Preparing for online exams

“Twas the night before the big exam and all through the house, I was cramming and jamming, to keep thoughts fresh in my mind… well does this sound like you?”

Actually, the best way to do well on an exam is to plan a study schedule well in advance of the examination date. The following tips and strategies will help you develop good study habits and do well in your courses.


1. Review the course syllabus

If there is anything that is not clear, consult your professor or Teaching Assistant (TA) for assistance. Put all quizzes, assignments, projects, and midterm dates into your personal calendar. Then, set reminders! Put all Zoom links into your calendar. Synchronise calendars across electronic devices.

2. Understand the learning platform

If possible, spend time reviewing the organization and content of the online course. Ensure you have downloaded the necessary apps and have sufficient bandwidth to complete online exams and assignments. There are workshops to help!

3. Be an active participant

Ask questions on chat or video. Volunteer to be the spokesperson for your group.

4. Take responsibility for your learning

Develop your study skills: create a study schedule, find your study space(s), disable or mute social media and other distractions, break content down, take scheduled breaks, read actively, write notes in your own words, and create flash cards.


5. Know your exam type

 There are a variety of types of exams and assessments. Know what type you are preparing for: essay, short answer, multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, open book etc. This will help you when learning the material.


6. Use a study guide

If given, make use of a guide provided by the instructor. If you aren’t given a guide, you can create your own!

  • Define sources you will need (notes, slides, textbooks etc). If the test is cumulative, use your previous tests to look for areas you struggled with previously.
  • Organize your guide by making a list with key concepts, relatable facts and definitions. Be concise! Do not include information you are already comfortable with in depth.
  • Study using this guide and recall information by yourself, or by asking a friend or study group to quiz you.

Stay on Track

Follow these checklists to make sure you are on track for before, during and after your exam.

The day before

  • Stick to normal routine
  • Eat a balanced meal
  • Go to bed at usual time
  • Ensure you are well hydrated
  • Any studying should be review only – not the time to new learn materials!
  • Get organized for next day
  • Set alarm, and set area to write the exam

During the exam

  • Read the instructions carefully
  • If the test format allows read all the questions
  • Ask instructor specifically about formatting in advance of the test
  • Check how many marks are available
  • Answer the question
  • Use any extra time to check your work

The day of

  • Stay hydrated! Have a supply of fresh water at hand
  • Ensure you have a quiet space to take the test
  • Turn off your cell phone or select Airplane Mode
  • Get set up early so you are online and ready to access the test when it becomes available

After the exam

  • Breathe
  • Review your marked test, quiz or exam – if you don’t understand why an answer was marked wrong, ask your instructor or TA
  • Seek feedback especially if the exam may contain information that’s part of a follow-up or final exam

Want to learn more about exam preparation? Meet with one of our CAC Academic Coaches!

Book an appointment with a CAC academic coach to discuss time-management, test-taking and stress reducation strategies.

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