When designing a test or exam

Help your students by designing exams, test and quizzes that make it difficult to cheat.

Modify your tests and exams every term

Even minor changes, such as changing the order of questions or altering numerical values, will make a difference. Use a question bank to find more questions to make this task easier, but do not rely on these as many questions from these banks may be available to students through contract cheating providers.

If you need help in creating multiple-choice test questions, you can find some useful tips originally published in Path to Pedagogy, 22(3).

Where possible, use long answer or essay format

Formulate questions in which students apply knowledge rather than memorize and reproduce answers.

If you are administering the test or exam online, use features of a learning management system (i.e., UM Learn) to reduce cheating by randomizing the order of questions and answers, or using timed tests.

Prepare students for the quiz, test or exam

Provide sufficient information in the syllabus about the purpose and types of the test or exam questions they will be required to answer. The more information that students have about the test or exam, “the more confident they will be about [it] and the less motivation they may have to cheat” (Whitley & Keith-Spiegel, 2002, p. 66).

Similarly, provide students with practice questions that are similar in difficulty and form to what they will encounter on the quiz, test or exam. If the quiz, test or exam will be administered in UM Learn and with Respondus LockDown Browser with/without Respondus Monitor, encourage students to self-register for the UM Learn course — Respondus Monitor Practice Exam. This course will allow students to:

  1. Set up the technology in advance of the formal assessment.
  2. Complete a generic practice test in advance of the formal assessment.
  3. Become familiar with the user interface and trouble-shoot issues.

Instructors are encouraged to:

  1. Direct students to final exam supports.
  2. Include technology requirements on the course outline and in the UM Learn course shell. Discuss these requirements with students.
  3. Create a practice test with the specific features of Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor that will be used and specific question types similar to the formal assessment (e.g., graphs, multiple choice, long answer). General tips for helping students prepare for tests and exams can be found here and at the Academic Learning Centre.
  4. Access information and free webinars for using Respondus software if using) to give you the tools to handle ‘what-if’ scenarios and learn best practices.

Exam procedure and security

  • Protect test material and answer keys at all times (McMaster University, 2009).
  • Use various versions of the same test or exam so students seated next to each other are writing exams that vary in question order or contain questions with different numerical values or other details. Do not tell students you have used alternate exams when you have not.
  • Track the number of copies made, distributed and returned to ensure no copies are removed from the room without authorization (McMaster University, 2009).
  • Check student cards at the beginning of an in-person invigilated exam. The University of Manitoba Exam Regulations stipulate that “Each student shall display his or her student card and photo identification and shall sign an attendance form.” If a student is unable to produce appropriate photo identification (i.e., student card), arrange for the student to present it before you mark the exams.
  • Carefully invigilate your in-person tests and exams. Be sure there are a sufficient number of invigilators for the size of the class.
  • When possible, seat students with space between each of them.
  • Provide scratch paper if required.
  • Record the seating arrangement when possible.
  • Scrutinize authorized items carefully (e.g., calculators, water bottles) (McMaster University, 2009). Have students place all personal items (e.g., bags, coats, hats and electronic devices) under their desks or chairs. Remind them that possessing unauthorized material (even if not used) is an offence under the University of Manitoba Final Examinations Procedure (University of Manitoba, 2013).
  • The University of Manitoba Final Examinations Procedure stipulates that students are not allowed to write the exam if they arrive 30 minutes late to the exam start time or after another student has finished writing the same exam and has left the room.
  • When marking the exams, draw a line though any blank spaces as to preclude students from adding material and claiming it was not marked.

Invigilating quizzes, tests or exams in remote courses

  • Early in the course (i.e., during the revision period), explain to students if and how exams will be monitored online (e.g., live monitoring, Respondus Lockdown Browser with Monitor)
  • Explain your use of the exam invigilation you chose from an educational perspective, emphasizing the importance of maintaining academic integrity for all students in the course.
  • Avoid using online/recorded invigilation as a scare tactic. Scare tactics may increase anxiety and stress and send a negative message of mistrust.
  • Consider enabling an environment scan prior to the beginning of the exam to examine the immediate surroundings of a student for unauthorized materials. Environment scans can help reduce student anxiety that a ‘false positive’ allegation could occur.
  • When live-monitoring an online exam, if you notice unusual or suspicious activity, treat this in the same way as you would for an in-person exam. Contact the student, advise of the concern, document the incident and relevant details, and allow the student to continue writing. Do not stop the student from completing the exam.

After the test


Provide constructive feedback on tests and exams. Provide explanations on questions “that are missed by a substantial proportion of students” (Whitley and Keith-Spiegel, 2002, p. 51).

Discovery interview for academic misconduct

If you have suspicions about a submitted assessment, engaging the student in a conversation about their assessment can be helpful to understand the issue. This UM Discover Tips resource provides tips for documenting the discovery interview and examples of questions you may ask to gain clarification.


McMaster University. (2009). Preventing academic dishonesty. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity/instructors/suggestions/index.html

University of Manitoba. (2013). University of Manitoba final examination procedure. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from http://umanitoba.ca/registrar/final-exams

Whitley, B. E. J., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (2002). Academic dishonesty: An educator’s guide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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