5 Ways Test Proctors Help Students

5 Ways Test Proctors Help Students
Summary: Exam time is stressful and it’s even worse during the uncertain times wrought by COVID. Dr. Ashley Norris explains how proctored exams run and the role of live proctors, who can be helpers rather than police.

Getting Familiar With Live Proctoring

For millions of students and other test-takers, dealing with an online proctor is a new experience. Being new, it may add complexity and uncertainty to the already stress-filled exam process. That’s understandable.

Even so, there’s good evidence that most anxiety related to using a remote test observer is tied to its novelty, not the process of proctoring itself. Several schools have found, for example, that discomfort and confusion go down and satisfaction goes up when students can take a practice test with a live proctor. Ratings and comments from students also shoot up in relation to how many times they use a remote proctor.

One reason that student sentiment moves in a positive direction after using proctors is that they learn that proctors can be very helpful during exams, even allowing many students to make educational progress in the first place. Because it’s not something most people think about, here are 5 ways remote proctors help students achieve their education and assessment goals.

1. Rewarding The Honest Student

The clearest, most straight-forward way that proctors help students is by ensuring a test environment that is fair for everyone. Professors and colleges set the test rules: how long it is, what resources are allowed or prohibited. But someone has to enforce those standards, which is difficult to do when students are spread across the globe.

Since it’s obviously unfair to have some students follow the rules while others don’t, that’s where remote proctors make a big difference. By stopping cheating, by giving everyone the same opportunity to show their knowledge, proctors play a big role in guaranteeing that students who actually study and do the work aren’t overlooked or bypassed by those who take shortcuts.

2. Test Access

The director of testing at a very large university recently told me that she really liked remote proctored exams in part because of the access it gave to students requiring special accommodations. She told me that for these students, exams are often really just a test of who can physically get to campus which, for many students, is a stressor all on its own.

In these cases, remote testing with a live proctor levels the playing field. It allows students to avoid complicated, even suppressive obstacles to learning by letting them take tests at home, in their own environment, often on their own schedule, allowing them to manage medical needs, chronic allergies, phobias, and oppressive travel logistics.

3. Tech Issues

A common fear of first-time remote test-takers is technology-related—what happens if I cannot sign in or my WiFi goes wonky?

Though rare, as with any internet technology, that can happen. And if it does, it’s very helpful to have a live person who can help, in real time. We’ve all had the frustration of trying to wade through help guides or wait in the queue for a chatbot. Instead, live remote proctors can intercede directly and in real time to solve or navigate many common technology challenges, speeding access to the exam and mitigating technology frustrations.

4. The Honest Broker

Sometimes, things go wrong even when you’re well prepared. Kids cry, cats jump on keyboards, the power goes out.

When those things happen, having a live proctor and a record of the test session can be very reassuring because the proctor can be an honest broker, a neutral observer providing evidence in favor of the test-taker. You’d probably be surprised how often this happens, how often proctors write reports to professors saying the test-taker did nothing wrong, an issue was a fluke, an error. That’s important because sometimes the dog does eat your homework and it’s great to be able to verify it.

5. Simple Convenience 

Not all, but many remote exams can be scheduled on the student’s time, not the school’s. Within reason, naturally. But the simple ability to have say, 48 hours to take an exam, when it’s convenient for the test-taker, is a real asset.

Too often, emergencies happen. Some people prefer to take a big test before a work shift instead of after. Other students may maximize the extra day to study or focus on another exam. Recently, one test-taker needed help because an exam was scheduled for the same day and time as her son’s high school graduation. Whatever the reason, taking a test on your terms with a remote proctor can lower stress levels and improve performance.

That’s only possible with remote test proctors providing liberal access to a test while also safeguarding integrity—making sure that someone who took the test Tuesday morning cannot copy it and pass off to others who are testing on Wednesday afternoon.

As more students take online tests with live proctors, we will all get very accustomed to these benefits. Until then, there will be some pains of newness. But those who’ve done it, teachers and schools who use remote proctoring frequently, can attest that proctors provide some real and sizable benefits for students.