Assessing Quizzes and Exams

This section explores the assessment of student learning using exams and quizzes and also provides guidance from the Office of the Vice-Provost on the conduct of examinations. Examples of this type of assessment include:

  • an oral exam;
  • small quizzes throughout the term;
  • midterm and final exams;
  • open-book and take-home exams.
Conduct of Examinations (Information from Office of the Vice-Provost)

This information is provided as a guide to student conduct during term and final examinations in all courses, including those delivered in-person on campus and those delivered remotely.

Note: Students should be aware that if they are deemed to have violated the rules of conduct for exams, their actions may also be in violation of the Code of Student Behaviourr. Amendments to the Code of Student Behaviour occur throughout the year. The official version of the Code of Student Behaviour, as amended from time to time, is housed on the University Governance website at www.governance.ualberta.ca.

Conduct of Exams, and thus any of the following steps in the conduct of exams, are subject to exceptions in cases of accommodation for students as per the Discrimination, Harassment and Duty to Accommodate Policy and the Duty to Accommodate Procedure. The Academic Success Centre is the office responsible for providing specialized support and accessibility services, and is guided by the mandate of the University of Alberta’s Policy for Students with Disabilities.

  1. Student Identification: Students taking exams in-person (i.e., physically in-person onsite at the University of Alberta campuses) and through online proctored exams (i.e., in person but remotely via teleconference) are required to validate their identities by providing their student ID numbers and signatures, and by presenting their student ID cards (ONEcard) or other acceptable photo identification. Students who are unable to present valid identification at the time of the exam will not be permitted to take the exam. Sign-on with a CCID may be required to access exam material. For physical in-person examinations, instructors are advised to circulate an attendance sheet and verify student ID numbers and signatures.

  2. Permitted References and Aids: Only those items specifically authorized by the instructor may be brought into the exam facility or remote testing environment. The use of unauthorized personal listening, communication, recording, photographic and/or computational devices or software, as well as unauthorized written notes, reference materials or other course materials, is strictly prohibited. Redistribution of exam material, in any form, violates the Code of Student Behaviour. Proctoring services (e.g., Smart Exam Lock) and/or exam delivery software (e.g., Exam Lock) may be used to prevent navigating away from the exam and to record the computer screen during the exam.

  3. Registration: Students may not be present in an exam or take an exam in a course section in which they are not registered.

  4. Arriving and Leaving: When an exam has a specific and single time, students must arrive at the specified time to take the exam. Once the exam has started, students must remain in the physical in-person or online proctored remote environment for at least 30 minutes. Students who arrive 30 or more minutes late for the scheduled start of the exam, whether physically in-person or remotely, will not be permitted to take the exam. When an exam is available over a period of time, the exam must be completed within the time specified.

  5. Communications: During the exam, all communications must be addressed to the instructor or exam proctor. Students will not, under any circumstances, or by any means, communicate with persons other than the instructor and/or exam proctor in the exam environment, or share any part of the examination, leave their answers exposed to view, or in any way share with others any part of the examination.

  6. Brief Absence from an Exam: Students who need to use the washroom during a physical in-person exam must leave their exam materials in the custody of the proctor or supervisor and retrieve them upon their return. No extra time will be given for absences. In a remote exam environment, the student must notify the instructor or proctor of the need to leave the exam and suspend work on the exam during that period. Students must leave the exam open and proctoring system on and should note that the exam time will continue to count down in their absence.

  7. Cancellation of the Exam: If a student suddenly is unable to finish the exam due to unexpected medical or physical circumstance, or similarly disruptive event, the student must inform the instructor or proctor immediately, submit the unfinished exam, and request that the exam be cancelled.

Students may provide supporting documentation by way of a form from the student's Faculty or a statutory declaration. Medical notes cannot be required. In cases other than illness, adequate documentation must be provided. For more information, contact your faculty or visit What to do when you are sick (students) on the Office of the Registrar website.

Final Exams
The student must provide documentation and apply to their Faculty for a deferred exam within two working days following the cancelled final exam or as soon as the student is able, having regard to the circumstances underlying the cancellation. Students should consult their Faculty for detailed information on requirements. (Also see
Absence from Final Exams for details.)

Term Exams
Instructors may use their discretion to request supporting documentation. The student must contact the instructor within two working days of the exam or as soon as the student is able, having regard to the circumstances underlying the cancellation and present supporting documentation to the instructor if requested.

Requests to cancel and reschedule an exam which has already been written and submitted will not be considered. However, students may apply for a deferred examination under extenuating circumstances. A student who requests a deferred examination citing extenuating circumstances which are later determined to be false will be liable under the Code of Student Behaviour.

