How to Prepare for Online Exams

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By: Rita M. Rivera –  AU PsyD Student, Student Learning Assistant – Title V Student Success

With final exams approaching, you are probably worried about studying and preparing for them. This may also be the first experience you have with online tests.

Not sure where or how to begin? Don’t panic! Learn how to prepare for online exams, step-by-step.

1. Ask the right questions

You want to be prepared ahead of test day. Therefore, try to get the answers to these questions before you start studying and before the day of the exam.

  • What material will the test cover? Is the exam cumulative or does it only cover the second half of the semester?
  • What is the format of the exam? Multiple-choice? Short answer? Essay? Fill-in-the-blank? Try to know the parameters of the test.
  • How many points is the exam worth? Usually final exams are worth a significant amount of your grade, so you want to make sure you are prepared to do well!
  • Does the exam have any time limits? Some tests have a specific time frame depending on the subject and how much time is required to answer each question.
  • When is the exam taking place? Be certain of the date of the test! One of the perks of online exams is that you can usually do it anytime once the professor has made it available. However, be careful of the final deadline! You do not want to leave the test until last minute! Also, some professors may choose to have the exams take place during the time and day when your course took place in order to reduce likelihood of cheating.

If your professor gives a review session, make sure to attend, participate, and take notes. This is also the time to ask them questions about the exam. For example, you can ask them if they know any specific study tips that may help you prepare for the test!

2.  Sort out your studying schedule

Once you know what material you will be tested on, prepare to learn the material! You can start by making a list of the topics you need to cover and when you are going to study them. Try to start your study schedule as early as possible, especially if you have more than one test. A study schedule will help you figure out how much time you will need to study each day in order to stay on track with all of your exams. Try not to cram! Cramming usually overtaxes your memory and may get you confused about the material.

3. Grab the gear

Gather your class notes, handouts, worksheets, and previous homework assignments. If your professor gave you back quizzes that you took during the semester, make sure to review these! They can help you see what information your professor thinks is important to know. Past quizzes and homework assignments can also show you past mistakes and thus, help you identify the areas you need to go back and review. It is a good idea to have all of your resources organized, highlighted, and tagged so that you can easily find the material as you cover different topics.

If you have time, you can make your own study aids! If you like to study with flash cards, here are “8 Better Ways to Make and Study Flash Cards:”

4. Study smart

Trying to memorize all of your notes can be overwhelming. Instead, try prioritizing what material you will study. A pro tip is to start with what will definitely be on the test, then continue with what will probably be on the test, and finally study what might be on the test. By starting with the toughest material, you can cover the essentials. Also, this will allow you to have time to ask your professor questions. However, try to not neglect the “easy” stuff!

It is also very important for you to have a designated space for studying. Try to find a distractions-free zone. Turn the TV off, put the phone away (or in airplane mode!), and grab all your gear. Make sure to have everything you need and try to find a quiet space. If this is not possible (e.g. roommates, family members, that annoying little bird outside your window), try playing some music. 

Research has shown that classical music has a mind-boosting effect! Don’t believe me? Check out the article “Studying to Music Can Put Your Brain in the Right Frame of Mind:” https://www.vaughn.edu/blog/best-study-music-and-benefits/

5. Keep up the motivation

Adhere to your studying schedule, but don’t forget to take breaks! Try to find a positive activity that will not make it difficult for you to transition back to your studies. For example, you can stretch, tidy up, take a quick shower, prepare a healthy snack, or meditate. A good study break should not lead you to procrastination!

Also, once you are done with each study session, reward yourself! This can be something small, such as a TV or phone break. You can also make a plan with your friends to review together, share and compare notes, and work through tricky material. You can use Zoom (https://zoom.us/) to make online meetings with them!

6. The day of the exam

First, make sure to show up for your test! Second, prepare your computer. Make sure you have access to the Internet and that your computer is charged. A good idea is to keep that power cord next to you and be close to a power source! Get familiar with the online testing software. At Albizu, professors will be using Honorlock, so login to your BlackBoard account and take the practice exam (it should be under courses).

Before you take the test, give yourself some time for a quick review. This will help you ensure the material is fresh in your mind. However, this should be a quick review! You should not be studying for the exam right before taking it (go back to step 2)!

During the exam, read the instructions carefully. Try to click “save” after you mark your answers. Set a time limit per question so you have enough time to answer all of them! If you can skip questions you are having a hard time with, do so and come back for them later! Time-management is integral for success! Also, try to allot time to go back and revise your answers. This will help you avoid bloopers and catch up questions you may have skipped. Once you are done, do not forget to click “submit!”

Unless the exam is open book/notes, do not cheat. Just don’t do it! Cheating can make you fail the test, fail the course, and/or be expelled from your program and/or university!

Lastly, anticipate technical problems. If you do encounter any issues, notify your professor immediately, try to take a screen shot for proof if possible, and keep calm! Do not get upset in case of technical glitches and do not panic! Instead, patiently contact the helpful IT department: auitshelpdesk@albizu.edu

Remember: knowledge, preparation, and awareness are the best tools when preparing for exams (this applies to online exams, too). Start preparing for your finals today! They will be here before you know it and gone in a blink of eye. The semester will soon be over. Hang tight. We got this!

Albizu University’s Office of Student Affairs and Title V staff is here to serve you!

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