Online Exams: Pros & Cons
Having just finished my first ever season of online exams, I can say they certainly feel different to the usual type! As a Second Year History student, I had two examined modules. For each, I had seven days to answer two essay questions. This would vary hugely from one student to another — if you take more/fewer examined modules, or if you’re a joint honours student, or if you’re in first or final year, or if your exams overlap, your exam season would look quite different to mine. Equally, other departments have run the summer exams very differently, with some allowing a couple of hours to complete the paper or having different regulations. Essentially, the exams have been very different for Warwick students, so I can only talk about my very specific experience, but here are a few of my top pros and cons:
In History, we were advised to spend a couple of hours on each paper, as we would have done in a normal exam. The time allowance of a week is given to alleviate any pressures should your exams overlap or if you have any other commitments. I really appreciated having a week to complete my exam — it meant I could work when I felt most productive and energetic, rather than having to do it at an inconvenient time which clashed with other commitments, or when I wasn’t feeling completely focused. For me, this was a definite pro for online exams.
2. Notes and resources
Whilst we were advised not to do any further research during the exam (because we had already covered all the content we would need throughout the year), we were able to use our notes during the exam. This made the exam season much less pressurised for me, because I did not have to try and store as many facts, dates, quotes, names, and bits of information in my brain. Instead, I could prepare for the exams by practicing the skills I would need and putting my knowledge into practice. I think this made me feel more prepared going into the exams, because I knew I had everything I needed with me.
3. Thinking time!
I always worry about spending too much time at the beginning of an exam choosing which question to do — I usually want to get started as soon as possible, but feel like I need to spend some of my precious time reading each question carefully and thinking about how best to answer it. One great benefit of online exams was that I could take the time to think about my answers. If nothing immediately came to mind, I didn’t have to start the exam at that exact moment. I could do the paper once I had given it some thought, and that meant that I felt like my answers were stronger than they would have been had I started writing the first thing that popped into my head.
- All of the above
I personally preferred these online exams to the usual type, but I know for a lot of other students this wasn’t the case. It can be difficult to concentrate and find the time to sit the exam when you’re not in exam conditions. It’s unusual to have so long to do an exam — usually it’s all done and dusted in a couple of hours, but they lasted much longer this year which feels strange. It can also be nice to sit down in an exam hall and get all of your thoughts down and walk away, which wasn’t the same this year. The experience of summer exams will have felt very different for each student this year, and whilst I personally preferred this type of exam, it depends entirely on how you work best, your commitments outside of exams, and a number of other factors.
I hope this blog has been of some help to you if you are currently doing or yet to start your online exams. Remember that the university has plenty of support available if you are finding online exams tricky. Good luck and happy summer!