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What Does Proctor Mean?

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Test Time: The Role of a Proctor

If you are currently taking classes, either on-campus, through work or online, you've probably had to take an exam. To ensure the integrity of the test, there's a good chance that your school used a proctor to observe your actions during the test. Historically, proctors have been people trained to catch signs of cheating and dishonesty, but new technology now automates some proctoring functions. If you are enrolled in an online program because of your family's schedule, you may at some point be required to find a proctor for any exams that you take.

What Do Proctors Do?

Proctors are probably best-known for walking the aisles during exams, keeping an eye out for cheat sheets, electronic devices and other indicators of dishonesty. In some cases, a proctor may also be responsible for ensuring that test-takers comply with the rules set by the exam provider, such as prohibitions against bringing personal items into the exam room. Finally, the proctor is often also responsible for verifying the test-taker's identity.

Why Are Proctors Needed?

Schools, professional certification providers and licensing agencies rely on examinations to measure a person's understanding of one or more subjects. Unfortunately, some individuals who take exams resort to cheating. This kind of fraud undermines the integrity of the test as well as the learning, certification or licensing process.

The popularity of distance learning has increased the need for proctoring services, since many individuals now take quizzes and exams outside a traditional classroom setting, where they might otherwise be monitored by their professor or a teaching assistant. Providers of online courses have developed several ways of proctoring their exams, including making arrangements with local community colleges to proctor exams in their testing centers, requiring students to find their own proctors among professional acquaintances, or using third-party services and software to monitor the testing.

How to Find a Proctor

Even if you aren't taking any classes right now, you may still need to find a proctor. This could be because your employer is creating training programs that include an exam, or because one of your kids is taking a class or two online.

  • Businesses: If your business develops training programs for internal or external use, one option is to contract with a third-party proctoring service. These services often provide customized solutions that offer varying degrees of security. For example, an online test-taker may be required to show his face and photo ID on camera before a live proctor permits him to take an exam. 
  • Individuals: If you are taking a distance learning course for work or academic study, the course provider will tell you or your child whether exams will be proctored. In some cases, a proctor only needs to be an adult of good character who is willing to sign an affidavit stating that he or she was present during the exam. 

In other cases, the course provider may be more specific about proctoring requirements: For example, you may have to find an educator, clergyperson or librarian to be your proctor. You may also have to take your test in a specific environment, such as a library or academic testing center.


Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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