Advanced Standing Exams and math diagnostic to be administered online using proctoring software

Proctortrack monitors students’ desktop, webcam video, and audio during exams

The 7.012 (Introduction to Biology), 8.01 (Physics I), 8.02 (Physics II), 8.03 (Physics III), 8.04 (Quantum Physics I), 18.01 (Calculus I), and 18.02 (Calculus II) Advanced Standing Exams (ASE) and the math diagnostic will be offered virtually on MITx prior to orientation week. 

The 5.111 (Principles of Chemical Science) and 5.12 (Organic Chemistry I) ASEs will not be administered for the Fall 2020 term, according to the Office of the First Year (OFY) ASE webpage. The math department will not offer its 18.03 (Differential Equations) and 18.06 (Linear Algebra) ASEs, which are usually available in the fall.

The 6.0001 (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python) ASE was administered July 29. The remaining ASEs will take place during the first three weeks of August. The math diagnostic will be open for all incoming first years Aug. 6.

All ASEs and the math diagnostic require students to use Proctortrack, a software capable of monitoring activity at the core operating system, screen desktop, and testing environment levels, according to the Proctortrack website. Proctortrack also monitors students and flags possible test-policy infractions using webcam video and audio.

The software employs biometric identification using students’ faces, IDs, and knuckle scans, Proctortrack’s website writes.

The decision to use Proctortrack comes from the importance of having “full confidence… that those taking the exams have achieved mastery of the material on their own merits,” Dean for Digital Learning Krishna Rajagopal wrote in a statement emailed to The Tech. Proctortrack “has been used in other contexts at MIT and is integrated with” MITx.

Rajagopal wrote that all students who required assistance for or had questions about Proctortrack have had their concerns addressed.

Rajagopal added that while there is concern over “false positives” in what Proctortrack flags as suspicious behavior, such as stretching, all flagged behavior “is reviewed by an MIT instructor, who can quickly see that nothing untoward has happened.” All decisions “about academic conduct are made by MIT instructors” and not by Proctortrack, Rajagopal wrote.

Rajagopal also wrote that he does not know of faculty or departments planning to use Proctortrack for exams in Fall 2020 courses.

The Academic Policies and Regulations Team’s grading policy for Fall 2020 “urges instructors to de-emphasize ‘high stakes’ end-of-term methods of evaluation such as final exams.” Instructors “can assess their students’ learning in many, and better, ways,” Rajagopal wrote, so using assessments other than exams “will make Proctortrack irrelevant.”

Additionally, because Proctortrack is not supported by the Linux operating system, an FAQ on the OFY’s website writes that students can use MIT’s licenses from Information Services and Technology to run Windows software within a virtual machine on Linux to take the exams.

The FAQ writes that proctored session data will be retained until the end of the fall term “to ensure that MIT has ability to refer to such data” if there are “questions about what happened during a given exam.” Biometric data will be kept for up to one year in case students take exams over multiple semesters.

Fall ASEs and the math diagnostic typically take place on campus during orientation week. Rajagopal wrote that the decision to move the exam dates up was to ensure the start of the semester was “less hectic for students.” Furthermore, the exams “are being offered twice or over a range of time within a day to accommodate students in different timezones.”

6.0001 instructor Ana Bell wrote in an email to The Tech that the earlier date allowed students “more time to make plans that might depend upon whether or not they passed the ASE.” 

Rajagopal wrote that because the biology and computer science ASEs have previously been on MITx, nothing about their question style will change from previous years. The only difference in the administration of these exams is the use of Proctortrack.

Bell also wrote that more than 400 students took the 6.0001 ASE this year. Last year, 296 students took the exam. 

Because the math and physics ASEs and the math diagnostic are being offered online for the first time, “they were made slightly shorter than before, but not easier or harder and there has been no change to their scope,” Rajagopal wrote.

Some “longer problems were separated into shorter parts to allow for partial credit” on the math and physics ASEs, Rajagopal wrote. Additionally, the math and physics departments have “developed a brief training module to help familiarize students with the format of the problems and how to enter formulas in the online platform in advance.”

Rajagopal wrote that while the math diagnostic “will present a range of fairly easy to fairly challenging short problems, as always,” some problems were removed “in cases where the online format would result in a lack of clarity.”

The chemistry ASEs will not be offered this Fall because “the department was unable to prepare an exam” using an online tool and hopes “to offer an in-person one next semester,” Rajagopal wrote.

The OFY website writes that the chemistry department is unable to waive its GIR prerequisite for any chemistry classes, and “students who feel they are extremely advanced in chemistry” can contact the chemistry education office to discuss exemptions.

Students with concerns about Proctortrack, the ASEs, or the math diagnostic or who want to request the deletion of their data can email