A Big Bang Approach To Running Exams Or Online Invigilation?

A firework exploding which represents the big bang effect of running exams all at the same time

It’s coming to that time of year again, when school and university students remove themselves from daily life, bury their heads in books and try to cram everything into the (somewhat) small few inches between their ears. Exams aren’t much fun, and right across the board large-scale exams are typically dreaded by students and examining bodies alike.

The traditional big-bang approach to running exams, where all testing is carried out at set times throughout the year, puts everyone under pressure. Most colleges run at max capacity and creek at the seams during exam periods, with every single room being used to administer tests. Then there’s the search for sufficient quantities of invigilators, not to mention the logistical pressures of marking papers, moderating scripts and reviewing pass rates. At any kind of scale, this process becomes very challenging with markers locked away often for days, until white smoke appears. Obviously within colleges, exams are typically tied to the end of academic terms and semesters, which although understandable from a historic perspective, has many downsides.

There are also a significant number of awarding bodies who take a big bang approach to running their accreditation exams, where everyone has to travel to a test centre at a set time to sit their exam. Even though most professional courses are made up of multiple individual modules, all of these are typically assessed in one large exam at the end so there may be a significant period of time between the date the material was first studied and the exam date, which isn’t ideal. For corporations running certification exams, the ability to offer flexibility to employees and partners is essential. Being able to run exams anywhere in the world at any time massively reduces the travel and expenses costs of bringing employees together at one location to sit exams.

There is another way. Remote invigilation (also know in the US as online proctoring), is where exams are monitored by trained supervisors over the Web. New technological developments, such as those being run at TestReach, are driving this new approach which provides complete flexibility when it comes to running formal assessments. Students can take an exam much sooner after completing a module or course as everything is online and accessible.

As with any new ideas, there will be sceptics – is it easier for candidates to cheat if the exam is run online? But the technologies available today are very sophisticated and allow monitoring of the candidates far more closely than would be possible in an exam hall. For example, with TestReach remote invigilation, at all times a trained supervisor is connected to the candidate by video, audio and remote screen share, and everything is recorded and can be reviewed by the examining body after the event. Our supervisors see a large, continuous video feed from a camera that is literally 20 inches from the candidate’s face – even the smallest of movements is clearly visible.

Before the exam can begin, the exam environment is checked and secured, then steps are followed to authenticate the candidate. Candidates are monitored at all times during the exam and any exceptional circumstances that arise are reported in full. An additional advantage of moving invigilation online is that the ratio of candidates to supervisor is much lower than in a typical exam-hall environment. Plus candidates cannot actually see their supervisor unlike at a test centres, where as soon as the invigilator walks to the other end of the room, hidden notes could potentially be accessed.

For examining bodies, remote invigilation gives complete freedom from the logistics of securely managing all the paper, exam halls and invigilators. Going online makes it is easier to write and mark exams, and you can take assurance from the fact that completed exam papers are securely stored electronically, instead of being couriered around from marker to marker. Plus you have real-time access to results and graphs showing how the exams performed.

If you’d like more information on remote invigilation or online proctoring, download our free Guide to Remote Invigilation here.

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