Silencing Exam Noise: TestReach Talks Blog

A horn making a noise in a person’s ear, illustrating the noise that surrounds some exam
                          days. Use exam data and prepare exam candidates to reduce exam noise.

It might seem strange, to talk about the noise of exams, but if you regularly deal with busy exam days, you’ll know exactly what this means! Exam noise refers to all the extra tasks and requests that your exams team has to deal with, in the run up to, and during, exam sessions. And this also, of course, includes all of the additional stress that comes with it, which can be a really significant problem. It puts exam teams under a huge amount of pressure and often this leads to issues, and over time good people will leave, as it’s not really an enjoyable environment. So if you are an assessment leader there are certain things you need to consider in order to ensure your exams team are enjoying their work and feeling supported.

Now the very nature of exams means that the stakes are high. If someone is having an issue half an hour before their exam, you don’t have the option to deal with them tomorrow. Everything is time sensitive - and the pressure builds. That being said, there are a few ways that can really help to reduce the number of requests that your team has to deal with when you are running your exams online.

1. Intuitive and Straightforward Candidate Journey

Do make sure that your candidate journey is both intuitive and straightforward. This includes both the processes and the systems involved. It extends from the moment candidates are told about the online exam right through to issuing results. On paper the process may look great, but in practice, candidates may find some of the steps difficult. If candidates have many questions, this will create a lot of noise. Our advice would be to ask some people who are not particularly familiar with the process to actually go through it first, end-to-end, and then provide feedback. This can really help to identify potential issues, streamline things as much as possible, and thereby to reduce the noise once candidates are enrolled.

2. Help Candidates Prepare for their Exam

Secondly, do not underestimate the need to help candidates to prepare for their exam. Even now, many people have only ever have sat paper-based exams, so this may be a whole new experience where they really need to understand exactly what will happen, and this is particularly true if the exam is proctored online. If you start talking about webcams, internet speeds, proctors and system checks, it’s a new world to many candidates, and they will have many questions.

It is really important to have detailed resources such as FAQs, videos and guides, so that candidates can access all the information they need in a self-serve manner, and they are not continually coming back to the examining body for advice. In addition, for proctored exams, it is critical that they understand how to use the technology and have tested their technical environment in advance. This could include providing practice tests or tutorials, as well as guiding them through systems checks well before exam day, so that if, for example, their webcam is broken, this can be dealt with in advance. The result of taking this approach is that on exam day they are all set for their exam, and they know how to use the system, which means the whole experience should be a lot smoother with less stress for everyone involved.

3. Access Exam Data in Real-Time

Make sure that you have access to your exam data in real time. Also ensure that you have processes in place to check that exam data and act on any early warning signals that you might see. For example, at any point in time can you see how many candidates are actually enrolled in the exam? Can you see how many of these have confirmed their exam time? Also, what is the process to follow up with candidates who have not engaged? Correct and up-to-date information is absolutely king, and when you’re running any kind of exam, time is of the essence, so it’s really important to have a finger on the pulse and have direct access to your exam data.

If you’d like to learn more about the TestReach approach to prepare candidates for online exams, or to understand our real-time exam data tools, get in touch with our sales team at or request a demo here.