Category Archives: OLAF

Format for conversion from a Word document

The Learning and Teaching Development Service uses software called Respondus to convert the exam and also to produce print versions of the exam.  Respondus is also now available for University staff to use, find out more here.

If you would like LTDS to convert an exam from Word, or if you are going to convert it yourself using Respondus, it needs to be in the format shown in the linked document. Respondus format. See simple example below.

Example Exam Question:

Title: Speed of Light. 

3) Who determined the exact speed of light?

a. Albert Einstein

*b. Albert Michelson

c. Thomas Edison

d. Guglielmo Marconi

NOTE: Respondus only converts the following question types:

  • multiple choice
  • true-false
  • essay – not currently supported in locked down exams
  • fill in the blank
  • jumbled sentence
  • ordering questions
  • matching
  • multiple answer questions

Respondus cannot convert calculated formula questions and has no support for Hot Spot questions. These types need to be created online. Hot spot questions will need to be added manually into the paper version of the exam. The other questions can be pulled down from Blackboard to Respondus for printing (with answers for external examiners to check and without answers as a backup for students).

If you are using a paper based exam that is currently very different to this, please get in touch with OLAF Admin in good time  and we can look at  how it will work.

How is an OLAF exam run?

  1. The Exams Office arrange invigilation and technical support.
  2. The computers in the exam room are ‘locked down
  3. Students log into Blackboard and navigate to the exam and await further instructions.
  4. When the exam starts, students are instructed to turn over a printed slip to find a secret password that allows them to start the exam itself.
  5. Each question is displayed on a separate page.
  6. Students can move backwards and forwards through the exam using the next and previous buttons or the ‘Question Completion Status‘ bar.
  7. If students have any problems during the exam, the invigilators and computing officers assist.

Other online assessment and feedback tools

There are a range of online assessment and feedback tools that may be better suited to your needs (and those of your students).

Group Work

  • WebPA allows students to assess each others contribution to group work. Contact OLAF Admin.


Turnitin now provides tools for giving students feedback and facilitating Peer feedback on written work in addition to plagiarism checking:

  • GradeMark – Mark essays and access feedback online. Includes reusable comments and marking Rubrics.
  • PeerMark – Allows students to score and review the work of their peers.

Maths, Statistics and other disciplines

NUMBAs – Whilst some mathematical testing is possible though Blackboard, NUMBAs, developed by the School of Mathematics and Statistics here at Newcastle, offers more sophisticated assessment. It is used by several schools across the institution. See also

Checking an OLAF test and settings using the ‘checkexam’ web page

As a member of staff who is running an OLAF exam, you will be sent an email containing the link to the exam check page when your exam is ready for you to check. The exam check page makes it easier to check OLAF exam questions and settings (randomisation and feedback to students). Exams will appear on this page if they have the word OLAF in the title (e.g. ‘BIO1001 23rd May 2017 OLAF’) and the Available from setting is for a date in the future.

Please read the notes below before using the page.


  • If you click the links on the page you will need to log into Blackboard with your standard username and password.
  • If you believe the settings are wrong, please contact OLAF Admin so that we can make the changes for you and ensure they are not reset later incorrectly. Some of the options we use for exams may seem counter-intuitive. They may be set as they are for a reason.
  • The start and end times are deliberately set to be available early (30 minutes before the start) and become unavailable 45 minutes after the finish. This is to allow students to get logged in and ready to enter the exam password at the start time.The extra time allows for students entitled to extra time and empowers the invigilator to give extensions if the group or individual students experience technical issues. The invigilator tells the students when to stop.
  • The test is only visible to students during the Available from and Available to period. Even then, a password is required. The password is changed after the exam starts.


The page consists of a table with data about the exam and links to Edit and View the test and settings. Click the image below to expand and see the explanations.

To access the page use the link that has been emailed to you by the OLAF team.

Checking settings:

  • Please check the Available from and Available to columns to check the dates are correct (and that the time is correct with half an hour before, and 45 minutes after the official start and end times)
  • Please check the columns for Randomise question and Scores are automatically released to students to make sure they are correct for your exam.
  • Please check the Title of the exam. This is what the students will see in the exam room. Please contact if you think this will not be meaningful to them. This is particularly important if there are exams in similar subject areas taking place, or if the same is exam is happening under two module codes. Delays can occur if students click the wrong link.

To edit the test or see the test in it’s entirety, click Edit the test. Sign in with your standard (Blackboard) username and password.

To see the test as a student would see it, you need to know the password:

  1. Click View the test options, log in with your Blackboard username and scroll down the screen to find and note the password.
  2. Return to the exam check page (the link that has been emailed to you by the OLAF team) and click Check student view.
  3. Log in with your standard username and password.
  4. A screen will open showing the instructions for the exam (this includes general information about the exam, as well as any specific instructions that have been created).  Click Continue to move to the password screen.
  5. Enter the exam password you noted earlier, and click Submit.
  6. Work through the questions using the forward and backward arrows.


Test Options (for OLAF exam)

If you choose to use the service there are some settings we insist on for the exam. This is based on our experience of what works.

