Canvas Exam Recommendations & Best Practices

Educational Technology supports many courses in conducting online exams through Canvas (including final exams, quizzes, midterms, and so forth), and offers consultations to help your course plan its online exam using our hardware and spaces.

These are our Dos and Don'ts for taking or creating a successful online quiz.

General Notes

  • Unlike other learning management systems, a Canvas quiz submits each student answer the moment it is answered. Canvas also tests for an active internet connection. If network connections are lost during an exam, a warning is immediately displayed for the student to re-connect before continuing the exam. These features eliminate the need for students to make a hard copy of their quiz answers to safeguard against network failures or browser crashes. 
  • Browser Closing/Machine Crashes: If a browser is accidentally closed during an exam attempt, the student will have the option to resume the exam and continue where they left off. In the event the browser or machine crashes, the exam will automatically resume the exam where the student left off.
  • Timed quizzes and exams: If a time limit is set on an exam, and the browser is closed (accidentally by a crash, or purposefully by the student), the exam clock will continue to run. The student can re-join the exam until either the allowable time or the due date is exceeded.
  • Essay questions: Quiz answers are automatically saved when the student selects an answer. In the event of an essay question, the answer will be saved when the student moves on to the next question.
    Tip: Students can save what they have typed so far in a long format or essay question by simply clicking out of the answer's text box!

For Students

Do use a recommended browser:

Internet Explorer 11 and Edge
Chrome 47 and 48
Safari 8 and 9
Firefox 43 and 44

  • Do use a wired ethernet connection to connect to the internet, and disable your wireless connectivity when taking an online exam. Wireless internet may be unreliable at times, which could prevent your answers from being saved or submitted correctly. An interruption in network connectivity will generate a warning to reconnect to the network before continuing.  
  • Do log out of the browser and close the browser (Command+Q on Mac) after taking your exam. The computers may be used by other students for other exams, and not logging out will allow other people to access your accounts, including email and Axess.
  • Do follow the honor code when taking the exam.
  • Do not have Canvas open on multiple tabs, windows, or computers while you are logged into Canvas. Having a Canvas assignment or quiz open on one tab and having any other Canvas page open on another tab/window/computer is likely to cause problems with the assignment/quiz and may cause the assignment to be submitted automatically, or may prevent answers from being saved properly.
  • Do not use your browser's Back and Forward buttons. This can cause problems with your assignment (may get automatically submitted, answers may get overwritten, etc).
  • If using your own computer, install LockDown Browser. LockDown Browser is a secure browser used for taking exams and quizzes in Canvas. It is already installed on all laptops provided for exams in the LKSC. If you are using your own device to take an exam, you'll need to install LockDown Browser before beginning the exam. Visit for details.

For Exam Administrators

  • Do set a Time Limit, Availability Start/End and a password for your exam.  For the most equitable exam taking experience, our recommendation is to set a time limit, a password, and a WIDE availability window.  This way all students have the same amount of time to take the exam, even if they start late (many choose to start late).  We recommend a wide availability window (+30-60 minutes more than your start/end time on either end of the exam) to make sure that everyone’s time limit runs out BEFORE the availability window closes.  Exams will auto-submit when the time limit runs out or when the availability window ends, whichever comes first (thus the recommendation for a wide availability window).

    We recommend a password (select "Require An Access Code") to control when and where students start the exam.  They won’t be able to access the exam until they have the password which you can give in class when you want them to start. 

    Another strategy is to set the availability start time at the time you want the students to start the exam.  This means that students won’t be able to access the exam until that start time.  It’s an alternative to requiring a password, but it means that students could theoretically take the exam from another location.
  • Do NOT set a Due Date.  Due dates only serve to mark if an assignment was turned in on time (in the grade book a late assignment is marked in red).  They don't cause an autosubmit, so functionally have no effect on a student's exam taking experience other than potentially causing confusion.  Don't use them for exams.
  • Do reserve rooms with sufficient space for your online exam, and remember to take into account extra space for students if you would like them to be spread out. We recommend reserving one or both of the large lecture halls in the LKSC (LK120 or LK130) if possible, depending on how many students you have.
  • Do plug in computers/laptops for power.
  • Do use an ethernet connection for computers to ensure stable internet connectivity, and have wireless connections disabled. LK130 has power and ethernet ports at every seat, and LK120 has power and ethernet ports at approximately every other seat.
  • Do use Firefox as the web browser for browsing Canvas, with Safari and Chrome as second options. Internet Explorer is not recommended.
  • Do include the honor code statement at the start of your exam, either as Agree/Disagree multiple choice question, or in the assignment introduction.
  • Do use images less than 600 pixels wide, to prevent horizontal scrolling of the browser, which may cause students to overlook parts of the image.
  • Do ensure images used in exams can be viewed by the students. Images used in exams, and the folders that contain them, should either be marked as "Published" or  "Restricted Access: Only available to students with link" in Canvas Files.
  • Do use "Exam Muting" or set the review "student responses" and "show correct answers" dates to a date after all students have taken the exam. When allowing the students to review their answers along with the correct answers, failure to set a feedback release date may potentially allow students to view/print the correct answers before all students have completed the exam. 
  • Do display all the questions on one page for your exam, or at least each part on its own page. Students prefer to be able to skim through questions quickly, and having each question on its own page is very slow and tedious to browse.
  • Do have students write down the computer number for the computer they used. This allows EdTech to troubleshoot issues, and potentially recover lost files.
  • Do make a paper backup copy of the exam, of which you could make copies, in case there is a major power or network outage that prevents all students from taking the exam (continuing or extending the exam is at your discretion).
  • Do let EdTech know if there are any students needing special accommodations as much in advance as possible. We may need to reserve extra rooms and computers for you. Contact us by email at Canvas Support.
  • Securing Exam machines for high-stakes exams requires Respondus Lockdown Browser.
  • By default Canvas shows the students their exam score after submission.  If you want to hold back scores until after you review/grade questions, you can "mute" the exam.  To mute an exam go to Grades, roll over the column header for the exam, click the down arrow and select "Mute Assignment".
  • If you have images in your exam, place all exam images in one folder in Files.  Publish each individual image, but use Restricted Access "Restricted Access: Only available to students with link" setting to prevent students from seeing the images prior to the exam. 
  • Double-check your time limit, due date and available dates in your exam settings.  If you have students with accommodations, please make sure that your due date and available dates take their exam time into account.
  • If you have students taking an exam at a different time, you can add a separate assigned due date and available times by clicking “+Add” under “Assign”
  • Once you have published the exam, you can extend the time limit for students with accommodations.  In Quizzes click on the exam, then click on "Moderate This Quiz" on the right.  Click the pencil/edit icon to the right of the student’s name and enter in the extension as appropriate.
  • If you have regraded an exam, it will take a few minutes before the new quiz statistics will display.