Exam Invigilation – Going the Distance

Writing an exam can be stressful, and getting there is not half the fun. The last thing I want to worry about on the big exam day is the drive. When I prepared to write my first AU exam, I checked AU’s invigilation network list to find the closest site. The nearest approved invigilator was sixty kilometres away, which is within AU’s guideline of up to 100 km.

Distance is relative, and 100 kilometres can seem short or long. What if 100 kilometres means taking a ferry or driving through Montreal? What if it’s snowing? What if you rely on public transportation and need to take three buses and a long hike to get to the nearest invigilator? In those cases, the distance becomes a bigger barrier.

I scheduled my first exam in late winter. In addition to the usual pre-exam anxieties, I also had Canadian weather to worry about. March straddles winter and spring, and weather-wise it can go either way. Fortunately, on the day of that exam, the weather cooperated and I had an uneventful drive.

Knowing that I had many more courses to take and exams to write, I resolved to find an invigilator closer to home. After all, I won’t always be as lucky with the weather as I was that first time. As it says at the bottom of this article, I live on a windswept, rural road. When it’s snowing and blowing it can be treacherous and ill-advised to drive six kilometres, let alone sixty.

The exam request form states “if you live within 100 km of an AU approved invigilator, you are required to write your exam at that location.” That sounds pretty definitive. But, wait–the AU Undergraduate Calendar page on examination centres states that “it is preferred that students who live within a 100 km radius of an AU-approved invigilation centre, write their examinations at that centre” (

“It is preferred” sounds more flexible than “you are required.” Even though section appears to refer only to AU examination centres in Athabasca, Calgary, and Edmonton, I decided to test the waters and submit my next exam request with a newly-proposed invigilator closer to my home.

Finding a local invigilator, or proctor as they are often called, was not difficult. Many institutions are already set up to supervise exams. In my case, the local public library system already had a policy for proctoring exams. After contacting the library and setting up a tentative exam date, I submitted my exam request to AU.

The first response from the exam unit was to point out that there was already an approved invigilation centre within 100 kilometres. I sent them an e-mail to explain my concern about the distance in winter, and to point out that the local library system had a number of branches spread over three counties, making them an ideal institution for AU exam invigilation.

My request was ultimately approved. My next exam was written at a quiet library branch only twelve kilometres from my home. Now the drive is one less thing to worry about as exam day approaches.

If you’re hampered by the distance to your nearest AU invigilation centre, you might consider proposing a new invigilator. Many institutions can accommodate a supervised exam, with colleges and universities being the obvious locations. In smaller communities or remote areas, think about other institutions that offer training, courses, or public services. Public libraries are often willing to offer this service even if you are not a patron. Check AU’s existing invigilation network for ideas.

Once you’ve identified a potential invigilator, contact that institution to find out if they already have a practice of proctoring exams. If not, be prepared to provide them with information on what would be required and have them contact AU’s exam unit if they need additional information. Ask if they can accommodate online as well as paper exams. Read the invigilator guidelines in AU’s Undergraduate Calendar to ensure there is no potential conflict of interest between you and the invigilator. Contact the exam unit at examunit@athabascau.ca if you’re not sure.

Request approval for a proposed invigilator right on the exam request form. You’ll need to submit your request at least 60 days before your scheduled exam date to allow time for the new invigilator to be considered by the exam unit. If your request for the proposed invigilator is denied and you believe you have compelling reasons why it should be approved, contact the exam unit. Be prepared to justify your request. The exam unit, however, has the final say.

Wherever you write your exam, confirm the location, date, and time with the invigilator ahead of time. Plan to arrive early so that you won’t be anxious about any delays during your drive. And relax–you’ll do fine.