If this past year has taught me anything it’s that adaptability and empathy go a long way in an unpredictable world. Each of us have unique circumstances and challenges that – at the end of the day – we’re all just trying to navigate successfully. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that while online proctoring may not be new to us as test administrators, many test takers are remote testing rookies. They are still more used to taking a test in a physical center with an in-person proctor than in their office or home.
We’ve learned a lot during the recent rapid adoption of online proctoring, and we’ve listened to clients and test takers alike. One of the key takeaways is that some issues experienced by test takers could be prevented with improved communication and access to resources leading up to test day.
Experience has taught us that providing the best possible information prior to test day doesn’t just help prevent issues, it also goes a long way to alleviate test anxiety and ensure that the online proctoring experience for test takers is positive.
Provide some quick background
A helpful first step is taking the time to explain to test takers what online proctoring is and why your organization made the decision to make the move online. While any change can be stressful, we know that the majority of test takers value fairness and a level playing field when taking the tests for which they have studied so hard. Test takers are more likely to accept the move to online proctoring when they understand it is designed to maintain the high standards and integrity of a credential and ensure a fair testing environment.
It can be hard to explain online proctoring to someone who hasn’t experienced it before. For more visual learners, our candidate experience video helps them see first-hand what their online proctoring experience will look like. And for educators and instructors, it’s also useful to see what their students will experience on test day – particularly if they have never sat for an online proctored test themselves.
Emphasize pre-test compatibility checks
Our data reveals the most common issues test takers report during their online proctoring experience are related to unstable internet connectivity, lack of bandwidth, out of date operating systems, unsupported devices, or webcam issues. Unfortunately, many of these issues are out of a testing organization’s control. However, providing clear instructions to prepare test takers well in advance of test day can overcome most issues and offer alternatives as a contingency.
By running a simple System Compatibility Check on the device and internet they plan to use, your test takers can be sure their systems are good to go for online proctoring. Ideally, they will run the test around a week in advance of test day and again on test day itself. Email your test takers a link to the System Compatibility Check at these critical points and you’ll make it easy for them to be prepared – and avoid a lot of potential questions on test day.
Include a system requirements checklist like the one PSI has put together in your emails so test takers can confirm their device meets the minimum criteria for online proctoring prior to test day.
Advise prepping identification and testing environment
Another very common issue is test takers not coming to a test prepared with the required identity documents. Clear communication before test day about the ID documents needed to access a secure online test is a very simple way to address this. Let your test takers know they will need a valid government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. Be sure to reiterate that the name on the ID should match the name they are registered to take the test under.
Sharing guidelines for the ideal testing environment is equally important and will help to prevent a lot of issues. For example, they should arrange for access to a private, quiet, and well-lit location where the immediate testing space is clear and free from additional devices and belongings. This will ensure an online proctor is able to see a test taker’s face for ID verification and avoid online proctoring flags where individuals might appear to be accessing unauthorized materials.
It’s also a good idea to advise test takers to ask other members of their household or office not to enter the room while they are taking their online test. This will avoid unnecessary flags where test takers might appear to be colluding with another person. It may also be worthwhile to ask other people in the house not to use the internet during a test to alleviate bandwidth issues.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Finally, if your organization has any specific rules for online testing, share these beforehand so test takers aren’t caught off guard. This might be around eating, drinking, or taking bathroom breaks during a test, or how after a test attempt if they are permitted to reschedule. If test takers know the rules, they will adapt their behavior accordingly.
Educators know that individuals learn and remember through repetition. Studies vary, stating the optimum number of times to communicate is between 7 and 20, but they all agree that people need to see a message multiple times before it sinks in. Messages are more effective when they are repeated, so share the above advice and information on your website and in multiple emails to your test takers leading up to test day. Consider setting up a schedule of automated emails triggered by the countdown to the test.
These straightforward steps to improve communication will significantly reduce issues, incoming questions, calls, and emails. You will be freeing up internal resources for your organization and ensuring a smooth online proctoring experience for test takers.