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Student online exam experience

As the pandemic continues, institutions are increasingly evaluating and implementing systems to run online exams. Even for exams where paper delivery is the preference, the contingency to run remote online exams undoubtedly has a greater focus in business continuity planning than in pre-Covid times.

We’ve seen many institutions switching exams to remote and online formats recently. However, at the same time, there’s also understandable concern over the impact on student exam experience and performance.

Reassuringly, a recent study[1] by one medical school discovered the delivery of online summative tests was an effective and acceptable option for all students. In this study, there were very few technical or practical problems. Whilst there were some reports of an increase in anxiety for some students, others found online exams less stressful.

Importantly, students did highlight that for fairness, everyone should have an even playing field for online exams. With the majority stating a preference to take the exam in computer labs under invigilation if possible. This is also the approach that Speedwell recommends as best practice if circumstances allow. Finally, the study found no evidence of detriment to candidate performance.

At Speedwell, we understand that a positive student exam experience is imperative. That’s why we placed candidates’ user experience at the forefront of our minds when developing our eSystem online exam software. In this article, we’ll detail how eSystem can help you enhance your students’ exam experience.

Intuitive interface promotes positive student exam experiences

Paramount for a positive experience is having an easy and intuitive user interface. Software that’s complicated and not user-friendly only causes stress for candidates and creates problems for exam administrators.

eSystem exam delivery is easy to navigate enabling candidates to complete exams with little or no instruction. And our customer feedback supports this; when ARU’s new School of Medicine used eSystem to run exams for their first cohort of medical students, the reaction was hugely positive;

“The eSystem is so intuitive it means everybody has a good experience and feels confident using it. The student feedback after we ran our first online SBA exam was great. They all felt the software was very straightforward”   Jo Colbert, Undergraduate Assessment Manager, ARU School of Medicine. (Read the full case study – ARU Medical School – Exam software delivers results).

Despite the software being easy to use, it’s understandable if students are apprehensive about new exam processes. Addressing this ahead of the exams is important.

Build confidence in the online exam format

Firstly, building confidence in the online format mitigates increased anxiety from students. Ensure you inform candidates about the process and that they have everything they need well ahead of time. Communicating what happens in the event of technical problems and offering solutions to common practical problems also improves the overall candidate exam experience.

Internet problems or WIFI dropping out are common concerns. With eSystem, exams are saved as they progress. If there’s a problem, candidates simply restart and pick up where they left off. All of their previous question data is saved. It’s also possible for exam administrators to add extra time, so no student is at a disadvantage.

Secondly, if time allows, we recommend building dummy exams for students to access and practice ahead of the actual exam. We’ve found this alleviates fears and gives students confidence in the online exam experience.

Improving student exam experience with enhanced features

The additional features and flexibility of online exams offer some of the biggest enhancements to students’ experience. Images are a great example, with paper exams, images can replicate poorly, be grainy and difficult to see. Online, all candidates have the same on-screen image. Furthermore, with eSystem, they can zoom in and pan around images for close-up views. Also, question authors potentially get greater flexibility because of better image quality and detail on offer.

Additionally, eSystem offers a range of features that enhance candidates’ experience further:

  • Visible time management – a countdown timer allows candidates to effectively manage their time
  • Progress panel – users can flag questions and monitor progress. Sort to all flagged questions, missed question, answered questions and so on. Useful for reviewing at the end of the exam and provides a visual check that all questions have an answer
  • Strike-through and highlight – Mark-up the exam in a similar way to paper
  • Accessibility options – different text sizes and colour options to aid candidates during the exam

All of these, coupled with an easy-to-use and intuitive system, contribute to an improved exam experience.

Exceed expectations by delivering results quickly

The exam experience for students doesn’t end as soon as the exam is over, what happens post exam is equally as important. One of the many benefits of online exams is the ability to deliver results quickly and easily. Many online exam formats such as multiple choice and very short answer offer automatic, instant marking, with less margin for human error. Our customers find that even with formats that require a degree of examiner input, eSystem makes the marking process simpler and quicker than paper equivalents. (Read our Newcastle Uni Case Study for an example).

It’s not hard to empathise with students awaiting results, so the obvious benefit to their exam experience is that they get their results quickly. The longer they wait the more negatively they’re likely to reflect on the experience.

Deliver meaningful and personalised feedback

Having post-exam feedback is very valuable for students’ ongoing learning, and a lack thereof is often mentioned in university student satisfaction surveys. Delivering detailed and personalised feedback can be an immensely time-consuming task for examiners. However, with eSystem, this isn’t the case. It’s possible to create reports quickly and easily and provide candidates with information on their performance, learning gaps and more. Students not only get an enhanced exam experience but, equipped with this information they’ll know where to focus their future efforts too.

Get in touch

To find out more about eSystem, improving student exam experience, and streamlining exam processes, talk to us. Call our sales team on +44 (0) 1223 851703 or email

[1] Jaap, A., Dewar, A., Duncan, C. et al. Effect of remote online exam delivery on student experience and performance in applied knowledge tests. BMC Med Educ 21, 86 (2021).