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How to prepare for an online exam: Tips and tricks

Universities have decided to carry out semester examinations online due to the current pandemic. Online exams are the 'new normal' way of Universities accessing the knowledge of students. However, this is more or less a new approach of examining students' knowledge for most Higher Education institutions as well as for students. This short blog provides tips for students how to best prepare for an essay type online exam.

How to best approach the preparation? First of all, step back and look at the bigger picture. Weekly lecture materials are structured in topics which ultimately will be assessed in the exams. Each module consists of various topics that are covered on a weekly bases. For example, if a module runs for 12 weeks, with week 1 being an introduction of the module and week 12 being a summary of the module, the actual topics that may be assessed are 10. Some modules also include a self-study week, thus resulting in fewer topics.

1. The first and most important step is to create a table representing all topics of the module

It is important to be able to navigate between different weeks and to know where to find each topic. A table summarising the topics is a perfect way to find the answer to the exam question quickly and to be able to prepare the answer most effectively.

2. You need to add several references for each topic in your table

To get a higher grade in an exam, no matter if online or offline, it is vital to utilise academic references to support the statements you make. I know, it may be dull to have to remember difficult surnames of authors, but if this gets you a higher grade it is certainly worth it ;-) The number of references required depends on the length of the answer to the exam question. If the required answer needs to be up to 1000 words in length, I would recommend using around 5 references.

3. Key summary of the topics and sub-topics

You need to know what each topic entails to be able to successfully answer the exam question. In other words, you need to prepare a short summary of the key information for each topic and to understand it before you begin answering the exam question. Lecturers usually provide a module summary at the end of the module. This is a great source from which you can extract short info in form of bullet points about each topic and add that in your table.

4. Add examples in your table

Lecturers often ask for an example in support of your discussion in the exam question. It is, therefore, good to add a couple of examples in your table. Best way to find examples is to look through seminar activities as well as lecture slides where lecturers often discuss examples that relate to the weekly topic.

Here is an example of an exam preparation table:

Good luck all with the exams!

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