Online proctoring: is this the end of the road for in-person exams?

By LanguageCert

It’s well-known that online examinations reduce costs and administrative burdens in comparison with in-person exams. Growth in e-learning means more online exams, with a significant rise in online proctoring. So does this mean the days of in-person examinations are numbered?

A range of factors in recent years have accelerated the popularity of online proctored exams. In 2023, modern technology now enables the highest levels of online exam security and integrity, offsetting previous concerns around their validity and reliability.

It means that many issues relating to both the candidates’ experience, and the requirements of people who need to verify and trust the validity of the results, have now been addressed.

Many people contend that online proctored exams are at the core of enabling candidates to achieve the qualifications they need.

Staff at language schools are amongst those recognising the benefits offered to students by online exams. Paul Clarke, who runs CSE Murcia, a language school based in Spain, says: ‘Online exams, and the flexibility they provide, are proving popular. The online system is secure and has the same validity and format as a paper exam. The tests follow the same principles and observe the same skills, and the online system allows students to take the test anytime, anywhere, any place.’

While ease of access is perhaps the most important consideration for candidates, the ‘secure’ and ‘valid’ elements that Clarke highlights are crucial in creating a trusted examination.

Having access to the right tools to ensure the technology used by examiners keeps pace with our fast-changing world is vital.

A number of measures can be taken to achieve the necessary high standards, including:

  • Online, live proctors that use a six-step verification process for all candidates
  • Software that ensures the candidate’s computer environment is carefully regulated, bringing security and fairness, locking down the device to make the live exam process itself as secure as possible
  • AI technology which assists the proctor in real time, alerting them of anything suspicious within the test-taker’s environment (such as background noises, movement, outside interference) and their exam performance (for example, keystrokes, timing of responses, head movements)
  • The ability to monitor candidates throughout the exam, just as in a physical exam room environment. This involves the invigilator checking the candidate’s surroundings via webcam, ensuring the exam is taking place without unfair help or additional materials.

LanguageCert delivers English language exams and professional work-based exams globally, online or in computer or paper-based format in-person at test centres. 

Recognising the ever-evolving nature of digital environments, LanguageCert has implemented a robust security framework – monitoring anti-fraud practises since 2019 to stay ahead of the curve. Its ExamShield software is an example of its field-leading technology, helping address the measures outlined in the bullets above. 

For an online examination to be possible, test takers need to be able to access a functioning computer, a webcam, a quiet room, uninterrupted electricity and a stable internet connection – none of which can be taken for granted.

So, while the broader language examination industry experienced an increase in online exams, in person-exams still have a place within the broader educational landscape. It’s definitely not the end of the road for candidates taking an examination in-person.

Being able to access and choose to take an exam at a physical test centre ensures that the exam process remains truly inclusive and accessible – giving the choice to the candidate.

Find out more by visiting the Language Cert website.