As online courses continue to surge in popularity, more and more students are flocking to distance learning as a way to get an education from home. Online courses offer flexibility, convenience, and great bang for the buck for students, but there are some differences from regular campus classes. The way you will take an online exam, for example, is different from taking an exam in a classroom.
We’re going to go over a few tips to help you prepare for online exams that’ll help you ace your tests. First, though, you’ll need to know that basics about online tests in general.
The Ins and Outs of Online Test Administration
Online tests can be administered in a variety of ways. In some cases, there is a set time (or a limited window) during which students may access and take the tests. These times will be communicated to students very early during the course, often mentioned on the syllabus itself. In most cases, however, these windows are relatively broad – for example, you may have a full day in which to take the test, or even longer. For some tests, particularly essay- or long-answer tests, they are simply emailed out to students with instructions that they must be returned within a certain amount of time (often 24-48 hours for shorter tests, or up to a week for longer, more in-depth exams).
Challenges of Online Tests
Online tests can create certain challenges you should be prepared for. In rare instances, you may be unable to open the test file your professor sends you for essay exams. For monitored tests administered through a course website or proprietary software, you may fall victim to a computer crash or a loss of internet connectivity.
Regardless of your problem, your first step is always to immediately contact your professor or teaching assistant and alert them of the problem. Don’t wait until the last minute – they’re much less likely to believe you, and “my computer crashed” will sound a lot like “the dog ate my homework.” If you’re receiving an error message, take a screen capture to send with you email, so you have evidence that it was a technical glitch – not an error on your part.
Open-Book Online Exams
One popular method for online exams is to administer open-book exams to students. These allow students to use any resources they wish to find answers, but the questions are often very specific – they’ll require students to be familiar enough with readings to find the answers quickly.
To prepare for an open-book test, go through your notes and the review materials and note the important issues your instructor raises. Take the time before the exam to find the passages of your readings that discuss these issues, and clearly mark them. At test time, it’ll be much easier to find the answers you’re looking for.
Online Essay Exams
In many courses, professors will assign essays, or exams comprised of several short essays, in lieu of exams. When you think about it, these are much like open-book tests, except that you have to create longer answers. So just as in the previous example, take the time to highlight all the important passages in the readings and in your notes in preparation. Pay attention to issues your professor points out as important – he or she is probably giving you hints about what’s going to be featured on the test.
Most importantly with essays, give yourself time to review your answers and fix your writing. With essay exams that require quick turnaround, your instructors aren’t going to expect you to write perfect prose. However, turning in an exam full of run-on sentences, typos, misspellings, and poorly-planned writing will do nothing to help your grade.
Monitored Online Tests
In relatively rare situations, exams will be administered using special software or websites that don’t allow anything but the exam to be viewed on the screen – preventing the student from searching for answers on the web during the exam. In extreme cases, some tests additionally activate the webcam, so that your instructors can make sure you’re not looking at hardcopy books (or another computer) while you’re taking the exam.
There’s no special way to prepare for this, except to study hard like you would for a regular exam in a physical classroom. Do your work on schedule, pay attention to lectures, and take careful notes. Give yourself plenty of time in the weeks leading up to the exam to study your own notes and any review information your instructors give you.
And really, you should follow these tips no matter what kind of exam you’re preparing for. There’s no magic trick to succeeding at school, whether you attend classes on campus or on a computer – solid study habits are the foundation to your education.
So get out there, get reading, ask questions, and before you know it, you’ll be staring at an A for your online exam.