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Administering Remote Exams

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Administering exams online presents particular challenges regarding facilitation, equity, and academic integrity. These suggestions may help you in ensuring a successful online exam.

Consider alternatives to an exam

When feasible, first consider adapting exams into more manageable assessments. High-stakes, single-performance assessments such as mid-term and final exams can be challenging to facilitate in fully online courses. These high-pressure assessments can also be stressful for students and may not provide the most holistic evaluation of their learning.

For example, you might adapt exams into smaller assessments throughout the quarter, or use different modes of assessment other than exams such as projects, presentations, or portfolios.

Optimize exams for online formats

Consider the following recommendations for designing successful online exams.

Design the exam as open-book

Design with the understanding that remote exams must be open-book and open-resource. This means that students can consult textbooks, search online, read their notes, and so on while completing an exam. However, sites that provide tutoring, online translation, and paper-writing services are considered forms of unpermitted aid.

Assess higher-level thinking skills

Design questions that measure higher-level thinking skills, such as the evaluation of data, rebuttal to an argument, or proposal of a solution, rather than recall or application questions that students can search for online.

Hold the exam during regular times

Consider holding the exam during a regularly scheduled class period so students can more easily plan their day and avoid conflicts with their other courses. 

Use time-stamping

Use electronic time-stamping features in tools such as Canvas Assignment or Gradescope to set time limits.

Facilitating an online exam

These suggestions can help your online exams go smoothly.

Prepare your students

  • Remind students of the exam logistics (when the exam will be administered, how to access the exam, etc.) and supplies they should have available (a laptop, power cord, phone for scanning documents, calculator, a quiet place to work, etc.).
  • Decide how you will respond should a student experience technical difficulties or lose internet access during the exam and communicate this to students in advance.
  • Acknowledge that students may be feeling anxious or worried while preparing for the exam and that this is normal. Explain how the exam fits with the course’s overall goals and what it will measure. Remind students that this is one of many opportunities to demonstrate their learning in the course. 
  • Provide multiple opportunities to answer questions and clarify expectations.
  • Consider hosting a practice exam for students before the real exam. This might include having students:
    • Walkthrough downloading and uploading the exam.
    • Access TA help during the exam to get questions answered.
    • Practice answering questions and uploading content.  

During the exam

  • Maintain a clear channel of communication for students to ask instructors and TAs questions during the exam.
  • If the exam is administered during a short window, such as during the scheduled class meeting period, consider having a Zoom session open for students to ask clarification questions. Set up the Zoom with a waiting room so that students can be admitted one at a time.
  • Provide time markers or suggested lengths of time to spend on a question or section.
  • If the exam will be open for a longer period of time, such as 24 hours, consider assigning instructors and TAs to shifts so someone will be available throughout the exam period via email, Slack, or Zoom.

Tools for online exams

The following academic technology tools are helpful when administering online exams.

Google Drive, Box, or Canvas Files

These tools can be used to store and share exam files. Refer to best practices for posting exam files on Canvas so students have access to files at the right time. You can then set up for students to return the exam through Canvas or Gradescope.

Canvas Quiz and Assignment

The Canvas Quiz tool is useful for question-based exams that can be completed with only a keyboard and mouse and may include a mixture of question types. Use Canvas Assignments for uploading essays or projects.


Students can upload printed and scanned PDF’s directly to Gradescope for handwritten exams or essays, or multiple-choice exams that use a bubble sheet or scantron form.

Instructors can create assignments in Gradescope that students log-in to and take. Gradescipe assignments can have time limits if students have constant internet access. Assignments and exams can be downloaded from Canvas, then students can upload completed work to Gradescope as a PDF file. 

Gradescope’s Help Center has more information about the types of assignments that can be created and administered through Gradescope. 


Administer synchronous oral exams or presentations on Zoom. You might schedule individual timeslots for private exams or have students present in front of each other as audiences.

Learn more

Pedagogic strategies

Relevant policies and interpretation of the Honor Code