Maintaining exam integrity

Maintaining Exam Integrity

Exams completed without the supervision of an instructor or exam proctor are more vulnerable to breaches (e.g., being captured and shared among learners, possibly across different semesters). In addition, learners are more easily able to use outside resources or collaborate on the exam, possibly skewing their exam results. The following are some tips and considerations when designing an unsupervised exam. 

Difficulty: 4/5




Class of learners 

Core Competency Connection

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Sketch of three wolves on a grey gradient background





The Process

1. Use Question Groups

One of the best Canvas tools for maintaining exam security/integrity is Question Groups. Question Groups allow you to create a large group of questions and have Canvas randomly select a set number of questions for each learner‘s exam (they also shuffle the order of the questions!). With a large enough Question Group, each learner could potentially receive a different exam, making it more difficult for learners to collaborate on an exam or share exam content with others in a reliable way. You can create a Question Group that contains all your exam questions, or you can create a separate Question Group for each objective/topic you wish to assess, including multiple Question Groups in a single exam. 


2. Set some limits

Giving an overly generous time limit increases the opportunity for learners to depend on outside resources and/or collaborate with their classmates on the exam. Do your best to choose a time limit that allows learners enough time to complete the exam comfortably, without providing an excessive time cushion. (Note: Don’t forget to enter the required extended time settings if you have learners who require exam accommodations. Also, it’s a good idea to include an extra buffer of 510 minutes to allow learners to deal with technical difficulties should any come up during their exam.) 

3. Take me higher

Objective questions like multiple choice and matching questions are more easily captured and shared among learners. They’re also more easily answered if a learner is given answers by a classmate. Using question types like short answer and essay questions that can be designed to require higherlevel thinking requires heightened engagement and independence from learners completing an exam. 

4. Consider open-book exams

Be aware of the limitations of Respondus LockDown Browser (LDB)While the LDB’s ability to prevent web browsing and accessing of other applications is helpful, it is most effective in a proctored environment. Without a proctor present, the LDB will not prevent learners from accessing resources you may want to prohibit, like cell phones, notes, and classmates. Keeping that in mind, it may be most fair to design the exam to be openbook for all learners when proctoring is not available, using the other tips in this guide. 

5. Prepare to rebuild

Be prepared to rebuild the exam (or expand Question Groups) for future semestersSince its impossible (without a proctor) to prevent learners from capturing exams (by taking pictures or videos) and sharing them with others, a new exam may need to be created each semester. Keep in mind that higherlevel questions (described earlier) are more easily replaced if exam content is breached, since they tend to be faster and easier to construct than quality multiple choice questions. If you can’t recreate the entire exam, it’s a good idea to work on expanding your Question Groups each semester to develop more variety in each learner‘s exam.

Cameron Reimer

Testing Services Coordinator

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