First Impression of Online Exams
So I’ve now done my two April exams online. One of them seemed to go quite well and the other, not so much. While I’m still far from an expert, I thought it might be worth taking a moment to share my initial impressions of the new system. I can’t promise that this will be full of amazing tips and tricks but I’ll go through my approach to online exams and hopefully someone else can take something from my technique (even if it’s what not to do).
I think my biggest issue with moving exams online is that I have been worried that I just won’t take them seriously. Throughout the taught period of the university terms in physics we regularly have online assessments to keep track of our progress. I like this system and I always revise for these intermediate tests but nowhere near as much as I concentrate on end of year exams. Therefore, when all the exams were moved online, I was just concerned that I would forget to remind myself that these are the big exams of the year.
I’m still not quite sure how to tackle this. For my first exams I have taken the view that I should completely clear my desk, close my door, remove distractions and make my room as much like an exam hall as possible to try and replicate the classic exam sitting experience. Other than that, my only other method has been to tell myself repeatedly that these exams aren’t just mini tests that don’t count for too much and so far that seems to be keeping me on track.
I tend to get quite paranoid and stressed fairly easily so, for the sake of my own peace of mind, I’ve decided to set aside about twenty minutes before I’m planning to start an exam just to go through all of the arrangements (e.g. timings, submission method…) one last time. It’s ridiculous really because by the day of the exam I know how it’s going to be presented and I even know that I know it but I take the view that if that twenty minutes can help me relax even the slightest bit then it is time well spent.
I know that I work better earlier in the day, that’s just a fact of who I am so I’m making sure to schedule my exams to be as early as possible. However, I haven’t been going to do my exams the moment access becomes available for two reasons. Firstly, the department has advised against this as they predict a lot of people will want to just get the exam out the way so there is a chance of the website crashing if everyone goes at it the moment it is released.
Secondly, I have seen other people giving quite a useful piece of advice. They have mentioned that in the first two hours or so of an exam being live, an invigilator will be staying in contact via email to comment on any mistakes that might appear in the paper. If you leave the exam until an hour or so after the start time, don’t forget to check for any comments on the Alternative Exams Portal.
My final comment might sound a little bit scary but I think it is important to expect the unexpected. With a whole new system of exams, there is a chance that it could go wrong. The important thing is to stay calm. If for some reason you are unable to complete your exam straight away (perhaps if the internet goes offline for a while) then take reassurance in the fact that the university is aware that this might happen and there are procedures in place to ensure that you are not negatively affected by these kinds of mitigating circumstances. Just make sure you are aware of all the support available before going into the exam.
Another way it might differ from your expectation is in the style of questions. For my April exam which didn’t go so well, I had done all of the past papers and looked over them again in the morning as well as going through my notes but when it came to the actual exam, it seemed completely different to anything in the past. This was a maths based paper and as it had been moved to be a test on Moodle, there wasn’t much opportunity for marks for working and methods so questions had to be worded in a different way. I think this knocked my confidence right from the start of the exam and I almost let it get the better of me but speaking to other people about it afterwards, we all felt the same way. Bear in mind that you and your course mates are all in the same state of blindness. Keep calm and do what you can.