5 tips for online exams

Darcy Nathan, Editorial assistant
February, 2024

Taking an online exam requires organisation, including testing your tech in advance, optimising your environment and using practice software. Read our five steps on how best to prepare

Online exams have become an increasingly popular form of assessment across all levels of education. While they offer the benefits of flexibility and convenience, they can also pose new challenges such as network disruptions and home distractions. However, with proper planning, these issues can be managed, allowing you to demonstrate your knowledge and excel in your virtual exam.

1. Understand the exam platform

It's important to familiarise yourself with the online exam platform well in advance. Being comfortable with the technology can save precious time during the actual exam.

You should also make sure you know your way around the website's interface and functionalities through practice tests or demos, such as the GMAT practice test from London Business School. Your institution may offer practice digital exams through its online learning platform. Alternatively, the following exam boards offer practice platforms:

2. Practise a submission

Even though your exam is online, certain platforms may require handwritten answers or use a 'mixed mode' format that combines both online and handwritten elements. Keep in mind that you may encounter different types of questions that require handwritten responses, such as:

  • math equations, diagrams, sketches or annotations on graphs and charts
  • open-ended essay-style answers
  • code snippets or algorithms
  • drawings, musical notation or artistic expressions.

To get ready for this, you should practice scanning and uploading handwritten work, to help you gauge the duration of the process and ensure that your scans are clear, legible and properly oriented. Experiment with different lighting and scanning methods, like using a mobile app or scanner device, to find the best approach for you.

Make sure your scans are in a compatible format like PDF, JPEG, or PNG. Be sure to test the upload functionality beforehand, so you can avoid any technical issues during the actual exam. You should also familiarise yourself with any restrictions on file size or number of uploads to ensure a smooth exam experience.

3. Test your equipment

Don't let technical issues ruin your exam performance. Make sure to give your computer, internet connection, and any necessary equipment, such as your webcam and microphone, a thorough check before the exam. Running a test to ensure that everything is working smoothly can give you peace of mind and prevent any potential problems during the exam.

Working in a place with a reliable and fast internet connection is also a wise decision. If possible, have a backup option like a mobile hotspot to fall back on. In addition, knowing how to contact the exam coordinator and having all the necessary materials downloaded beforehand can help you deal with any technical issues that may arise and get back on track quickly.

4. Choose your environment wisely

When taking an online exam, it's essential to choose a dedicated space that is free from interruptions. This space should be well-lit and quiet, and you should keep it clean and free of clutter. It's also recommended that you close any unnecessary browser tabs and applications to minimise noise or visual distractions.

To avoid interruptions, inform the people around you about your exam schedule and the importance of quiet time. It's also important to turn off notifications and devices like phones that aren't needed during the exam. If noise or distractions are unavoidable in your home environment, you can explore alternative arrangements. For example, you can book a quiet space on campus - be sure to check their policies for reserving study spaces before the exam.

5. Practice time management

Using a time management strategy when taking an online exam is essential to maximise your potential. By allocating specific time frames for each and sticking to them during practice sessions, you can gauge the amount of time needed for different types of answers and make sure you don't spend too much time on a single question.

Another tip is to strategically mark confusing or time-consuming questions to revisit later. It's important not to spend too much time flagging when starting the exam, and to only go back to questions that cause genuine confusion or require extra time. Returning to too many sections can be counterproductive and cause you to feel overwhelmed.

Finally, don't wait until the last minute to submit your exam. Give yourself some buffer time to review your answers and ensure everything is in order before hitting the submit button.

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