The options we use for an exam are:

  • Launch in new window (the secure browser requires this to work).
  • Display until and display after set to time of exam (set to 30 minutes before the exam start time and 45 minutes after the exam end time to allow for flexibility).
  • Password set so that students can’t start until told to do so (this is reset 30 mins into the test so that students can’t start again without assistance from the invigilators).
  • Questions set to display one at a time. This means that results are saved as students go along. Students can take up from where they left off when they get started again.
  • Questions display in random order where practical. This helps prevent cheating. It is possible to use random blocks of questions to provide randomisation within sets displayed in a particular order. Note: allow more time for set up, conversion and checking if you use this option

We will set and check these options for you, but if you want to see the options or set them yourself:

Log into Blackboard

  1. Go to the Course (or Community for Dentistry).
  2. Click Assignments (it may be under exam tests, OLAF or Biotest).
  3. Ensure Edit Mode is on (top right of the screen).
  4. Click the arrow to the right of the title to reveal a drop down menu.
  5. Choose Edit Test Options
  6. Check title of the test in Blackboard includes code, name and date, and ideally a.m. or p.m.
  7. Ensure Open test in new window set to Yes. 
  8. Make the link available set to Yes. 
  9. Display after and Display until dates set.  Check date of exam against the spreadsheet provide by exams.  Allow 30 mins before exam, and several hours after exam to allow for any issues and extra time students.  Use the Calendar icon when setting availability as dates currently set to American style.
  10. Check Randomize Questions is set to Yes (unless good reason not to, e.g. the exam is based on a randomised question set or is in chronological order – check with instructor or Online Exams spreadsheet if in doubt).
  11. Under Feedback – Check nothing ticked unless otherwise stated (see spreadsheet). Some lecturers like to display the score, so check this if they want students to get instant access to the results.
  12. Check Display One at a Time is set to on.

Make sure :Hide results for this test completely from instructor and the Grade Center as well as Force Completion and Set Timer are NOT TICKED

Batch regrading

It is possible to regrade a test after it has taken place through the Blackboard interface. This is particularly useful if the answer key for a question was set incorrectly, or if a question needs to be withdrawn.We recommend creating a backup of the course first:

Click Packages and Utilities, Export and Archive and wait until you get an email from the system to tell you it is ready. If you did need to get the original data, ISS could help you using the backup.

To regrade the questions, identify the question that needs to be amended in the test canvas. When you make the amendment you will be given the option to “submit and update attempts” – choosing this option will automatically re-grade all of the attempts in light of this amendment.

See separate post on grading free text questions.

Regrading questions individually

If a question needs to be removed or the answer key changed and regraded for all students who have taken a test, you can do this by editing the test and regrading (separate post).

It is possible to manually regrade a question for each student. This is particularly useful if you have used text entry questions (e.g. fill in the blank). For fill in the blank questions, you may just want to focus on the students who have submitted answers that are marked as incorrect and think about updating the test for the following year to account for different spellings etc.The 2013/2014 version will have wildcard features to make things easier.

To regrade a question:

  1. Go to the module/organisation in Blackboard and click Grade Centre, then Full Grade Centre under Control Panel. 
  2. Find the column for your exam/test. You may need to scroll to the right to find it.
  3. Use the drop down menu on the Column Header for your exam to access the Grade Questions feature.
  4. You will see a list of the questions. Click the response number on the right hand side to start grading that question.
  5. You can choose to regrade anonymously by ticking the box at the top left. Click Edit next to any given answer to make the change.

Changing the instructions students see in a test

You can add some instructions to a test to explain how it will be marked, how to enlarge text and how to manipulate image sizes etc.

Note: The instructions appear at the top of each question. Avoid having too much instruction as this will push the questions down the page.

How to add/edit instructions.

1. Either

Go to the course and the area where the test is deployed. Use the drop-down menu to the right of the test name to Edit the test; 


Go to Course Tools under Control Panel, Tests, Test Canvas and click the drop-down to the right of the test name and click Edit).

2. Click the drop-down menu next to the test name at the top of the screen.

3. Scroll down to find the instructions box. Type the instructions and click Submit.


Student advice: Checking your score and viewing feedback

For OLAF Exams the scores are not released immediately after the exam.

Once the school decides to release the scores (and feedback if applicable) they should follow the steps below.


Student guide to accessing the score:

  1. Go to any computer with Internet access.
  2. Go to
  3. Log in with your Newcastle University username and password.
  4. On the first screen that you come to after logging in (My Institution), click My Grades (under Tools)
  5. In My Grades, select the module for the exam you have taken.
  6. Find the row showing the grade for the exam. (If the test was an OLAF exam the exam name will include the word OLAF and the date the exam took place).
Image of My Grades screen
Click on the image to view full size

Student guide to viewing feedback:

In some cases, particularly practice tests, you can click the score and see more specific feedback.  Your tutor will let you know if this is available for your test.

  1. Click on the name of the test in the My Grades screen (see image above).
  2. In the View Attempts screen click on the grade
Image of View Attempts screen
Click on the image to view full size

Different types of feedback available are different for different tests.  Your feedback may include some or all of the following:

  • Your score for each question
  • Your answer, marked with a green tick if it is correct, or with a red cross if it is incorrect
  • The answer options, with a green tick next to the correct answer or answers
  • Feedback from the instructor about your answer

You can see examples of each of these types of feedback in the image below:

Image of example feedback types
Click on the image to view full size


Changing the password for an exam

For an official OLAF exam, the password is changed after half an hour. This means that if a student leaves the room, they cannot access the test with the original password (they need to talk to the invigilator).

If you are managing the test yourselves, e.g. for a resit or extraordinary sitting, you may wish to do this yourself. (Contact first if you need help setting up a copy of the exam).

To change the password:

1. Locate the test in the course.

2. Hover over the drop down menu to the right of the assignment name. Use the drop down arrow to the right of the test name to access the  ‘Edit Settings‘ option.

3. Scroll down to 2.Test Availability, the last item is the password (see screenshot below). Make the change and scroll down and click Submit.