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What Is A Proctored Exam And How Does It Work?


What is a proctored exam, and what is the difference between a proctored exam, a non-proctored exam, and online proctoring?

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of proctored exams, and discuss the implications of moving exams online with digital proctoring services. We will also describe the typical step-by-step process of online proctoring and concerns that students have about this new technology.

What is a Proctored Exam?

A proctored exam is an exam in which there is a person present to monitor and supervise students during the exam.

These proctors will usually authenticate students’ IDs, keep track of time, and watch students to make sure that they are following test guidelines and instructions.

Proctors monitor students while they take exams.

Proctored Exams vs Non-Proctored Exams

A non-proctored exam is one in which there are no proctors or supervisors present. This is most relevant in a situation where textbooks are allowed for reference during the exam, and is most common for exams that test problem-solving skills as opposed to memorizing information.

Proctored exams have been the most common, since exams up until now have mostly been on paper in physical classrooms. In these cases, there are usually proctors present to hand out test papers, time the length allotted for the test, and watch students for incidents of cheating.

However, with many students studying and taking exams online, proctoring has moved from supervisors to online proctoring. Online exams can either be proctored (monitored live or recorded) or non-proctored.

Why Schools Are Switching To Online Proctoring

Schools and universities are switching to online proctoring for a number of reasons. The most common reason may be that more students are studying online. This means that regular exam formats are being moved over to online platforms.

In general, online exams save institutions money, while also being convenient for both teachers and students in terms of scheduling a test date and time. Exams online can be taken by students all around the world, instead of gathering in one room. This is especially important for students who are working or parenting, and allows them to partake in exams during time slots that work for them.

With the rise in online test taking, online proctoring is necessary in order to deter cheating and monitor students while they take exams at home.

Student takes exam at home:

How Online Proctoring Works

Online proctoring monitors students’ exam taking by either supervising over live video or recording exam takers to deter cheating. Below is an overview of what a typical test might look like with online proctoring.

Before the exam

Before the exam, online proctoring programs will check student IDs in order to ensure that the correct student is taking the exam. This process is done either through auto authentication or live authentication.

  • Auto authentication: Generally, students begin by authenticating their identity through taking a photo of their ID and face, answering challenge questions, or entering a biometric signature.
  • Live authentication: Another option is live authentication, in which a live proctor does a face comparison with the student’s ID.

During the exam

During the exam, online proctoring platforms monitor the students in a few different ways. It may include automatic proctoring, record-and-review proctoring, or live proctoring.

  • Automatic proctoring: Automatic proctoring is when students’ environments are monitored for sound and movement.
  • Record-and-review proctoring: Record-and-review proctoring is when the exam is recorded in order to be reviewed once the exam is complete. This means that the student is not being watched during the exam, but it will deter cheating by the knowledge that it can be reviewed.
  • Live proctoring: Live proctoring is probably the most simple method which entails a live proctor, just like in the classroom, but over the computer so that students can take their exam at home.

The Issue of Cheating

With online exams, the issue of cheating is in the forefront. Cheating is easier with non-proctored online exams, and therefore, online proctoring is geared toward preventing cheating by monitoring the students’ environment.

This is done through monitoring students’ computer screens, watching students on video, or requesting a video sweep of the students’ rooms in order to ensure that there are no textbooks or other information available.

Online exams comes with a new set of challenges.

Student Reactions to Online Proctored Exams

Many students have reacted to online proctoring with concern for their privacy in instances where their screens or rooms are monitored.

Though online exams may be more convenient for some students, other students find the necessary online proctoring to be invasive or intrusive.

Students have recounted feeling uneasy about having proctors watch them in their dorm rooms, and have been requested to remove items or decor from the space, shine more light in order to be more visible, and other requests.

How to Prevent Cheating

An alternative to online proctoring can include creating exams that do not require monitoring. By tweaking exams to fit online requirements, students can still take exams at home without invasive proctoring.

Here are a few tips to prevent cheating on home exams.

Randomize questions

If home exams are difficult because students are taking the exam at different times and sharing information, it’s possible to create a question bank. This allows the platform to pull a different and randomized set of questions for each student.

Set a timer

Cheating takes time. It is harder for students to cheat when they have a limited amount of time to answer questions.

Ask problem-solving questions

In general, information-based exams are easier to cheat on because facts can be checked through sources such as textbooks or the internet. However, with problem-solving questions, students are asked to use their own mind to think through problems and use critical thinking tools — something that can’t be found and copied from the internet.


In this article, we’ve outlined and answered the question, “What is a proctored exam?” Online proctoring is used in order to monitor online test takers. By making exams available online, students around the world and with varying schedules can earn their degree online.

Though online proctoring has advantages that allow students to take exams online, many students are concerned with privacy issues and the invasive nature of online proctoring.

Creating exams that cater toward online test takers can ensure the continued use of online exams while deterring cheating.