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4 Strategies to Help Faculty Reduce Student Test Anxiety

Four ways faculty can help reduce student test anxiety

  • Only apply test settings that you’re prepared to act on
  • Tell students what actions can trigger flags
  • Provide a practice exam and incentivize them to complete it
  • Keep the big picture in mind when viewing proctoring results

Student test anxiety is a growing concern for many institutions as online learning and testing have become more common.

This growing concern is part of the reason that Honorlock and the University of North Alabama conducted a student test anxiety survey to learn:

  1. What causes test anxiety for students?
  2. Ways instructors can help students reduce test anxiety
  3. How online proctoring, such as Honorlock, can help reduce student test anxiety

Click here to see the survey results which show that online proctoring can help reduce student test anxiety

Jill Simpson, PhD, Assistant Professor and Instructional Technologist at UNA, provided four tips to reduce student test anxiety:

1. Only apply settings that you’re prepared to act on

“It’s easy to turn on Honorlock online proctoring and use all the settings, but you may consider only applying settings that you’re ready to take action on,” Simpson said.

For example, if you want to allow students to use books during the exam, tell Honorlock proctors not to flag any books during the room scan. But you can still indicate that no other people can be in the room during the exam.

Another example is that you may want to allow students to use other applications on their device, such as spreadsheet software for solving financial equations, so you can disable the browser lockdown, which is a standard online proctoring feature.

This approach to proctoring online exams helps keep the reports concise and saves you time during review.

2. Tell students what actions can trigger flags

“We prepare students ahead of time by giving them an orientation at the beginning of the program with a module dedicated to online proctoring with Honorlock,” Simpson explained.

This orientation module provides students with vital information about how online proctoring works, what actions can get flagged, technical requirements, and provides a practice test. Simpson also provides students with additional online proctoring information and resources which include information about how to prepare for a proctored exam and what to expect, test taking strategies, and privacy information.

“Let students know your test rules and policies and tell them what can trigger a flag. Tell students that if something does get flagged… don’t panic because the Honorlock test proctor is there to help you and answer your questions.”

Training our test proctors a better way

Honorlock’s full-time online proctoring team was recently trained by a nationally certified counselor and educator on support during moments of testing anxiety and frustration to assist students and help them feel supported in their test-taking environment.

“The proctor popping in was different than I expected – in a positive way. I imagined them being more strict. I felt that the proctor was helpful and a lot less intimidating than I thought.” – Student quote in a post-exam interview during the student test anxiety survey

3. Provide a practice exam with an incentive to complete it

“You need to make sure that students are comfortable going into their exams. The more practice students have, the better they’ll be with it,” Simpson said.

Be sure to encourage faculty to always offer a practice exam with an incentive to take it, such as giving credit for the practice exam.

Use practice exams that mimic real exams

“Honorlock provides a practice exam to use, but you can build your own practice exam that mimics your actual exam. This helps students know what to expect with online proctoring,” Simpson said.

The practice exam doesn’t have to include exact questions that will be on actual exams, but the questions could be similar and you should also include the different question types you plan to use, such as multiple-choice, true or false, and written responses.

“My professor set up a practice test the week before the first real test. The practice test listed out all of her expectations and requirements. On my first real exam, I was fully prepared for the online proctoring experience since I knew what to expect.” – Student quote in a post-exam student test anxiety survey interview

Don’t forget practice exams with third-party software

“Practice exams are especially important if you’re using third-party software, which can be different from the LMS,” Simpson noted.

By allowing a practice test using each third-party software, such as Pearson, McGraw Hill, and MyMathLab, students will know what to expect and won’t panic when they encounter it before a real exam.

4. Keep the big picture in mind when reviewing results

“Try to look at the big picture when you review results from the proctored exam,” Simpson said.

The bigger picture means evaluating the student’s behavior as a whole during the entire proctored exam.

“If the student hasn’t had many flags over the exam, be willing to believe that one single flag may have been an honest mistake,” Simpson said. “Maybe the student did a room scan and showed the entire room but missed a part of their desk – it could have been an honest mistake. If they didn’t have many behavior flags during the exam, I’m not going to penalize them, but I’ll reach out to them to remind them what to do next time.”

Simpson explained that the opposite situation could also occur, “If I had a student who didn’t show the room entirely and also had multiple flags for other behavior, such as going off camera for a significant amount of time or often looking away from the computer that could look suspicious and should be addressed.”

Students should also understand this review approach. They need to know that they don’t have to worry about every action being flagged by the online proctoring software and that even if there are flags, it’s looked at from a broader perspective. This approach to proctoring online exams can help reduce student test anxiety and the stress that students experience.

Student test anxiety survey findings summary

Who was surveyed?

UNA students were surveyed before and after exams to understand their baseline anxiety regarding proctored online exams.

Survey findings:

3 main causes of student test anxiety:

  1. Technology concerns (worried their device won’t work or Internet connection)
  2. Students don’t understand what can be flagged by online proctoring software or live proctors
  3. Students don’t know how interactions with a test proctor will go

Honorlock’s approach to online proctoring helped reduce student test anxiety

The test anxiety survey results found:

  • 6% decrease in student test anxiety between their first and second exams
  • 15% decrease in test anxiety associated with the statement, “Thoughts about the proctor interfered with my concentration.”
  • 100% of students who interacted with an Honorlock test proctor responded “Yes” to the interview question “Did the proctor make you less anxious?”

The Honorlock Difference

Honorlock’s approach to online proctoring benefits the institution and the learner.

Our purpose isn’t to simply catch students that are cheating – we strive to create a better online testing experience that supports faculty and students while protecting your exams and reputation. Choose online exam proctoring with integrity and humanity.

Want to see Honorlock in action? Schedule a demo.

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