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Examination and Proctoring | 10 Min Read

Online Examination: Everything You Should Know About Online Exams

What is an Examination?

An examination assesses candidates’ knowledge and understanding of the subject. One who takes the exam is called a candidate or examinee. The person who evaluates the performance of candidates is called an examiner. Exams are either available as an on-screen test, a written test, or a practical test. Activities that come within the purview of practical tests are driving, speaking other languages, conducting science experiments and playing musical instruments, and more. On-screen tests refer to the tests taken on a computer. A candidate is successful if he/she passes the exams, and unsuccessful if he/she fails an exam. There are also provisions for students to reappear in exams who failed at first. Those students who pass an exam may receive a certificate or diploma. 

So, Is There Any Difference Between the Two?

An exam is more formal than a test. However, both the terms are often used interchangeably throughout schools and colleges, but there is a subtle difference, though. The test evaluates the current level of knowledge of students and lays out a learning plan accordingly. On the contrary, an exam is a more formal form of test which determines if a student passes or fails in a course or class.

How Does Conventional Examination Work?

The traditional pen-paper procession begins with extended discussions on paper creation. Burning the midnight oil comes to life in the eleventh hour, where everyone scans through everything. The questions are handwritten/ typed, proofread, and again checked for repetition. Once your efforts pay off in the form of a beautifully designed paper, don’t take a sigh of relief, and now is when the real efforts begin. Get set to find the invigilators and space for conducting the exams. Straining, stressing, draining, isn’t it? What if there’s a solution? Yes, there’s a solution and it is known world-over as the most effective way to conduct examinations, and that is called online examination.

What is an Online Exam?

Online examination, also known as e-examination, enables examiners to conduct examinations through the internet or a company-wide intranet for remote candidates. Most online exam systems include answer processing modules, which allows evaluators to issue results as soon as candidates finish the test. This fully automated system evaluates the examinee thoroughly and presents the result in less time. Unlike traditional pen-and-paper exams, it is possible to conduct open-book exams on an online exam system. 

In an online exam, a candidate can answer the questions in a given time, and the test window collapses once the exam is over, and evaluators keep answers ready for evaluation. The evaluator assesses responses, whether it be through an automated or manual process, and the result will be conveyed to the candidate either by mail or information available on the website. Many companies are resorting to online examination software as their preferred medium of choice for assessing professional capability and career adaptability.

How are Online Exams Conducted?

Step 1: The users of e-assessments can be classified into three broad categories:


The ones who manage the system users, the tests, system back-up, and recovery are the supervisors.


The ones who prepare the subjects, tests, and questions are the conductors.


The ones who sit for the assessment to get evaluated are the test-takers.

Step 2: The testing environment is set up, and the question sets are uploaded to the environment by the test conductors.

Step 3: The test takers are given test IDs using which they can log on and attempt the test. The tests are usually monitored automatically and can be proctored for high stakes examinations.

Step 4: Once the user submitted the test, it is evaluated by the system/conductors depending on the types of questions.

Step 5: Participants are sent their test scores if needed.

How Online Examination Systems Work?

The online examination system is a software solution that allows any institute or industry to plan, organize, and administer examinations through the internet/intranet and Local Area Network (LAN) environments. Since conducting manual examination can become a strenuous undertaking when issues are encountered, such as delay in result processing, difficulty in filing and filtering of records, and more. Besides, the possibility that extremely crucial information might get lost during recordkeeping is evident. Moreover, system maintenance is also a time consuming and resource-intensive process. On the contrary, the new-age examination system is efficient, agile, and less resource-intensive.

In an online exam, a teacher or examiner creates various kinds of questions (Multiple Choice Questions[MCQ] or free text questions) and adds them to the test. Then the students receive the link to the online exam with which they can sign up and take the test. Soon after, they get the exam results. Here is a step-by-step process on the working of online examination:

Look Out for the Right Online Examination Software

The first step is about finding exam software that best suits your needs. You can browse the internet to explore different options available in the market. Before settling on any vendor, you must consider these aspects:

  • How much total market experience they have?
  • How much do they charge for the online exam services?
  • What features will they bring to the table?
  • What is the user interface of software?
  • How many trusted clients does the vendor have?

