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Studying for Remote Exams

By: Beau Goodreaux (he/him/his), Peer Success Leader, 2019-2020

Read time: <5 minutes

With the closure of campus comes the transition to online schooling, and with online schooling comes online exams. It seems that these exams are extra-stressful because of the totally new formatting that comes with taking a big test online, and the wide array of programs and methods that professors are using to conduct their online tests only adds to the headaches. This new schooling environment undoubtedly makes studying for tests much more difficult for everyone too, there are lots of challenges that come with studying away from a normal school environment. Allow me to share some advice on how to study for these “new” online exams with you so that you can make the most of the rest of this difficult semester.

As I have said in my previous finals prep blog post, timeliness is absolutely still the most important thing, the sooner you start studying, the more times you can review the information, which only will make it more familiar and help it stick better. You also gain the ability to divide up the likely large amount of content you need to remember over more days, which makes it more manageable and potentially allows you to study for a shorter time each day. Also, you have more time to reach out to classmates or the professor for clarification.

I believe that starting two weeks before the exam is best. If you have an exam coming up after spring break, I recommend starting to study now, even though school is not in session. While I agree that it almost hurts to study during a break, you will almost certainly benefit in the long run.  Try rewarding yourself with special treats for studying during the break; that’s what I have been doing to get myself to sit down and review.

When you study, I recommend running through your notes at least twice a day; try studying them once in the morning or afternoon and once before going to bed, it makes it easier to stay focused since you aren’t staring at pages for extended periods of time. If you feel your notes are not the best, take advantage of the current situation and re-listen to Zoom lectures if your professors provide them to make your notes as accurate and thorough as possible. Most of my professors are now making their tests open book/note, so if that is the case for you as well, having the best possible notes will only work to your advantage.

Quizzing yourself is also really important, it will test if you truly understand the material or not; try making Quizlets for yourself or running through provided practice problems/exams. Since we are all stuck using online school, you could also study with friends over Zoom, or even better, make a Kahoot on the required information and play it with friends – have one be the “host” and let them use the screen-share feature to let everyone else see the game.

The biggest challenge that comes with studying for an online exam is undoubtedly trying to study in an environment different from school that often comes with new distractions like pets, parents, roommates, or siblings. I, for example, am used to studying in Howie-T or the Newcomb Institute where everything is quiet for the most part, but now I have to study in a house with three other people who aren’t always the quietest. There is also the added challenge of (most likely) not having access to alternate locations like coffee shops or parks to study in because of the social distancing and stay-at-home directives in effect. To make the most of your limited options, I recommend designating a space in your home to study in, preferably somewhere quiet, comfortable, and with minimal access to distractions like your phone, TV, or video games. If going outside is an option for you, take advantage of it to get out of the house for a bit.  If noise is an issue, try requesting a “quiet hour” or two during the day from the people you live with, or try using headphones playing white noise or calm music to drown out the outside sound.

As I said earlier, it can feel like every professor is using a different website or program to administer their online exams now. I recommend keeping a note on your computer listing off each class and its means of testing to keep track of it all. If your professor is using a special program like the Lockdown Browser, install and get familiar with the program before the actual test so there aren’t any hiccups or learning curves that emerge while taking the test; one of my professors gave us a quick “sample exam” to let us see how the program works, try asking your professors to do this if they plan on using the program.

With all of this in mind, you should be on a good path to successfully studying for your exams, especially given the circumstances. If the test does not go as well as you hoped, give yourself some slack – this is a totally new situation that both students and professors alike are trying to figure out and make the best of, and it can be very challenging to remain in a “school” mindset in a new environment with so much going on around the world. I hope that my advice is helpful, and good luck with your studying endeavors! Don’t forget to wash your hands!