End of Exam
When the signal is given to end the exam, students must promptly cease taking the exam. If a student does not stop at the signal, the instructor or proctor has the discretion either not to grade the exam or to lower the grade on the examination.
Preparing for Online Proctoring

Although online proctoring programs are imperfect and can lead to unintended challenges, some members of the community do need to continue to use them for the time being. The University of Alberta provides technical support for two online proctoring programs: SEM and Examlock. You can find advice about using SEM and Examlock by visiting IST’s website.

If you need to use SEM or Examlock, there are strategies you can use to mitigate the challenges of online proctoring.

Here are some steps you can take as an instructor to help your students prepare for an exam using SEM or Examlock:

  • Set aside 1-2 hours time to learn how to use SEM or Examlock before using it with your students.
  • Consider which of the system’s features you actually need to utilize; use the minimum number of features to meet your needs.
  • Clearly explain the rules and expectations of the exam and how they relate to the proctoring software. Explain their purpose and how you will enforce them.
  • Remind students that you would reach out to them directly if you have any real concerns about misconduct. If they don’t hear from you, they have nothing to worry about.
  • Explain that a flag by the system is nothing more than an indication for you or your TA to check a few seconds of screen capture or video to see if there was an issue.
  • Make it clear that students will only be penalized for flags if you see evidence of misconduct - reassure them that the majority of flags will be easily and quickly dismissed.
  • Run a couple of practice sessions to let your students try out the software.
  • Ensure students have opportunities to practice with the software in advance of the exam. This will allow them to be more comfortable with how it works which can help reduce anxiety.
  • Let your students know who to contact and how to contact them if they encounter any challenges using the proctoring software or any challenges during the actual exam - the sooner the better. This might mean contacting you or your TA.
  • Contact the IST eClass team 780.492.9372 or eClass@ualberta.ca if you are unsure about how to address a technical problem.
  • Consider extending the window of time to write the exam. For example, if you’ve designed an exam to take 2 hours, offer a 3 or 4 hour window to complete it (this extended time may also assist with some exam accommodations).
  • Consider making your exam open book.
  • Be generous when assessing whether misconduct has occurred and remember that taking an exam in the privacy of your own home is not the same as sitting in an exam hall.

Additionally, you may want to book a consultation with CTL to discuss alternative assessment options for future semesters. They may be able to help you find ways to further limit the use of online proctoring software while still meeting your assessment needs.

This information has been provided by the University of Alberta Online Learning Task Force in Spring 2021.

Creating Effective Open-Book Exams

Open-Book Exams (OBE) are a great assessment option especially for an online course. This 15 minute webinette will provide you with some information and strategies to help you create an effective open-book exam. Watch here

Evaluating Large Classes Online
Over the past year, many questions about assessing students in online and remote environments have surfaced. Should instructors use proctoring software? If they choose not to, how can they assess students and maintain academic integrity? Can instructors assess students in large, remote classes without proctoring software and without exponentially increasing their marking workload? In this webinar, participants' will have the opportunity to share their experiences, successes, and less than successful attempts with assessing large courses online. Drawing on these experiences and participants' questions, evidence-based and practicable strategies to assess students in large, online courses will be provided. Watch here.
Pedagogical Strategies for Online Final Assessments

This series of five resources is designed as a "one-stop shop" for your final assessment needs. Whether you're trying to create an effective online closed-book exam, an open-book quiz on eClass, or considering an alternative to a traditional exam, information within these five resources will have you heading in the right direction.

Preparing Students for Remote Exams

Share the Student FAQs for Remote Delivery from the Dean of Students Office with your students. We would recommend discussing these FAQs and their responses with your students prior to their first exam in your course.

Randomization Options for eClass Quizzes

Many instructors would like to randomize the questions in their eClass quizzes, however there are a few different approaches to accomplishing this. This video will cover three approaches to randomizing questions. Watch here.

Six Points When Assessing Using Online Examinations

There are six main points you need to think about when assessing using examinations online:

  1. Is an exam the most effective method to assess learning outcomes?
  2. Are exams/quizzes in this course going to be synchronous or asynchronous?
  3. Is this a formative assessment or a summative assessment?
  4. How often will students complete exams throughout the course?
  5. What types of questions will I ask my students and how will I layout my exam?
  6. Does the examination need to be proctored?

1. Is an exam the most effective method to assess learning outcomes?

Exams can be an efficient way of assessing student learning. However, the traditional, written examination is very difficult to replicate in the online environment. To determine whether an exam or quiz is the best choice, you are encouraged to read Common Forms of Assessment: Exams and Quizzes Can (or Should) I Give an Exam. If you judge that an exam is the best way of assessing your learning outcomes, consider these supplementary questions:

  1. Will this be an open book exam?
  2. How might I design an exam which requires students to apply knowledge?
  3. Realistically, how much time will students need for this exam (as strict time limits can improve the integrity of an exam)?

