Online Exams, Spotty Robes and a Bit of Chocolate
Sitting an exam at home is a very… interesting experience. I’ve done three online exams so far using our new Alternative Exams Portal (AEP).
The first time, I recreated exam conditions at my desk.
The second time, I kept some nuts and chocolate beside me to fuel myself for three hours.
The third time, I wore a fluffy, spotty robe for extra comfort.
As you can see, my ‘exam conditions’ have transformed into something a teeny bit different. The point I’m trying to make here is that in these very unusual circumstances, taking exams on AEP is a very different affair – though not necessarily worse.
Having been one of the guinea pigs trialling this new exam system, here’s some tips that I can pass on to you based on my experience. As always, do keep up to date with the latest guidance published by the university and your department.
Revision and Preparing Notes
This will vary a lot depending on the type of exams being taken and, of course, the content that’s being covered. So, I speak from my experience of open-book exams.
Unlike normal open-book exams, the amount of information that you have access to is much, much larger. While this can be a boon, it can also be a curse.
For my first exam, I opted to just use my existing notes from lectures, and I was prepared to access a number of resources to search for the information I need. BUT this is not such a good idea, as I wasted a lot of time searching for things.
(On one notably messy occasion, I ended up throwing sheet after sheet of paper onto the floor like a woman possessed in my haste to find a single line of information).
Instead, it’s especially important to collate and organise your notes in as few places as possible, for easy access. Even better, type up your notes in one place to make things easily searchable using ctrl-f.
This comes with a caveat. I’ve found that my exam papers were modified a bit to include more questions that require an actual understanding of the material, so it’s still important to learn the content.
If you haven’t already, do have a look at the that the university has provided regarding exams.
Preparing for Exams
Practice, practice, practice!
Firstly, when optional TRIAL exams are released on AEP, do them. It’s really important to be as familiar with the process as possible before the actual exam.
Especially, when it comes to file-based exams, which involved uploading documents to AEP, I have found it really beneficial to practice scanning pages. In Computer Science at least, we have been asked to handwrite our answers, either on paper or tablet. Answers on paper need to be scanned and uploaded – I’ve found it easiest to do this using an app on my phone.
I would recommend using practice papers to practise the whole process of writing out answers, scanning them and putting them together to submit. While 45 minutes seems like a long time to be given to prepare and upload the files, this time is actually needed.
Another thing I’ve found really useful is setting frequent alarms to manage my time, which is a great thing that doing online exams allows us.
Setting Up Your Space
The main thing I realised was that rather than trying to recreate exam conditions, it’s better to set up your space in a way that helps you be most productive and most comfortable (while not communicating with any other candidates, of course!).
For me, that means keeping some snacks within arm’s reach and wearing comfortable clothing.
I think that one of the most challenging things about doing an exam at home is eliminating distractions, and how you go about this is very dependent on your situation. I live in an apartment, which has made it very difficult to be in a space that’s completely silent.
If you live with people, communication is key. I would recommend telling everyone you live with when you are planning to do your exam in advance and explicitly asking people to be quiet. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to test how far sound carries beforehand so that everyone you live with is on the same page about how quiet they need to be.
I hope this helps. Good luck!