Adapting examinations

This page contains recommendations for those who need to adapt examinations due to COVID-19. These recommendations apply as long as applicable regulations due to COVID-19 are still valid.

These advice on adapting examinations are not complicated but require some effort to be implemented. But please consider that the more time you spend on adapting your examination formats and exams, the more they can fulfil legal certainty, and the study situation for your students improves.

As a lecturer you should be able to motivate your choice of examination format in relation to the expected learning outcomes of the course and valid COVID measures at Umeå University.

The recommendations may be changed if new national or local guidelines are introduced.

Initial recommendations for all teachers

  • Read through your course syllabus and consider what flexibility you have as a teacher regarding the parts concerning examination. That is, what alternative examination formats can you choose without departing from the syllabus?
  • Communicate this with colleagues and the director of studies to ensure that you are interpreting the syllabus correctly.
  • As soon as possible, inform students of any changes to the examination formats and what this means for them. Be clear in your communication with your students.

Documentation of alternative examination format

Please note that if the department decides on an alternative examination format that deviates from the syllabus, this must be documented and recorded in the registry. Read more in the decisions approved by the Vice-Chancellor:

The purpose of the deviation from a course syllabus should be to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the motivation should include the keyword COVID-19.

Template and guidance can be found on COVID-19 templates and signposting

Advising against video-monitored written examinations

Remote video-monitored examinations through online tools, such as Zoom, Teams, Skype or equivalent, cannot be equated with a written hall examination monitored by an invigilator. These online tools have neither been developed nor adapted for monitoring of written assessment of knowledge and cannot be regarded as legally certain. The university advises against video-monitored written examinations, but video-monitoring can be an option in oral examinations.

Recommended adaptations

Below is a description of how to best adapt various examination formats.

Recommendations for adapting written hall examinations

Firstly: Convert a written hall examination to a take-home examination
To the extent possible, convert written hall examinations to take-home examinations according to practice. Expected learning outcomes (FSR) in the categories Competence and skills or Judgement and approach (Swedish: Färdighet och förmåga, or Värderingsförmåga och förhållningssätt) can generally be assessed in other ways than through written hall examinations, and these alternatives should be prioritised to relieve the pressure on the Examination Services and examination halls.

  1. Please bear in mind that a take-home examination is another assessment method compared to a written hall examination. Avoid questions for which the answer can easily be found online or in course literature. Instead, please formulate the questions so that the students need to describe their understanding for the course contents using their own words.
  2. The more you require your students to write in each take-home examination question, the more freedom the students get in each answer. This ultimately makes it even more important that you know how you will later assess answers. Spend ample time preparing the instructions for each question and the basis for assessment. Also, try to divide big questions into smaller ones to make each one easier to assess. Additionally, make sure that the basis for assessment matches the instructions so you can assess the students' answers based on the terms that you have given the students in the instructions.
  3. Setting up instructions and basis for assessment for examinations is NOT a job for a single person to undertake. This is a team activity. Ask colleagues or others to read through your instructions and basis for assessment and provide feedback on what might need clarification.

Secondly: Keep the written hall examination, or parts of it
Due to the subject content of some courses, there may be expected learning outcomes that need to be examined specifically with the help of a well-constructed written hall examination. This particularly applies to some expected learning outcomes in the category Knowledge and understanding (Swedish: Kunskap och förståelse) in which, for instance, some detailed knowledge in a certain subject is in focus. If you have identified one or more such expected learning outcomes in your course, and you assess that there are no reasonable alternatives to holding a written hall examination to assess these, then please follow the instructions under Necessary measures regarding written hall examinations on the page Examination.

Please note! Examinations that were previously aimed at both measuring understanding and judgement/approach should be divided into one written hall examination measuring knowledge and understanding and one take-home examination measuring judgement and approach to relieve the pressure on the Examination Services and examination halls. This division should also contribute to being able to keep the examination time within the maximum of four hours.

Please note! If a student wishes to or needs to abstain from sitting a written hall examination due to the risk of infection, the student can be offered an alternative oral examination with video surveillance (see further down).

Thirdly: Convert a written hall examination to an oral examination
An oral examination can also be used as an alternative to a written hall examination, either individually or in a group. The main principles are the same as for any written examination, but the student gives his or her answers orally and in real time instead of in writing.

Students are monitored through video and assessed by one or more teachers. Recording an examination is allowed and is recommended to simplify potential reassessments.

Similar to all other assessment, you are recommended to write clear basis for assessment prior to the examination date to reduce the risk of arbitrary or gratuitous assessment. This basis for assessment should also be known to the students to the extent possible.

Learn more
Recommendations regarding written hall examinations that need adapting due to COVID-19
Advising against video-monitored written examinations – Examination
Umeå universitets skrift om GDPR (in Swedish)
The Swedish Higher Education Authority's (UKÄ) Rättssäker examination (page 106) (in Swedish).

Fourthly: Reschedule the examination
If you cannot convert your written hall examination to a take-home examination or an oral examination, and there is no available space in the examination halls during your desired period, please postpone or reschedule the examination in contact with the Examination Services.

Recommendations for seminars

These can advantageously be implemented via Zoom. Familiarise yourself with the students with Zoom and with the support of UPL's guides and introductory courses. Regarding concerns about Zoom linked to GDPR or the Camera Surveillance Act in connection with examination, the university lawyers at Umeå University say as follows:

When Zoom is used for education and for examining students, the University has a legal basis for the processing of personal data (general interest). Personal data will be processed in Zoom in the form of Umu ID, name, role and email, and for this there is a personal data access agreement for the service with SUNET. The only thing to keep in mind when using Zoom is that you should not process sensitive personal data or confidential information (for example, in the chat room). Therefore, GDPR does not impede the use, but students should be informed that personal data is processed. This can be done by referring to this page. The Camera Surveillance Act is not deemed applicable as this requires a permanent and regular surveillance of persons. However, a recording of the students in their home environment is deemed a violation against the Data Protection regulation.

Recommendation for practical examinations

All practical examinations can be held as long as they follow the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Sweden and other authorities.

Recommendations for placements or internships (VFU)

VFU will continue if the head allows it and if it is possible to give supervision.

Read more about teacher students and VFU (in Swedish)

Read more about VFU in healthcare (in Swedish)

Recommendations for degree projects

Consider if alternative forms of examination can be carried out where physical presence on the university's premises is not necessary.

Recommendations for students with adaptation needs

Identify the adaptation that applies to the new examination format and offer it instead. For example, extended testing time periods for home-based exams, offer the opportunity for the student to give oral answers instead of written ones, or for the student to use special software for speech synthesis to comply with instructions and questionnaires.

Reminder to students about cheating and plagiarism

Be certain to remind students of what cheating, unauthorised help and plagiarism mean, and of course this also applies for home-based exams. Also, remind about the seriousness of cheating, and that it leads to disciplinary action such as suspension.

Remind the students that the examination should be conducted individually, i.e. that collaboration is not permitted and that plagiarism controls will be carried out, for example through Urkund.

Refer the students to the page Cheating and plagiarism in

Working team

These recommendations have been drawn up by a group for alternative examination formats upon assignment by the Strategic Council for Education at Umeå University. The group consists of directors of studies, distinguished teachers, student representatives, a legal officer and representatives from the Centre for Educational Development (UPL).


The page Advice regarding examination contains general advice on how to write good exam questions and similar.

Decisions by the vice-chancellor regarding covid-19

Hanna Karlsson