As online learning continues, so has student testing anxiety. Students have concerns about the technology, the process and the presence of live proctors.

But online proctoring doesn’t need to add to the stress of test-taking. When educational institutions create the proper environment and prepare students for online assessments, students report that having a live proctor can actually reduce anxiety. Further, effective proctor training can build student confidence.

To learn more about student anxiety during a proctored online exam, Honorlock conducted a student survey. Jordan Adair, VP of Product at Honorlock, recently sat down with Tests and the Rest podcast to share the survey results and discuss how remote proctors can help reduce test anxiety.

What is test anxiety?

Test anxiety is any physical and emotional reaction that negatively impacts a student’s ability to perform well on a test. 

5 key learnings from the student test anxiety survey:

1. How do students react to proctored online exams?

Regardless of how well-prepared a student is for a test, many still feel a sense of testing anxiety.

In the online proctoring space, this is often increased, as students may be unfamiliar with the proctoring system or the method of proctoring that will be used on a particular exam. The findings indicated that even well-prepared students are likely to feel anxious heading into a proctored assessment, with 64% agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement “taking an online test makes me nervous.”

2. Does the environment affect test anxiety?

Students experience testing anxiety both in-person and online, so it isn’t just the environment. The increase in online assessments has heightened anxiety due to student concerns about the technology, the testing process, and the presence of live test proctors.

3. What causes test anxiety for students during proctored tests?

It mostly stems from not understanding how online proctoring works and not knowing what to expect.

3 main causes of student test anxiety

Technology concerns and how to use the proctoring software 

Students often worry about their device work with the proctoring software and other issues, such as internet connection.

Unaware of what behaviors may be flagged

Students may not understand what behaviors are acceptable and what may be flagged by the proctoring solution or live proctor.

Unfamiliar with how interactions with a proctor will go

Potentially interacting with a proctor can be nerve-racking for students, especially if they’ve never experienced it before.

4. What can help reduce test anxiety in college students?

When you create a proper test environment and prepare students beforehand, they report that a live proctor can actually reduce anxiety.

Describe how online proctoring works

A basic understanding of how online proctoring works goes a long way with students. Give them a high-level overview of how the online proctoring software works and what they can expect before, during, and after the exam.

Explain what behaviors may trigger flags from the proctoring platform

Students need to know what behaviors are appropriate compared to those that can trigger a flag. 

For example, here are the things students think might get flagged (none of these actually cause flags in Honorlock):

  • A barking dog
  • Reading a question out loud
  • Looking up to think about a question
  • Tapping on the desk

Offer practice exams

After students understand the basics of the online proctoring software and what behavior is acceptable, let them use it.

Practice exams provide students with the opportunity to get comfortable with using the online proctoring platform, making sure their technology works, and interacting with a live proctor.

Show students how to support

Make sure that students know where to find support if they need it. Ideally, live support will be available 24/7 without having to leave the exam window. 

5. How does remote proctor training help students with test anxiety?

How proctors are trained is crucial for helping reduce test anxiety in college students. They need the ability to identify symptoms of test anxiety and stress and how to positively interact with students during the proctored online exam.

Identifying symptoms of test anxiety and signs of stress

Proctors should be trained to spot physical behaviors that signal a student who is stressed. Test anxiety symptoms can include things such as lip licking, excessive throat clearing, propping the head up, and touching or rubbing the face. 

Positive student interactions

Once physical signs of stress and anxiety are identified, proctors need to understand how to best interact with a student. This includes approaching a student in a helpful manner and then having the correct training and tools to help alleviate any stressful situation while decreasing the risk of confrontation. 

Honorlock’s remote proctoring team received training from a nationally certified counselor to learn how to de-escalate students who are stressed or anxious and reduce anxiety so that students can continue taking the exam.

Positive interactions with a proctor can have a lasting impact on reducing student anxiety. In fact, a student test anxiety survey found that 100% of students who interacted with an Honorlock proctor responded “Yes” to the interview question, “Did the proctor make you less anxious?”

Applying these key learnings to online exams can help educational institutions best prepare students for online testing, build confidence, and set students up for academic success.


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