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Tackling online exams

Tackling online exams

Bethany Barrett


In my last post I wrote about how I have been preparing for (online) exam season. Well, exam season is now here, whether we like it or not. So how am I planning on tackling each exam?

Adopt the right mindset

Before I even download the paper, I need to be in the right mood. I have a week to complete each paper, so if I wake up with a headache on the first day, it is alright to wait the extra hour or so for painkillers to kick in. If you read the questions in a bad mood, you are more likely to go into writing your answers in a negative thought spiral. So, in the lead-up to exams, make sure to try and do things to put you in the right mindset – get as much sleep as possible the night before, book library space if you can, and double-check all of your deadlines. Then, on the day, all you need to do is take a deep breath and dive in!

Read the questions twice

This is a piece of advice I was given for normal, timed exams. But it holds up even more for week-long exams because you have more than enough time to do this! Viewing all the questions neutrally, take a good read of them and try not to go in with preconceived ideas about what the questions will be, or which ones you will choose to answer. This may result in you misreading the questions or choosing a question you may not answer as well as another. Once you have read the questions twice, you can consider which ones to answer (if you get a choice).


You will probably require a specific cover sheet for your work, so make sure that you have the most up-to-date version and that you have filled out your details correctly. It is also worth checking whether there are any other formalities requirements, such as a specific font or margin size, or whether footnotes are allowed. You don’t want the marker to be annoyed, or worse have your marks capped, over something so easily checked.

Plan, but don’t get bogged down

For problem questions, I tend to make highly detailed plans, simply because creating such plans is easy when you have logical steps to follow and legal questions to answer. However, for essays, I tend to plan in less detail. This is because I sometimes struggle to see how my argument will flow until I am actually writing it, and I can easily get overwhelmed during the planning stages. I prefer to get started a bit sooner and just get some words down on paper after doing a more basic plan. This is a personal choice, but I find that just getting started and revising my plan as I go along allows for more flexibility and less stress.

Final submission

It goes without saying that you should always proofread your work – I try to do this a few hours after finishing writing, at least. This makes you more likely to spot mistakes.

Try to not be ‘that person’ who thinks they can submit five minutes before the deadline, only to be thwarted by IT issues. You may be fine, but equally you may not be, so if you can please try to submit a few hours before the deadline! To combat any last-minute panics, I would also advise saving your work in multiple places frequently – I use a cloud-based system that saves my work automatically every few mins, but I also plan on saving my work on my laptop at the end of each day. Just in case!

I hope these steps will help to comfort you as you approach your exams. Everyone – including and especially myself – will be worried about exams, so you are not alone in any panic you have throughout this time. Remember, you are doing your best in trying times – so you just need to keep on viewing each day as a fresh start to show off all your hard work from the past year. Good luck!