Test anxiety for students is common, especially in an online testing environment where online proctoring is used. But what if online exam proctoring can actually help with reducing test anxiety?

To understand how our approach to online proctoring can impact test anxiety for students, we conducted a survey with the University of North Alabama (UNA) to learn:

    • What causes test anxiety?
    • Can test anxiety be reduced with online proctoring?
    • Ways instructors can help reduce student assessment anxiety

Test anxiety summary

What is test anxiety?

Test anxiety is any reaction that causes stress and anxiety for students. These reactions can be psychological, physical, and emotional.

What are the symptoms of test anxiety?

Test anxiety can be different for each person. It can mean panic attacks and severe anxiety for some or it can be sweaty palms and nausea for others. Regardless of the symptoms, it can negatively impact testing performance.


About the student test anxiety survey

Who was surveyed?

During a three-month period in 2020, UNA students across a variety of disciplines were surveyed before and after assessments to understand their baseline anxiety regarding proctored assessments.

These students were participating in mid-term and final exams from the summer and fall semesters for two different classes. 

Survey findings

Quick student test anxiety survey stats:

    • 64% agreed that “taking an online test makes me nervous”
    • 6% decrease in overall test anxiety between their first and second exams
    • 15% decrease in anxiety associated with the statement, “Thoughts about the proctor interfered with my concentration.”
    • 100% of students who interacted with an Honorlock remote proctor responded “Yes” to the interview question “Did the proctor make you less anxious?”


Get The Student Test Anxiety Survey eBook

Online testing causes stress

64% of students, even when they’re well-prepared, agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “taking an online test makes me nervous.”

What causes test anxiety associated with online proctoring?

    • Technology concerns (worried their device won’t work or they’ll have internet issues)
    • Students don’t understand what can be flagged by the AI or live proctor.
      • Some students assumed that insignificant behavior could get flagged, such as: reading a test question out loud or looking up for a moment to think
      • Students don’t know how interactions with a remote proctor will play out

Online proctoring done correctly can help reduce test anxiety

Interacting with remote proctors can reduce test anxiety

The students were surveyed before and after assessments and we found that students who interacted with remote proctors during their exam had a marked decrease in anxiety for future exams. In fact, all of the students experienced a reduction in anxiety after they experienced a chat with a proctor.

Just being able to interact with a live test proctor helped students feel more confident. The conversations allowed them to identify different triggers for live support and experience a positive, supportive interaction. 

Students usually think that test proctors are only there to catch cheating. In reality, Honorlock proctors are a resource for students during the proctored exam.

“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

More experience with proctored exams helps reduce anxiety

Students experienced:

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

Proctor training is important

During our study, we looked at whether or not better proctor training could result in an improved experience for students. 

We started by looking at existing research on physical signs of stress during tests including*:

  1. Lip licking 
  2. Excessive throat clearing 
  3. Propping the head up 
  4. Touching or rubbing the face 

Our test proctors were trained to spot these behaviors and proactively interact with students using a reassuring set of talking points.

Here’s a look at the talking points for test proctor interactions with students

Student test anxiety talk track with test proctor

Training proctors to better support students during times of anxiety

Our approach to online proctoring aims to improve the testing experience for students. Staying true to our word, our full-time remote proctoring team was trained by a nationally certified counselor and educator on support during moments of assessment frustration and anxiety to assist students and help them feel supported in their test-taking environment.

How instructors can help reduce student test anxiety

Use practice exams to help students get comfortable with proctored exams

By creating familiarity with online proctored exams, instructors can proactively help reduce test anxiety for students.

Be sure to create multiple opportunities to complete practice exams, check technology requirements, and interact with a remote proctor at the beginning of the assessment.

“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 interview

Provide important information about how proctored exams work

Give your students upfront information about how proctored exams work so that they know what to expect beforehand. 

Be sure to include information about: 

  • What online proctoring is, how it works, and why it’s used
  • What can trigger a “flag” and what to expect during an interaction with a test proctor
  • Test rules to help avoid any confusion
  • Minimum system requirements (a device with functioning webcam and microphone, internet connection, etc.)
  • The role of a remote proctor
  • Available support options and how to access it
  • Accessibility options and accommodations

A Better Approach to Online Proctoring

Honorlock approaches online proctoring in such a way that what’s good for the institution is also good for the learner.

Our purpose isn’t just to prevent students from cheating – we aim to create a testing experience that supports academic integrity in a non-invasive and fair test environment.

Honorlock strives to build confidence and trust with students that will strengthen their relationships with your faculty and institution.


Get The Student Test Anxiety Survey eBook