Preparing for the Exam

Getting started with an online examination platform is as easy as pie. You can start by writing a small test introduction about what candidates can expect from the test. Now, you can add various types of questions (MCQ, fill in the blanks, or free text). Intensify the look and feel of the exams by adding multimedia elements such as images, audios, or videos. As a creator, you can set a time limit either on each question or the whole exam. You can refer to more information sources for setting up exams.

Sharing the Details

It is the examiner’s prerogative to decide the time and start and end date for the candidates to access the exam. After creating a test, it is made available online. The next step to be considered is sharing the URL for participants so they can click on the link and take the test.

Measuring and Monitoring the Progress

After the candidates complete the test, the teacher/examiner can view and track the progress of participants. Test authors can see the statistics per user or get a holistic view of the group performance.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Exam System

When we look at the pros and cons of an online exam system, we can offset the benefits with the drawbacks to obtain a better understanding of the product.

Pros of Online Exam Software:

0_Consideration of Nature  Consideration of Nature

With the advent of technology, it became apparent that nature doesn’t have to bear the brunt of human insensitivity any more. The adverse environmental impact of mercilessly cutting down trees for obtaining paper is evident. However, using an online exam system will ensure that institutions and organizations can go paper-free and would not print exam papers, create a paper record of applicants, etc..

0_Auto-Grading  Auto-Grading

Setting up an exam is a time taking process. The best way to go about it is by setting up an exam that is autogradable. An automated grading system is more convenient than a standard grading method. The proliferation of technology in e-learning and the increasing number of participants call for the need for a flawless scoring mechanism that eases the burden on teachers, saves time, and guarantees fairness. Automated scoring finds the correct answers by comparing the respondent’s reply against the model answer. Interestingly, MCQs are extensively used in online tests because they make automatic scoring by a computer easy.

0_Time-Saving  Time-Saving

Traditionally, exam distribution demands adequate time for end-to-end management. Unlike earlier, the online exam system is non-time consuming. Examiners can just upload the email ids of participants and invite them for assessment. The best part is results can be generated instantly.

0_Economical  Economical

When considering the human, logistic and administrative costs associated with traditional exam settings, it’s easy to distinguish the online exam system as the most economical system to conduct exams at scale. There is no need for students to assemble in large, spacious classrooms to take the test. The flexibility of time and space make this medium quite popular among examinees. Online exams don’t require you to rent a class or hire someone to invigilate candidates manually. With online exam proctoring software, you can amp up the joy of conducting online exams.

0_Secure and Convenient  Secure and Convenient

Students love the prospect of taking exams from the comfort of their home or office. Even participants from remote areas can attend the exam. Moreover, there is no scope of question paper leaks as every student gets a randomly selected set of questions as per the arrangement determined by the paper setter.

And Now for the Cons:

Evaluators should never skip the fact that students taking exams from home can resort to unfair means, given that there is no one to check up on them. Evaluators must take the utmost precision while designing a test for each candidate.  Asking those questions that are not readily available in textbooks and the internet will ensure the uniqueness and security of the test.  Adding a timer to each question will place the condition upon participants to complete all questions in time; this helps in preventing cheating. Also, long answer questions are not auto-graded, so keeping these aspects in mind while administering an online exam is critical.

Now you know the merits and demerits of using the technology, you may want to know about the typical features of an online exam system.

What Are the Usual Features of an Online Exam System?

Here’s a quick rundown on the typical features of an online exam software:

  • It can be used to create some of the most engaging tests and exams. Best of all, it will let you add images, text, video, and questions in your exam.
  • Its easy-to-use features help in creating credible tests within minutes.
  • There is no dearth of question types to pick from: multiple-choice image questions, multiple-choice test questions, audio-video questions, fill in the blanks, etc.
  • The end-user can create a comprehensive question bank with a wide variety of questions in an online exam software. Moreover, examiners can arrange problems using a randomizer to keep the test content unique and relevant.
  • It also enables end-users to use tags for their question bank. They can create new tags and assign the right tags to each question for analysis purposes.
  • Setting new pass-fail rules for exams is also possible in online exam software. There’s a lot that can be done with it. For instance, users can set the time limit and amount of attempts for each question. Moreover, candidates can be allowed to review their answers before submitting them. It is also probable that they can receive feedback after each problem or at the end; possibilities are endless.
  • Custom styling and personal branding are something that creates a strong impression in the minds of examinees. So, users can make the most of this white-labeling feature.
  • It lends a distraction-free experience to students that are utilizing the platform for taking exams. 

