructed to ask their question in a private Zoom chat with the proctor.

For in-person exams: They should raise their hands and wait to talk with one of the proctors.

Should proctors help students with content related questions during an exam?

If a proctor starts to help students with course related questions, this type of support will distract the proctors from their main function, which is watching the students. Moreover, if you have a large number of students in your course, it is likely that you will have many different sessions and different course staff helping with the proctoring activities. It will be unrealistic and inefficient for proctors to be the go-between for students and instructors during exams, to make sure messages and clarifications are given consistently among sessions.

Based on our experience, proctors should not answer course related questions during the exam. This also facilitates the hiring of "professional" proctors to assist with your exam, instead of only relying on course staff. Proctors should tell students:

Try your best to answer the question as written. If you think there is an error in the question, you can report it in your exam using the "Report a problem" button (if using PrairieLearn). The professor will resolve any issues with incorrect questions after the exam is over.

How should a student upload documents (if needed) at the end of the exam?

For online exams: Students can be allowed to use their phones to scan/upload/submit their work at the end of the exam. When using the same device that they are using for the proctoring, this may cause their video to freeze, but will not remove them from the Zoom meeting. Proctors will be available if they need help.

For in-person exams: We recommend that students leave their phones outside the testing room, and use scratch paper provided by the instructor. Any work that needs to be uploaded can be handed to the proctors at the end of the exam (with proper identification), and the proctors will be responsible for uploading these documents at a later time.

What are the resources available to students?

Instructors can specify the rules for resources and materials that will be available to students during the exam, such as calculators, formula sheets, and additional software and websites. Instructors are strongly encouraged to specify these guidelines using the Student instructions field when creating an Exam. These set of instructions will be available to students before and after check in. Proctors must enforce these guidelines.

Can a student use tablets as a scratch paper or exam material?

Based on our experience, tablets should not be allowed as an exam material such as scratch paper. They must use pencil/pen and paper for these tasks. This is fairer to all students (access to resources) and easier to protect against potential academic integrity misbehavior with the tablet.

A student may still use a tablet device as their Zoom proctoring device (as an alternative to their phone), or for accessing their exam (as an alternative to a laptop).

Should students be allowed to use calculators?

That will depend on each course. One thing to keep in mind: during online exams, if calculators are allowed, the proctors will not be able to properly check what kind or brand of calculator the student has access to. This can be better enforced during in-person exams.

How should proctors handle reportable incidents?

Proctors will look at irregular behaviors to determine if the student is deliberately trying to access unauthorized information. If something seems suspicious, the proctor may talk privately with the student first (approach the student during in-person exams, or send a private message during online exams), giving a warning and trying to gather more information.

In reportable instances of cheating, the proctors should write a report documenting the incident, combining information gathered by them, documentation of communications with the student, and footage from security cameras or Zoom recordings (if applicable). This report should be sent directly to the instructors.

What should proctors do when students do not comply with course policies?

If a student is not compliant with the course policies and does not stop the unauthorized behavior after a warning, the proctor should immediately remove the student's access to the exam by clicking "End exam". The proctor should report this incident to the instructor.

The proctor may re-establish the exam access after communicating with the instructor (this is another example of great use of an instant messaging system during the exam). This can be done by clicking "Re-open".

What happens when a student arrives late to an exam?

Proctored exams: When check-in is not required, students will be able to start the exam on their own until 10 minutes after the exam start time (this is the default setting, instructors can change this late time for each session). After that, proctors will need to manually check-in the late students in order to give them exam access.

Courses will need to decide on their late start policy. Based on our experience, late arrivals can be very disturbing, both during in-person and online exams. We recommend not letting students take the exam if they arrive after the late time window. Make sure proctors and students are aware of your course's late arrival policy.

Unproctored exams: Students will be able to start the exam on their own until 10 minutes after the exam start time (this is the default setting, instructors can change this late time for each session). After that, they will not have access to the exam. Make sure students are aware of this late arrival policy.

What should I keep in mind about exam time limit?

  • Instructors will select the exam duration (this is the time limit students get to complete the exam) and the session duration. The session duration should be equal or greater than exam duration. The default is set to 10 minutes longer than the exam duration. This setting will allow proctors to start the exam a couple of minutes late, without impacting the total time students have to complete the exam.
  • PrairieTest will control when the exam will be available based on exam start time, exam duration, and session duration.
  • Once students start taking the exam in a given session, the exam and session duration settings are irrelevant. Each student "start" and "end" times are computed when a student starts the exam.
  • In some special circumstances, a proctor may want to give additional time to a number of students. This has to be done individually for each student, by using the Edit button next to the student exam End time.
  • Students need to complete their entire exam within the time window for their session. This includes any uploading or time spent submitting the digital exam.
  • Proctors should make time announcements during the exam. For example, they may announce where there are 10 minutes remaining, with a suggestion to consider finishing up and start uploading (for courses that use uploads), and also when there are 2 minutes remaining.
  • Students that receive extended time accommodations will automatically receive the modified exam duration. Instructors need to make sure to set the appropriate session duration that accommodates any time extension.
  • If a students starts the exam late, the exam will automatically close once it reaches its exam duration, or if the sessions closes (whatever comes first).