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8 Essential tips to succeed in online exams

Talya Honebeek
Last Updated: 17 July 2021 • 5 min read

With the days getting longer and the nights becoming lighter, summer is definitely on the way. For students everywhere, this means exam season is fast approaching.

When sitting exams in a normal year, all you have to do is revise and show up at the right place at the right time. But now most exams are taking place remotely, there needs to be a little more planning involved. 

Whether this is the first time you have ever encountered online exams, or if you just want to ensure you are better prepared this time, we’ve got you covered. 

From initial planning to actually sitting the exam on the day, here are our top tips to help you succeed in upcoming online exams.

8 Essential tips to succeed in online exams

  1. Create a productive revision and exam environment
  2. Notify housemates or family of your exam and study schedule
  3. Try a mock paper under online exam conditions
  4. Carry out software checks on the day
  5. Know who to contact in case of technical issues
  6. Wear comfortable clothes
  7. Take breaks if you have multiple exams
  8. Keep track of the time 

1. Create a productive revision and exam environment

The first step is to create your own revision and exam environment. 

Everyone’s situation is different, and this may be difficult if you live with other people who are also working or studying from home. Ideally, any quiet or private space you can find will work.

You really need a flat surface to work on so if you do not have a table or desk you may have to get creative. From garden furniture to cabinets or even stacked boxes, use whatever you can find to make a stable surface to work on.

If you can only work in a shared space, wear headphones and politely ask others to do the same to avoid any excess noise.

2. Notify family or housemates of your exam and study schedule

Let everyone in the house know when you will be sitting exams well in advance of the day. This will ensure that they have time to plan alternative arrangements, and will limit interruptions on the day.

If you are using a communal part of the house to study, try and work out when the quietest time of the day to study is. If you often have to work in a shared space, wear ear plugs or listen to music on your headphones to block out distracting background noises.

3. Try a mock paper under online exam conditions

When sitting ordinary in-person exams, there is usually the chance to try out a mock paper first to get used to the exam process. Ask your tutor or lecturer if you can have a go at a mock using the exam software you will be using for the real thing.

Create exam conditions for yourself, and use your designated study space to see if it works for you. 

This is a good opportunity to check that your space has good internet connection, that you can stay focused, and most importantly that you can easily navigate the exam software.

4. Carry out software checks on the day

On the day of the exam, make sure you are set up and ready to go about 45 minutes earlier than the start time.

Depending on which online exam portal you are using, you may have to perform some pre-exam checks before the start time. These may include holding your ID card up to the camera or scanning the room with your laptop’s camera to make sure you aren’t using revision notes.

It is really important to make sure that your webcam and microphone are working, as well as your internet connection. Most portals will use these to check you aren’t cheating, and if your internet keeps disconnecting or your camera is off you may be flagged for suspicious behaviour.

5. Know who to contact in case of technical difficulties

Even with all the checks and practice runs in the world, things can still go wrong on the day. But don’t panic! Your tutor should provide you with the contact details of someone who can help you if you run into technical difficulties.

Save the phone number of this person so you can quickly contact them if needed. They can contact the invigilator and your exam will either be paused while the issue is fixed, or you may be given extra time.

6. Wear comfortable clothes

We all know that one of the biggest benefits of sitting online exams is being able to turn up in your pajamas.

Bear in mind that you aren’t allowed to leave the room for the duration of the exam, so wear something you feel comfortable in and that will keep you warm enough for the whole exam.

Read any exam guidelines in advance, because just as with in-person exams there may be certain things you are not allowed to wear. This varies, but could include watches, hooded sweatshirts or coats.

7. Take breaks if you have multiple exams 

If you were taking in-person exams, you would naturally take a break after each one to chat to your friends about how it went. You can — and should — still do this! 

Once you have submitted your answers, leave your exam environment to grab some fresh air and call a friend to see how they found it. 

This will help your mind switch off for a short while, and allow you to have a proper rest before going into your next exam, fresh and prepared. Make sure to drink some water, as it helps keep the mind focused. 

8. Keep track of the time

Even though it might not feel like a normal exam, it is important to treat it like one. 

When it comes to sitting the exam, click through the pages to read all of the questions before starting. This will help you know what is coming up so your brain can start formulating answers as you work through.

In a normal exam there would be either a large clock or invigilator reminding you of the time. Don’t forget to regularly check the clock and keep track of time so you don’t suddenly run out of time. 

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Talya Honebeek
Written By
Talya Honebeek

Talya is a part-time journalism master's student living in North Yorkshire.

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