Get ahead of the e-assessment curve

Jun 30, 2020
The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives in a short amount of time. Because of COVID, all students will take their exams online going forward. Sinead Henry, one of the first Institute trainees to trail the e-assessment in 2019 and 2020, explains the process.

What was your first reaction when you were asked to take part in the trial e-assessment?

I was definitely nervous at the prospect of taking an exam online. My exams had always been in paper format sat in large exam halls, but I’ve now sat three online exams, and the nerves are steadily going down. 

How did you prepare for the e-assessment? Was there any change in your exam prep because of its online platform?

I prepared for it pretty much the same way I normally would, using question packs and past papers. In hindsight, I think I would have practised typing out the workings as it would have helped me manage time better in the exam. 

What was it like to use the technology?

Using the technology was fine. Our office was able to provide laptops which had all the necessary features for the exam. There’s always the element of nerves about the technology not working, but you can run an equipment check on ProctorU before the exam to make sure everything is up and running. 

The strangest part of using the technology was probably getting assigned a proctor. When you hit ‘start your exam’, you must wait for a proctor to be assigned to you and it can feel like an age for this to happen. Once you get assigned a proctor, they will make sure your set up is all good. In my experience, the proctors are usually really friendly and can help if you are experiencing any technical problems. 

Was there any aspect of the e-assessment that you didn’t expect?

Once you get stuck into the exam, part of you forgets it is an exam, because you’re at home or in the office and not an exam hall. This is both good and bad. It’s good because you can think more clearly and you don’t get the exam panic, but also you might not feel the same kind of pressure you would in an exam hall, which could slow down your pace. So, it’s important to keep an eye on the time and keep your focus. 

Also, you can see straight away how much of the exam there is in a paper exam. I would encourage anyone sitting an e-assessment to view the overview of the exam straight away. This will show you how many questions you’ll need to answer to help you better plan your time. 

Aside from the fact that you took the exam online, how else was the assessment different than normal?

It’s probably not that different, having the exam online is a big change on its own, but the actual content didn’t seem that different from the mocks for the management e-assessment. If anything, the questions were clearer because of how the information was laid out, and it was easier to determine what the question wanted from you and what figures and numbers you needed to take from the question or resource. 

Do you think moving to e-assessments is a positive step for students?

I think it has its positives and negatives. I think students will miss the reliability of an in-person exam. The worst thing that can happen in a paper exam is that you forget the information, whereas with an e-assessment you might be worried about WiFi, powercuts, or being disturbed by other people at home.  

On the other hand, it means that we can still sit our exams this year and not have our qualifications moved back. As well as that, this is the way exams will probably be in the future, so it’s to our benefit to get ahead of the curve. 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to students about to take an e-assessment for the first time?

Try not to overthink the online element and treat it like a normal exam. If you have any technical problems on the day, they will get resolved, and you’ll be able to continue your exam as normal and be at a disadvantage. It can seem daunting and scary because it’s different but try to put that aside and focus your energy on studying for your actual exams!