Student perspective: Dealing with online, proctored exams for the first time

Emma, the author of the blog postby Emma Ford, Vet student and Bristol Futures Advocate

But wait, what are proctored exams? 

A proctored exam is a timed exam that is invigilated via software that has access to your camera, microphone, and screen. They aim to prevent cheating during online exams without in person invigilators present.

After doing in person exams my whole academic life, I was really worried about the sudden change to online proctored exams.

I had no idea what a proctored exam was, and the many misconceptions around the time about it just added onto the anxiety. These included “if you look away from the screen for more than twenty seconds you will automatically fail” and “if they can hear any sounds while you’re taking the exam, it’s an automatic failure”, etc. I responded to this by taking every measure possible to ensure that no red flags would be triggered during my exam. I covered everything on my walls, I put signs all around my house saying, “exam in process”, and on our front door, asking my housemates and potential visitors to be quiet. Yet still, despite all these measures, it was only until I got my exam results back that I could finally relax that I had not somehow been mistakenly flagged for cheating. However, now as a proctored exam “survivor”, I can happily say that these proctored exams are really nothing to worry about! As long as you are following the rules, and you take your exams honestly, your exam process should go smoothly.

My current understanding is that any unexpected audio or visuals recorded are flagged by the computer programme, but then they are manually inspected by an actual human being. So, even if your exam gets “flagged”, it does not necessarily mean it will result in a failure, and as long as the “flagged” situation was nothing suspicious, the flag has no detriment to you or to your score.

One of my friend’s flatmates were being loud when she was taking her exam, and she had to get up from her laptop, and yell from her door for her flatmates to be quieter. In one of my exams, I had a postman start knocking vigorously on my window because no one had answered the doorbell to collect their post. I imagine these situations resulted in our exams being flagged but would have very quickly been disregarded as just unfortunate incidents as soon as they were watched by an actual person.

I hope this has eased your mind about proctored exams but if you do have any questions about the rules or technicalities of your exams, I strongly advise you to ask your faculty administration, as it will most likely just ease your mind! Good luck on your exams!

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