Creating and Administering a Timed Exam in Canvas

October 28, 2020

Since transitioning to online and hybrid instruction, many faculty have developed efficient and effective remote assessment strategies. Still, there may be questions about how to administer timed assessments while maintaining our culture of integrity. Here are a couple examples of timed exams:

  1. Administering two separate timed exam windows to accommodate time zones, such as a morning exam and an evening exam. Students sign up in advance for their preferred time based on their schedule. 
  2. Administering a timed exam during a designated period of 24 hours, during which students have a 2-hour time limit to complete it once they have started.
  3. Administering a timed exam during a designated period when all students take the exam at the same time. This is most similar to what happens in a traditional classroom environment. For example, all students taking the exam at the designated time of Monday, Nov. 16th from 9-11am EST.

Option 1 and 2 above still require students to complete the exam within a time limit but allows for consideration of different time zones, student schedules, access to technology, or unexpected technical difficulties. Option 3 offers students the least amount of flexibility and consideration for time zones.

Canvas offers a variety of features and options that enable faculty to customize timed exams based on the specific needs of classes. To get started, consider the following steps and best practices for administering timed exams via Canvas.

How to Create Timed Exams

The steps below outline how to create and administer timed exams in Canvas and customize settings:

  • Login to the Canvas course.
  • Click on the Quizzes link from the course menu and select the +Quiz button
  • Use the Quiz Instructions textbox to provide students with assessment instructions and information about what to expect, including the total time allotted for the exam, when the exam closes, the number of allowed attempts, and how to reach out to you about exam issues.
  • For open-ended or long-form responses, encourage students to draft their responses in a Word document and save their progress to have a back-up copy if they lose internet connection, power, or encounter any other technical difficulty.
  • For the Quiz Type, select Graded Quiz.
  • Adjust quiz settings from the Options section. Below is an image of the default screen and a short description of each setting, along with some considerations for use:
  1. Shuffle Answers allows you to randomize answer choices for each student’s exam attempt. However, please note that this setting does not work well for All of the above or None of the above answer choices.

    A note about question banks: Canvas also has robust options for question bank configurations, which is often preferred over the Shuffle Answer functionality. Question banks help with randomization, having multiple test versions, and using multiple versions of the same questions with different numerical assumptions. A Nexus Instructional Designer can help set up question bank functionality for a course.

  2. Time Limit sets the length of the exam for all students. Faculty can determine the number of minutes students have to complete the entire exam. Timed exams begin once a student begins the exam and will not be paused if the student decides to leave the quiz. Please note: when administering a timed exam within a designated period (e.g., 2-hour exam within a 3-hour window), if a student starts late with only 30 minutes remaining during the designated period, the exam will automatically close at the end of that window even if they have not used their full 2 hours. The unfinished timed quiz will be automatically submitted when the time limit expires. If no time limit is set, students will have unlimited time to complete the quiz.

  3. Allow Multiple Attempts provides students with multiple attempts to complete the exam. Upon clicking the check box, you will see additional options to determine the number of allowed attempts and which quiz score to keep, such as the highest score, latest score, or average score of all attempts. By default, Canvas will keep the highest score unless this setting is changed.

  4. Let Students See Their Quiz Responses allows students to see their answers, whether they are correct or incorrect, and if any automatic feedback is set up for the answers. This option is preselected by default. Consider disabling this functionality by unchecking the option box if you don’t want students to see their answers immediately after submitting, if you allow multiple quiz attempts, or don’t want students to see the correct answers while other students are still taking the exam or quiz. Some faculty may prefer options 5 and 6 below instead, depending on the quiz/exam format. If exams and assessments are used across multiple offerings or semesters, faculty may prefer not to make the final answers visible at any time.

  5. Only Once After Each Attempt allows students to see the correct answers only when they have completed and submitted the exam. By selecting this option, faculty can minimize unapproved collaboration that does not align with the Honor Code. Please note that this option is best suited for exams with auto-graded questions such as multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blanks, etc., and not for essay questions or short answer questions that require manual grading. This may mean students will be allowed to see the correct answers while other students are still taking the exam or quiz. If exams and assessments are used across multiple offerings or semesters, faculty may prefer not to make the final answers visible at any time.

  6. Let Students See The Correct Answers allows faculty to select a specific date and time for students to be able to see the correct answers. Most faculty prefer this option so they know when students will have access to the correct responses (e.g., after all students have completed the exam). Please note that if you do not want students to see the correct answers at any point, make sure this option is not selected. Also note that if the “Only Once After Each Attempt” option is selected, it will override this option and reveal the correct answer to each student immediately after they submit their exam. If exams and assessments are used across multiple offerings or semesters, faculty may prefer not to make the final answers visible at any time.

  7. One Question at a Time allows students to see only one question at a time, removing the option to return to previous questions or move on to the next question before answering. Keep in mind that this impacts students’ ability to employ certain exam strategies such as refining a response before submitting their answer or jumping ahead to questions they can quickly address before returning to those which require more time.

    After choosing the desired settings and populating the assessment questions, you’ll want to confirm your settings for the date and time for the exam to be administered, and save and publish the exam in Canvas. Further manual settings are available to accommodate needs and issues should they arise, such as adding extra time and adjusting the number of quiz attempts.

For assistance with Canvas functionality for timed exams, or to have a Nexus instructional designer set up course exams for your course, complete this short form to request a one-on-one instructional consultation. To learn more about remote assessment strategies, alternative assessments, and best practices for supporting academic integrity, click here

For more tips, resources, and information about Canvas, visit our Canvas Course Setup page

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