Department of Mathematics, University at Buffalo

UB Math Exams: Instructor's Guide

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This document describes procedures for administering exams remotely. These procedures are meant to enforce academic integrity and curtail rampant cheating that majority of our instructors experienced during the online part of the spring 2020 semester.

Here are the main features of this systems:

Exam Preparation

Exam server

Benefits of using the Exam Server include logging exam access times, watermarking exams, and coloring of exams for easier proctoring.


It is recommended you let the Math Department staff build the exam for you. All you need to do is:

  • In advance of the exam, email exam PDF file to the Math Department secretary Michelle Hacker at For the time being, please also copy on the email. Michelle will send you back the exam password.
  • After the exam (but before grading is done), download gradesheet from Gradescope in the csv format and email this file to Michelle. This file contains the student submission times. Michelle will use it to create a time chart and send you the link. See below for more information about time charts.
That's all! If you follow these instructions, you can skip the reminder of the exam preparation section.

If you choose to build the exam yourself, a complete user’s guide to the exam server is available here: Exam Server User’s Guide.

The two ingredients needed to build an exam are:

With a VPN connection, upload these two files to your exams folder on the server, Then log in to this server, navigate to your exams folder and run the watermark script:

watermark myexam.pdf myroster.csv

It is extremely helpful to the exam proctors if the exam question paper has a strong distinctive color. This can be achieved by adding a hexadecimal color specification:

watermark myexam.pdf myroster.csv color=00ffff

Save and keep secret the exam password that is generated, which will look something like this:

Password: HWERXA

To access their exam pdf, your students will go to and enter their UBIT username, their personal exam server PIN, and the above exam password which should be kept secret until it is delivered to the students at the moment you want them to start work on the exam.

UBlearns and Respondus eliminated

Live proctoring eliminates the need for Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor, which in turn entirely eliminates the need to use UBlearns for the administration of exams. This greatly simplifies both the preparation process for instructors and the access process for students, and removes our vulnerability to UBlearns service outages - which have been frequent recently.


Do not place the links to the exam server ( and on UBLearns. For some reason UBLearns blocks these links and students may not be able to acess the exam using them. Send the links to students by email ahead of the exam. If you are using a non-UBLearns course website, posting links there should work fine.


Once the exam is completed, students will need to submit their work for grading. The recommended tool for this is Gradescope, an online service facilitating submission and grading of student assignments. Since many instructors used Gradescope in the spring semester or are using it now, the students may be familiar with it already. Instructions on how to use Gradescope are available online at

In order to use Gradescope for collecting exams you need to:

If you have not used Gradescope in your course before, it is very strongly recommended to create a practice assignment before an exam, so students can get some experience with the Gradescope submission process.

It is possible to use UBLearns, instead of Gradescope, to collect exams, but tools provided by UBLearns for exam collection and grading are much more limited and less user friendly than what is available with Gradescope.

Proctoring setup

During an exam students will be proctored via a Zoom meeting which they join using the Zoom app on their phone. This setup offers a better view of student environment than the one provided by a camera built into their computer.

For proctoring purposes, your class will be split into groups of no more than 30 students. Each group will take the exam in a separate Zoom meeting, with all meetings running in parallel at the same time. Each group has a TA assigned as the proctor. A table of meetings occurring in the next 7 days, with the Zoom links, is maintained here). The complete current list of proctoring assignments is available here: 2211_exam_proctor_schedule_rev6.xlsx (sort by whichever columns are relevant to you).

Students needing special accommodations

Students requiring accommodations such as extra time can be proctored by the Accessibility Resources (AR) office. The director of AR Jennifer Morely asks that instructors provide her with details of such students at least one week in advance of the exam.

Please do not ask your own proctors to stay late to accommodate students needing extra time. If you wish to provide extra-time proctoring yourself, please notify the Associate Chair and you can be made an Alternative Host of one of your zoom sessions.

Before the exam

Well before the exam:

The evening before the exam:

During the exam

15 minutes before the exam is to begin:


After the exam

Gather exam data

Various pieces of data generated during the exam - video recordings, exam server access times, Zoom attendance records, times of Gradescope submissions etc. - can be used to detect irregularities which may indicate cheating. For example, this data can flag students who leave a proctored Zoom meeting after a few minutes, complete the exam in an unproctored setting and then submit their work to Gradescope.

Generate a time chart

Knowing when students joined and left a proctoring session, accessed the exam questions, and submitted their work, is critical for detecting cheating. If you use the Exam Server, Zoom live-proctoring, and Gradescope, all of this information can be easily brought together in a chart like this that allows rapid detection of anomalies. Line segments denote presence in the Zoom meeting, blue (or magenta) squares are accesses to the exam server (should not be outside Zoom meeting), and green (or red) dots are Gradescope submissions.


If you used the assistance of Michelle Hacker to build your exam (as it is recommended), she will also build the time chart for you. To facilitate it, contact her at and send her a csv file with with the Gradescope gradesheet (you don't need to grade the exam in order to generate this file). She will then send you a link to the time chart.

If you built the exam by yourself, you will need to build the time chart by yourself too. To create such a chart:

The chart in SVG format will be generated in the exam folder and a URL to it will be provided. See exam server guide for more details and options. If you need help with this, contact John Ringland.

Review exam data

It is strongly recommended that you carefully examine the exam data in order to detect cheating attempts. In particular:


Grade the collected exams in the way you prefer. Gradescope allows for exportable logging of submission times, rapid paging through submissions for each problem separately, simultaneous grading by several graders, reusable rubrics, automated score computations, and provides an easy way to return graded exams to students.

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Department of Mathematics, University at Buffalo

  • Version: 2021.04.03