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Online Exam


A high-stakes closed-book exam, often occurring at the end of a period of learning to assess whether students have achieved the intended learning outcomes. It takes place online and is timed, where students need to be online for the duration of the exam. It takes place in an exam centre or remotely. Students have no access to learning materials/resources for the duration of the exam.

What can it assess ?

As there are many different formats of online exams, depending on the questions used the outcomes can range from the demonstration of knowledge to more complex tasks such as applying, discussing, debating, evaluating and critiquing concepts. Given the time-limited conditions, it also can assess to some extent how students perform in a time constrained live online environment utilising digital technologies.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Can offer flexibility to students to take exams remotely; particularly helpful to students located over greater geographical areas
  • Students can use digital tools that they are familiar with, rather than having to revert to pen and paper
  • Online exams can be more accessible to all students with extra time easy to set-up for those who require it.


  • Can be challenging to ensure students are not using the internet, learning materials or other resources to assist them during the online exam
  • There is a requirement for all students to have access to appropriate remote/on-campus environment, hardware, digital tools and a stable internet connection for duration of exam 

Design and Online Assessment Considerations


Firstly one should consider what type of assessment could be used in the design of an online exam and what would be most appropriate to assess the learning outcome(s).  An online exam may be delivered through various assessment types; such as, an online quiz, an essay/short answer, virtual presentation etc. Depending on the format it would also be essential to decide if it is appropriate to have the online exam invigilated or not.

If the online exam needs to be included in the UCD Examination schedule ensure that the Assessment Unit is fully informed of the nature and duration of the exam.  For locally arranged online exams, see UCD Assessment unit advice. 

Online Assessment

Dependent on assessment type there are a variety of tools and technologies which are appropriate to support online assessments, these include: 

Preparing Students

  • Provide students with clear instructions on the format of the online exam and the time frame that they have to complete and submit. 
  • Let students know when the online exam is scheduled and if it will be available to them remotely or in an on-campus setting. 
  • Let students know the digital equipment/tools required including reliable internet connection that they will need to complete the online exam. 
  • Advise students who they should contact during the exam in case of an issue/query, and how they should make contact.
  • Advise students in advance how you will get in contact with them should the need arise.
  • Ideally allow students  a ‘practice run’ in advance of the online exam, where they will complete and submit following the same instructions as you intend to provide for the actual exam. Invite students’ feedback on the ‘practice run’ so that any issues can be addressed.   

Learn More 

The following are some key resources that are currently available if you would like to learn more about this key assessment type.