Remote exams: what are the options?

Suzanna Doran
October 25, 2021

An increasing number of students around the world have become more familiar with remote exams in recent years. The pandemic has been a catalyst for rapid digital transformation, forcing institutions to find alternative ways to teach and assess their students. There is ongoing uncertainty in many regions, with 14 nationwide school closures affecting over 58 million learners at the time of writing (source). Therefore finding sustainable, long-term solutions is still a pressing concern. 

However, closures and distancing measures are not the only reason that institutions choose to assess students remotely. Many have seen other benefits such as flexibility for students and staff (source), reduced costs and positive impact on sustainability initiatives (source). 

Whatever the reason for hosting exams remotely, there’s no one size fits all solution. In this article, we’ll look at the different options available for remote exams and the pros and cons of each.

To find out how one of our customers implemented remote exams during the pandemic, download The University of Queensland case study


Many institutions around the world have opted for open-book exams. This involves hosting online assessments without any formal security measures. But that’s not to say that open-book exams are insecure. There are a number of ways that authors can uphold the integrity of the exam, including the following:   

Randomised questions 

One of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of academic dishonesty in online exams is to randomise the questions. There are a couple of ways to do this, the first being to mix up the order of the questions. Alternatively, authors can create a question set from which a random selection of questions is pulled and given to each student. So, for example, from a set of 30 questions, each candidate could be presented with 15 and therefore would not have the same exam paper as their peers. Inspera Assessment provides both of these options should you need them.

Collaborative exercises 

Creating assessments that are inherently collaborative is another option for institutions concerned about candidates communicating during the test. Instead of presenting each candidate with a task that they must complete alone, pairs or groups of students use digital tools to join forces and create a shared piece of work. Not only does this prevent collusion, but it also replicates the kinds of tasks that students will be required to complete in their future careers. 

Researched-based activities

Similarly, students could be encouraged to use the digital resources at their disposal to complete their assessments. Many subjects are enriched by contextual learning and so questions can be designed with this in mind. Authors could, for example, include a list of recommended web links or access to subject-relevant software. With questions designed around research or real-world tasks, academic dishonesty becomes much less of an issue. 

Lockdown browser 

However, the above options won’t be suitable for every institution or assessment. In many instances, it’s important to make sure that students do their own work without outside assistance. In cases such as these, a lockdown browser can be used to prevent candidates from accessing unauthorised materials. 

When the lockdown browser is activated, all other programmes on the candidate’s device will be locked so that they can only access the test window. Not only does this mean that they can’t use any other software on their computer but they may also be prevented from copying or printing material from the test so that the assessment’s integrity is protected now and in the future. 

However, if you do want to give your candidates access to approved material, Inspera Exam Portal provides an allowlisting feature so that you can customise access permissions. Plus, if candidates have any questions or issues during the exam, Inspera Chat allows them to send a message to an invigilator. They can then answer candidate queries or take action such as adding extra time or pausing the exam if necessary. 


In some cases, additional security is needed perhaps to comply with institution policy or awarding body requirements. Proctored exams could be described as a digital version of an invigilated exam hall. During proctored exams, candidates are monitored via their webcam, microphone and screen so that invigilators can check for any signs of academic misconduct.  Candidates will usually have their identification checked before the exam starts so that institutions can be sure that no contract-cheating is taking place.

Some proctoring solutions, such as Inspera Smarter Proctoring give institutions the flexibility to choose how they want to proctor candidates. For example, you can choose whether to use a human or AI proctor and whether you want to monitor audio, video, screen or any combination of the three.

Whichever option is best for your institution, Inspera is here to help. Our solutions are flexible, user-friendly and fully integrated so that your staff and students can benefit from a stress-free assessment experience. Inspera Assessment is our core product: a cloud-based digital assessment platform, covering the entire examination cycle. You can choose to add on Inspera Exam Portal, our lock-down browser that ensures test-takers only access approved resources during the exam. If you need to proctor, Inspera Smarter Proctoring allows you to monitor your test-takers throughout their assessment. To find out more, visit our product information pages

Download the free ebook for tips on defining your e-assessment strategy

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