I ask this because from my experience, a TA and/or a Proctor moving around the testing room looking over my shoulder is distracting and breaks my concentration. I have been in both positions, TA and Proctor and I try to only move when a student needs something, such as a pencil or paper. My administrator seemed to get angry today because I was standing in one place too long. I also noticed that I have a better view of testers when I can see them all from a fixed point not turning my back on part of them throughout the test. Does anyone else see moving around the room as distracting to testers?

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    I also find it incredibly distracting, especially in a small class where rotations around the room are done in quick succession. Your point about visibility is also accurate, in my opinion. That said, it really doesn't make sense to me why they're walking around so much. Then again, I've only been in the position if one being tested, so I may be missing something. Commented May 19, 2015 at 21:45
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    Mostly speculation. If you stay in one place, you're only getting one angle of the students. Presumably, there are cheating methods that rely on limited line-of-sight from the proctor. Staying still for extended periods of time makes it easier for students to determine and exploit your blind spots.
    – Roger Fan
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 21:54
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    @Roger: I almost feel that anyone who gets all Ocean's Eleven about cheating on an exam may deserve to get some rewards for their good planning and hard work. Only almost. But the "cheater savant" is a rare bird indeed in my part of the world. If I have ever had one in front of me, then I was fooled by the thoroughness of their camouflage: they make sure not to do well enough on the exam for me to notice. Commented May 20, 2015 at 0:57
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    Cheaters NEVER "deserve" to get rewarded for their work. Ever.
    – jvriesem
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 5:18
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    Wait, that's required? Oops. // On a different note, I once had a professor who walked around the room, looked at my work and just said "Hmmmm...." That was quite unnerving.
    – apnorton
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 18:21

3 Answers 3


It is not globally required: e.g. I do not move around the room unprompted when proctoring an exam. So it is probably a matter of local academic culture and/or preference of the (head) course instructor.

In these kinds of fine points, academic culture differs so strongly from place to place as to make it clear that there are not always deep, well-thought out reasons for doing things one way or another: many institutions do things in a certain way because they "always" have done so. The academic culture shock that I experienced in moving from the US to Montreal was considerable.

For instance, I believe that I first learned the word "invigilator" when someone introduced himself to me as an invigilator for my course. If you had told me before I arrived in Montreal that final exams there have professional invigilators, I might not have believed you. In the US, if you are teaching a course without a "common final" (I imagine that common finals occur only in a small minority of all courses taught, but I don't know for sure) then you, the instructor, are very likely the sole inviligator/proctor/administrator/TA in the room when an exam is taking place. (Not that having professional invigilators is a bad idea: if you have the infrastructure in place, why not? But I assume that they get paid at least a little bit, and this would never fly in the state university at which I currently reside.)

So understand that when I say that I do not move around the room when giving a final exam, I mean no one does. It is not really clear to me what cheating I might be missing out on by only looking at the students from the front of the room. I should say that I am used to a classroom environment with stadium seating and small flip-up desks so I can see a lot from the front of the room. I also teach a subject -- math -- such that coming in with a cheat-sheet or something like that would not make things that much easier. Even consulting the internet on your cell phone while in the bathroom would not help that much -- one does need to show one's work, after all -- unless the student was unusually insightful and well-prepared about how to cheat in this way. In my local academic culture, cheaters are not insightful or well-prepared...

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    invigilators are typically grad students and drawn from the TA ranks. If they are paid it is at the same sort of rates they are paid to TA Commented May 20, 2015 at 10:25
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    @Kate Gregory: At McGill, invigilators are not only paid but also unionized: mcgill.ca/students/exams/invigilation. Apparently about 90% of them are students (which I didn't know until just now; the small number of invigilators I worked with were much older than I was). Commented May 20, 2015 at 10:44

Moving around is probably not required (to do so would be micromanaging on the institution's part), but as others have pointed out, it depends on the "local academic culture" and most importantly on the instructor or whoever is in charge of proctoring the exam.

As a TA of various roles, when I've given or proctored an exam, I tend to move a lot. Here's why:

  1. Depending on the test and how much time is left for the students to finish, there can be a lot of questions, which makes me move a lot.
  2. I've found that moving around encourages students to ask a question. (Most of my questions are from people as I pass by them.) I think they'd rather not raise their hand if I'm in the front of the room or not paying attention because it would slow them down. If I'm near them, they can ask their question quickly and move on. This is my primary reason for moving around when not asking questions.
  3. Moving around tells my students that I'm eager to help them with their questions. It shows I'm interested and mindful of them. It's an accurate impression, but I want them to see it.
  4. I've caught a ton of wandering eyes by moving around. It's easier for me because I can't see the eyes of the students in the back rows well enough from the front of the classroom (15-25 m away). Surprisingly, watching students from behind can be useful because they are sometimes more careless, or don't see me watching their heads turn towards their neighbor's work.
  5. Moving around gives my students the impression that I'm watching them more closely, and I hope that this (if nothing else!) discourages them from cheating.
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    6. If the exam has been going on for a long time or your even have to proctor two or more sequential exams, moving around keeps your attention high.
    – skymningen
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 9:50
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    I second #2. I also like to go around periodically to check on how far the students have gotten part-way through. This helps me gauge my test-writing acumen.
    – Kimball
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 13:03

When I have proctored exams, I tended to move around the room for two reasons:

  1. Answering questions: in a good-sized class, there's a lot of motion just from answering questions.
  2. When not answering questions, I would sometimes move around the class just because I was feeling rather bored and restless.

Looking for cheaters didn't actually enter into it.

  • This testing situation is a state test where teachers and students are not allowed to discuss the test at all. Sure during the beginning of test when everyone is getting settled, then as students complete the test, we go to them and retrieve the tests and other materials. My issue is why am I required to meander around the room during the test to look over students' shoulders when I can see everyone from one fixed point.
    – Art Galaxy
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 1:43
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    @ArtGalaxy If the students aren't allowed to ask anything, then the only thing I can think of is that they really want you to look for cheaters... or at least to make the students think you are looking. And I suppose you'll at least be uniform in your impact if you're moving around.
    – jakebeal
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 1:49
  • @Roger-I could understand the point of moving according to angle or vantage point; however, in this room, the desks and students were in individual desks with large tops and the students hands, legs, bodies, and feet are visible from a single vantage point. Also, no bags, purses, cell phones, etc.are allowed in the testing room. Constant or near constant walking just seems an unnecessary distraction for the students testing.
    – Art Galaxy
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 2:12
  • @jakebeal- I think you're probably correct in your reasoning. I have a bit of a stubborn streak that won't allow my mind to rationalize disturbing students who are testing in order to fulfill a requirement that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
    – Art Galaxy
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 3:17
  • I took an entrance exam once where the proctor kept rattling the coins in his pocket. After half an hour of that, I was ready to strangle him. - - - Could you ask the administrator your question, without alienating him/her? Commented May 20, 2015 at 5:24

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