The document Alternatives to Traditional Exams will explain how you might assess beyond the traditional, closed-book, written exam and will provide information on open-book, take-home, and oral exams.

In eClass, the Quiz tool can be used as a course exam.

Information is available about maintaining academic integrity in examinations and quizzes.

2. Are exams/quizzes in this course going to be synchronous or asynchronous?

In a traditional, face-to-face course, instructors typically deliver exams/quizzes to all of their students at the same time and in the same place. This is called synchronous assessment (assessment of learning). Instructors must be aware of the impact a synchronous assessment will have on international students who are studying in other time zones. For example, an examination at two in the afternoon in Edmonton is one in the morning in Islamabad, three in the morning in Bangkok and four in the morning in Shanghai.

Asynchronous exams/quizzes can occur over a longer period of time with students writing the exam/quiz when they are available. This does not mean that students have the entire duration of the exam to write. For example, an instructor may set an exam to allow students to write for 1 hour after they have started but the exam itself is open from Monday at 9 a.m. to Tuesday at 4 pm. One student may decide to write this exam from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday; international students living in Malaysia could take the exam at 4 p.m. their time (2 a.m. Edmonton). As this example suggests, asynchronous exams/quizzes are particularly useful in courses where there are students in time zones other than Edmonton.

Both asynchronous and synchronous exams have their pros and cons. Asynchronous exams allow for more flexibility in the students' lives. However, synchronous exams prevent students from sharing questions with their peers who plan to write it later (note: eClass does have the capability to produce different versions of quizzes using random questions). Your choice will depend on your course, your content, and the contexts of your students.

3. Is this a formative or a summative assessment?

Formative assessment (assessment for learning) provides the students and instructor with feedback about their learning. Typically, formative assessment does not contribute to the calculation of a students' grade in the course. Quizzes are excellent tools to provide formative assessment opportunities since instructors can use automatically-graded questions to give students immediate feedback about their progress. Consider including multiple-choice questions to 'check in' on students' learning throughout the course using short quizzes after videos or even ePoll during class. These quick, formative assessments provides students with a no-stakes opportunity to check their understanding and they give the instructor an idea of how students' learning is progressing. Summative assessment (assessment of learning) is what most instructors will be familiar with when we use the term 'exam.' These assessments evaluate students' learning and provide a judgement (or grade) rating performance. These will typically occur at the end of a topic, unit, or course.

4. How often will students complete exams throughout the course?

In a face-to-face course, where exams need to be photocopied, rooms proctored, and student IDs verified, it makes sense to limit the number of exams given during a course - especially for a large class! However, all of these factors are not part of the online learning environment so that might change things for instructors.

Dr. Roger Graves, in this podcast on academic integrity, discusses how high-stakes assessments make it more tempting for students to cheat. Knowing this, instructors might consider giving shorter exams/quizzes more often throughout their online course. Assuming the weighting of exam grades remains the same (say 30% for a traditional midterm is now 30% for exams throughout the course), this turns one high-stakes test into a series of low-stakes exams. Students get feedback on their progress more frequently throughout a course and they are less anxious about writing large exams.

5. What types of questions will I ask my students and how will I layout my exam?

Giving exams using the eClass Quiz tool offers instructors a variety of options for questions they might ask. Some of these questions are graded automatically and others require that the submission and graded. The automatically-graded questions can be particularly useful for those courses with a high ratio of students to markers but it is easier for students to share answers. To mitigate this issue, consider using the randomize-question tool on eClass. We suggest familiarizing yourself with all the types of questions which could be asked on an eClass quiz before planning your exam as this will make it easier to design your exam online.

For those instructors giving auto-graded and written-response type questions, it may be helpful to separate your exam into two different quizzes on eClass. In doing so, instructors are able to better control the amount of time students have to complete each section and this is beneficial for a few reasons. First, we suggest giving students approximately one minute for each multiple-choice question on a quiz; the time for a written-response question will vary depending on the question itself. So, if an instructor has an exam which has 45 multiple choice questions and one written question but gives students 60 minutes to complete the exam, students may not realize this should translate into 15 minutes (at least) to be spent on the written question and they may run out of time. Second, also related to time management, some students may be tempted to verify every auto-graded question before progressing; this is a common issue with open-book exams and students inevitably do not complete the exam. Having your exam in two separate sections forces time management on the multiple-choice and also sends a clear message to students that they should not (and cannot) verify every question before moving on.

For more information about using eClass, visit the IST eClass Support Knowledgebase or contact the eClass team at eclass@ualberta.ca or 780.492.9372.

6. Does the examination need to be proctored?

If you need to proctor your examination, it is recommended you read the document FOIP Notification Statement & Important Information to Prepare for Remote Proctoring of an Exam or Assessment Session.

Links to IST Support Pages