Online Exams

Suggestions for Online Exam Control Protocol

  1. Define cheating clearly and make the penalties clear.  Ask for an agreement to the Honor Code as an initial exam question.
  2. Offer the exam at a specific time and ONLY one set time to prevent students from providing answers to other students.
  3. Time exams stringently.  Usually 45 seconds per multiple choice question is sufficient and prevents students from conducting web browser searches.
  4. Randomize the exam question sequence and shuffle answer choices.
  5. Display questions one at a time to make taking screen shots more difficult.
  6. Do not allow back tracking in the exam to reduce students finishing early and going back to do web searches.
  7. Do not allow more than 2 attempts at most without special circumstances.
  8. Change at least 1/3 of multiple-choice questions on each exam every time course is taught.
  9. Provide detailed explanations for test taking each time question types change including what kinds of answers (Choose one …) you want.
  10. Design higher order thinking questions that are not easy to find through a browser search.
  11. For remote learners live-streaming, instruct students to keep camera on themselves during the entirety of the exam.
  12. Set test settings to automatically end the exam when the student exits or if the time runs out. This way, if a student says their computer crashed, you can go into the exam and see the questions they already answered, and if you choose to allow them to complete the exam, they can begin where they stopped and continue with the amount of time they had remaining. 
  13. Don’t make scores automatically available. Allow a delay until everyone has finished to discourage impulsive cheating.
  14. Only show students test questions answered incorrectly so they don’t have full access to the exam and limit how long they can review the answers.
  15. Take the test yourself to ensure it is a manageable workload in the time provided.
  16. Explain best practices for taking online exams: quiet room, stable internet, etc. 
  17. Don’t use text book test questions verbatim. Students have access to instructor manuals and sites. 
  18. Use a  plagiarism checker like
  19. Ask questions that require higher order thinking and detailed explanations like short answer and essay questions to test concepts.
  20. Ask students to show their work in problem solving questions.
  21. Discuss stress management and offer study guides or Q&A sessions before tests to help students feel more encouraged and supported. 
  22. Offer a five question pretest so students can practice online test taking strategies which will reduce tech issues and stress and use the same first question on the real test. It will relax students and boost confidence.
  23. Explain that open book is not necessarily easier.  It requires a good general knowledge and an ability to pace oneself and not get bogged down on a single question.  Also, while it allows  a student to verify something complex, it doesn’t offer enough time to learn concepts they haven’t already mastered. 
  24. Poll students post exam about exam difficulty in technical delivery as well as subject/content areas.  Be sensitive to mass failure. If everyone is having difficulty there may be a reason worth investigating. 
  25. Accept that there will always be online imbalances for students just as there are in person. A and B students may finish on time, while C and D students will likely struggle to complete tests by time limits. This is not a problem with the test: It is a reflection of the learner’s mastery of content.


Using Safe Exam in Moodle

The Safe Exam Browser can work with Moodle to control what a student can do when in Moodle. 

To use it, it must be enabled in Settings > Site administration > Development > Experimental > Experimental settings. This adds the choice 'Require Safe Exam Browser' to the 'Browser security' field on the quiz settings form.

The Safe Exam Browser is offered under a Mozilla Public License and uses C++ and JavaScript.


Safe Exam Browser is a customized web browser that must be downloaded and installed on the computer that the student uses to attempt the quiz. The restrictions placed on students are similar to those in pop-up window case, but because Safe Exam Browser is software running on the student's computer, it can do a much more effective job of restricting their actions. If you select this option:

  • Students will only be able to attempt the quiz if they are using Safe Exam Browser.
  • The browser window will be full screen (without any navigation elements).
  • The window cannot be closed until the test is submitted.
  • Shortcuts keys such as Win, Ctrl+Alt+Del, Alt+F4, F1, Ctrl+P, Print Screen, are disabled.
  • Copy and paste, and the context menu, are disabled.
  • Switching to other applications is disabled.
  • Surfing to other web sites is prohibited.

Log into Moodle as you normally would and navigate to the course in which you wish to

  • create a test/quiz.
  • 2. Turn editing on.
  • Go to Gradebook and set up grading parameters.
  • Add an activity the same way you have done in the past,

a. Under the Topic Heading you wish to create the quiz

b. Click Add an Activity or Resource

c. Select Quiz

  • Be sure to select the gradebook section you want this to be recorded in when you set it up
  • In the section titled Extra Restrictions on Attempts click Show more.
  • Locate Browser Security, in the drop-down box beside it

select Require the use of Safe Exam Browser.

  • Select Save and display 
  • Go to edit quiz to create or add questions, then Save.
  • Under the Announcements section select Add an Activity or Resource. Scroll down until you find File and click Add.
  • On the next screen

a. Name the file SEB Settings

b. Click the blue arrow to open the file picker.

  • Select Browse and Find the SEB Client Settings file from the menu on left, select it, then choose Upload this file.
  • Once you’ve saved, you should see the file listed under Announcements