I'm issuing a written final exam to a student in Nepal. In setting this up I need to communicate to a non native speaking person in the abroad administration, in a clear and precise manner, that a person overseeing the examination procedure needs to be available for the duration of the exam.

I (we) have previously used invigilator. I find myself very uncomfortable with this word.

TFD suggests that this is a word only used in the commonwealth. Proctor (US/TFD) also seems to me rather uncommon or unclear.

What would be an easy to understand phrase or word to describe this need?

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    It might help to know where "abroad" actually is; and what you found in a thesaurus and why you rejected those suggestions. – Andrew Leach Dec 4 '12 at 18:35
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    Just so you know, not one person in a thousand in America would recognize the word invigilator. Sounds more like a squire about to become a knight than anything else. – tchrist Dec 4 '12 at 19:25
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    ...Whereas the situation is reversed in the UK, and one in a thousand would recognise proctor -- although even the one in a thousand would be the one who went to Oxbridge and would give it a different meaning altogether. – Andrew Leach Dec 4 '12 at 20:53
  • My American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition doesn't even list invigilator (or invigilate), suggesting that in the U.S., even university-educated people would never encounter this word (I certainly hadn't until now). And though I am familiar with the American usage of proctor, even this is not what I would call an everyday word among Americans. (It was rarely used in the various schools I've attended, including university.) – John Y Dec 5 '12 at 0:36
  • Also look up plain and simple examiner – Autoresponder Dec 5 '12 at 7:46

If you are uncomfortable with either of the two words used in English for this role (proctor in North America, invigilator in the UK), I'd suggest you simply say "the person overseeing the examination procedure". A simply worded phrase can often be much clearer than a specialized word, especially for non-native speakers.

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    This was my original hypothesis. However, invigilator seems to be the term I should be using. I might use this as a footnote to the word. This discussion is making me very uncertain about what words are common in what context. Thanks. – Captain Giraffe Dec 4 '12 at 19:22
  • Canadians say Invigilator btw :) – Affe Dec 5 '12 at 0:55
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    @Affe Thanks; the OED lists "proctor" as "North American" so that is what I based my assumption on. – Mark Beadles Dec 5 '12 at 15:05

from dictionary.reference.com

proc·tor/ˈprɒk tər/ Show Spelled [prok-ter] Show IPA noun
1. a person appointed to keep watch over students at examinations. 2. an official charged with various duties, especially with the maintenance of good order.

  • This is correct; not sure why someone downvoted. – Mark Beadles Dec 4 '12 at 18:43
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    Perhaps because this word has already been rejected in the question. It's not correct within the British Commonwealth (again, as noted); and Nepalese may have learnt English in India, with Commonwealth vocabulary. Just a couple of thoughts. – Andrew Leach Dec 4 '12 at 18:47
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    Not my downvote, but in the UK proctor has special meanings in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It is not not the usual term for someone supervising an examination. Invigilator is. – Barrie England Dec 4 '12 at 18:49
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    Oh no! "Police Academy" made you reject the standard word and try to find a substitute? – GEdgar Dec 4 '12 at 19:07
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    For what it's worth, "proctor" was not included in the question when I posted my answer. – TechWriter James Dec 4 '12 at 19:14

If you don't wish to use invigilator for some reason, you can consider either supervisor or monitor.

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    They certainly indicate the intent. – Captain Giraffe Dec 4 '12 at 19:02

Some words which you may use that fit into your situation, and for that matter many others, are

  1. Conductor : Please arrange for a person to conduct the exams in a timely fashion.
  2. Supervisor : Can we have two exam supervisors in each room?
  3. In-charge : May I speak with the examination in-charge?

NOTE: My parents being teachers, I have heard them use these words instead of invigilator.


Exam supervisor as used by the British Council in their job offers:


There is an opportunity now to work with the Examination Services Team at the British Council to become an examinations Invigilator/Supervisor. We are looking for suitably qualified and experienced individuals to join our team of Invigilators


Why not simply overseer? Or even overlooker?

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