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How to Prepare for Different Online Exam Methods

Last updated March 1, 2021

Online exams are like paper exams, right? Yes, the main differences are the tools you will be using and the factors that come with those tools. You’ll need to: learn how to use the tools correctly, set up an ideal testing environment, and avoid the temptation to use the internet or outside help. With online exams, instructors will be working on confirming that you are the only one taking the exam during distance learning.

Timed exams

This is to emulate an in-person exam where you would be taking the exam in a set time frame. You should expect the exam software to cut off after a time limit has been reached or even closing if you open or click off to a different window.

Important: If you require accommodations make sure your instructor has allocated the time accordingly.

How to prepare:

  • Alert your household that you will be taking an exam so that they are not taking up internet bandwidth and potentially causing a delay in submitting your answers.
  • Ask your instructor about the question format and ask for practice questions to gain familiarity (multiple choice, short answer, long answer, fill in the blank).
  • Give yourself enough time to start and to submit the exam before the deadline.
  • Read How to be Successful Taking a Test Online

Open book exams

You may initially feel that open book exams are a good thing, but this means there will be a larger question bank for your instructor to choose from.

How to prepare:

  • Flag or highlight important tables, diagrams, or definitions.
  • Form a study group where you can compare notes with other students.
  • Ask for a study guide to help focus your studying.

Exam practices your instructor may use:

  • Postponing the release of grades until everyone has completed the exam
  • Hiding immediate feedback on correct and incorrect answers
  • Having practice questions to help you familiarize yourself with the test questions
  • The exam window may automatically end if you click out of the window

Open-ended questions

Let's face it, copy and pasting a question into an internet search will cross your mind. Your teachers know this temptation is real and this will lead to more open-ended questions. These questions will test that you know the fundamentals and have you explain your thought process on how you came to a conclusion.

How to prepare:

  • When you are studying, revisit the open-ended questions in your textbook and past quizzes/exams.
  • Create your own questions about the material to test yourself. Study with a group and trade these questions with each other

Submitting images, diagrams, or graphs

This is another way to assess your knowledge and understanding. You may be given a set of variables with instructions to draw a diagram to simulate what is occurring or will occur.

How to prepare:

  • Look at the images, diagrams, and graphs in your textbook
  • Practice using the software you will be using to create graphs and images.
  • If drawing by hand, have a ruler or another tool available to create lines. Use a dark-colored pen or press hard when using a pencil.
  • Test out your picture taking tool to make sure your images are clear and save your picture as a small file size. Your learning management system may not accept large files.

Online presentations

This will be similar to presenting in-person but instead, you will either present during a live video call or record a video.

How to prepare:

  • Test the webcam (that comes with your computer or the one you've attached). Try different camera angles and distances to figure out the ideal setup to provide a clear picture.
  • Test the microphone. Record yourself or have a practice call to figure out the position of your microphone and how loud you should be speaking for your mic to pick you up clearly.
  • Sit in front of a window or grab extra lighting so that you are well lit.
  • Have all your presentation materials in front of you and within reach.
  • Practice your presentation with friends or family to test your webcam and microphone set-up to receive feedback.

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