OPINION: Dealing with online testing

Online learning is stressful enough; online testing adds a whole new level of stress to the mix



With online testing, students are facing more and more issues that can be stressful.


Being a student forces us to face many different challenges. We need to leave home and our friends. Sometimes, we even need to move to a different country. This learning process is beneficial in all senses because it helps to develop our personality and make us more mature.

This process includes tests of your education — how well you know the material you’ve learned. These tests are nightmares for many students, no matter how much they study and how successful they are. Tests bring additional stress to our complicated student-life.

It’s a hard time to be a student because we are isolated and cannot go to class and talk to the professor or each other. Online testing can bring even more problems: internet instability, webcams to track students, using different sites where you provide personal information and time limitations, among other issues.

“On the student side, the online format test is not familiar, which increases some anxiety and stress,” Courtney Kurinec, post-doctoral research fellow in WSU’s Department of Psychology, said.

I want to emphasize that all of us feel stress now. I consider myself a hard-working student, and I do a lot of work to prepare for tests, but even hearing the word “test” brings me to a high-stress level. Let’s try to understand how to deal with some challenges connected to testing this semester.

First: imagine you start your test and everything is going well. You’re working on the questions, and suddenly you lose your internet connection. Your first thought: I failed!

Don’t panic! Take a screenshot and send an email to your professor with the screenshot immediately. I think any professor would understand this kind of issue.

“If you have roommates or kids, who make noise, it can distract you and make you perform poorly,” Kurinec said.

It is tough to maintain a quiet environment to entirely focus on the test, but it is possible. If you have roommates, they are often also students and they will have tests too. You can agree on a quiet environment during the test. If you have kids, ask your friends or relatives to help with kids during testing sessions.

The time limit per question can create additional pressure, especially if English is not your native language, and you need more time to process information. I have faced many times when my teacher gives me a minute per question, consisting of five lines, and every answer to the question is five lines — think application questions in biology or calculations in chemistry.

Kurinec said she does not know any study to define the amount of time needed to answer different subject questions. There are many guidelines, but no data on how those guidelines were created.

I think it would be good if psychologists could study that problem in greater depth, and at least try to define how fast information can be processed by the brain to answer questions. I also think it should be considered if English is not the student’s native language because no matter how well you know a foreign language, the brain processes information in a foreign language slower than in its native one. The WSU access center is set up to help students with these kinds of needs. 

Professors provided some other tips to make the time limitations less stressful.

“Do more practice for the exam and think about the goals,” Kurinec said.

Preparation is a major part of dealing with tests online – as long as you’re prepared, the experience isn’t so bad.

“Be prepared to test the best as you can. It is also good to know about the time limit per question and details about login,” Chad Gotch, educational psychology assistant professor, said. “You will be able to reduce other sources of anxiety by knowing those details.”

I also want to add that if fewer students try to cheat, it will be easier for the rest of us. Professors would be able to make questions to see students’ real knowledge and to make some changes in the course teaching, not just to minimize cheating. Hard-working students would have less stress because there would be fewer controlling mechanisms, avoiding additional pressure during the exam.