Ten Tips for Taking an Online Test

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, many colleges and universities had to send their students home from campus with very short notice. This enormous disruption had innumerable effects, one of them being that many thousands of students were required to take their first ever online exam. There’s no reason to be intimidated by an online exam. Here are 10 great test-taking tips to help you succeed!

Be Rested and Alert

You might be surprised to see a list of test-taking skills begin with bedtime, but you’d be surprised how many students disregard the importance of a good night’s sleep on the evening before an exam. Yes—proper rest is a key test-taking strategy! You want to be as alert as possible. If the online proctor notices you standing up during the exam, they are likely to interrupt your exam to check if you are cheating. Don’t let a yawn and stretch compromise your academic success—get your rest!

Be Organized in Advance

Once you are rested and ready, good test taking skills start with being organized. This advice goes as well for online exams as it does for traditionally administered tests. For both, it bears mentioning, that studying in advance is indispensable to achieving a good score. So be sure to put the work in so that you have a solid understanding of the content you are expected to know. A bit of planning is always helpful.

Take Practice Exams

Either your instructor, or your school’s online proctoring system, or both, may offer you the opportunity to take a practice exam in advance. If you have this option—definitely take it, especially if you are taking an online exam for the first or second time. You’ll want to be as comfortable as possible with the technology and user interfaces before you go live. When test day comes, you’ll be able to focus exclusively on demonstrating the knowledge you have gained in the class. 

Secure Your Environment

One advantage over taking a traditionally proctored exam is that an online exam lets you test in the (supposed) comfort of your own residence. Many students are happy about this, but others feel additional pressure because they share lodgings and fear being interrupted during their exams. Make the effort in advance to negotiate with your housemates so that you won’t be disturbed during your exam. Take note that today’s online exam proctoring software will probably require you to do a 360-degree web cam sweep of your testing area. You should therefore make sure to clean it up of clutter in advance and leave your study materials in another room, or stow them where you can get to them during the exam.

Check Your Computer

No test-taking strategies can help you take an online exam if you don’t have the computer equipment needed. Make sure your operating system is compatible with the test administrator’s requirements. Ensure that your microphone and webcam and internet service are working, and if they aren’t, replace them or get them fixed—there won’t be any excuses on exam day. Also, be certain to have downloaded any browsers or additional software that may be necessary. You’ll be able to breathe easier if you’re not worried that your technology is going to flake on you.

Read the Directions 

Far too many students wait until the clock starts ticking before they actually read the directions. Waiting like this is a mistake, as you are more likely to miss something important. Don’t neglect reading any instructions that your professor provides in advance, but check again when the test begins to make sure that nothing has been tweaked. Instructors sometimes make changes at the last minute. If you don’t understand the directions, ask before the timer starts.

Open Book Doesn’t Mean Don’t Study

Many online exams are open-book and open-note, but having your study materials at hand doesn’t mean you can ace the exam without studying. Open-book test questions tend to often require short, written responses that require meaningful understanding of your subject. The timer will be on, so it will be too late to learn the relevant material. Having the information at your fingertips isn’t actually the same as being able to translate it into well-formed test responses. 

Manage Your Time Effectively

Golfers have a saying: One hundred percent of putts that don’t reach the hole don’t go in. Likewise, a crucial test-taking tip is to realize that 100% of questions that you leave unanswered on an exam will yield you zero points. Do your best to answer every question. Some instructors give partial credit, after all, and at least getting the main points of an answer down on an essay, for example, can earn you more than leaving a section blank. Pace yourself from the beginning and be aware of time without obsessing over it.

Check Your Work

If you have managed your time effectively during the bulk of the test period, you should be able to grant yourself time at the end to proofread any short answers or essay questions. Doing so is all about brushing up the surface so your answers read more smoothly. You can fix errors in clarity can be fixed so as to improve your overall score.

Be Honest

The final, and overarching test taking strategy for online exams, and all types of academic work, really, is to do you own work to the best of your ability. Otherwise, you’ll never really know how good you could have performed on your own merits. If, however, you are one of the sizable minority of students who admits to cheating, either frequently or occasionally, then beware that universities are using highly advanced AI and human proctoring technology to protect you from your own dishonesty. In some cases, it’s easier to catch cheaters on online exams than it is in a traditional classroom. Schools care about the academic reputation of the degree that you may be seeking. Ideally, you will care about your own personal integrity as well.

That’s ten helpful online exam-taking tips. Work hard, and good luck!