Learn more about how to choose the right online exam software

Who Uses an Online Examination System?

Online examination platforms cater to the needs of various clients, such as government, corporate, institutes, colleges, among others. 

Internet Revolution Comes to Education

With the advent of technology as the world seems to digitize and shift everything online from food to clothes to rides, nothing remains untouched, not even education. The pervasiveness of technology like laptops, computers have made the transition to an online system easy.

Universities, schools, and various educational institutions have progressed and adapted to some kind of learning management system (LMS), where a software application tracks, reports, administers, and documents different materials required to be given to students. This teaching and evaluation system is facilitating a balanced approach of spreading knowledge as well as ease of grading the candidates.

What Is the Objective of Online Examinations?

“A report by Google & KPMG forecasts that by 2021, the market for online education will be worth $1.96 billion, which is a huge jump from $247 million in 2016.”

The online industry is growing at a fast pace. Think about it-what is making it so famous and widespread? People are not fools, who just shift to something blindly; there is always a reason. Many factors play a role; it could be the convenience, the increased reachability, and above all, the customization. Think, think again.

Established evaluation techniques are slowly reaching their limits. Soon they will become obsolete. The objective of online exams is to ensure that assessment setters can go with the paradigm shift from offline to online processes for education, hiring, and learning & development.

It has been predicted that soon technology will embrace the educational sector, leaving no space for the pen-paper. And why shouldn’t it? Considering all the advantages offered, why fear? But everyone has their fair share of apprehensions, and it is mandatory to address them. In the following section, we will be discussing the extent to which online examinations have spread in the arena of education and what are the various challenges faced by these groups.

Why Do We Need Online Examination Systems?

We all are yearning for a system that instills our faith in examinations. Quite clearly, we are losing our confidence in the current pen-paper assessments, which appears to be no longer fit. Let us look at why we need online examination systems in the coming times and what we cannot do with conventional methods.

The Entrance Exams Exertion

The more sought after the university, the more applications to screen. Every year, the universities are flooded with applications for various courses; however, filtering them through written tests is a costly affair. In addition to this, a lot of effort gets consumed in shortlisting physical test facilities, added to this is the burden of making arrangements of invigilators, who are supposed to proctor far off test locations.

The institutes face considerable challenges in managing the logistics and financial burden that comes in a package deal with the pen & paper. Disrupting the daily college life of the students to make space for exam centers adds the cherry on top.

The Semester Setback

Imagine the plight of universities during exam days; it’s not only an evaluation of the students’ learnings but also the faculty, who are expected to manage and organize the examinations successfully. Their duties include accommodating hundreds of pupils: converting gyms & auditoriums into exam halls, looking for invigilators to proctor them, checking papers for hours and days to get the result out. Revaluation is another big concern; students often dissatisfied with the checking want their papers to be rechecked, which would be nothing less than an added burden for the teachers, and the authenticity can still be a question mark for the students.

The Pre-Placement Perplexity

Once students are ready to graduate from colleges, but before they do, comes the moment of placement drives, where there is an influx of companies looking to hire people. For hiring what’s required is assessments, and again, the age-old tradition of wasted time, effort, money begins.

The Reluctance

We are satisfied with the old ways of life and resist change. A reluctance to change makes us question the good and find fault with the system. We do all this just to remain in our comfort zone, talking of reluctance, let’s explain the consequences with an example.

We all are aware of Kodak; it was a name that resonated as the world’s largest film manufacturer. Where is it now? Do the millennials even know about it? Why did it lose its spot?

