What it’s Like Taking an Exam During Lockdown

While some students may have experienced take-home exams in their time, most will find the current online exam system strange and new. The exam I took as part of my third year final assessments was a completely novel experience for me, and it taught me a lot about confidence and discipline when it comes to studying.

Along came the 3rd April, the day my exam timetable was published. Not knowing what I was to be expecting this year, I saw my one exam scheduled for Thursday 7th May, at 10am, for 23 hours. What on earth did that mean? It meant I had 23 hours from the time the exam was published at 10am on the 7th to complete the assessment and submit it to my department on Blackboard. My first instinct was panic. How was I supposed to write two essays in one day? It usually took me weeks to write an essay I was happy with. Here’s how I overcame my exam anxiety and completed the assessment in perfect time:

I had to remember this was an exam. It can be difficult to allow yourself slack when answering an exam question in essay-writing conditions because of the freedom of more time which offers the illusion that you should be able to write with the same quality as your coursework that took weeks to complete. The reality is, this is an exam, and the marker knows this is an exam. In the time you have to prepare, learn that you will only be expected to write an answer that you would be able to do in the exam hall. Understand the limits of the time frame, and try not to put high expectations on yourself to over-achieve.

Another tip that especially comes in handy for essay based exams, is to familiarise yourself with the exam rubric. This would be the same for any other year, but chances are that your online exam may have a slightly different rubric as usual. Is there now a word count? Has the number of questions you must answer changed? My exam required a word count of no more than 1,000 words per essay, which came as a great relief. This meant I could plan my essays within a framework that was concise and achievable, helping to calm some of that anxiety about being pressured to write pages upon pages.

When revising, I took into account that the exam would be open-book. This meant that when I was doing the exam I could have all resources that I needed available to me. I took this into account when taking notes, planning them out so they could be easy to read again when I needed them. I also bookmarked useful websites and essays in an exam folder on Chrome, so that I could quickly and easily refer to them during my 23-hour exam period.

When exam day came, I felt prepared and calm, knowing what was expected of me and how I could achieve it after all my preparation and revision. And if you have exams coming up, Good luck!

By Helena Smagala

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