Virtually Proctored Exams

Virtually proctored exams utilize technology to provide more flexible and secure exam environments. Before committing to these platforms, you should review their benefits, drawbacks and considerations in order to make informed decisions for instructors and students.

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  • Flexible location and time. Virtually proctored exams often allow students to take assessments at a time and place that works with their schedule as per the exam’s availability. 
  • Adaptable for various class sizes. Online exams can be scaled to fit any class size (i.e., 20 students in a single class or 300 in multiple sections).
  • Verification of students’ identities. Virtual proctoring platforms allow the instructor to customize exam entry requirements for all test takers such as presenting photo identification. 
  • Enhanced exam security and improved academic integrity. These platforms create more secure environments by customizing exam settings, such as availability and prevention of saving and sharing exam questions.
  • Cost effective. Although some live proctoring services are expensive, UB provides both Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor at no additional cost for enrolled students.
  • Ease of grading. Most paper-based exams can be easily converted into online exams. Other features like testing pools and question randomization generates various versions of the exam. Further, many question types can be graded automatically.  
  • Automated reports. Virtually proctored exams provide a report for each test taker. It will flag suspicious activity for the instructor’s review.  


  • Technology reliance. Online exams require stable internet connections and capable devices that meet the platform’s minimum requirements. Additionally, some protocol require test takers to use multiple devices, resulting in participation gaps or additional costs. 
  • False incidents. These systems are not 100% accurate when monitoring test takers’ activities. Students could potentially be flagged for misconduct that did not actually occur. Reviewing flagged incidences can be time consuming but it is important that the instructor verifies suspicious behavior before implementing sanctions.
  • Accessibility limitations. Virtually proctored exams can create barriers for students who require testing accommodations. These can be related to the physical testing environment, adaptive technology use, time-allotment or other accommodations such as taking breaks during the exam.
  • Inequitable environments. Students may not have access to ideal testing environments where a quiet, private, distraction-free space is feasible.
  • Student privacy infringement. Virtual proctoring platforms may require photo, biometric or location identification from test takers in addition to recording them and their surroundings for extended periods of time. The storage of the sensitive information and recordings must also be taken into consideration. 
  • Heightened stress or anxiety. Virtually proctored exams may make students uncomfortable or even elicit fear. For example, a student may be more conscious of their behaviors, afraid of being flagged, resulting in decreased focus on the exam questions.
  • Additional costs. Virtually proctored exams may result in additional costs for students, whether this is for the platform itself or the technology needed to take the exam such as adequate lighting, a second device, a webcam, a microphone, etc.

Faculty Considerations

  • Be transparent. Tell students why a specific platform is being used, how assessments will be delivered as well as the technologies required to take the assessment. Additionally, inform students on how their results will be analyzed and what to do if they need alternative arrangements or testing accommodations.
  • Communicate expectations and consequences. Proactively inform students of the expectations before, during and after testing. Identify processes, policies and procedures that both the instructor and students will follow. Well before the exam, share how flagged incidences will be reviewed as well as potential sanctions for inappropriate behaviors.
  • Develop protocol to review and adjudicate possible violations. Students may be flagged for many reasons and “false positives” can occur. It is important to review reports carefully to prevent bias or inaccurate conclusions.   
  • Consider alternative testing environments. Not all students will have ideal at-home testing environments. Some students may feel uncomfortable taking virtually proctored exams or may be unable to use the program due to accommodations. Be proactive and suggest alternative solutions for students who may need them.
  • Provide practice opportunities. The day of the virtually proctored exam should not be the first time students are exposed to a particular platform or testing environment. Help students become comfortable with both the technology and environment in which they will take the exam.  
  • Be flexible. Remember that students’ lives extend beyond the walls of the classroom. Work with students to help alleviate concerns, especially if technical difficulties or unanticipated events occur during the exam.
  • Be prepared and develop an alternative plan. Technology concerns can arise for one or more students at any given time. Prepare a backup plan in the event technology fails on the day of the exam.  
  • Be available during the exam window. Hold the exam time on your calendar and let students know your availability as well as preferred contact methods. This step is especially important if the assessment can be taken over an extended period of time. For example, if the exam can be submitted until 11:59pm but the instructor is only available until 10pm, clearly state this.  
  • Design the exam in a meaningful way. Few proctoring methods are 100% reliable and academic dishonesty can arise. When developing assessments, consider using questions that require original thought and critical thinking, removing the likelihood of searching for answers online. Other strategies include using test pools or randomization to generate multiple versions of the same exam.
  • Differentiate assessment methods. Move beyond multiple choice answers and consider ways to assess more cognitively complex skills. Relying solely on summative assessments leaves out many opportunities to provide formative and alternative assessments. As always, align assessments with course learning outcomes and decide if there are other ways to demonstrate achievement aside from midterms and finals. 

Student Considerations

  • Read the syllabus. Familiarize yourself with course requirements and exam expectations. Prepare ahead of time for virtually proctored exams to avoid last minute issues in procuring equipment. 
  • Gather the necessary technology. Review the technology needed to take the exam. Items like webcams, microphones, laptops and adequate lighting are common. Some exams may require a second recording device. If you need assistance with obtaining the proper equipment, contact your instructor or University Libraries.  
  • Practice using the testing platform. Take advantage of any practice test opportunities. During this time, become familiar with the process of taking an exam as well as working through any technology issues that may arise. If possible, work from the same environment as exam day.  
  • Ask questions and get support. If part of the directions or procedures are confusing, ask questions prior to the assessment date. If testing accommodations are needed, proactively discuss this with the instructor.
  • Prepare a testing environment. Determine the location that will work best for taking a virtually proctored exam. Find a space that is quiet, private and free from background noise and distractions.  
  • Communicate your expectations. If you plan to take an exam at home, communicate your needs with people in your household. Let them know the date and time of the exam and ask them to limit their internet use and noise for its duration. During the exam, consider putting a sign on the door to communicate that the test is in progress.

Additional Resources