Behind the Scenes at the AUC Testing Center
For medical sciences students, taking exams at AUC is pretty routine: Give your notes a last look, show up, complete the exam—and then head to the beach to shake off the stress. But have you ever thought about what goes on behind the scenes in order to get the right test to the right student at the right time?
It all comes down to the careful planning of AUC colleagues Linda Lytle and Glory Waakzaam, Exam Center Coordinators. “The two of us do everything except write the exams,” Linda confirms.
We caught up with Linda to learn more about the work that she and Glory do to ensure that students have the best possible experience during a stressful time in their medical education.
How long have you been working at AUC?
Since 2005. I’ve moved around a lot—I was born in France, and lived in North Carolina and New Jersey, but growing up I was always in St. Maarten because my parents had a house here. I must have visited at least 50 times before moving here and starting at AUC. For Glory, she started as a proctor and has been here for four years as of this month.
Can you tell me about the testing center facility and equipment?
We have two sections of the testing center with about 280 computer stations total—a little over 150 on the A side, and 130 on the B side. We’ve expanded since Building 2 was first opened: We just used to have the B side. But we never fill it to capacity because we always need extra seats in case we have to move someone or there’s a technical issue. So we also use the lecture halls for larger exams like finals.
What responsibilities do you have leading up to exam time?
We cover scheduling, exam preparation, publishing the exams, working with off-track students, training and managing proctors. We do all the scheduling in one day: I create matrixes using the class rosters so that I know exactly what students are taking which courses. I bundle up the semesters to see the best fit and scheduling with our facilities, and I use Excel to randomize the seating. Each student will then get an individual email from me confirming which exams they’re taking, the arrival time—which is always 15 minutes in advance—and the exam start time.
How do you prepare the exams in the system?
I work with faculty to receive the exams, and I help serve as a second set of eyes: going through my checklist, making sure the images are displaying correctly and are embedded with the right questions, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. The testing station monitors are smaller than my own monitor, so I make sure everything is formatted and looks right from the student’s perspective.
What steps do you take to help the whole exam experience go smoothly for students?
Glory and I come in at 7 a.m., boot up the computers, and a team of local proctors get each station ready with a pen and a laminated sheet per NBME protocol. The whole center is modeled after facilities where students would sit for USMLE exams. We provide water, earplugs, three restrooms on each side, and students can manage their 10-minute break how they like. In addition to scheduling the regular proctors, we also work with Cathy Vollmer, IT Manager, to schedule IT proctors. They monitor the servers and are available in the event of any computer issues during the exam.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I like that it’s challenging—figuring out the best fit for the students’ exams given the space and timing, and I enjoy using programs like Access and Exam Soft. It is difficult at times, especially during finals: We’ve got a narrow window between makeup exams, finals, final makeups, and RemCOMP, which all happen in a short period of time. But AUC has been a great place to work for me.