Think back to your school days, and you can probably remember the word ‘invigilator’ being used. But what does it mean? And is it different from a proctor?

In this blog we’re going to take a look at exam invigilation and how it differs between traditional & online. Then we’ll examine its pros and cons. But first, what exactly is exam invigilation?

What does ‘exam invigilation’ mean?

Invigilation is the process of monitoring students during an exam or assessment. It’s also known as proctoring.

An exam proctor/invigilator makes sure students aren’t receiving any unfair assistance during the assessment, and that they’re not cheating. For online exams, they’re also responsible for protecting against candidate impersonation, to ensure the right person takes the right test.

Traditionally, exam invigilation takes place in a test centre where all of the candidates take the exam from. But nowadays, with more and more companies using online assessment software to deliver their tests, there’s a greater need for online invigilation. Here’s how it works.

How online exam invigilation works

Online exam invigilation differs from offline proctoring in a few ways.

First off, there’s the obvious issue that the test-takers are taking the exam from various different locations. Without a centralised test centre to monitor behaviour from, the proctoring must be done online.

Online exam invigilation is normally done in one of two ways – with a human invigilator, or AI-powered.

Human online invigilation

A human invigilator monitors the behaviour of candidates via a webcam. They make sure the right person is taking the right test, and monitors their feeds to prevent any cheating. They essentially do the job of a traditional exam proctor, but in an online setting.

AI-powered invigilation

Across all industries, AI is growing in popularity as it grows in quality. AI-based invigilation systems can now automatically detect if the wrong candidate is taking an exam using biometric facial recognition software. And if a participant moves away from the screen during a test, it will be picked up on by a remote invigilator.

The challenges of online proctoring

Protecting against candidate impersonation

The first challenge of online invigilation is candidate impersonation (also known as candidate substitution). This is when a different person than the assigned candidate takes a test. For example, the test-taker might appear on screen when the test starts, but substitute for someone else after it begins.

This is one of the main reasons why accurate online invigilation is so important.

Monitoring cheating

Next, an online proctor has to make sure the test-taker isn’t receiving any third-party assistance during the exam. Or, to put it bluntly, make sure they’re not cheating. This could mean ensuring the candidate isn’t researching information online, getting help from a third-party or has textbooks close by.

Tech problems

The other main challenge that comes with online exam invigilation is a technological one. Simply put, it requires a reliable app or browser-based software that isn’t going to break at the key moments. Without that, online assessments can soon become more stress than they’re worth.

This applies to the test-takers, too. If the software is too powerful then it could alienate some participants who don’t have a device that can cope. And if it’s not reliable, it will put people off taking your online test in the future.

The 3 biggest advantages of online exam invigilation

There’s no doubt that online exam invigilation has its challenges. But get it right, and it can be a more efficient, cost-effective and stress-free way of administering online assessments. Here are the main advantages of online exam proctoring.

1. It reduces costs

Without the need to use a test centre or hire an invigilator, an online assessment can end up being much cheaper to run than a traditional one. But you’ve still got to make sure the exam itself is up to scratch – there’s no point saving money on a substandard test experience, after all.

2. It’s more flexible

Online assessments are a flexible and adaptable way of taking a test. Participants can sit an online exam wherever – and sometimes whenever – they want. That’s going to be an obvious attraction for a lot of test-takers.

3. It’s more accessible

But more than anything, online tests are all about one thing: accessibility.


Without an exam centre to travel to or a timetable to stick to, you’re opening your assessment up to a wider range of people than before. Nobody is excluded if they’re unable to travel to a test centre, or if they can’t attend the exam on the date given.

You’ve also got to factor in exam anxiety. An exam setting is a stressful environment, and some participants won’t be able to perform at their best in it. Given the flexibility of an online test, and the fact that people can take it in familiar surroundings, you’re giving people a better chance of performing at their best.

And ultimately, that’s what online exam invigilation is all about. It’s not about preventing cheating or to closely monitor test-takers. It is about giving candidates the best chance possible to perform at their best during the assessment. If online exam invigilation achieves that, it’s doing its job.