Test Preparation: Providing Guidance for Students Taking Tests

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This Teaching Tip was prepared by the Teaching and Learning team with input from several College Coordinators.

In this time of pandemic, students are working under more stressors than ever. As we adjust our assessments for a remote environment, let’s think together about how to message exam instructions in a way that balances expectations of academic integrity with respect and empathy for our students. 

Here are some aspects to consider when testing:

First Things First: Prepare tests with inherent checks and balances

  • Include a deep, randomized question pool for any closed book test. Work toward question banks with groups of questions for each important concept.
  • Include short-answer application questions that align with the course learning outcomes.
  • Ask students to answer questions in their own words to ensure that they have understood the material.
  • Consider an open-book approach to testing – especially for the short answer, application questions – to cut down on the need to check for academic integrity.
  • Use the section feature in eConestoga quizzes and adjust the number of questions per page to as few or as many as you wish to students to be able to see at once.
  • Consider sending longer test answers through Turnitin to ensure that students are not sharing answers.
  • Consider an oral test using a rubric to assess student responses in real time.
  • Provide ample time to take the test, but not so much time that there is extra time for checking answers with other students or for accessing resources.

Provide a clear but positive exam protocol

  • Explain any technical arrangements for the test well in advance (e.g., Respondus or Zoom). Remind students they should contact TeachMeTech (through Library Services) for support.
  • Keep the list of testing protocol items short – between 8 and 10 instructions.
  • Word all instructions in a positive manner. Motivate students to protect integrity rather than implying they might cheat.
  • If the test is not synchronous, identify when and how you are available for student questions or concerns so that students can log into the test at a time when they know they can reach you if they need to.
  • Try the eConestoga checklist feature for posting protocols and exam study lists.
  • As a last item in the list of protocols, consider a disclaimer such as the following:

NOTE:  I reserve the right to request an oral interview in order to confirm your knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the test content.

Provide a Zoom ID check protocol for exams not on Respondus

  • Require students to log in to the Zoom meeting well before the time that the test will begin. Tell them they will need their ID (OneCard or Passport).
  • Explain that they will write the test while logged into Zoom, as verified by the usage report at the end of the test.


  • Place each student in an individual break-out room. Visit each room one at a time and have them show you their ID through the video screen. Keep track on a class list of each student whose ID you check.  This method is great for maintaining student privacy.
  • Supply students with the test code at the time that the test is to begin.  Keep checking ID’s until you have checked everyone.
  • Explain that students with a question can ask you to join their breakout room.
  • Have students return to the main Zoom room and check out with you once they have completed the test. If you wish, you can cross-check the time they log out of the Zoom meeting with the time that they submit their test.


  • The students stay in the main Zoom room throughout the test.
  • Explain that you will call on each student and have them show their ID one at a time.  Keep track on a class list of each student whose ID you check.
  • Supply students with the test code at the time that the test is to begin.  Keep checking ID’s until you have checked everyone.
  • Disable private chats for the duration of the test.
  • Explain that students with a question can type it into the Chat Window, and that you will reply to everyone (without mentioning who asked the question) so that all students have the same information.
  • Have students check out with you through the Chat Window once they have completed the test. If you wish, you can cross-check the time they log out of the Zoom meeting with the time that they submit their test.

Other Considerations

  • Don’t forget to double-check Accommodation Requests to ensure that accessibility needs are met.
  • Do assume that some students may have last-minute challenges with hardware, software, or internet access that will prevent them from completing some or all of the exam.
  • Do assume that some students will miss the exam time due to illness or emergency and have an alternative assessment ready to go.

Two scenarios for reflection:

Which statement in response to two different scenarios will bring out the best in your students?

Scenario 1Statement 1Statement 2
Students want to wear their earbuds or use other technology during class.Anyone caught accessing any materials or technology (e.g., with ear buds in) will face a charge of cheating.My goal is to be sure you are working only with what you have learned and have access to in your brain. The use of other technologies including cell phones, ear buds, and web sites is not permitted. If you access electronic items or paper-based materials or appear to have done so by virtue of identical responses, I will file an academic offence and request a follow up meeting with you in which you may be required to respond to oral questions to substantiate that you have obtained the course outcomes.
Students might show up late, or without IDID will be checked beginning half an hour before the test begins. Anyone without proper ID will not be allowed to write.In order to facilitate an ID check so that you can focus on the test uninterrupted, you will be expected to arrive in the Zoom meeting half an hour before the test with your OneCard, driver’s license, or Passport.

For more food for thought, check out the  Hub post on honour pledges for remote assessments and the link to the Statement of Commitment to Academic Integrity available on the Library Services site.

Preparation for the final assessments of the semester includes careful test creation, advance notice of expectations, and positive messaging.  We hope these tips help you get ready to get your students ready for that last test.

Want to discuss exam preparation? Contact teachingandlearning@conestogac.on.ca

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  • Published: November 24, 2020
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Laura Stoutenburg

A college professor and accredited TESL trainer for more than 20 years, Laura Stoutenburg, holding an M.A., has taught and developed curricula for a variety of topics, with her work including language assessment in China and Canada. Before joining Teaching and Learning as a consultant, Laura coordinated Conestoga’s TESL Certificate and English Language Studies programs. She specializes in matters related to Intercultural Teaching and language acquisition, and is available at the Kitchener Downtown Campus.

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