7 tips if your exam has turned into an online assessment

Faced with the sudden closure of campuses, many student expecting to have traditional summer exams in a sports hall or similar venue, are now facing online assignments with revised regulations. The following post offers tips for students facing such a scenario. Note it has been written in the first instance for Bioscience students at the University of Leicester, so some of the specific details may need to be adapted to your personal context.

  1. 24 hours does not mean 24 hours. 24 hour periods have been set for each assessment, but you should not expect to work solidly on it for all of that time. The broad time window is to allow for connectivity, accessibility and/or time zone issues; remember that the intention is to be close to the original exam format.
  2. Revise before the assessment day. Although it is an “open book” format, aim to do the relevant revision in the days before the assessment. Ideally you want to know roughly what you intend to say without looking anything up, and just consult sources to confirm the details.
  3. Stick to the word limit. Since you don’t have the usual 2-3 hour time constraints, a word limit has been applied. The word count has been calculated by looking at past papers to see how much previous students managed to say in exam essays. The limits have been set at, or even slightly above, the length of good answers – you really don’t need to be writing more than this.
  4. Quality > Quantity. As always, the quality of content remains more important than writing “enough” words – i.e. have you answered the actual question asked, in sufficient depth and in a well-constructed essay (e.g. with an introduction and a conclusion?)
  5. Save your answers, and back them up. Remember to save your answers regularly during the day – you don’t want to lose all your work. Save every time you lean back in your chair, go to get a drink or go to the loo. If you don’t automatically have saving to the cloud activated then make back-ups periodically as well. Check whether the system has been set to allow upload of single or multiple versions. If an assignment has been set up to accept multiple submissions before the deadline, you can upload a version of your answer once you’ve got sufficient to make it worthwhile but remember to replace with the final version before the deadline (see point 7).
  6. Use your own words. Remember that answers are going through plagiarism detection software so don’t cut and paste from a source into your answer, not even whilst you are working on it and intend to rephrase later! If you are reading from one or more sources, close them, write what you want to write, then check you got it correct.
  7. Don’t miss the deadline. Aim to submit well in advance of the stated deadline. On this occasion late submission = 0% not a sliding scale of penalties. (And if you are in a different time zone make sure you have the correct time in mind). Know in advance what the procedures are if you experience connectivity issues.


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