Proctoring exams is something that many teaching assistants (TAs) will do at some point. Good proctoring can ensure a fair and equitable exam for all students, but it takes some work. A proctor who sits at the front of the classroom on his laptop does little to ensure the integrity of the exam. Read the tips below to make sure your proctoring skills deserve an A. Some of these tips may not apply to your situation, but the first two are a must for every class.
Tips on Proctoring
- Walk around the room. You can’t see everything if you are in one spot. Walking around also lets students know that they can’t avoid your scrutiny by sitting in the back.
- Put your computer away. Unless your classroom has closed circuit cameras hooked up to your laptop, looking at a computer means you’re not watching the students. This goes for anything else that takes your attention away from monitoring the exam.
- Have multiple proctors. Ask other TAs to help you out and remember to pay it back when they are overseeing an exam.
- No drinks. Don’t allow students to have any drinks on their desk. It’s amazing how much you can fit on a coffee cup beneath the cardboard sleeve.
- Take notes. If you have concerns about something you see, write it down. You can also talk with other proctors about it if the concern is on-going.
- Mix up the room. Assign seats as students come in so they aren’t sitting where they normally sit. This can be harder for larger classrooms but easier if you have multiple proctors to direct people.
- Open seats. If possible, have students leave an open seat between them.
- Keep track of exams. There are few things worse than showing up to the exam without enough tests or losing a student’s completed test.
- No electronics. Ask all students to turn their phones/tablets/etc. off and put them away. There should be nothing on their desks but tests and writing utensils.
- Make them move. If you suspect collaboration or cheating, ask a student to move seats. Make sure to mark where they are in the exam when they move.
- Be the clock. If there isn’t a clock at the front of the room. Write and update the time left on the board, so there’s no excuse for a student to check their phone or look around the room.
A Word about Bathroom Breaks
This is a difficult decision, because there’s no right answer. Some instructors would say no bathroom breaks at all. If you go this route, publicize this in advance and remind students about this before you start the exam. Another option is to allow students to use the bathroom, but tell them that they cannot go back to any questions they have skipped. You’ll need to ask for their exam and then highlight any unanswered questions. Other instructors have a proctor escort a student to the bathroom. (Obviously, don’t go in the restroom if you decide to do this). Whatever you decide, make sure you’re consistent.