What you should know before choosing exam management software.

Deploying the right exam management software

Are you considering investing in exam software to run your paper exams digitally? Do you really know what you are looking for? First of all it is important to make a list of what you want your exam software to be able to do before you even start looking otherwise you may find yourself with a shiny new exam management software package that doesn’t actually meet your needs. Here are the essentials you should know and consider when creating your specification list for question banking or exam management software:

What type of exams?

High or low stake exams?
Are you running high stake exams or low stake exams? Do you need to be able to run exams offline e.g. without depending on a reliable WIFI or connection speed? These are key considerations that should be answered in your exam software specification list. Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Moodle or Blackboard are not designed for high stake exams, they are more for low key formative exams which are sat online. Maxexam is purposely built for high stakes exams so it does not rely on having an internet connection to be able to sit the exam.

Written or practical exams?
Do you want to deliver written exams such as MCQs and essays? Most exam software suppliers will allow you to create and deliver MCQ exams however very few allow you to create and deliver both written and practical exams in one system. If you want to deliver practical exams such as OSCEs make sure that you can manage everything in one system rather than multiple packages. This becomes vital when you need a system that creates reports for you that cover all your exams.


How are questions created and stored?

Most exam management software will have the facility to enable you to create questions and exams. One of the important advantages of a digital examination system is that you can store all your questions securely in one question bank rather than in multiple documents and spreadsheets. You need to consider who will be creating the questions and will they need remote access to edit questions? You want to be continually improving the quality of your questions so exam software that allows multiple users to remotely review and standard set questions is key to improving your quality assurance processes.

How are exams delivered?

Moving from a paper based exams to computer based exams has an effect on all stakeholders particularly the staff deploying the exams and the students taking them. Some organisations choose to adopt a staged approach to moving to a digital exam system. The first phase may involve entering questions into a question bank and using the exam software to produce the exam to help staff become familiar with the software. But still deliver the exam on paper. The next phase will be introducing the software to students through mock exams before they take their summative exams on computers. Having an exam platform that students can just pick up and use is important. You don’t want a system that causes any more anxiety in what can already be a stressful time for students.

Key questions to ask are:

  • What computers or devices do you have already? Can these be used by the exam software to deliver exams?
  • Do you have enough devices to cover the number of students that will sit the exam at one time or will you need multiple sittings?
  • Is the exam software interface simple and easy to use by students?

Does it provide reports and analysis?

Excellent exam software will create reports in a click to help provide you with the information you need to feedback to students and lecturers. You also want to know how your questions are performing so you can improve and ensure the reliability and quality of questions. Digital exam software can calculate a wide range of statistics in a click which would normally take a statistician days or weeks. This means you can know the results of the exams even before the student leaves the exam room.

Is it future proof?

Don’t forget to consider what your aims are for your exams in the future. Is the digital exam software that you choose scalable and future proof? Scalable software should be able to support a wide range of users across multiple locations.

Using these questions will help you compile a specification list which will mean you ask the right questions when you are speaking to companies about what their exam software can deliver.