Hit by the wave of digitalization, they weren’t agile enough to adapt to the needs and changing times, they loved their space, but then that’s not how it works. Sometimes change is difficult, but it is necessary to survive.

Kodak failed to keep pace with changing times and technologies. Similarly, most people in the educational sector find it difficult to change, well-adjusted with pen and paper; they fail to understand that the educational industry is reshaping and still resort to the old ways. Satisfied with the old ways of life, the idea of online assessment discomforts them. They fear technical mishaps, cost, and academic dishonesty. It is only when they try new ways that they can unshackle themselves from old ideas.

The Inadequate Auto-Grading

Riding on the horses of fame, coaching institutes have converted themselves into full-grown giants in the education sector. Accredited with integrated learning programs and well-versed teachers, these training institutes have their share of miseries. Reaching out to the untapped talent beyond the geographical limitations, ensuring a wider reach of their assessments and simulators, as well as a quick evaluation of the student’s performance, is what they desire. Caught up in the spiral of inadequate auto-grading, which results in strenuous manual correction of answer sheets, they searched for cost and energy effective solutions.

The Confused Career Guidance

Schools, the second home to children, is the building block of a child’s future. It is here where desires, aspirations, dreams of achieving something are shaped. Teachers play an integral part in guiding kids in what they think is the best for them, telling them the various career opportunities and what they shall pursue in the future. What they lack is a definitive way to measure the ability and personality of the children, which tells them precisely about the behavioral and cognitive competencies.

The Staff Recruitment Ruckus

How do we propose to evaluate our teaching and non-teaching staff? How do we just go by our instincts and grade them? Conducting interviews to choose teachers of different subjects as well as non-teaching staff is very cumbersome. Instead, a defined approach, with some set parameters, will make recruitment easy.

Common to All

Common to all, educational bodies are highly concerned about the logistics incurred due to written examinations. Indulgence of candidates in unethical activities is another point of concern they are desperate to solve. What they want is to reduce the turnaround time, which keeps adding to their cost. But the root cause always remained at the heart of the assessment process, presenting issues with security, transparency, the cost in terms of infrastructure, people, and operations.

The educational landscape in India has undergone quick development, and what is right now, the biggest in the world, enrolls 70 million students. Truth be told, India has created extra space for 40 million more students. That is a lot of assessments and a considerable amount of cash blown.

Why Is It Necessary to Shift to Online Exam?

We’re being forced to live with a system that we’ve had for more than a century. That’s not necessary. It’s expensive, and it’s subject to all sorts of variables, not the least human failure. That whole system is just out of step with technology, and I think it’ll be consigned to history soon.

 – David Hanson, Chief Executive of IAPS, on Tradition Assessments            

There are no second thoughts that a shift is needed to reduce the stressed, strained pen & paper assessments. A rise in online examinations is the one-time solution to all your problems.

What Are the Benefits of Online Examination Systems?


Reduction in Logistics:

Online exams help to overcome the challenge of setting up physical test conducting locations. This not only helps to minimize the resources, i.e., time, cost of setting up, and the need for human proctors but also speeds up the entire process of examination. In universities, online exams accelerate the entire admission process, where applications can be screened with minimal resources. The idea of conducting semester examinations and various assessments online just makes the entire process smooth and easy to handle.

Accessibility to Remote Areas:

In an attempt to reach the untapped talent, online exams have broken the barriers of geography. With a global assessment solution training institutes, universities can conduct assessments worldwide with ease. The ability to conduct tests requiring nothing more than an internet connection means that examination can be accessible for anyone and from anywhere.


Online exams can cater to a broad audience and can easily manage a large amount of content. Taking this feature into account, educational institutions who suffer a paucity of time will find it very convenient to conduct examinations with the least wastage of their bandwidth. Just a computer with an active connection and sometimes a webcam to take tests makes this possible.

