Creating a Optimal Space at Home for Online Exams

To help manage the spread of COVID-19, the University of Saskatchewan has asked instructors begin teaching classes remotely (online) as of March 19, 2020. Exams will need to be adapted to this new teaching environment. In many cases the exams will be held online.

If you have an online exam, the most important thing to do is touch base with your instructor ASAP regarding your accommodations. We suggest attaching a copy of your LTP to an email to your instructor. Ask to discuss how your accommodations will be provided. In MOST cases, accommodations for online exams are relatively easy to provide. Your instructor needs to contact ICT to adjust the timer to allow for additional time, assuming extra time is one of your accommodations and also assuming that the exam is timed.

As far as the exam location goes, it will be up to you to create your own quiet, distraction free space. Jane Jarrow, Ph.D., who is a consultant and recognized authority on disability-related accommodations in post-secondary settings, developed a guide to help students adapt to the new protocols being put in place due to COVID-19. The guide is titled, “Maintaining Access to Opportunity In the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis,” and the section on section on exams was contributed by Jessica Holdren & Kathy Duffy of Arcadia University (Pennsylvania, USA). It is copied and pasted verbatim below.

If you require other accommodations in addition to extra time and/or a quiet space, begin by discussing those with your instructor. You instructor may be able to provide assistance to you or some sort of alternative. If your instructor isn’t able to assist you, email us at and we will help.

Creating an Optimal Exam Environment at Home

  • Set up your space before taking your exam to minimize distractions. Make the environment feel like a testing environment (in other words, don’t decide to eat your lunch while you are taking your exam or have your television on in the background).
  • Turn off phones.  If you have a landline, set the ringer to silent or low.
  • Place a “do not disturb” or  “testing in progress” sign on your door.
  • Inform family members (who might also be home) that you will be taking an exam for a specific span of time to minimize interruptions.
  • You might want to use a lock down browser if you’re prone to surfing the internet.
  • Have all allowed materials available and organized before starting the exam.
  • At least 15 minutes before the exam, set up your environment to make sure you do not have any computer or internet access issues.
  • If fidgets or music/sound help you, make sure you have these items available.

In General

  • Know the rules and expectations of taking the exam online. Is it open book/ note or are students held to the honor system? Are you being proctored remotely by your professor or a computer program?
  • Can you start the exam at any time or is the exam only available during a certain time frame?
  • Before starting the exam, make sure you know how many questions are on the exam and how much time you have so you can plan accordingly. Since we won’t be there to give a warning, you might want to set a timer to go off 10 minutes before your time is up.
  • Have a clock or timer nearby so you can track how much time you have.
  • Have scrap paper so that you can note questions you want to revisit.
  • Questions may be presented one at a time. It may be more difficult to navigate an exam and go back to review questions. Jot down question numbers and note any questions you may have.
  • If you have clarification questions for your professor, will you be able to reach the professor? How will you do this?  Find out before you take your exam.
  • You may have finally gotten used to the format of your teacher’s in-class exams and suddenly that format might be different as it shifts to an online platform.
    • Reach out to your teachers and ask if the exams will be different.  The more prepared you are with what to expect, the better.
    • If you are suddenly allowed to use notes or access your books during an exam, be careful not to use up all of your time and rely too heavily on these materials.  It is better to put an answer down that you think is correct and then return to that question later if you have time at the end to double check than to spend time searching for each of the answers.