Online Proctored Exam Experience
I thought I’d write down a few quick thoughts about online proctored exams, having taken my first VMware/Pearson VUE one recently. With the current pandemic I’m sure a lot of people are in the same position and have taken their first online proctored exam, but for those who haven’t, here are a few tips and thoughts. All of these are from a Pearson VUE perspective, but I’m sure it’s similar for other test centers.
- It’s obviously personal preference as to whether you enjoy more/perform better at a test center or at home, but I strongly recommend giving online a go if you haven’t already. For me, it’s far more relaxed at home, provided you follow the testing company’s guidelines and recommendations.
- Exam time slots are very dynamic. For example, I decided on a Friday morning that I was ready for my VMware VCP exam. I checked online for a slot that day, and there was only one available, 4.30pm. Perfect! But by the time I had got my payment details together and went to book the slot a few minutes later, it was gone! I refreshed the page every 10 minutes for about 30 minutes, and a slot for 8pm became available. So don’t be disheartened if your preferred day is unavailable, there’s a chance a slot will become free as people cancel/reschedule. It is still better of course to book as far in advance as you can, to avoid disappointment.
- While the system requirements for online proctored exams are practically anything that can run a web browser, you should still run any system check tool the testing company have. Pearson VUE have an Online Proctored System Test, which checks your mic, webcam and internet connection. Run this an hour or two before your exam, as you will be required to run through it again right before your exam start time.
- Give yourself the recommended 30 minutes before exam start time to login and get your setup approved, I can’t stress that enough. Issues can come up; finding the exam start link, not having the password for the site cached on your laptop, a pending update that keeps popping up etc. I have a 100M down/25M up internet link, and passed the internet system requirements a few hours before, but a few minutes before my exam started the internet test failed. It would not allow me to begin the exam for failing this, even though a speed test showed my up, down and ping to be absolutely fine. I even connected directly to my router in case there was an issue with WiFi, which still made no difference. In the end, a reboot sorted it out, but I’m fairly sure the issue was with the Pearson VUE system test software itself. The point is, you need to give yourself time to resolve these kinds of inevitable issues that may require you to contact the company’s chat/phone support. Logging in a few minutes before your exam start time is not only going to put you under unnecessary pre-exams pressure, but could also disqualify you from taking the test if you can’t resolve the issues in time.
- You will be asked to take photos of your desk and surrounding area, as well as photos of yourself and ID. Even if you did this step earlier as a trial run, be prepared to do them again, and be prepared to retake photos that are too blurry for example. Again, giving yourself lots of time to do these tasks will reduce pre-exam stress and frustration.
- You’re allowed have a drink beside you in a clear container, make sure you do! You won’t be allowed get up to get a drink. Likewise, you won’t be allowed get up to release those 2 liters of water you drank an hour ago, so go beforehand!
- You’ll need your phone to take the approval photos, but afterwards, make sure it’s out of view and out of arms reach. The test company may also contact you via your mobile, so make sure it’s in an area with coverage and not on silent. As an alternative though, in Pearson Vue’s case, there is a chat option that the proctor is able to contact you on.
- Make sure you’ve let your partner or housemates know that you’re in an exam, and can’t be disturbed. Any noise is ground for disqualification. Your housemates might think it’s funny to wander in on a work from home Zoom meeting, but you need to be clear to them that it’s not cool during an online proctored exam! It might also be a good time to tell your housemate to pause that torrent download of the latest CoD.
I enjoyed the online proctored exam experience, it was relatively smooth bar the internet issue, and I’ll definitely be using this method again for future test taking where possible. I don’t really see any unique benefits to physically going to an exam center, unless you feel doing so puts you in your “zone”. Personally, all I’ve found from test centers is a lot of waiting around and getting a cold sell of the test center’s training courses. I won’t miss that!