Online Exams (Part 3)

Business School
Online Exams Series (Part Two) – On the day of the exam

By Dr Victoria Clout (School of Accounting, UNSW Sydney)


Welcome to the world of online exams! This is the third and final article in a series of three to get you ready for online exams. This article will take you through  key tips on the day of an exam so that you can perform at your best. 

On the Day of the Exam


Treat the online exam exactly how you would a real invigilated on campus exam. This way you  will be in the right mind frame to take the exam. When talking with students who have undertaken online exams, they have most commonly told me their one regret is to be too relaxed when doing an exam at home. You are in a comfortable environment at home and you are going to need to be self-disciplined and self-motivated to get into the right mental headspace to be ready for your exam. Here are some tips:

Tell  your housemates you are doing an exam:

If you live with housemates tell them the day before or in the morning of the exam that you are taking an exam that day. You could put a sign up on your bedroom or study door saying something like: “Exam in Progress, do not disturb”. 

Eat  healthily:

Have a healthy breakfast on the day of the exam.

Get set up early and then you can relax by being  prepared:

Get your computer/laptop awake between 1 hour to 30 mins before the exam. Get yourself a clear plastic bottle of water or clear glass of water to be on your desk during the exam. 

Silence distractions:

Turn your phone to silent and place face-down away from you. Also, close all messenger programs and logout on your computer from social media accounts. This is so you don’t get distracted from either your phone or social media alerts. Research suggests that mental recovery after a distraction can take up to 25 mins to recover from that distraction. The sign on your bedroom or study door will reduce distractions from any of your housemates during the exam. This is valuable time that a distraction steals should be avoided. 

For  longer take-home exams have a game plan:

If you have a 24-hour exam, make sure you have a schedule for the whole exam period worked out in advance. Make sure you add in some regular breaks, for example, a 5-minute screen break and during that time try moving around. Things such as a quick walk around the room can help you to be more mentally alert. Have your lunch or dinner already prepared, ready to be eaten during a break. For open-book exams have your notes close to hand and in an organised order, for example in a binder with labelled tabs or a computer folder and each topic within a sub-folder. 

For timed exams:

For timed exams make sure you have a timer counting down until submission for the exam, so you know how long you have left. For Moodle quizzes, this will be provided on screen. Divide the number of questions or marks for each question into the total time to work out roughly how long to spend on a question. Avoid eating during a short duration timed exam, for example, a 2 hours exam. It will eat into your overall time. If your exam is during a mealtime make a plan to either eat a light meal beforehand or eat a regular-sized meal after the exam is  finished. 

For closed-book webcam exams:

For webcam closed-book invigilated exams you will need to have similar conditions to those outlined above, such as being in a room by yourself and not being disturbed during the exam by housemates or by your mobile phone, with the added feature that you will are being videoed. Be sitting in your seat ready for the exam to start no later than 15 minutes before the exam. Only have the Moodle site open on your computer. You will need to login to Moodle and enter into the Final Exam section at the bottom of your course Moodle site. Get your desk and room ready in the 30 minutes before the exam. Post up a sign on your room door such as “Do not disturb, Exam in progress”. Make sure you clean off your desk of all materials except those permitted for example you may be allowed 2 A4 blank pieces of paper, pen, calculator and/or formula sheet. Read on the course Moodle site and announcements about the specifics of what you are allowed during the exam and also any required technology such as a digital pen input device. If you have dual monitors, you will need to un-plug one of these  during the exam. Take any post-it notes off the sides of your computer/laptop. Have a small hand or pocket-sized mirror to show the edges of the computer/laptop screen is clean of notes. If you need a toilet break that is ok but only 5 minutes and empty your pockets in front of the webcam afterwards. The room where you take the exam doesn’t have to be tidy. If you have a window in the room, you can draw the curtains/blinds to protect  yourself further for the privacy of your location. When you are doing calculations on your calculator hold it up to the screen, so it is videoed as you do your calculations. Have a clear bottle of water on your desk in case you get thirsty. If you don’t have a webcam, consider reaching out to friends or family to borrow one for the day of the exam. Also, there are active UNSW student social media pages where you can reach out for help including the student societies. 


All the best for your  online exams! Stay safe!

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