Rocking your online exams!

Image of notes
  • Do some detective work on your exam. Here are some questions to consider:
    • Do I have to take this test at a certain date and time, or can I do it whenever I want within a time frame? Do NOT assume that just because your test is online that it is asynchronous.
    • How much time do I have for the test? This is important not just during the test itself, but so that you can time yourself during your studying.
    • What type of questions will be on the test? Multiple choice? Short answer? Knowing what the questions will look like should inform the way you are preparing.
    • Did the professor give me a study guide? A breakdown of what material might be on the exam? Have they given any hints during class as to what information will be important?
  • Practice makes perfect
    • If possible, take a practice test under similar conditions to your actual exam. For example, if your exam is 60 minutes closed-note, then take your practice exam the same way. This will give you a good feel as to whether you are ready for the real deal. This is also a good place to start before you begin studying, as it should give you an indication of where your weak spots lie.
    • Your professor likely will not be giving out a practice test, so check the internet to see if any tests from previous semesters have been posted. If not, you can always make your own practice test using quiz/homework problems, and/or generating them from your textbook.
  • Open note doesn’t mean easy!
    • There is this pervasive idea that just because a test is online or open note that it will be easy and you don’t need to study. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! You do need to review and study for your exam, just as you would for one in person.
    • Likewise, an open note test does not automatically mean you will be successful. In preparation, be sure to organize your notes, and make a crib sheet for the most important formulas, facts, and concepts. Having an organized, easily accessible system will save you time. Instead of desperately searching through all your papers, it will allow you to devote more time to thinking through the problems. If you are interested in learning more about effective note taking, take a look at this video.
  • Be strategic about your location
    • Under quarantine, the amount of available spaces to take your exam has probably shrunk. However, it is still important that you pick a spot that has a good internet connection, and adequate space for your notebooks and textbooks. Choose somewhere you are less likely to be interrupted (for example, your quiet bedroom is better than your kitchen table, where your family goes in and out); let your family/roommates know beforehand that you are taking an exam so that they can give you space and silence. Be sure to remove any potential distractions like your phone, and close social media tabs on your browser.
  • Assess your tech
    • If your professor is using a special software, make sure that you have correctly downloaded it in advance. If there are items you need to have, for example your RUID with Proctortrack, make sure you have it handy.
    • Stay on the test page… seriously. If your professor is allowing you to use the internet as a resource, make sure that you are opening a new tab to search and not navigating away from the test. It is possible that if you close that tab, your test is closed for good.
    • If you do have a technological problem, don’t freak out. Do take screenshots of the problem if you can and contact your professor directly and promptly about the issue.

If you want more information about test taking, take a look at this Coaching Blog post about best practices when it comes to exams!


Watkins, Ryan and Corry, Michael. 2014. E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. April 2020,

CrashCourse. “Studying for Exams: Crash Course Study Skills #7” YouTube, 21 Mar. 2013,


Eileen Hallman, Academic Coach, Spring 2020