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So, Your Next Exam is Proctored? Here is What to Expect

November 30, 2020

So, Your Next Exam is Proctored? Here is What to Expect
You have an exam coming up and you are preparing to book the time and location to take it. Others have told you that the exam is proctored, but what does that mean and what will the exam environment look like?  Can you bring a snack? Is your favourite pen or pencil permitted? It is important to understand what is involved in a proctored exam so that you can relax when you arrive and do your best.

What Is A Proctored Exam?

Proctored exams are unlike the tests you probably experienced in your high school education. Typically, content is created by a teacher, school, or ministry responsible for the educational content and someone from your school oversees the exam process. However, a proctored exam is different. They are often required by colleges, universities, regulatory bodies and other examining organizations and are administered by a professional testing provider. Those who create the exam, or require it, are not present during the test, so in a proctored exam environment, no one is able to answer questions about exam content. The administrators, known as proctors, are experts in conducting examinations. They are not versed in the content of the exam. While there are both in-person and online proctoring services, this blog will focus on the in-person exam format.

The Experience

You will likely find that a proctored exam has a more stringent delivery than other types of exams. Any materials you bring with you will be checked and stored so that you can not access them during the exam. This includes books, large accessories (hats, scarves) and devices (phones, tablets). The removal of materials, constant monitoring of the room and careful review of identification compared to the test-taker all but eliminates the ability to cheat. These controls ensure a standardized exam-taking experience regardless of whether the organization requiring the exam uses one testing provider in one location or multiple testing providers around the world. Each testing provider must prove they are able to achieve the same level of control required by the organization. Upon arrival, test-takers must check-in using ID and information that reflects the information used to register for the exam. The exact spelling of names is essential. At this point, you may need to go through a biometric process to further confirm your identity. You will be assigned a locker or storage area for your belongings and shown to the exam room. Definitely plan to arrive early so that you can go through the processes and get settled well before the exam begins.

What To Expect

While each professional testing provider has their own setup for exam rooms, the basics remain constant. Expect standardized desks or tables and chairs with enough distance between them to prevent one test-taker from seeing the work of another person. The exam materials will be specified by the organization that requires the exam. It may be a computer and blank note paper or in some cases, paper exams are still used. You may be able to bring your favourite pen or pencil, but you will need to review the registration information when you sign up for your exam to confirm what is permitted. Some proctored exams allow for more flexibility, such as those that are an open book test where test-takers are able to bring in their own reference materials with notes. Other exams are extremely rigid and only the paper and writing instrument provided may be used.

The Role of Proctors

The exam administrator, or the proctor, will oversee the exam to ensure there is no cheating and provide replacement materials as needed, such as a sharpened pencil or more notepaper. They can answer questions about the length of time available, the tools used or the exam format. Proctors and their assistants watch the exam environment by walking around the room as well as looking on from a viewing area. This ensures all student movements can be monitored during the exam.


Exam proctoring services are required by many organizations for their exams. This is one way to ensure a standardized process through a neutral delivery method. If you are pursuing a professional designation, post-secondary program or another life or career advancement that involves education and testing, you will likely need to take a proctored exam.