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Mini-Module: Preparing for Exams and Online Exams

Online exams: About

Skills for Learning LogoOnline exams: About

This section looks at the differences between online and normal exams, and deals with some of the common misunderstandings about them. 




Differences from normal exams

There are many differences between how online and normal exams are carried out. For example:

  • no supervision
  • longer time limits
  • access to materials, such as books and the internet
  • at home rather than in an examination room
  • on a computer rather than on paper.


Such differences have implications. They can mean that:

  • the type or focus of the questions in the exam is different,
  • the way the answers are marked may be changed,
  • you have more freedom to move about,
  • you can organise your own environment,
  • the onus is on you to sort out things, such as the IT, in advance.


Because of the differences between traditional and online exams, it is easy to make assumptions which are not correct.


Common misconceptions about online exams

  • Online exams are easier than normal exams. X Wrong.
    • They are different.
  • “There is no need to study.” X Wrong.
    • In an online exam, it is more important to show that you understand things rather than show that you have memorised information. If your teachers know that students can access all the information, they don’t look so much for the facts, but rather for evidence of your understanding, ability to make a good argument, organise your writing, and use critical thinking.
    • Also, if you study and revise before the exam, you will know where to find the information that you do need. If you don’t study, you will waste time finding information.
  • “You can just copy things.” X Wrong.
    • The same rules against plagiarism still apply. And, you still have to show your own understanding and critical thinking anyway. 
  • “You should use lots of materials – because more is better!” X Wrong.
    • It is better to choose the best quality materials. If you try to use too many resources, you can quickly get confused and overwhelmed. And, during the exam you probably won’t have time to do lots of reading.


To make the most of online exams, you can make changes to the way you revise and prepare for the exam. For example, the emphasis may be more on understanding your subject rather than concentrating on memorising facts.


Try this activity to see if you have got the main points.