Supports All Types of Content and Creation:

You might wonder that online exams can be a way out, but what about the content they support. Many of you might be under the impression that online exams only support multiple-choice questions, and this is the only format that can run well on the platform. That’s where we need a correction. The question type favored by online exams range from MCQs, fill in the blanks, checkboxes to short answers, long answers ( which need to be evaluated by the teacher separately), coding simulators and business case studies. The teachers can log in to the platform with an ID and then easily create a question paper without any paper wastage. Leading companies like Mettl provide such a platform where online assessments can be conducted along with an extensive content library to choose from. It is like a question bank, which is at the perusal of the clients, who can create their assessments.

Combats Cheating:

Cheating has been the topmost concern of any person related to the educational industry. Whenever it’s exam time, the first question thought about is how can cheating be reduced? The solution is at your doorstep.

How Can You Prevent Cheating in Online Examinations: Online Proctoring

Remote proctoring ensures a controlled environment, where the candidates are under continuous surveillance, which reduces the ability to cheat. Online proctored examination solves two purposes: eradicates malpractices and reduces the need for too many invigilators. The webcam keeps an eye on the candidates at all times, behavioral alerts notify the proctor of any unpleasant activity, web browsing tolerance prevents them from switching screens, and a recorded video of the same is saved for future reference.

Moreover, these recorded videos play an integral part in re-evaluation. In case the student is not satisfied with the way the evaluation of the assessment is conducted, he/she can request for feedback from one of the in-house experts. The expert, in turn, takes the assistance of the remotely proctored video and gives comprehensive feedback to the candidate with proper justification for the same and an evidence to show if required.

If the online remote proctoring feature doesn’t intrigue you enough, then perhaps an additional web browser known as Exam Safe Browser is something that you need.  Reputed companies like Mettl offer this feature, where once installed and activated for online exams, it permits the test taker to see one screen, i.e., the questions which need to be answered, shortcuts, copy-paste, opening another window everything is prohibited. Universities, schools can use this feature to maintain a highly secure environment.

Auto-Graded Reports:

The automated report serves the purpose of eliminating manual correction and saves many working hours. A report is a comprehensive approach to the candidate’s performance, which has a question wise and section-wise summary of the attempt.

The Analytical Report provides insights based on:


Checking papers and analyzing every question in the traditional examination is very hectic and time-consuming. Unintentional errors are bound to happen when the evaluators do monotonous checking; neither are they proficient to precisely define the areas of strengths and weakness for each student. Detailed reports are also useful/ for students who are looking for career guidance.  With the reports, they get a clear idea of their competencies. This is how online analytical reports form the new face of evaluation.

Added to this are the benefits of reduced cost by saving the cost of infrastructure in terms of furniture, limited paper wastage, flexibility, and a compatible system with an easy to use platform.

Switching to online examination platforms can be a giant leap, but the holistic solution offered is highly effective. As they say, the first impression is a great lasting impression. An online exam gives the perfect picture of a progressive and pro-technology educational institution.

Difference Between Online Examination and Pen-Paper Based Exam

Eventually, the paper-pencil test will become redundant as computer-based assessments are more transparent, hassle-free, and scalable.

– Raghuram, Director at BITS Pilani 

The idea of online examinations has spread far and wide, so shall your belief in the system. But still, if you need some more brushing then here is a quick recapitulation:


People slowly understand the need to shift. The success stories of renowned institutions such as the Indian School of Business and Amity University who have already adopted the online system are nothing less than a testimony to the idea of online examinations.

How Mercer| Mettl Can Help?

Mercer | Mettl’s online examination system helps in conducting high-stakes assessments on its secure examination platform preloaded with online proctoring. The tool enables end-users to manage the end-to-end online assessment process. The entire process, from online registration, test creation to center management, and real-time reporting, is centered on assisting clients in conducting assessments with the utmost ease. 

You may also want to read: An End-To-End Guide on Online Entrance Exams


Online exams are unquestionably turning into a well- known medium of assessing aptitudes of the candidates. With progress in innovation, each one of us has positively experienced an online test, somewhere or the other. Online examinations give great flexibility to the test providers to the extent composing, booking, managing, and evaluating the test is concerned. With quick test assessment and report generation, test results can be declared directly after the student has completed the test, even before he/she leaves the examination center.


Originally published March 26 2020, Updated June 15 2020

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