No matter what way you look at it, exams are pressurized. There are various levels of stress associated with being formally tested on any subject at any level. In many cases nerves are primarily related to the content of the test and fears arise around performance and the exam outcome. Exam worries such as “Will I remember the necessary details?”, “What happens if I get it wrong?”, “I hope there are no questions on topic A”, “If I fail, I won’t get promoted”, and so on. Test anxiety is a real issue and you can visit this article from the British Psychological Society to understand more about the varied causes.
Although some people are inherently terrified of exams and it becomes more of a psychological issue, in most cases these kind of exam nerves can be significantly reduced by factors within the candidate’s own control. This includes factors such as ensuring sufficient study has been done in advance of exam day, getting plenty of sleep in the run up to the exam or going through multiple practice papers to become familiar with the format. Read this article here from Times Higher Education for tips on managing exam stress.
There is also a second area of stress associated with taking an exam, which is less within the candidate’s control, and that relates to the logistics for the exam and how exactly it is run. If I know that my exam is taking place in a test centre that I’ve never been to before, then I may decide to travel to that location over a weekend in advance of the exam. This allows me to make 100% sure that I know the route to the centre, I know how long it takes to get there, I see the overall layout and I know exactly where the entrance is, etc. This alleviates uncertainty about the venue and the stress levels associated with that uncertainty, allowing me to keep my focus on the exam itself.
Aside from test centre location, there are quite a few other potential stress points relating to how exams are run, and this is an area where online assessment software can bring a lot of benefits.
Benefits to the Candidate of Online Assessment Software
1. Having to Write for Long Periods
If I’m a professional who has been working for the past few years, then it’s very unlikely that I have hand-written anything other than the odd memo, or taken notes during a call. Heading into a hand-written exam can be a very stressful and daunting experience, particularly as I know I don’t have the capability to easily edit anything that is handwritten. Computer-based examinations allow testing to be carried out in line with standard business practices – with a keyboard screen and a mouse. It removes the stress associated with having to work in a different way and allows, for example, lots of text to be typed into a text editor or many figures to be inserted into a spreadsheet, which can then be easily edited.
2. Taking a Test When I’m Ready
Although there are many session-based exams that are scheduled to take place at specific dates and times each year, often summative assessments follow the format that you attend an on-site course, then at the end of that course you take an exam, as the logistics make it easier to do everything at the one time. In this case you are typically presented with a lot of information, maybe over the course of a few days or a couple of weeks, after which you are then tested. It can be an extremely intense and stressful period, where the whole focus tends to be on amassing and retaining knowledge, as opposed to actually being able to understand and apply that knowledge. With computer-based examinations where the exam is administered via online proctoring (also known as remote invigilation), some organisations are now moving to a different model, where the individual takes a course, but the exam takes place a few days or weeks after the course completes. With remote invigilation, the exam can be taken at any location, and trained supervisors monitor the candidate completely online. You can read more about online proctoring here.
This approach allows individuals to actually digest the information, to put what they have learned into practice, and also to study at their own pace before sitting an exam, which can be a lot less stressful than doing the study and the exam at the same time. One TestReach customer actually found that candidates much preferred taking the exam a period of time after the tuition, as it significantly reduced the risk of underperforming due to lack of preparation time.
3. Familiar Surroundings
Online proctoring is a game-changer when it comes to running high-stakes assessments, particularly for professionals who don’t take exams on a regular basis. It allows the test to be taken in the familiar surroundings of the workplace or a home office, without the stress associated with travelling to an unknown venue and having to potentially take an exam in a large room full of strangers. No one likes uncertainty, and this is all the more the case when it is uncertainty relating to a formal test, where nerves are already frayed. Using online assessment software to deliver computer-based examinations via online proctoring, the candidate can familiarize themselves with every element of the system and the process – they can take multiple practice tests, they can watch instructional videos and they can immerse themselves in all of the collateral and resources provided, well before the exam. This ensures that any unknowns associated with the exam are removed and allows the candidate to completely focus on actual content and subject matter of their exam.
4. Less Stress on Exam Day
It’s not easy for a working parent to be told they have to buy their daughter a particular music book before the lesson on Thursday, knowing it’s impossible to get to the music shop over a lunchtime – immediately there is pressure and time is being juggled - it’s no wonder that online shopping is growing at such a rate.
Most people continually have to deal with time pressure and it causes a huge amount of stress, and making time to sit an exam is no exception. It’s one thing if the test centre is geographically close as at least the travel times are unlikely to be too onerous. However, the situation gets considerably worse where longer distances are involved. It’s not that uncommon for candidates to have to book flights to take an exam! The stress associated with making time to sit an exam is one thing, however the additional stress associated with making time to travel to and from the test centre is something that is completely avoidable. Running computer-based examinations with online proctoring means that candidates don’t have to relocate, and it significantly reduces the overall time needed on exam day. Some professional candidates taking exams on TestReach have specifically outlined the ease with which they have come into work, taken their exam via remote invigilation and literally gone into a meeting within a few minutes of completing the exam – a smooth and relatively stress-free experience for a time-pressed professional.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Theophrastus, stated that, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend”, and this rings true right to this day. Certainly it makes sense for examining bodies to start looking to technology as a means to not only reduce the time commitment required to sit their exams, but also to significantly reduce overall candidate stress levels, especially when a lot of that stress has nothing to do with the actual exam content.
The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy switched to computer-based examinations using TestReach online assessment software with remote invigilation to deliver the exams, in order to reduce exam stress for candidates. You can read more about this case study here.
For more information on online proctoring or remote invigilation, download your own copy of our Guide to Remote Invigilation here.