How to cope with online exams

Given the circumstances of the last few years, lots of universities have resulted to online exams. Of course, during lockdown it was impossible for all students to be at their university campus in order to complete exams, so they were converted to online exams and lots of universities have stuck with this.

Some online exams can last 48 hours if you need to reference, or some can be as short as 2 or 3 hours long. The majority of online exams will be open book which can be a huge help!

This is slightly different from the way things used to be done and can take a little getting used to. So if you have an online exam, check out these tips to help you prepare and ace your online exam.

Print off prompt sheets

Usually, when you know you have an open book exam you try and print off every single piece of work you have completed along with getting a hold of the books that could help you. But one of the best things you can do is to create little prompt sheets instead.

This will save you time as you won’t have to go through all of your papers to find what you need. It also means that you will still make sure you learn the content as apposed to thinking you can just find all of the answers in your notes and books.

You can create your prompt sheets online or write them down – get creative as you like. I normally do my prompt sheets in the format of a mind map. I also use lots of colours and make the colours link topic’s together so that it helps me remember things better. You can create your prompt sheets however you like as this will also help you as it acts as revision.

Get your books

As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to have 10 books on your desk as just having them there won’t help you. What you need to do is to make little notes through the book so that you can quickly turn to that page if you need to. Books should be your last resort as you should already have revised most of the thigs that will come up kin the exam.

I like to get post it notes and write the topic titles and which page number they are on just in case I need to rejog my memory.

Have tabs open online

If you do not have a printer at home and you cannot access the university printers then try and get set up before your exam starts by opening a few tabs with documents that you think might help you.

Try to avoid opening more than 20 tabs as you could get confused and waste a fair bit of time looking through all of the tabs. It could also get a bit messy, and you might end up losing your work.

If you are on a course like maths or accounting, then you may be able to set up tables or equations that you know will come up n the exam so make sure you have these ready to go.

Book out a library room

If you are someone like me who struggles to work at home in your own space, then try booking a library room. I do not have a desk at home, so when it comes to doing an exam, I feel like it is important to work in the right environment so that you can do your best work. Book a library room for however long you need. If your library only lets you have a room for a certain number of hours then reach out to a library worker or your module leader and they should be able to help you out and get a room sorted for you. This way you will be able to have all of the table space you need and you won’t have any distracting house mates or the option to turn your TV on.

Organise your area

If you have a desk or a table as your workspace then make sure to keep it nice and tidy, so that you know where everything is. Labels are great for this.

Also, make sure you have all of your changers plugged in and ready to go, so that you don’t waste any time if your laptop runs out of charge.

Save your work throughout

The worst thing is getting halfway through your time and then losing all of your work! So make sure you are constantly saving it. If you want to be extra careful then email it to yourself every half hour or so. Try and save it to a OneDrive if possible so that you can turn autosave on.

Upload it with time to spare

Usually with online exams, you are given a bit of extra time if case of any technical issues so make sure you upload your work with time to spare so that you can sort out any issues that occur.

If you do run into technical issues, make sure you have the email or number you need to contact so that you can do this right away without wasting any more time.


There are a few things you must avoid doing when it comes to online exams.

Starting late

Some people will have 48 hours exams which leads them to believe they can start 24 hours into the exam. DO NOT DO THIS! The question might not be what you were expecting and therefore you will need all the time you can get to make sure you have the knowledge to answer the question.


Of course, this one is a no brainer. Every year, students get caught out for collusion in online exams. So just do the exam in your own time and try not to help any of your course mates if they ask you for help during the exam.

Forget to revise

Just because your exam is open book does not mean you don’t need to revise! Revision will make you much less stressed for your exam, and it can help you get through it at a quicker pace as you won’t be needing to look through your notes.

Final Thoughts

It is often a myth that online exams are easier than in person exams because they are open book, and you can work alongside friends. But it is also the case that a number of students still fail online exams every year and another goup of students have to retake the exam because they were caught for copying and working together.

If you follow these simple tips of preparation then you will be more than ready to do well in your exam. Of course, you must still revise prior to the exam so that your revision can help you with your answers during your exam.