For some students, taking an online exam is a new and somewhat bewildering experience. They don’t know what to expect, and aren’t certain of the skills and strategies that will enable them to perform at their best. On a good note, many of the steps they’d take to complete an online exam are quite similar to those that they’d engage in as they prepare for an in-class test. However, the online environment does present some differences that warrant a bit of extra awareness and preparation.

The Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning Project (Irish Universities Association) put together an Online Exams - Advise for Students guide.

Before the Online Exam:

Exam Prep

  • Read and understand the test guidelines. Be sure you can answer these questions:
    • When will the test take place, what specific date and time?
    • How much time will you have to complete the test?
    • Are there any other important, “need to know” factors outlined by the instructor? (listed here: Module Owners 20-21
  • Know the test format. What kinds of questions will the instructor use on the exam—multiple-choice, fill-in, short answer, essay? Perhaps a combination of various types?
  • Test yourself. If your instructor makes a practice exam available to you, take it!
  • Check your computer. Avoid last-minute problems! Verify that your computer has all the correct hardware and software well in advance of the exam. Also, make sure you’ll be in a location with an adequate Internet location.
  • Study the class materials! Even if the test is “open book,” it’s still important to study and review just as if you were taking the test in a classroom.
  • Plan your time. As you test yourself, limit your time to that which will be allotted for the actual test, and decide how long you will spend on each question
  • Carve out a quiet test-taking spot with minimal distractions. Turn off all notifications from your phone, your email, and elsewhere (or, set them to silent). Shut off the TV and radio. Let your roommates or family know that you’ll be taking a test, so that they’re less likely to interrupt you during that time.
  • Gather all that you’ll need to take the test. If you can have materials such as notes, books, or writing implements with you, be sure that they’re set to go.
  • Take a deep breath! Once you’re logged in, take a moment to relax and get focused.

Study Approaches

When approaching revision, you should always begin by looking to identify and use study techniques that suit you. Recognise past successes and build upon them.

To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What has/has not worked for you in the past? 
  • Which is the most successful method you have used to retain information before?
  • Could you combine a few techniques (that you know work for you) to create your personal success strategy?

Along with active study, you need to get organised!

  • Create a space where you can study that meets your needs. This year you will also need to identify a space to take your exams.
  • Time Management is one of the most important things. It can be difficult at this time as you are staying at home much more that you are used to. It is important that you set up some sort of routine and remember that each task you complete, each concept you learn adds to your preparation for the exams.
  • Schedule your time, working backwards from when the exam is scheduled to today. Don’t forget to schedule rest and fun as well! 
  • Know what topics will be examined and when the exams for your modules will take place
  • Identify the materials you need to study for each module. Gather them and place them together; colour coding for different modules/topics often helps for this
  • Note-taking is important. Here are a few things to watch out for:
    • Take good notes; keep them engaging and easy to navigate.
    • While studying:
      • Create condensed summaries of each of the main concepts with references
  • Utilise a note taking strategy such as the Cornell note-taking method.
  • Remember, understanding key-concepts, how they are connected with each other, and the wider field of study, is more important than just being able to reproduce them
  • Take good notes on the content and go back over any areas you are unsure of.
  • Should more questions arise, contact your lecturer via email or Blackboard and ask them to clarify.

NOTE: Past Exam Papers are available on the NUIG Website. They may give you an indication of the subject and style of questions that could be asked. You should check with your examiner to ascertain their relevence to this years' exam. 

If you are registered with the Disability Support Service (DSS), please ensure that:

  • Your Module Coordinator is aware of the exam accommodations you require.
  • You have downloaded and tested any additional software you will be using for you online exams.
  • Contact the DSS at for any additional queries.

NUIG Policies:

You must also be Aware of the following NUIG Policies

During the Online Exam: Focus

  • Keep an eye on the clock. You may want to set an alarm to notify you when you have limited time (e.g., 10 minutes) remaining in your testing period.
  • If allowed by your instructor, save copies of the test questions, as well as your answers. These will prove extremely helpful if you have technical problems during the test or if you encounter issues while submitting your answers.
  • Technical problems? Don’t panic. But do contact your instructor immediately, detailing the exact problem that occurred and any error messages you might have received. If you can take a screen shot, that is helpful as well.
  • Check your work before you submit it. Ensure that every answer is complete and appears as you intended. Review the accuracy of your answers, as well as your spelling and grammar.
  • Click submit. You should only need to do so once, but if you have a problem, try once more. If you still have a problem submitting the test, let your instructor know immediately, and send your intended answers in an attached document.


Specific Exam Question Styles

The most up to date information and guidelines regarding MCQ Type, Handwritten/Drawn and Typed Submissions exams are available on the CELT Online Examinations & Alternative Assessments Sharepoint Page, or please refer directly to the online manual on

Preparation for an Online Time-Limited Exam

Taking an online exam is a new experience for many students, but rest assured online exams are very similar to what you are used to​. Preparing adequately for your online exam is essential and will optimise your chances of success. Remember, even though taking online exams might feel easier and more relaxed as you are taking the exam at home, it is still an exam setting and exam rules will apply.

Preparation for Time-Limited Open Book Exams

An open book exam allows you to use study materials, internet and books while doing your exam. This can take place either in a normal exam setting or it can also be used for an online exam/assessment instead of traditional formal written exams. In an online ‘Open Book’ exam, you will submit your work digitally via Blackboard and work remotely within the time allocated for your exam. Open book exams are not so much a test of memory but look to test your understanding of the topic and your application of knowledge to construct an argument to answer the exam question(s).

Preparation for Short Answer Questions (SAQ) in a Time-Limited Exam

Short answer questions examine both knowledge and understanding of a topic. You are required to know the concepts that you have studied and their application. It gives you an opportunity to showcase what you know and how to apply it, providing examples as you go, when required.  

There is no generic structure to short answer questions. They can take multiple forms. This is why it is so important to read the directions that you are given in the exam and follow them.

Preparation for Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) Exam

MCQ exams test your understanding of a broad range of material, usually broader than essay style questions. You are expected to not only know basic definitions, but also intricate details of your subject. You are less likely to “bluff” in an MCQ, as answers are defined as either right or wrong.


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