Whether you modified your test plans for the pandemic or you were already preparing for an online exam, these tests have a few differences from their “pen to paper” relatives.
While it’s true that much of your studying and preparation should unfold the same way it always has, virtual exams can prevent additional challenges to keep in mind. From students taking AP exams online to professionals working toward PSI exams online, it’s a good idea to use a few extra tips to succeed.
Here are the success strategies you’ll need to excel in your online exam.
1. Prepare Your Computer and Network
One of the first things you should do is prepare your computer for the exam, a step that many test-takers forget to take into account. The last thing you want to happen on test day is an interruption to your power, internet, or computer software.
In advance of the exam, make sure you’ve taken care of any vital software updates to your operating system, thus avoiding the dreaded 10-minute loading screen as your computer performs maintenance during a reboot. If possible, you should also test out whatever link, website, or software you need for the exam. Some test sites may require specific plug-ins or updates, so take care of those before test day.
2. Don’t Rely on the “Open Book” Policy
By default, online exams are open book and open note, allowing you to reference your study materials as you go.
However, you should never use this as an excuse not to study or to study less than the test requires. Timed tests require you to create written responses under the assumption that you already know the topic—and that time drains away fast! If you count on only your notes and study guides without actually studying, you’ll spend more time finding answers than creating your responses, which will negatively impact your score.
3. Know the Online Exam Format
Make sure you understand the exam framework in advance. This can help you prepare and review.
Find out how much total time you’ll be allowed to spend on the exam, as well as if it’s broken into separate sections that you can’t come back to. You should also know when you’ll have access to start the exam.
Learn what kinds of questions are on the exam, including multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions.
Be aware of the kinds of materials you’re allowed to reference, like the course materials, research articles, or Google searches.
You should also know who to contact for help in the case of technical issues or questions as the exam proceeds.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
You know you’ll need to study for the exam, but keep in mind that online exams can feel a little different than in-person, “pen and paper” versions.
Using the things you’ve learned in the step above, anticipate potential questions and test yourself by writing out answers to those questions on your computer. Take advantage of any test material you can find, and if there are opportunities for online test prep using software similar to what you’ll see on the big day, spend some time on that as well.
5. Know How the Online Proctoring Works
Online testing allows you the flexibility of taking an exam in your home without heading off to an exam center, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be proctored or supervised in some form.
Also called remote invigilation, online proctoring may involve remote professionals who record your screen and connect to you via audio or video. Alternately, your test may not be supervised at all, but your computer may be locked while the test is in session to prevent you from accessing other programs or files.
Knowing how the test works can help you know what to expect. For example, you might not want to count on using notes saved in a Word document if you know in advance that your screen will be locked.
6. Set Up Your Test Area
As test day approaches, make sure you have a system in place to find the information you need as fast as possible.
Clear your desk or writing space and lay out the books and resources you’ll need. Separate your notes with tabs or dividers, create charts or tables for key concepts and highlight important sections of your readings.
If you’ve been gathering study materials on your computer, save them on your desktop using a clear filing system. Be sure to annotate your notes in Word or Google Docs by using comments, highlighter tools, and bookmarks to jump to the right sections.
7. Take Your Time
Timing is key when it comes to online exams. It can feel a little intimidating to work quickly when you see the countdown running on your screen, or when you know it’s an online proctored exam with an observer, but it’s important to give yourself the time you need to understand and answer the questions.
Check your pace frequently, and don’t be afraid to skip questions and come back to them later. Examine each question with care, and know how to identify any important keywords in reading comprehension questions. Use smart, time-saving strategies to eliminate wrong answers from multiple-choice questions.
As always, don’t forget to double back and check your responses with any time you have leftover!
8. Don’t Forget to Hit “Save” and “Submit”
Often, online exams will allow you to save your answers frequently throughout the test. Take advantage of this in case of unexpected technical difficulties.
In addition, most exams aren’t technically considered complete until the test-taker has clicked the “submit” button at the end of the exam. This is designed to allow you ample time to check your work as needed. However, once you’ve double-checked your answers, don’t forget to go back to the end of the test and hit the “submit” button before time runs out!
Get Ready for Your Online Exam
These tips are a great jumping-off point to help you succeed with your online exam, but you’ll need to follow through with the same study and preparation you would use for any test. As you move forward with your test prep, don’t hesitate to check out our other posts for tips to help you succeed in learning and in business.