The Macquarie University Education Strategy committee has specified that four main assessment types will available to be scheduled during a final examination period (Updated March 2024).

1) Invigilated face-to-face on-campus exam 

These take the form of either a pen-on-paper exam or on-campus computer lab examination. The exam is run as a tight window (e.g. 10 min reading if applicable + 2 hour writing time). Both closed book or open book design is possible, however an open book design is wise in case the exam must be reverted to run online.  

2) Invigilated online exam in a ‘tight’ window

This exam will be supervised by central examinations office staff via Zoom and delivered via iLearn. These exams will be run on a ‘tight window’ basis (e.g. 10 min reading if applicable + 2 hour writing time) where all students in a given Zoom room will begin at the same time. All exams will have a 30 minute technical buffer added following the end of writing time. The extra time will be supervised and is to cater for minor technical issues that may cause a student to start late or to allow for the scan/upload of files. Students with ‘reasonable adjustments’ (IEAP) will be accommodated in the usual manner. Exams will iLearn such as quiz, assignment or Turnitin. Exams are run as either ‘on-screen’ or ‘handwritten with upload’. These exams are best designed as an open book exam.

3) Online non-invigilated exam in a ‘tight’ window

This is a time limited exam-like task to be scheduled in a tight window (e.g. 10 min reading if applicable + 2 hour writing time + 30 min technical time = 2hr:40min window). Exams must be designed to be open book. The exam can use iLearn quiz or typed Turnitin submission, or for math/diagrams can use scan/upload to assignment. It is important that iLearn settings are applied to minimise the opportunities for integrity breaches (further advice is below).

4) Online non-invigilated take home assessment in 6 hour window

Students will be allocated 6 hours in the timetable to complete this task. The idea is to design the task with the prevailing open book conditions in mind using an alternative assessment design, instead of a traditional examination format. Assessments of this type will normally be individual (not group tasks) given this is replacing a final exam. The task could be a mini assignment/project style task that could include, cases, problem analysis, investigation, solving/write up – enough to keep students busy for 6 hours! Using an open book design. Using iLearn typed responses submitted to Turnitin or scan/upload of handwritten/diagrams to iLearn assignment.

No longer available

Please note that online ‘exams’ in sliding extended windows such as a “2 hour exam in a 6 hour window” task design can no longer to be used. Issues related to offshore students in unsuitable time zones will be handled separately by exams office.

Assessments outside of the exam period

Final assessments scheduled to be due outside of the final exam period e.g. during week 13 or due after the exam period will not appear on the exam timetable and are not limited to the types outlined above.

Further advice is provided below on preparing final assessments.

Top tips for teachers preparing final assessments

Top tips for teachers in preparing time-limited final assessments including take home tasks and online exams using Macquarie University iLearn (Moodle). These strategies are designed to reduce (but not eliminate) the opportunities for academic integrity breaches. These tips are available as a one page reminder sheet.

Prepare students

  1. Advise students of the assessment structure and iLearn settings well in advance of the assessment. Providing advance notice reduces perceived ‘risks’ surrounding the assessment task.
  2. Provide an opportunity to do a practice run using the same task design and conditions. This allows students to come prepared and to work out the ‘bugs’ in their personal setup, thus reducing stress levels and disruptions on the exam day.
  3. Discuss academic integrity with students before the exam. Raising awareness that teaching staff are paying attention to academic integrity improves the climate for academic integrity.
  4. Be specific about what is and what is not permitted in the exam instructions. Each assessment task is different and so being clear about the rules greatly reduces confusion for all involved.

Task design

  1. Set tasks that target higher order thinking e.g. apply, analyse, evaluate, create. See Bloom’s verbs and Sambell & Brown’s collection of exam-alternative assessment designs.
    • Don’t use questions where a quick web search would reveal the answer.
  2. Ask questions linked to the personal and the unit context e.g. specific theories, resources used, discussions held, work done or incidents from industry that occurred during the session.
  3. Customise questions every time they are used (this helps detect uploads and breaches). e.g. change labels, names, variables, case descriptions, data sets, use unique phrases, combinations of Çharacters, symbls or meta data.
    • Don’t use text-book supplied questions (solution manuals are often available online).
  4. Leverage the capabilities of available technology tools for authentic task design. E.g. have students use discipline software to interrogate data, solve problems, provide files for manipulation or analysis such as a spreadsheet, data set, case study, digital object, and have students create digital files or media artefacts for submission. See more ideas for interactive question design.
  5. Require a password for students to access the exam activity and files.
  6. Add “Copyright Macquarie University – sharing is prohibited” to each exam and resource. Doing this makes it clear to students and helps the university issue take-down notices.

iLearn (Moodle) Quiz exams

Configure the quiz to:

  • Shuffle the order of questions in the exam for each student (Note: Sections can be used to keep a sub-set of questions in sequence, while others are shuffled).
  • Shuffle the sequence of response options within questions (for MCQ, Selected, TF).
  • Use random questions from a question bank (use ‘categories’ arranged by topic and by difficulty level to ensure all students receive a fair exam).
  • Use deferred feedback and remove all review options (this help prevent the early finishing students from passing on answers to others).

A how to guide to configuring quiz exams is available for MQ staff.


Split a large final assessment into separate mini tasks. These could occur over the course of the session or be done in the one exam sitting where each can be a prerequisite to latter sections done one at a time and in sequence. E.g. a 2 hour exam becomes 4 separate 30 minute quizzes.

Go beyond written exams and try alternative assessment formats – e.g. utilise interactive online oral assessment via Zoom in connection with or in place of a written exam. Sambell and Brown (2020) provided a table of alternative assessments in place of formal exams along with a design model and examples in their webinar recording ‘post-pandemic assessment‘ (held, 1 Sept 2021).

Invigilate the exam where possible and available – the central exams office offer on-campus in-person or online invigilation via Zoom.

Further Information

The above tips list is available as a one page reminder sheet.

Academic integrity advice for Macquarie University staff and ways to enhance academic integrity awareness.

Staff Academic Integrity (Advanced) – Workday module: Assessments and Academic Integrity

Clarifying assessment and exams rules (communicating what is and what is not permitted for your exam)

Advice on using a Quiz for an Exam and separate how to guide for configuring the quiz.

Advice on detecting and deterring cheating in online iLearn exams.

Macquarie University exam preparation advice, guides and links all in one place – covering all exam types.

Posted by Mathew Hillier

Mathew has been engaged by Macquarie University as an e-Assessment Academic in residence and is available to answer questions by MQ staff. Mathew specialises in Digital Assessment (e-Assessment) in Higher Education. Has held positions as an advisor and academic developer at University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, Monash University and University of Adelaide. He has also held academic teaching roles in areas such as business information systems, multimedia arts and engineering project management. Mathew recently led a half million dollar Federal government funded grant on e-Exams across ten university partners and is co-chair of the international 'Transforming Assessment' webinar series as the e-Assessment special interest group under the Australasian society for computers in learning in tertiary education. He is also an honorary academic University of Canberra.

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