What is an Online Proctored Exam?

I still grew up in the “go to class and fill out a test paper”-era and when I tried my first online exam to get a certificate I was surprised how well that works.

So what is on Online Proctored Exam? During an online proctored exam your computer is controlled by a proctoring software issued by the test center to monitor you. It will record you with a webcam including audio and prohibits you from accessing anything else on your computer.

But there are a couple of other things you need to be aware of before attempting to pass an online test.

What exactly are the steps to take an online test?

Preparations: I always make sure the following conditions are met and never ran into any trouble.

  • Have your ID readyEnsure the room is bright enough
  • Nothing except your computer should be on the table.
  • Your mobile should be switched off
  • If possible deactivate the doorbell
  • Try to be alone and make sure your pets are in another room or better, taken care of by another person so that they do not suddenly start to make noise
  • Make sure you went to the toilet before the test, you cannot leave your chair during the exam
  • Make sure there is no scheduled power outage or maintenance of your internet provider
  • If you are not alone inform everybody of your exam and ask your family members not do overuse the internet with uploads or watching Netflix etc. If you get disconnected your exam is over.
  • Doublecheck your cables and connections, remember you can under no circumstance leave your seat
  • Ensure you deactivate and terminate all apps on your computer that could open a popup. Especially update your OS, Windows is known for suddenly updating your system.
  • Have mercy with the proctor, don’t sit there in your underpants.

If you do get disconnected (happened once to me) and you can explain the reason you might be allowed to retake the exam without having to pay again. But don’t count on it.

Before the test: After you found an online vendor of the certificate you want to obtain and are prepared to take the test (I did many of my exams with Exin and it always worked flawlessly) you usually need to download some kind of software. This software will check your PC, Webcam, Audio System, Internet speed etc. to make sure your device is suitable for the exam. After this is confirmed you usually need to identify yourself by showing some form of Identity (Passport, ID card) into the camera alongside your face.

The test begins: After your ID is sent and the recording starts you are usually asked to take your camera or notebook and do a 360 degree shot of your surroundings. The recording will not be stopped anymore of course. Once you are ready press the start button an the timer will start.

During the test: Usually, there is nothing else to do you wouldn’t do in a regular exam. Focus on the questions and try to answer them calmly. I always try to keep my eyes on the screen. Turning around or looking left, right, or over the notebook might be interpreted as a cheating attempt. Don’t be to stressed about it, if you look up for a moment to think about something you will not be disqualified. Once you have answered everything, reviewed your responses and are confident you are done press the submit button and the recording stops. 

After the test: This is usually the best part. No driving, waiting for the subway or walking home. You can immediately open a bottle of wine or beer and celebrate. Of course, you will not be told the result immediately because the proctor needs to view your video first. It then doesn’t take more than a few days until you get your results.

What are the benefits of proctored exams?

The obvious reasons, of course, are that you save money and time to get to a test center. These centers are usually not available in every city and depending on where you live that can get very expensive.

Another benefit that you decide when the exam starts. Have a good breakfast get ready, meditate and when you are ready to start the exam. No fear and stress of not catching the bus, get stuck in traffic or not finding the address.

A huge advantage is that you are alone. Not only will your environment most certainly be much quieter, but there will also be no interruptions from people going to the toilet or cleaning their nose, coughing or doing other nerve-wracking things like tapping on the table.

An even bigger advantage of being alone is that you avoid these people who usually approach you before an exam to make you nervous about all the things they don’t know and that were so difficult to remember.

What are the disadvantages of proctored exams?

Certainly, the biggest disadvantage is that unexpected events end your exam. No matter how much you answered up to that point if your electricity is gone, your internet disconnects or a water pipe bursts your exam is over.

Another thing is that not all exams are available online. Especially when they are very long like my 4h ethical hacker exam where a short toilet break is very likely you will not be able to take them online. Also, open book exams where you are allowed to use certain materials like a dictionary or even just a notebook and a pen are unlikely to be online because it is hard to check those utensils prior to the test.

I remember during my first online exam I felt a bit uncomfortable. Being on camera and filming your home seemed like an invasion of privacy. I forgot the video during the exam though and my second online exam did not give me that uneasy feeling anymore.

The last thing is that you do not get your result immediately. Though I mostly know if I passed or not a little uncertainty remains until you get your confirmation email. So the Intense feeling of success is unfortunately delayed for a couple of days.

Is cheating possible during an online exam?

Certainly, it is, after years of information security experience I am convinced that every system can be cheated. Though it is difficult because in the end you are evaluated by a human there are blogs and videos on youtube on how to cheat in online tests. I would not recommend it because you will, of course, lose your exam fee when you are caught and in the end, it is not about passing the exam but learning the material and prove to yourself that you are an expert now. 

What are the reasons your proctored exam might be terminated?

The most common versions of proctored exams are where your session is recorded and evaluated later. There are real-time proctored tests available but that takes away some of the advantages and they are more expensive. The Proctor will view the recording in a speed up manner and look for suspicious activities by your or in the background. Avoid turning your head, or reaching out of the area the camera captures. Also, make sure that it is quiet and stays quiet. Whispers, sounds of your pet in the background or even reading the questions out aloud should be avoided. If you are using an external webcam make sure it is attached on top of your screen and has the right angle to capture you and the background. Do not use any unusual hardware (like a PS3 controller instead of the mouse).

Related questions

What is advance automated proctoring? AI is getting better and better and so it is no surprise that automated proctoring system become more and more available. The monitor voice acticity and can not only recognize your face and the direction you look but also discover suspicious elements in the background.

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