News

Assessment Center Tips & Tricks: Launching an Exam 

By: Emily Yunker, MPA, PMP, Director, Assessment Services and Security Officer and Simone Stewart, Coordinator, Member Engagement

We’ve continued to work with programs as they use the Assessment Center and have heard the challenges faced when starting exams. As a result, our guidance on removing PINs for the in-person proctored delivery type has been reconsidered. If your program continues to experience issues starting exams, our recommendation is to keep PINs and distribute them to students in the room on test day, if possible. We recognize some programs may still need to remove PINs due to the circumstances of their test setup, so please consider the following key factors to help guide your decision to remove PINs or keep them:

You should remove the PIN if:

  • Most of your students are Mac users.
  • The exam is in a testing center with students from other programs.
  • You do not have access to a whiteboard or projector.
  • You cannot provide students with a slip of paper with their PIN.

You should keep the PIN if:

  • Most of your students are PC users.
  • There are internet bandwidth issues at your institution and students need to download their exams in advance.
  • You can easily provide the slip of paper with the PIN to students.

Completely eliminating the use of PINs for the in-person proctored delivery type is currently not feasible due to system limitations and exam security concerns.

OPTION 1: Remove the PIN 

Tips

Removing PINs for tests is useful in large testing centers where the proctor may not know the student as well, or if there is no ability to share PINs. Before removing PINs, and perhaps even before scheduling the exam, communicate to students that they should NOT enter their keycode until given specific permission to do so. Students are sent their keycodes at the time of scheduling, and some want to be prepared right away, but entering the keycode will download the test to SecureClient.  When the exam is ready to begin, the system will expect the setting that was in place at the time of download, which may be entering a PIN that you intend to remove. Templates to relay this type of pre-exam information are available on the Student Communication Resources webpage. The templates can be downloaded, edited with applicable information, and sent to students.

If you decide to remove PINs, download the Invigilation Pack before removing whether it is done in advance or at exam time. Having the Invigilation Pack with PINs on hand will help in case a student has entered their keycode early and their exam asks for a manual PIN entry at test time.

If your institution has had internet bandwidth issues on test days when the full cohort downloads exams on test day, you may elect to have students download their exams in advance. Downloading in advance is not mandatory but may help reduce delays on test day.

  • PC users cannot download in advance after their PIN is removed. Thus, we do not advise removing PINs if you want students to download tests in advance and many are PC users.
  • Mac users can download in advance at any point if they click the Download Exam to Take Later button rather than OK.

How to:

  1. The Monitor Exam tab in the Exam Delivery Platform will populate with upcoming exam events five days before the scheduled start. If preferred, Proctor Users can select these upcoming exams and click the Remove PIN button in advance. 
    • If a student has a purple down arrow state icon, this means they are a PC user who has already entered their keycode and downloaded the test, and you will not be able to remove their PIN.
    • The icon will not change for Mac users who enter their keycode early, nor will PIN removal be blocked. It is important to have the PINs on hand in case of any issues starting their test.
  2. Send students instructions to prepare for test day, such as updating SecureClient, and downloading the test in advance, if needed.
  3. On test day, the student(s) enters the exam room and stows their bag, study materials, and devices. At this time, the proctor should check the box next to each student in the Monitor Exam screen of the Exam Delivery Platform. If you have not already removed PINs, do that as the students enter the test room. 
    • The student can also open SecureClient and check for updates while you are getting ready, before they enter their keycode.
  4. Once the proctor clicks Remove PIN, then the students should be instructed to enter their keycode, review their exam details, and review and acknowledge the Examinee Agreement. Those who entered their keycode in advance will still need to enter it again to access their exam. 
    • PC users whose PINs have been removed will be stopped after the Examinee Agreement and their screen will say the test is locked by the proctor. They will be able to enter their test after the proctor clicks the Unlock button in the Monitor Exam tab to authorize them to begin. Proctor users will see a lock with a yellow I in the State column for students ready to Unlock (the I stands for invigilate, the British English term for proctor). The Monitor Exam page auto-refreshes every minute, but the proctor can refresh the page using the circular arrow button in the upper right corner to reveal the lock icons.
    • Mac and iPad users without PINs do not require unlocking and will be able to enter with only their keycode.

OPTION 2: Using the PIN

Tips

Using PINs allows students to start the test when their computer is ready within the time window for the test. It is a second identity verification, as it is given when the proctor has confirmed they are present.

There is one PIN per program exam per day—one for each End of Rotation exam, for instance—so you should only have seven PINs on a callback day. Ideally, the proctor can write each PIN on a board in the testing room or project the information somewhere easily seen by the student(s). Giving students individual paper slips with their PIN is also an option.

If using a board, projector, or passing out paper slips with PINs is not feasible, we do not recommend keeping the PIN.

Do not email PINs to the students in advance as this presents a potential exam security issue if a student is unable to attend the exam session as expected.

How to:

  1. The student(s) enters the exam room and stows their bag, study materials, and devices. 
  2. The student(s) open SecureClient and check for updates.  
  3. The student(s) enter their keycode, review their exam details, and review and acknowledge the Examinee Agreement. 
  4. The student will be stopped after the Examinee Agreement and their screen will say the test is locked by PIN. The proctor will see a lock with a blue P in the State column. At this point students will enter the PIN, which was provided to them by the proctor, and start the exam! 

General 

Remote proctored exams should always use the PIN. It should be given to the remote proctoring service when the session is set up by the program; NOT given directly to the student or removed on the Monitor Exam page.

Unproctored exams do not use a PIN and they will not be generated on the Monitor Exam page. If a student scheduled for an Unproctored exam reports they are being asked for a PIN, installing the latest updates to SecureClient should resolve their issue.

NOTE: The program should not use the Remove PIN button for any Remote Proctored exams.  

As a reminder, there are two components to beginning any exam in the Assessment Center: 

  • The keycode – This is sent to the student when their exam is scheduled. They can download their test five days in advance (In Person or Unproctored exams), but they will not be able to enter the exam and begin answering questions until the scheduled start time. 
  • The PIN – For each exam day, there will be a different PIN, which the proctor has, for each exam type and delivery type, so seven for an End of Rotation exam day. For an In Person exam, it can be removed five days in advance if you do not want to wait until test day, or don’t have a board or projection ability in your test room. 

PAEA continues to work on process improvements with programs. Please share any suggestions or unique problems by reaching out to us at exams@PAEAonline.org